Category: Architecture (Page 2 of 2)

Old Painting of Strathbungo

I have added a painting of the old Strathbungo village in the 1820′s to the web page.

Many thanks to Donald Watson for letting me know about it.


The painting is intriguing because the artist used two different positions to capture the final scene.

The foreground view is looking north-west from a spot near the entrance to Queens Park at Balvicar Drive.

The background panoramic view of the city is looking north-east from the summit of Camphill, near the present day Queen’s Park flagpole.

In his first position, the artist was looking over the village of Strathbungo (or Marchtown), seeing the same buildings shown in the old maps, with the tall chimney of the Titwood Brick and Tile Works in the centre of the picture, and the original church at the edge of the village to the right.

Here is a composite image of the 1820 painting overlaid with 2013 photographs taken from the top and bottom of the hill.

The photographs matched the painting almost perfectly, even after a period of 190 years!

You’ll recognise the viewpoints of the two photographs, the next time you’re in the park.


Any more contributions, suggestions or  corrections to the web page would be be very welcome.


Strathbungo – The Fabric of Heritage

This article about Strathbungo touches all the usual bases; the history, the architecture, conservation, parking, the back lanes, the railings, the role of the Strathbungo Society, artwork for the roundabout, and perhaps most topical of all as it happens, the effect of HMOs and guest houses on the quality of life in Strathbungo. The only thing it doesn’t seem to mention is the bins!

And the best bit? It appeared in Scottish Field magazine, thirty five years ago. Plus ça change. It was written by the eminent Scottish poet & journalist Maurice Lindsay, who passed away aged 90 in 2008. It contains several historical items of note that were new to me. Happy reading.

The Fabric of Heritage

The Fabric of Heritage p1, Scottish Field Jan 1977

The Fabric of Heritage

The Fabric of Heritage p2, Scottish Field Jan 1977

Thanks to Marie for finding and providing the article. I would love to hear from anyone else who can add their own reminiscences of days gone by in Strathbungo, and add to our burgeoning history collection.

Ref: Maurice Lindsay Obituary

Shawlands Academy’s new outdoor digital design studio

Tonight sees the test launch of a new digital art projection facility that uses the  front facade of Shawlands Academy as its canvass. With funding from Glasgow City Council and Shawlands & Strathbungo Community Council and the involvement of Architecture + Design Scotland and the UK’s leading lighting designers Lighting Collective , the ‘Shawlands Gate’ project includes facilities that allow digital art works and designs to be projected onto the facade of the Academy.  Funded as part of the Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan, the aim is to brighten up this major gateway to Shawlands town centre, the “Heart of Glasgow’s (Cosmopolitan) South Side”.  The project has allowed the Academy’s young people to display their digital creativity and, in the future, may allow professional artists to use this unique “canvass” as part of Glasgow’s international arts festival, GI.  

Shawlands Gate has also led to new trees being planted to the front facade of the Academy (and getting rid teacher parking), given its young people the opportunity to to learn and design Public Art and get involved in the local community via their research into the history and businesses in Skirving Street.  And, as a result of the project young people at Shawlnads Academy are giving their views on new plans to upgrade Langside Halls.  Shawlands Gate is the first of many projects whose aim is to develop Shawlands as the Heart of Glasgow’s cosmopolitan South Side.


Alexander (Greek) Thomson Walk

Given Strathbungo’s links to the great Greek Thomson I took a stroll the other week to see what other Thomson buildings I could find within a short walk of Strathbungo and came across a surprising number. My walk took me first to Maria Villa, on Mansion House Road in Langside over to Millbrae Crescent (now with a sturdy flood prevention wall round the back). Holmwood House is an energetic walk a little further. (But once you have made it over there do take a walk around the magnificent Linn Park and over to the stunning Snuff Mill Bridge)

Closer to home of course are his tenements on Darnley Road and Nisthdale Drive which most of us pass every day but over at the corner of Albert Drive and Shields Road in Pollokshields is The Knowe. There are many others in Glasgow too numerous to mention but if you are a Thomson fan you can find them all on this Google Map I created of them. Please feel free to edit and amend the map adding comments on the buildings.

Looking after your Strathbungo home

Having already spent a lot of time and not inconsiderable money renovating our house in Strathbungo I saw recently that Glasgow Metropolitan College is offering an evening course on how to look after older buildings.

