Grain stores, Cheapside Street

M068 Grain stores, Cheapside Street

Address: Cheapside Street, Glasgow
Date: 1892–3
Client: R. & A. Ewing; William McHarg
Authorship: Authorship category 3 (Office with Mackintosh) (Office with Mackintosh)

Background

In 1892 John Honeyman & Keppie were commissioned to design a substantial grain store in Cheapside Street in the rapidly developing, densely populated industrial district of Anderston, immediately W. of Glasgow city centre. The grain store was sited a short distance from docks on the Clyde at Broomielaw and Anderston Quay, a location typical for storage warehouses. 1

During the 19th and early 20th century the word 'warehouse' was used to describe two sorts of buildings: buildings used for storage, and retail establishments that today would be called department stores. The former type of warehouse was designed to provide flexible storage for products such as grain, tobacco or tea, to be fireproof, andto be secure with small, often barred, windows. 2

Several drawings submitted to the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court in May 1892 are annotated in Mackintosh's hand, suggesting that he was involved to some extent. The building was demolished in the 1960s, so the 1892 drawings and photographs dated c. 1910 and c. 1960 are the only sources on which to base this description.

B/W photograph of McHarg & Stewart grain store, Cheapside Street

Exterior

The store had seven floors and was built in three discrete sections divided by two internal walls. It was constructed of brick as was typical for warehouses at the time, 3 except at the ground and first floors on the E. elevation – the main facade to Cheapside Street – where the piers with pilasters and arches were ashlar sandstone with walls of stugged, snecked rubble between. Fifteen giant arches at street level, stringcourses, bands of small windows and the deep cornice above gave the facade a strong horizontal emphasis. Such features, modelled on northern Italian Renaissance palazzi, were commonly found in 19th-century offices and warehouses and perhaps 'reminded the Victorians of another vigorous commercial world'. 4

Although appearing symmetrical, the store was built for two distinct clients: R. & A. Ewing in the S. and central sections, and William McHarg in the N. section. The giant arches, containing entrance doors with cast-iron lintels resting on corbels and semicircular, tripartite windows above, suggested a single floor but in fact concealed two: the cornice concealed the fifth floor which was lit by glazed sections in the hipped roof. The bands of identical small windows in the W. elevation to Warroch Street also emphasised the horizontal lines of the building. Interestingly, even though the completed building had a homogeneous appearance, entries in the John Honeyman & Keppie job books show that each client's commission was tendered for and costs recorded separately. Ultimately, the same group of contractors constructed the entire building.

Although plainer, the ground- and first-floor facade of the E. elevation and the cast-iron lintels resting on corbels were reminiscent of John Honeyman & Keppie's 1890 Skin and Hide Market in Greendyke Street. The lintels, rolled-steel beams and cast-iron columns appeared again later at the Glasgow Herald and Daily Record buildings.

Colour photograph of front (E.) elevation, Cheapside Street stores Colour photograph of back (W.) elevation, Cheapside Street stores

Interior

A modular structural system of cast-iron columns and beams, with timber floor joists (except at the first floor where the joists seem to have been cast iron), created vast open floors contained only by the internal brick walls dividing the three sections of the store. Within the Ewing premises, workers passed between the two sections via narrow iron doors on each floor. Tight spiral staircases in Ewing's and McHarg's premises allowed movement between floors. Grain was moved vertically through rows of square hatches at the E. end of each floor using 'hoists and lowering apparatus'. Narrow hatches to the W. of these in the Ewing store suggest that some type of belt or part of the lowering apparatus was driven from the basement.

Colour photograph of ground-floor plan, Cheapside Street storesColour photograph of first-floor plan, Cheapside Street storesColour photograph of second to fifth-floor plan, Cheapside Street stores

Later history

The two sections of the grain store continued to be operated by William McHarg, McHarg & Stewart and Samuel McHarg & Co. until the early 1950s. 5 Ewing's business disappeared from the Post Office directories before 1905. Subsequently, the entire building was owned by the warehousing and shipping company Arbuckle, Smith & Co., who also owned further buildings on Cheapside Street to the N. of the store, and carried out alterations across their premises in 1957–9. 6 It seems likely that the windows of the central and N. sections of the store were blocked up at this time, as these sections of the building were henceforth used as a whisky bond (a secure warehouse where goods on which duty is to be paid are stored: duty is paid on release from storage). By 1960, the S. section of the store had been separated and was a tobacco bond owned by another company. 7

B/W photograph of bonded warehouse, Cheapside Street

On 28 March 1960, the Cheapside Street store made a profound mark on Glasgow. A devastating explosion and fire in the whisky bond destroyed the building, its contents and adjacent buildings to the N., and caused serious damage to many other buildings in Cheapside Street and Warroch Street. Fourteen members of the Glasgow Fire Brigade and five members of the Glasgow Salvage Corps lost their lives. 8 Following the fire, the ruins of the store were demolished. Later in the 1960s Anderston was designated a Comprehensive Development Area and most of the remaining buildings in Cheapside Street were demolished. 9

Notes:

1: John R. Hume, Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow and London: Blackie, 1974, p. 97.

2: John R. Hume, Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow and London: Blackie, 1974, p. 99; Nikolaus Pevsner, A History of Building Types, London: Thames & Hudson, 1976, pp. 216–18.

3: John R. Hume, Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow and London: Blackie, 1974, p. 97.

4: Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius, Victorian Architecture London: Thames & Hudson, 1978, p. 131.

5: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1950–1, p. 764.

6: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, Register of Inspections, D-OPW 19/45, p. 159.

7: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Strathclyde Fire Brigade Collection, FIRE Special Supplement , 'Glasgow: Personal Observations by the Firemaster', September 1960, research report , TD 1431/2/32, p. xi.

8: 'Cheapside Street 50 years on', www.strathclydefirepreservationgroup.org [accessed 14 March 2011].

9: David Glenday, Anderston As It Was, Glasgow: Glasgow City Libraries, 1992, p. 9. In 2010 a memorial stone to the victims of the 1960 fire was unveiled close to the former site of the building: Herald, 31 August 2010, p. 5.