Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department

M094 Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department

Address: Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow G12 8DG
Date: 1894–5
Client: University of Glasgow
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

Photograph of perspective drawing

Origins and commission

In 1877 the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women was founded. John Caird, Principal of the University of Glasgow, was its first chairman, and Princess Louise its president; Janet (Jessie) Campbell and Mrs Jane Scott were vice-presidents. Courses corresponding to those of a university arts degree were taught and examined by University of Glasgow professors. Under the Companies Act, the Association was incorporated as Queen Margaret College in 1883. Janet Galloway was its first secretary and superintendent.

North Park House, adjacent to the Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens, was purchased in 1884 by philanthropist Isabella Elder and gifted to the College. The house had been begun by J. T. Rochead in 1869 and completed in 1871 by John Honeyman as a residence for John and Matthew Bell, merchants and art collectors. Arts courses were taught at North Park House from autumn 1884 and, from 1888, after the addition of a laboratory, sciences were added.

In 1890, Glasgow Royal Infirmary admitted female medical students for the first time and a medical school was established at the College. After incorporation into the University of Glasgow in 1892, Queen Margaret College continued to serve exclusively the higher education of women. Its medical school facilities were improved enormously by the opening of John Honeyman & Keppie's 'Anatomical Department' in 1895. The new building was located a short distance away from North Park House, on the E. boundary of the site, and provided the 'properly equipped' accommodation that Jessie Campbell and Isabella Elder had envisaged from the inception of the medical school. 1

It is not clear how John Honeyman & Keppie won the commission. By this time the practice had experience of building a medical school connected to the University of Glasgow: in late 1888 John Keppie had brought the contract for Anderson's College Medical School into the partnership with Honeyman following the death of his previous employer, James Sellars, under whose supervision Keppie had designed the building earlier the same year. 2 In addition, Honeyman had previously worked on several projects in Govan associated with Isabella Elder and her family.

By April 1894 the University of Glasgow had been awarded a grant of 5000 from the trustees of the Bellahouston Bequest Fund, and the 'Works Committee was authorised to approve Mr Honeyman to prepare plans for an anatomy and possibly also physiology department' for Queen Margaret College. It was a condition of Honeyman's appointment that he should visit new anatomy buildings in Oxford and Newcastle. 3 Plans and a description of the design were submitted by Honeyman & Keppie on 12 June 1894. John Keppie was present at a meeting of the University Court on 9 August 1894 when the plans were approved. 4

The building of the Anatomical Department in a genteel residential area met with vigorous objections. Local residents engaged the services of a lawyer, but to no avail. 5 Residents' letters in the Glasgow Herald in March 1895 described the building under construction as 'abominable' and a 'disfigurement to the locality'. 6 It was probably the industrial-style glazed ridge-and-furrow roof of the dissecting room, screened at E. and W. by scalloped parapets, and the white glazed-brick exterior finish on its N. and E. elevations that provoked these unfavourable remarks. 7 The Evening News reported in more jocular terms – 'Out West the Eyesore threatens to knock the weather out of popularity as an afternoon tea conversation opener' – but also drew attention to troubling aspects of the building's appearance: 'it takes the shape of a great big yellow wall – pierced here and there with melancholy holes which give the edifice an appearance uncommonly like that of a Russian country jail.' 8 The new building was opened formally on 18 November 1895.

Photograph of sketch of medical building under constructionB/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, W. elevation

Queen Margaret College operated as the women's college within the University of Glasgow until 1935. By then, male and female students were taught together in all subjects and the College buildings had become superfluous. The site was sold to the BBC in 1935, and in 1938, after extensive interior alterations, and two large additions connected to North Park House, one by James Miller, it reopened as the Corporation's Scottish headquarters. With the arrival of television, the BBC's premises were extended and the site expanded eastwards. From the 1960s onwards, many more masonry and prefabricated buildings were added.

The BBC vacated the Queen Margaret Drive site in 2007, after which all buildings except North Park House, James Miller's 1930s additions to it and the Anatomical Department were demolished. The N.E. section of the Anatomical Building – originally the dissecting room – and the pitched roof and gable of the former museum at the S.E. have been lost.

