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McDOUGALL, Gilbert

Born: 1815
Died: 1852 07 22

Architect


Was born in Scotland and studied in Rome under an architect whose identity is not yet known. In Rome he met the sculptor John Gibson with whom he later entered into partnership around 1848 in London. In London from 1835 to 1840 McDougall worked for Thomas Cubitt who gave him a 'flattering testimonial' (Lantern Dec 1976:24) and from 1840 to 1843 for Sir Charles Barry who was busy at the time with the new Houses of Parliament on which McDougall worked for several years and in 1843 he opened practice in Parliament St in London where he worked until 1848. It was at this time that he appears to have been in partnership with John Gibson as Gibson & MacDougall; they made designs for the National Bank in Glasgow (n.d.). Tuberculosis brought McDougall to South Africa; on 16 April 1849 he landed in Cape Town where he settled and attempted to set up practice. He applied for employment as an architect and surveyor with the Cape Government but was turned down although at the time he was, as Langham-Carter pointed out in his article in Lantern, one of the best-trained architects in the country.

McDougall motivated the first exhibition of fine art in South Africa and was Secretary to this exhibition held in 1851, a response to the Great Exhibition then being held in London. The exhibition was displayed at St George's School in Cape Town in the new classrooms for which McDougall was the architect; the show served as an opening event, running from 10 February 1851 until 22 March 1851.

McDougall obtained permission from the Cape Town Municipality to hang the historical portrait of Van Riebeeck in the exhibition. Among the exhibits were his 'drawing of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, his sketch schemes for the Diocesan House, the new Cape Houses of Parliament, the proposed SA Public Library and St George's Grammar School' (Lantern Dec 1976:24). The exhibition was modelled on the lines of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition held annually in London.

He urged the Municipality to found an Art Gallery because of 'the state of public opinion relative to the fine arts, resulting from this exhibition', suggesting that it 'seriously entertain the propriety of building a permanent structure, classical in its design, in which an annual exposition of the labours of the artist may be brought forward and encouraged' (Lantern Dec 1976:24). A further exhibition of the same nature was held in 1852, but by that time McDougall was dead. He bequeathed his plans for an Art Gallery and Library to the then Library in Cape Town. The eventual building(s) were not built to his plans nor on the site he proposed but his initiative in pointing out the civic need for such a facility was fundamental to further events culminating in the building of the South African Library and Museum and eventually the separate creation of the South African National Gallery. He fell ill, his will on 9 July 1852 and died on 22 July of tuberculosis. He was buried at Somerset Rd and his tombstone still existed in 1976 at Maitland.

(Afr N & N III:8, 10-11; Afr N & N XXII:252-5; CAD Appendix to Records of CT Munic 1851, nos 1-250, 439a/6/D/10/230, no.27 for 23 Dec 1850; Lantern Dec 1976:24-5; Lantern Feb 1977; Langham-Carter MS BC 5 52; Radford 1979)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes


Diocesan College, proposed design: 1849. Rondebosch, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Grandstand, Turf Club: 1851. Green Point, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
House of Representatives bldg, proposed design: n.d.. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Public Library, designs for: c1851. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
St George's Grammar School: 1850. Gardens, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Wesleyan Church: 1850. Wynberg, Western Cape - Architect