Thomas Howarth

Architectural historian and academic

B/W photograph of Thomas Howarth

Thomas Howarth (1914–2000) was an architect and planner, architectural historian and academic, who wrote the first substantial biography of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, published in 1952. 1

Howarth studied architecture and town planning at the School of Architecture, University of Manchester from 1935 to 1939, and was elected RIBA in 1940 and FRIBA in 1955. His interests were as much academic as in practising architecture and planning, and from 1941 to 1946 he studied for a PhD at the University of Glasgow, combining this with teaching at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Glasgow and the then Glasgow School of Architecture. His research on the career of Mackintosh provided the basis for his 1952 biography and was undertaken at a time when family members, clients, colleagues and contractors were still alive, providing a unique insight into Mackintosh's life and work. 2 In 1953 the book was awarded the Book Award of the Society of Architectural Historians (USA) and the Alice Davis Hitchcock Memorial Medal. During his time in Glasgow, he acted as consultant to the engineering firm, A. & J. Mains Ltd, and undertook exhibition and domestic work in the Glasgow area. 3 He returned to Manchester in 1946 as a lecturer in architecture.

In 1958 Howarth emigrated to Canada to take up a post as Director of the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto. From 1967 until his retirement in 1974 he was Dean of the Faculty of Architecture. Other roles included that of urban planner for Laurentian University, Sudbury and Glendon College, Ontario, and he was actively involved in the Commonwealth Association of Architects from 1963 to 1989.

Howarth maintained a lifelong interest in Mackintosh, lecturing and contributing to exhibitions world-wide. As a result of his researches he built up one of the finest private collections of Mackintosh's work, the bulk of which he sold at auction in 1994. 4 The most substantial showing of his collection was in 1978 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. In his final years he donated works of art to The Hunterian, University of Glasgow and to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. He also provided the funding which enabled the Society to purchase Queen's Cross Church in 1998. 5


1: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952.

2: Howarth's papers are lodged with the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.

3: [accessed 30 October 2013].

4: Dr Thomas Howarth Collection, Christie's, London, 17 February 1994.

5: Biographical information taken from a typescript curriculum vitae provided by Dr Howarth and held by The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.