In December 2011 the Anatomical Building, North Park House and Miller's building were acquired by the G1 Group. A year later North Park House is again a private residence; work is under way to refurbish the Miller building as offices; and a planning application to redevelop the Anatomical Building within its original footprint has been submitted. 9

B/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, W. elevationColour photograph of S. elevation, Queen Margaret College medical building


Two sets of drawings of the Anatomical Building survive. The basement plan from the set held at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, is dated June 1894. Three drawings of the set submitted to the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court are dated July, August and September 1894 respectively: this set shows the Anatomical Department more or less as built. The University Court approved drawings on 9 August and Dean of Guild Court approval was granted on 13 September 1894. 10 A perspective drawing of the building by Mackintosh was exhibited at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1895 and published in the British Architect in 1896. 11

A comparison of the two sets of drawings reveals marked stylistic changes to the exterior appearance of the building. Many striking features suggesting the work of Mackintosh were introduced into the later set of drawings: the replacement of hipped roofs at S. and W., a lantern roof over the museum with gables and a simpler, glazed, pitched roof; a balcony above the entrance; the pierced wall through which the cat-slide roof emerges and coping at roof-level behind; the arched window high on the S. elevation; a simplified tower, following on from two alternatives in the earlier drawing of the S. elevation; and simple decoration on the front door.

Colour photograph of drawing of S. elevationColour photograph of drawing of S. elevation

The variety of spaces required by the Anatomical Department determined the plan and produced a distinctive composition unlike any contemporary Honeyman & Keppie work. Although the practice had designed a similar building six years earlier for Anderson's College Medical School, it was the recently completed human anatomy building at Oxford which inspired the new Anatomical Department. Keppie remarked that 'it furnished us with many points which will prove exceedingly valuable in the designing and carrying out of the buildings'. 12

In his speech at the opening of the building on 18 November 1895, Dr Thomas Bryce, lecturer in anatomy, expressed the debt to Professor Thomson of Oxford, whose 'model anatomical department he and Mr Keppie were permitted to examine'. 13 It was Arthur Thomson himself who outlined the plans for the new building for his fledgling department at the University of Oxford, creating an arrangement of distinct functional spaces. 14 He consulted professors of human anatomy at Cambridge, Trinity College, Dublin, Owens College, Manchester and Edinburgh about his design and all of them responded with encouragement for his ideas. 15 Plans for the two-storey building with basement, along with elevations in a free Renaissance style, were formally drawn up by Oxford architect Harry Wilkinson Moore. The building was constructed in 1891–3 to the N. of the Oxford University Museum.

Photograph of drawing of proposed new human anatomy building at Oxford University, basement plan, H. Wilkinson Moore, 4 February 1891Photograph of drawing of proposed new human anatomy building at Oxford University, ground-floor plan, H. Wilkinson Moore, 4 February 1891Photograph of drawing of proposed new human anatomy building at Oxford University, first-floor plan, H. Wilkinson Moore, 4 February 1891

Thomson's provision of double-height, top-lit spaces for the museum (with first-floor gallery), dissection room and vestibule, a lecture theatre with canted exterior corners and a yard at the rear allowing the discreet delivery of cadavers to the basement preparation rooms all found their way into Honeyman & Keppie's design in Glasgow. Wilkinson Moore's choice of architectural style and his insertion of a polygonal tower in the inner angle, adjacent to the front door, also appear to have influenced the Glasgow design. By 1970 the Oxford building had been extensively modified internally and had become 'entangled with later accretions behind the University Museum'. Today (2011), its heavily altered principal elevation on the N. is visible on a lane in the University Science Area. 16

Colour photograph of former anatomy school, University of Oxford, exterior of lecture theatreColour photograph of former anatomy school, University of Oxford, tower and entrance with later alterationsColour photograph of former anatomy school, University of Oxford, N. elevation with later alterations

In John Honeyman & Keppie's design, the double-height museum to the S., dissecting room to the N.E. and lecture theatre with canted exterior corners to the N.W., the microscope classroom and ancillary rooms over two floors to the W., and the stair tower were arranged about a central, double-height 'vestibule', or hall. They were expressed externally as distinct volumes, perhaps more clearly than at the more compact building in Oxford. The fall of the ground to the N. allowed for a full-height basement where the mortuary, preparation room and services were connected only by a lift to the floor above, and accessed via a gated courtyard at the N.W. The function-led approach to planning at Oxford would have appealed more to Mackintosh, with his Gothic Revival sympathies, than to the Beaux-Arts-trained Keppie. 17

The Italo-Scots Renaissance-detailed building Keppie designed for Anderson's College Medical School revealed unmistakably his stylistic inclinations: its E. elevation shares the palazzo style of other contemporary educational buildings in Glasgow, such as H. & D. Barclay's Annette Street School in Govanhill of 1886, while the disposition of the windows says little about the spaces behind. 18 The arrangement of windows of the Queen Margaret College Anatomical Building, however, corresponds to the functional requirements of the spaces inside: the windows in the tower express the rise of the stairs; the minimal fenestration of the museum is a consequence of the need for wall space for display cases; and the complete absence of windows for the dissecting room tells of a carefully-controlled environment and the sensitive nature of tasks undertaken inside. Both the dissecting room and museum were lit primarily by glazed roofs. These practical considerations resulted in large expanses of blank wall, reminiscent of Scottish 17th-century tower houses.

