William Reid Corson

Place of Birth

  • Born      1821/2 [Dumfries] Scotland - (1881 census)
  • Died       6 December 1913, Santa Monica, California USA

 William Reid Corson was born in Dumfries on 11 August 1821, the second son of James Corson, of Cassylands and Stakeford, Provost in Dumfries 1831-33 and his wife Janet Reid from Kirkennan. He was educated at Dumfries Academy and was articled to Walter Newall of Dumfries, and on completion of his articles worked for a time in London. By the mid-1840s he had moved to Leeds where he became partner to Edward La Trobe Bateman a few years later: both had spent a period working for Owen Jones on Little Woodhouse in 1847. In 1849 they were joined by Corson's younger brother George as their assistant, but shortly thereafter Bateman left Leeds leaving William Corson in charge of the office as sole partner. In 1855 William Corson took over John Edgar Gregan's architectural practice in Manchester, following Gregan's sudden death in April of that year. Also a native of Dumfries, Gregan had also received his training as an earlier pupil in Newall’s office. Thereafter Corson divided his time between Leeds and Manchester retaining Gregan's old address at 20 Cooper Street. In 1860 William Corson settled permanently in Manchester where his brother James had successfully established himself in cotton. It is not absolutely clear at which point his brother George became a partner in the Leeds practice, but he had an increasing design role after 1855 and from 1860 was in sole charge of the Leeds office. After a few years the practices were amicable separated in 1867/1868 when William formed a partnership with Robert Walker Aitken from Peddie & Kinnear's office. The new partnership then moved to St James Chambers, Manchester.

William Corson became the second President of the Manchester Society of Architects 1867-69. Like his brother George he resisted Charles Barry Junior’s recruiting campaign and never sought membership of the RIBA. Corson was responsible for some curious but nevertheless successful experiments on bricks 'made by machines'. In 1896 his brother George read three papers written by him at the Leeds Architectural Association. They were on the acoustic properties of rooms, masons’ marks and the application of practical geometry to rooms, giving some indication of the range of his scientific interests.

The partnership with Robert Aitken was dissolved on 6 February 1880 after which he worked on his own account until 1885 when he sailed to New York on 28th of August, aboard the City of Richmond.  Settling in California, his practice in the United States was mainly domestic.

William Reid Corson married Grace McMonies on 11 June 1862 at Tongland, Kirkcudbright. Census records of 1871 and 1881 identify their children as follows: William L Corson (born 1866); Anna Corson (Born 1864); George F Corson (18) Euphemia (12-07-1867-1950) who died at Vancouver; Clement Graham (1879)

William Reid Corson died in Santa Monica on 6 December 1913 and was buried at Rosedale Cemetery Culver City, Los Angeles on 8 December 1913.


Name Designation Formed Dissolved Location
Corson and Aitken Architectural practice 1867 1879 Manchester