See all stories
11 Jun 2021

Why we love the Tenement House


Hi I’m Ana Sanchez-De la Vega. I am the Visitor Services Supervisor here at the Tenement House in Glasgow. This was the home of a mother and a daughter who moved in here in 1911 and lived in here for the rest of their lives without changing the things in the flat and keeping most of the things that they had. So it’s a treasure trove and it has lots of objects that are wonderful and from them we can learn about the history of Glasgow’s past.

Everything that’s in the Tenement House belonged to either Miss Toward or her mother, which means we haven’t dressed up the rooms to make it look like someone lived in here but actually it’s their things and it just feels really personal and you can’t make that up. It’s amazing, and you do get a sense of what she liked and how she was from the things in the flat.

I love this place because grandparents and grandchildren when they visit they have the most amazing connection and interaction in this place - I haven’t seen that anywhere else. Grandparents have all the knowledge of this bygone era and it’s really, really nice to see young children interacting with them.

The Tenement House is small but perfectly formed. It has four rooms. We have a bathroom, the kitchen, the good room of the house or the parlour, and the bedroom. Everyone’s favourite room is the kitchen, which is also my favourite room, and that would have been the heart of the home. They would have cooked here and sleep here and it’s filled with really lovely things and we know that Miss Toward really liked to cook because we have all of her recipes. It’s just a place that visitors come and they see the old range and they just tell you the most amazing stories. The range is one of the most important features in the kitchen. It would have been on 24/7 and it would have been used to cook, heat the water and would give you heat in the room as well.

Then the bathroom. Yhey were really, really lucky to have a toilet - a working toilet - and a bathtub in the tenement. That was not the case in the majority of tenements. And then in the bedroom we have all of Miss Toward’s things and Mrs Toward’s sewing machine that she bought - we have the receipt from that sewing machine. Then in the parlour it was the room where you would retreat and have a wee bit of leisure but at the same time if you had any visitors, it needed to look really, really smart so children were allowed in it and it was like the nice room of the house.

When the visitors come to the Tenement House, the first thing they notice is the strong smell of gas. It immediately takes you back if you have lived with gaslights before. We’re one of the few places in the UK that actually still operates with gaslights and they give a lovely glow and they also give us a wee bit of heat, so they’re really nice. And they make a sound - they make a hiss. They just make the place so atmospheric and because we’re open through the winter as well visitors can see it when it’s dark outside and the place just changes completely. It’s a really nice, lovely thing to experience. If you’re lucky enough when you visit, we might let you have a go at lighting them!

When the Tenement House was discovered, Miss Toward had kept lots of things. This flat was overfilled with boxes and boxes and boxes of newspapers and dresses and all sorts of things. And now everything is tidy and with the help of our members and our supporters we’re able to preserve all of these things in our really nice and neatly organised archive. And for the first time ever our visitors to the Tenement House are going to be able to see behind the scenes as part of their core visit. You’ll be able to see some of the objects that we have been looking after but because of conservation reasons you haven’t been able to see before.

Glasgow people really, really love it and they can connect and they’re really proud of having this in Glasgow and it’s part of their story. Tenements are still all around the city so it’s great they can come and experience and see what it was like a hundred years ago and then find those features in their own tenement.

I love this place because when visitors come they can learn everything about Glasgow at the turn of the century, and the history of tenements is still being written because a lot of people still live in tenements today so there’s new chapters getting added to the stories and my favourite thing is that when we have visitors who have lived in a tenement they always tell us their own stories about tenements and that’s just the most wonderful thing to have.

From the hiss of gaslights to the coal-fired kitchen range, there’s plenty to discover at the Tenement House. Here we join Ana Sanchez, Visitor Services Supervisor, to find out what she loves most about the place.

Become a member

Join today