© Courtesy Glasgow University Library
Scott Morton was born in Carluke on 16 March 1840. He was articled to James Smith in Glasgow about 1854, and took classes at the Government School of Design. In 1870 William and his younger brother John set up their own business Morton & Co. William practised as architect and designer, while John, who was a mechanical engineer, was in charge of the cabinet making, wallpaper manufacturing, and interior design business. In the late 1870s the majority of the firm’s business was focused on carpet designs for Templetons, grates and fire-irons for the Falkirk Iron Company and other ironfounders, and stained glass, tiles and ceiling designs for Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster.
William Scott Morton’s working relationship with James Templeton & Co is documented in an early Templeton Price List which includes a number of signed illustrations of both interior and exterior factory scenes, an illustration of a carpet ‘used in The Prince of Wales’ Pavilion, Paris Exhibition, 1878,’ , and a note on the title page that states: ‘Designs produced under the direction of William Scott Morton & Alex Millar’.
From 1881-82 William Scott Morton undertook a short study tour of Italy where he became impressed by Spanish and Italian leather hangings. Not long after his return, an elderly London leatherworker turned up seeking employment, and after much experiment Morton & Co developed Tynecastle Canvas or Tynecastle Tapestry. This was an embossed leather-like material compound of canvas and paste, which could be aged, tinted and gilded. Its success resulted in a huge order for Young’s Glasgow City Chambers, and another for the redecoration of the picture galleries at Grosvenor House for the Duke of Westminster. To meet the demand for this material, and for the embossed canvas plaster friezes that had been patented by Morton & Co in 1885, John and James Templeton became partners in The Tynecastle Company.
There are a number of William Scott Morton sketches scattered across the Stoddard Templeton Design Archive that are dated 1882, which coincide with his travels in Italy. A number hint at where they were sketched, whether it be Florence or Rome, and they all carry his signature and are dated.
William Scott Morton remained the lead designer for both Scott Morton & Co (as the company was later known) and The Tynecastle Company, until his sudden death while on holiday at Newtonmore on 18 April 1903.