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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Alexander MacDonald & Co

Firm of stonemasons established in Aberdeen by Alexander MacDonald (1794–1860). A visit to the British Museum in 1829 to see the newly-acquired Egyptian antiquities motivated MacDonald to revive the lost skill of working granite to a smooth, polished finish, which he did with machinery harnessing newly-developed steam power. In 1832, the first of his polished Aberdeen granite tombstones was installed at Kensal Green cemetery. Orders flooded in to MacDonald’s Aberdeen works and tons of granite was shipped down the east coast, up the Thames to London and carted to monumental masons’ yard and the recently founded cemeteries around the metropolis. From 1834 to 1853, MacDonald was in partnership with master mason and architect William Leslie, trading as MacDonald & Leslie. After Leslie’s departure and until his death in 1860, MacDonald ran the firm alone. After 1860, MacDonald’s son, Alexander MacDonald II (1837–84), managed the firm, initially with stone cutter Robert Ferguson, under a board of trustees, but in 1863 assumed direct control, with Sidney Field (a designer) as his partner, trading for the next 20 years as Alexander MacDonald, Field & Co. With the increased business of these years, the firm opened a London office at 369–375 Euston Road. Following Alexander II’s death in 1884, Ferguson (who had retained an interest in the firm) joined Field as a partner and the firm became a limited company, trading as Alexander MacDonald & Co Ltd. In 1912, the firm was acquired by Henry Hutcheon and thereafter traded as Henry Hutcheon Ltd until it closed in 1941. The firm received medals at the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Paris Expositions Universelles of 1867 and 1878, the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, and Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 202, 253, 255; ‘Alexander MacDonald & Co. (flc.1820–1941)’, Glasgow – City of Sculpture; J.S. Curl (ed.), Kensal Green Cemetery. The origins and development of the General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, London, 1824–2001, Chichester, West Sussex, 2001; R. Knee, ‘Alexander MacDonald (1794–1980) – Stonemason’, Friends of West Norwood Cemetery newsletter, January 2012, pp. 4–7.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022

MacDonald (Alexander) & Co

Tomb monument to Alexander Macdonald and family. Bronze tondo of Alexander Macdonald by George Anderson Lawson, Nellfield Cemetery, Aberdeen
(photo: public domain)