The course starts in April and lasts for 11 weeks over at the North Hanover Street Campus off George Square and is presented by David T Martin (MBE, BArch, RIBA, FRIAS, DipHisArt).

It offers participants the opportunity to

learn about maintenance and repair of older property in the West of Scotland. If you are a home owner or otherwise interested in maintenance and repair of older properties, you can learn about the traditional materials, their likely defects and various repair techniques. This course is especially useful for owners of listed buildings and property in conservation areas”.

The course includes what homeowners and others working with traditional building materials need to know including repair and maintenance requirements of older buildings; traditional materials, likely defects and a range of repair techniques. The course covers stonework, roofing, brickwork, rot, concrete; beetle attack, timber, metalwork, windows, decorative finishes, doors and planned maintenance.

Local landmark featured in Times

An architectural historian and his wife found their match in Alexander Thomson’s house, reports Rhiannon Batten in The Sunday Times (5 March 2006).


Step off the train at Glasgow’s Queens Park station and the landscape you are confronted with is so typically down-at-heel urban that it might as well have come from central casting’s location department. Wind-blown crisp packets smack against run-down curry houses. So it comes as a shock to turn into Moray Place and find yourself looking at an exquisite terrace designed by the prolific 19th-century Glasgow architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson.

This neat collection of 10 diminutive two-storey houses was designed by Thomson in the late 1850s, apparently to take advantage of the railway that had recently been built on the other side of the street. Constructed in his trademark Grecian style, what makes the row special is that Thomson himself lived at No 1 from 1861 until his death in 1875, which meant there was more interest than usual when the house was put on the market in late 2004.

