The political & social background to the Edinburgh public commissions of William Trotter
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This thesis is not designed to be an exploration of William Trotter's cabinet-making style and its influences. Instead, it aims firstly to examine the full extent of Trotter's public commissions in Edinburgh, using extant original sources such as estimates, accounts and committee minutes. Previous studies have discussed these commissions, but in many cases the true extent of the work has not been revealed. This is particularly true with regard to Trotter's work at the College of Edinburgh and for the Town Council. This thesis, through an in-depth analysis of each of the Edinburgh public commissions, provides a more thorough assessment of the scale of Trotter's business and its position amongst Edinburgh / Scottish cabinet-making firms. Secondly, and most importantly, this thesis aims to provide an insight into the relationship between Trotter's public commissions and the political positions he held in Edinburgh during his working life. This is designed to shed light not only on Trotter's own working practices, but also on the system of local government in Edinburgh in the first half of the nineteenth century. Chapter 1 of this thesis provides an introduction to Edinburgh at the start of the nineteenth century, focusing on its architectural development. Chapter 2 introduces the firm of Trotter, outlining the various owners of the business and their partners. Chapter 3 provides information on the workings of the Town Council of Edinburgh, the Merchant Company, and the Dean of Guild Court, these institutions being interrelated. William Trotter's positions on the Town Council and its committees are discussed in the final section of this chapter. Chapter 4 provides a background to the development of the College of Edinburgh, from foundation until the involvement of W.H. Playfair. Chapter 5 focuses on the College Museum of Natural History. A discussion of the extant sources of information regarding Trotter's work here is followed by a brief history of the collection, before the various phases of this important commission are discussed in detail. The working relationship between W.H. Playfair and Trotter is also examined. The importance of the architect in relation to the development of the New Town of Edinburgh makes their collaboration particularly interesting. Chapter 6 continues the exploration of Trotter's work at the College by discussing his fitting out of the Speculative Society's rooms. Chapter 7 ends the section of the thesis on the College, discussing Trotter's work in areas of the buildings not covered by previous chapters. Chapter 8 covers work completed for the Town Council, including Council buildings, churches and public funerals. Chapter 9 discusses the work carried out at the George Street Assembly Rooms, while Chapter 10 outlines Trotter's preparations for the Royal Visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822, particularly his preparation of the Assembly Rooms and Parliament House. Chapter 11 examines work carried out for the Faculty of Advocates in their various libraries. Chapter 12 concludes the thesis with an extended examination of how Trotter's various Council / committee positions may have led to his receiving such a large number of important and lucrative public commissions. This discussion has wider implications which aid an understanding of the way in which the system of government in Edinburgh during Trotter's lifetime was susceptible to manipulation by merchants and craftsmen for their own ends.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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