Colour photograph of S. elevation of Anderson's College Medical SchoolColour photograph of S.E. elevation of Anderson's College Medical SchoolPhotograph of lithograph of E. elevation

The Anatomical Building is relatively plain, a result perhaps of the limited grant from the Bellahouston Bequest Fund. Walls of snecked Giffnock sandstone rubble are stugged and have smooth ashlar dressings. 19 Details are derived from historical Scottish vernacular architecture and in this respect are like other John Honeyman & Keppie work of this time with which Mackintosh was probably involved. The tower in the angle of the S. elevation with lead-covered bell-cast cap and open-arched belfry points to Scottish 17th-century sources. Its form, and in particular an earlier design for it, is also similar to the tower at the Glasgow Herald building, though simpler and plainer. Mackintosh's perspective drawing shows the belfry with wooden louvres, though early photographs indicate that these were never installed. W. S. Moyes suggested that the chunky, widely-spaced balusters at the entrance and first-floor balcony might have been influenced by Stirling Castle, as at Martyrs Public School. 20 The distinctive lintels of the first-floor windows to the left of the front door resemble those on the top floor of the Glasgow Herald building in Mitchell Street, and above the girls' and boys' entrances at Martyrs Public School. Their sinuous mouldings may be adapted from the flattened ogee doorway of the Skelmorlie Aisle of 1636 at Largs, Ayrshire, published by MacGibbon and Ross in 1892, and sketched by Mackintosh on 17 May 1890. 21

Decorative carving is confined to a panel above the front door, containing the initials of the college on the left, St Mungo in the centre and the year of completion, 1895, on the right; a bulbous Art Nouveau motif above the panel; and curious figurative carvings in the cornice over the hopper-heads. 22 At the front door was an iron gate made by George Adam. Like the carving above it, the decoration of the gate combines conventional classically-inspired forms, such as the two solid stema or shield shapes, with curvilinear Art Nouveau lines.

The most idiosyncratic feature of the building is the cat-slide roof emerging through the wallhead and terminating in deep eaves over the first-floor balcony door. This playful form very much suggests the hand of Mackintosh. On the roof behind, coping expresses externally the division of the first-floor gallery of the double-height hall and the adjacent microscope classroom. Similar features can be found on the staircase bay of Martyrs Public School.

B/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, entranceB/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, gates at entrance doorwayB/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, tower and first-floor balcony


The interiors of this building have unfortunately disappeared as a result of alterations made by the BBC. The arrangement, fitting-out and lighting would have been undoubtedly influenced by Thomson's design for the Human Anatomy Department at Oxford.

An early photograph shows the plainly decorated, utilitarian interior of the museum. Vitrines along the S. wall displayed specimens, and wooden benches with curious concave depressions lined the long E. and W. walls. Further study specimens were stored in glass cases on the first-floor gallery. The iron beams and short timber joists carrying the gallery were frankly displayed. The inward-curving struts attached at regular intervals to the gallery balusters echo Japanese-influenced joinery found in work of this period associated with Mackintosh at Martyrs Public School and Glasgow School of Art, and may be drawn from Japanese sources. An illustration in Edward S. Morse's Japanese Homes and their Surroundings (1886) shows similarly shaped struts as bracing on the exterior of a house. It has been suggested that the double-height museum with first-floor gallery and unconventional timber balustrade may have been an early precursor of the library at Glasgow School of Art. 23 Surviving stained glass windows in the stair tower have shapes similar to those in the stair-tower windows at Redlands, Bridge of Weir.

In 1933 Dr Bryce remembered Mackintosh accompanying Keppie 'who designed the building' on site visits. On one visit Bryce invited Mackintosh to look down a microscope at a fish eye, which Mackintosh sketched and later 'translated into a decorative design'. It is not clear whether that design decorated the interior of the Anatomical Building. Bryce recalled Mackintosh presenting to the college a plaque 'designed by the lady who later became his wife'. This was located on the overmantel in the ground-floor cloakroom. 24

B/W photograph of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department, museum interiorPhotograph of illustration of exterior bracing on a Japanese house

Critical Reception

Mackintosh's perspective was exhibited at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1895 (227) and published in Academy Architecture and the British Architect, accompanied by very small plans of the basement, ground and first floors. The perspective shows the building almost exactly as built, though the decorative carving and iron gate at the front door are far more elaborate than the details depicted. It emphasises the garden setting, and includes two female students in the foreground wearing long gowns and reading. The art critic of the Glasgow Herald thought the building 'appropriately simple and severe', but considered it 'not so remarkable as the drawing of it by Mr. C. R. McIntosh', which he described as 'skilful'. He praised the foreground shrubbery as 'quite a delightful bit of conventionalisation', but was less complimentary about the rendering of the background trees, describing one as 'an inflated sack' and the wood as 'a country washing hung out to dry'. The British Architect simply described Mackintosh's drawing as 'a clever perspective view' of 'an excellent structure, treated with boldness and simplicity and originality in the details'. The simplicity of the plan and its aptness for teaching were also remarked upon.