“We were living just around the corner at the time and it was big news in the area,” says the property’s owner, Charlotte Wright, a professor of child health at Glasgow University. “Everyone was talking about it. I said to my husband, ‘Don’t even think about it. We’re not moving there’, but we also knew that we were never going to have the opportunity to restore a category A-listed house in Strathbungo again.”
In the end, the fact that her husband, Andrew Greg, is an architectural historian was what clinched the deal. “The estate agent said it would help if I put in a CV along with the offer,” he admits. “We know we weren’t the highest bidders.”
The couple paid £380,000 for the property, which may sound surprisingly reasonable for such a prime slice of architectural pie,but there was a reason for the bargain price. “When we inherited the house it had plaster peeling off the walls, rotten doors and, before the roof was replaced, we’d heard stories about water literally running down the walls,” says Wright. “You can still see a lot of the damage it caused,” she adds, pointing out ribbon-like streaks running down from Thomson’s elaborate skylight. More damage had been done in the 1980s, when No 1 Moray Place was taken over by a buyer keen on trying to renovate it.
There had been hopes that the building’s most recent owner, Gavin Stamp, a Thomson expert, would save the architect’s legacy, but the wholesale restoration the building needed never materialised.
“Professor Stamp rescued the house by putting a new roof on but he couldn’t afford to do much more. Fortunately, we can now provide the dream team,” says Wright.
Her salary is largely financing the current renovation, while Greg offers the expertise.
Not that it has been a fast process. “Our main emphasis has been undoing the 1980s alterations and putting the fabric back,” says Greg. Organising damp-proofing, putting doors back in their original positions, replastering and decorating the main bedroom, adding a bathroom at the rear of the property and replacing the kitchen have made the house habitable. Next comes cleaning the wood and plasterwork and refurbishing the windows.
That the building is worth the effort isn’t in question. Thomson did not stop at the building’s external structure. Behind the peeling plaster lie original Greek key stencils. Beneath layers of paint are Thomson’s purpose-designed cornices, door panels, shutters, fireplaces and banisters. “People expect it to be very fussy, but that’s late Victorian,” explains Wright. “Thomson’s style is actually very geometric.”
What is also a surprise is that, despite an elaborate, temple-fronted bay, the house is pretty small-much less grand, for example than Holmwood House in Cathcart, which Thomson designed and which is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. “I suspect Thomson didn’t plan to live here,” says Greg, “but then he wasn’t a particularly rich person. It certainly isn’t different in design from the other houses in the terrace.”
Thomson and his wife, Jane, lived in the property along with seven children, a cook and a nursemaid. Not that the property stayed quite so compact for long. In 1900, a new wing, sympathetic in style to the original, was added by John Binnie Wilson, another architect. “It had been sold to a Dr Forrester, who built the extension to provide a waiting room, surgery and an additional bedroom,” says Greg, leading the way into a nicely-panelled surgery (now his study). After Dr Forrester came a long period of neglect. Then came the 1980s and a period of architectural vandalism.
During the process of putting No 1 Moray Place back together there have been moments of great excitement. “I remember one day when I came home and Andrew was running around saying, ‘I’ve found the most exciting thing ever’. I thought he’d found treasure or something but actually he’d been in a cupboard in the hall and found some original decoration,” says Wright.
Likewise, when the couple moved the doors back upstairs, they discovered original paint and stencil plaster on the landing, part of the original 1860 decorative scheme that Thomson put in his house. “In terms of architectural history it is quite important,” says Greg. “We haven’t decided what we should do with it yet. Ideally one should recreate it but it’s probably not salvageable in its original form.
“You have these interesting conservation issues about ‘restoring’. Do you restore it to how it was in Thomson’s time, thereby destroying some interesting features that were added later? If not, how far do you take the process? “It’s got to be a compromise, but you want to make best use of the character of the building.”
There is also the question of expense. With windows costing £1,000 each to refurbish and five in the dining room alone, even medical professors can’t foot the entire bill. The couple have applied for a grant from Historic Scotland. The organisation tends not to give grants for work on private buildings, because of adding value to house prices, but there are things such as restoring plasterwork that do not affect commercial value.
“We want to look after the house to conservation standards and we can’t afford to do that on our own,” says Greg.
Not that No 1 Moray Place is in danger of becoming a museum piece. “We wouldn’t want it to be all immaculate and shiny,” chips in Wright. “One of its charms is that it’s a bit dishevelled.”
How to get a “Greek”
Born in Balfron, Stirlingshire, in 1817, the Glasgow-based architect Alexander Thomson made a name for himself by creating some of the most original buildings of the Victorian era. Despite never having travelled abroad, his trademark “Grecian” style incorporated a mythical sensibility and geometric pattern into the prevailing neo-classical design.
Although Thomson designed buildings exist as far away as Australia (where a copy of Holmwood was built from his drawings of the original after his death), the most famous surviving works include the Egyptian Halls and the St Vincent Street church, both in Glasgow. Surviving residential properties designed by Thomson include No 1-11 Great Western Terrace, Darnley Street and Eton Terrace.
While the Glasgow Solicitors’ Property Centre reports no “Greek” Thomson properties currently on its books, they come up fairly regularly and range from tenement flats to (less commonly) large villas.
On Doors Open Day in September, Greg will be leading a Thomson tour of Glasgow. See Doors Open Days for details.

Poor man’s temple to be saved

Bungo Mission hall will rise from the ashes

Strathbungo’s tiny Thomsonesque temple in Nithsdale Drive will be saved, despite being badly damaged by fire over the summer.

It’s thought suggestions for its restoration might include a community-based arts project of some sort.

According to the Heritage and Design Team at Glasgow Regeneration Services, the roof was burned off and the interior extensively damaged in the blaze on 21 July, but the Grade B listed facade was not affected.

Building Control confirmed on 9 August that the building was not dangerous and the Council has since put in support scaffolding to retain the walls.

Senior Planning Officer Mike Fraser said: ‘The Council is confident that a suitable community use can be found and discussions are taking place to determine its future. In short, the building is in no danger of being demolished.’

It was designed by Alexander Skirving in 1887 as a mission hall for Queens Park United Presbyterian Church. Skirving (c1846-1919) is best known for the Battlefield Memorial at Langside (with sculptor James Young). Nearby Skirving Street was named after him.

Just as Skirving would never achieve the stature of his mentor Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, the wee hall was on a decidedly more modest scale than its illustrious mother church. Behind its classic sandstone front, gates and railings was a tiny structure made of humble brick — no doubt the elders of the kirk felt that would do for feeding and proselytising the urban poor!

Sadly, Queens Park Church, considered one of Thomson’s masterpieces, was destroyed by a German incendiary bomb in 1942. The Nithsdale Drive hall escaped that fate but fell derelict over time and eventually came into Council ownership.

Small and quirky, it’s latterly been surrounded by the modern sprawl of the Arnold Clark organisation.

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