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16 Aug 2018

Trust takes its turn at ‘doing the stair’

Tenement House, Glasgow
We’ve just completed one of Scotland’s more unusual conservation projects with the repair and restoration of the close area of one of Glasgow’s oldest tenement buildings.

At first glance, the Tenement House in Garnethill appears to be an ordinary middle-class tenement from the late 19th century. However, the rooms inside are frozen in time and provide a rare glimpse into life in Glasgow in the early 20th century. The interiors are so significant that they’ve been listed by Historic Environment Scotland.

The Trust has just completed a project to redecorate the common stair of the red sandstone tenement – for the first time in more than 35 years. This gives visitors the best possible impression on arrival, as well as offering a realistic representation of how the tenement would have looked in the past. Works carried out include decoration to doors, walls and ceilings; plasterwork; repairs to and decoration of windows; installation of a new glazed frameless external door; lighting alternations; and repairs to the external steps and walls.

The close at Buccleuch Street
The close has been redecorated, complete with hand-stenciled details.
“The Trust cares for Scotland’s natural and national treasures – even tenements – so it’s only right that we take our turn to do the stair.”
Fritha Costain, Business Manager for Glasgow and the West

Fritha continues:

‘It’s definitely one of the more unusual projects that we’ve ticked off in 2018, but it’s just as important because it sets the scene for visitors coming to experience all that the Tenement House has to offer.

‘The Tenement House is so significant because its interior is almost completely unaltered from when Miss Toward, resident from 1911–65, lived there. From the black horsehair chairs, scrubbed kitchen range, household medicines and the recess beds to the working doorbell and gentle hiss of the gaslights, there’s so much to discover in this treasure trove of everyday history.

‘To find a collection such as this in situ is incredibly rare. I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to play our part in protecting this important piece of Scotland’s social and cultural heritage, so that visitors can open the door to early 20th-century Glasgow life and see first-hand why we do what we do for the love of Scotland.’

The interior of the Tenement House is largely unaltered since the mid 20th century
The interior of the Tenement House is largely unaltered since the mid-20th century.

The Tenement House allows visitors to experience a way of life – tenement living – which many people once shared, but which has now either disappeared or changed beyond recognition. The house features original fixtures and fittings, including a coal-fired kitchen range and gas lighting, along with some more obscure items like a ball of soap, turned jet black from years of handling, and a jar of plum jam made in 1929.

With the exception of a few items that were brought in, the entire interior collection belonged to Miss Agnes Toward. The shorthand typist took great care of her furniture and possessions and held on to all sorts of things that most people would have thrown away, making this extensive personal archive a valuable time capsule for visitors today and an important vehicle in showcasing what it meant to be an ‘independent woman’ at that time.

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