In 1896 the perspective was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy (507). 25 It was also one of the projects exhibited by the practice at the Glasgow International Exhibtion in 1901 (59). Reviewing the display of architectural drawings and photography there, the Glasgow Herald critic commented that it was 'a rather affected drawing of a very interesting building'. 26

Photograph of perspective drawing

A report on the condition of Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 27


1: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Queen Margaret College correspondence, letter from Isabella Elder to Janet Campbell, 14 December 1891, GB0248 DC122/8.

2: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Anderson's College Medical School minutes, GB0248 DC244/1/4, 9 October 1888; 26 October 1888; 12 November 1888.

3: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court minutes, GB0248 C1/1/4, 17 April 1894.

4: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court Works Committee folder, letter and description of design, both written by John Keppie, 12 June 1894, GB0248 GUA 62836; University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court minutes, GB0248 C1/1/4, 2 August 1894; 9 August 1894.

5: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court minutes, GB0248 C1/1/4, 17 April 1894; University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court minutes, letters from writers Roberton, Low, Roberton & Cross (acting for residents of Hamilton Drive) to Mitchells, Johnston & Co., solicitors for the University, March–April 1895, GB0248 C1/1/4, pp. 474–80, .

6: Glasgow Herald, 19 March 1895, p. 8.

7: Simpson & Brown, Queen Margaret Drive Conservation Report, January 2009, p. 14.

8: Evening News, 15 March 1895, p. 2.

9: Information supplied by Stefan King, 14 December 2012.

10: The drawings at the Hunterian are likely to be those submitted by the practice along with a description of the design on 12 June 1894. University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court Works Committee folder, letter and description of design, both written by John Keppie, 12 June 1894, Gb0248 GUA 62836; University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court minutes, GB0248 C1/1/4, 9 August 1894; Glasgow City Archives Collection: Dean of Guild Court, Register of New Buildings, B4/11/1, Petitioner Queen Margaret College, 13 September 1894.

11: Glasgow Herald, 11 April 1895, p. 4; 'Our Illustrations' British Architect, 45, 10 January 1896, pp. 22, 26–7.

12: University of Glasgow Archive Services: Glasgow University Court Works Committee folder, description of design, 12 June 1894, GB0248 GUA 62836, p. 1.

13: Glasgow Herald, 19 November 1895, p. 4; Thomas Bryce and Arthur Thomson had both trained in medicine at the University of Edinburgh: Bryce went on to serve as demonstrator in anatomy to Sir William Turner.

14: Oxford, Bodleian Library: University Archive, Hebdomadal Council Papers, HC1/1/28–33, 24 January 1891.

15: Oxford, Bodleian Library: University Archive, Hebdomadal Council Papers, HC1/1/28–33, 14 February 1891.

16: Andrew Saint, 'Three Oxford Architects', Oxonensia, 35, 1970, p. 81.

17: Robert Macleod, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Architect and Artist, London: Collins, 1983, pp. 42–3.

18: Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 342 and pl. 84; 'H. & D. Barclay', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 9 March 2011].

19: 'Our Illustrations', British Architect, 45, 10 January 1896, p. 22.

20: University of Toronto, Robarts Library: letter from W. S. Moyes to Thomas Howarth, 29 April 1947, B96-0028/017(3).

21: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, 5 vols, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887–92, 5, p. 196; Dublin, National Library of Ireland: C. R. Mackintosh sketchbook, 2009 TX, p. 21.

22: Simpson & Brown, Queen Margaret Drive Conservation Report, January 2009, p. 47.

23: Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edn, 1977, p. 63. For details of the furnishings of the museum, and the laboratory in North Park House, see Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron & Hollis, 4th edn, 2009, p. 32. Edward Morse, Japanese Homes and their Surroundings, 1886, fig. 51.

24: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letter from Professor Thomas H. Bryce to William Davidson, 28 April 1933, GLAHA 52374.

25: Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, 1895 (227); Glasgow Herald, 11 April 1895; 'Our Illustrations'; Academy Architecture, 7, January 1895, p. 70;British Architect, 45, 10 January 1896, pp. 22, 26–7; Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1896 (507).

26: Glasgow International Exhibition, 1901 (59); Glasgow Herald, 21 August 1901, p. 8.

27: A copy of the report (MBS09) 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.