140–142 Balgrayhill Road

M034 140–142 Balgrayhill Road

Address: 140–142, Balgrayhill Road, Glasgow G21 3AE
Date: 1890
Client: James Hamilton
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

Colour photograph of 140-142 Balgrayhill Road from N.W.

The history of these semi-detached houses is difficult to trace. This part of Springburn was not absorbed into Glasgow until 1891, and planning records for the part of Lanarkshire to which it previously belonged have not survived. 1 Moreover, the name of the street and the numbering of the houses have also changed.

Location

Late 19th-century Springburn was an industrial suburb with extensive railway engineering works. Tenement flats dominated the centre, while the higher slopes of Balgray Hill were developed with villas for the more affluent, skirting the 1838 mansion of Mosesfield House. 2 Just two semi-detached pairs of villas are shown on the O.S. map surveyed in 1858, but the survey of 1893 shows 15 pairs, interspersed with large detached houses, strung out along both sides of what would later become Balgrayhill Road. 3 Development seems to have been active around 1890: in February 1891 the Glasgow Herald carried an advertisement for an unspecified number of new 5- and 6-room semi-detached houses for sale at 'Mosesfield, Balgray Hill', with 'Bath, Hot and Cold Water, &c.' 4

Architect and client

Originally known as Redclyffe and Torrisdale, the pair of houses now numbered 140–142 Balgrayhill Road were published as early works of Mackintosh by Thomas Howarth in 1952. 5 The client was probably Mackintosh's cousin, James Hamilton, of the carting contractors J. & G. Hamilton. He is listed as the first occupier of Redclyffe in the Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1891–2. This tallies with what Howarth was told by Hamilton's daughter in 1946: that as a newly-married couple her parents moved into the house in December 1890. 6 The attribution to Mackintosh was presumably a family tradition. No documentation has been discovered to confirm it.

Howarth gave the client's name incorrectly as William Hamilton, identifying him as 'the architect's uncle ... a haulage contractor'. 7 Mackintosh's uncle – James Hamilton's father – was in fact Gavin Hamilton, who married Marjory, youngest sister of Mackintosh's father. 8 It is just possible that Gavin Hamilton commissioned the houses, but it is unlikely, since he appears to have died around 1887, being listed for the last time in the Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1887–8. It is more likely that Gavin Hamilton's death paved the way for his son to build.

This stretch of Balgrayhill Road was known in the early 1890s as Mosesfield Terrace. In the 1891–2 Glasgow Post Office Directory, Redclyffe is listed as 7 Mosesfield Terrace, while number 8, the other half of the pair, appears for the first time in the 1892–3 edition as 'Torrisdale', occupied by George Clark, a wine and spirit merchant. 9 James Hamilton probably built both houses with the intention of living in one and letting the other. In 1895 he advertised a six-room semi-detached villa at Springburn for rent, with 'servants' room, bath room, scullery, h. and c. water; [and] garden'. 10 The house is not named in the advertisement, but the fact that Clark departed around this time, to be replaced by a new tenant, Donald Robertson, strongly suggests it was Torrisdale.

Design

Presumably because of their association with Mackintosh, the two houses escaped demolition in the 1960s when all the surrounding 19th-century villas were cleared to make way for public housing. 11 Deprived of their original context, it is difficult to know what – if anything – distinguished them from their former neighbours. They are set back behind front gardens, and separated from the pavement by a low wall with railings (the railings are not original). They are built of red sandstone, and each has a two-storey canted bay with hipped roof. These big bays dominate the front, the main entrances being in the side elevations. The only slightly unusual feature is the treatment of the first-floor windows between the bays: small and squarish, they share a continuous sill band and are pushed up under the eaves.

Colour phootgraph of 140-142 Balgrayhill Road from N.W.

A report on the condition of 140–142 Balgrayhill Road was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 12

Notes:

1: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John McKechnie, Clerk of Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, to Thomas Howarth, 26 August 1946 (unaccessioned item).

2: Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, pp. 425–6.

3: O.S., Lanarkshire, 1:10560, sheet VI, 1865; O.S., Lanarkshire, 1:2500, sheet VI.03, 1895.

4: Glasgow Herald, 21 February 1891, p. 3.

5: Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, pp. 21–3.

6: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letter from Marjory M. Hamilton to Thomas Howarth, 13 March [1946] (unaccessioned item). James Hamilton had previously lived with his parents at 1 Mosesfield Terrace, and his widowed mother continued to live there after he moved.

7: Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, p. 21.

8: Information from Iain Paterson, 13 July 2012, based on census returns.

9: In the names section of the directory, Clark is confusingly listed at Redclyffe.

10: Glasgow Herald, 27 February 1895, p. 4.

11: It is not clear when 140–142 Balgrayhill Road were first listed. In 1975 they were upgraded by the Scottish Development Department from category C to category B, and since 1983 they have been further upgraded to category A: Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 9, Autumn 1975, p. 1; Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 35, Autumn 1983.

12: A copy of the report (MBS03) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.