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13 Sept 2019

Historic desk returns to the Hill House

A lady sits at a wooden desk in a study, with a member of National Trust for Scotland staff standing beside her.
Ruth Currie, Walter Blackie’s granddaughter, has donated the desk to the Trust.
A desk owned by the man who commissioned the Hill House has returned to the property for the first time in over 60 years.

When the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed house was completed in 1904, the desk was placed at the heart of the property’s library by its owner, publisher Walter Blackie. It remained in the Hill House until Blackie’s death in 1953 when it was moved to the home of his daughter, also in Helensburgh.

The desk then passed to Walter’s granddaughter Ruth Currie in the 1970s. She offered to donate the desk to the National Trust for Scotland while the conservation charity was researching the Blackie family.

A black and white photograph of an older man standing, with his hands behind his back, on a gravelled path in a garden, beside a lush border.
Walter Blackie at the Hill House

While the Hill House is a globally significant example of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s design vision, it was also a thriving family home. The home’s ornamental interior features many original pieces, from the embroidered hangings in the bedroom to the ‘Sleeping Princess’ panel above the fireplace in the boardroom and the iconic ladderback chairs. Although Mackintosh didn’t design the desk, it shows how pieces could fit within the house that was a home to Blackie, his wife Anna and their five children.

“I have happy memories of running up and down the the grid lines on the hall carpet and being shown books in the library where papers were piled high on the desk. I’m very pleased to see my grandfather’s desk back in the Hill House library.”
Ruth Currie, granddaughter of Walter Blackie

Emma Sweeney, Visitor Services Supervisor at the Hill House, added: ‘It’s important for us to remember that the purpose of the Hill House was first and foremost to be a family home. We’re very grateful to Ruth for donating her grandfather’s desk to us, as having original items of furniture really helps us to tell the story of the Blackie family and maintain the aesthetics of the home as it stood in the 1900s.’

A view of the hall inside the Hill House. Cream carpets run the length, with a Mackintosh wooden chair to the left and sidetable to the right.
The hall where Ruth used to play.

The National Trust for Scotland is taking a bold approach to conserving the house for future generations to admire and enjoy. The Hill House Box is an innovative solution to the problem of water damage at the Hill House, acting as a giant shield to permanently save the property and its irreplaceable collection.

A view of the Hill House Box from the garden on a bright sunny day. A sprig of laburnum hangs in the foreground.
The pioneering Hill House Box is protecting the house from the elements.