The Story of a House, part 5

After the war, a family called Campbell made their home at 8 Kersland Street. All I know about them (from the electoral register) are their names – James, Catherine, Hugh, Mary, Jane. So, possibly a mother and father and at least three children old enough to vote? They stayed a good long time, from 1947 all through the 1950’s, until, in 1960, the house was bought by William and Fay Darling. And this, dear reader, is a very significant moment!

If you have been following this story you may have noticed that up until this point all the residents of 8 Kersland Street have been tenants. It turns out (now that I’ve procured a copy of the historic title deeds from the Land Registry) that through all these long years the landlords, the owners of the property, were named Blackie and were in fact members of the famous Glasgow publishing firm, Blackie and Son. The firm ceased business in 1991, but you may be familiar with some of the iconic childrens’ books they published, including Cecily May Barker’s Flower Fairies books.

flower fairies

The Blackie we are interested in is John Blackie Jnr, whose father – John Snr – founded Blackie’s in 1809. He had originally been in business as a weaver, but was persuaded that money could be made by selling sizeable books in monthly or quarterly instalments, by subscription. Money could indeed be made and the enterprise developed and prospered for another 180-odd years.

Blackie_John jnr

John Junior entered the business with his father and from 1831 the firm became known as Blackie and Son . But John’s sphere of influence would grow wider when in 1857 he was elected to the Glasgow City Council and in 1863 became Lord Provost and served a term in that position. He proposed the City Improvement Scheme, a major plan to improve the quality of life in the poorer areas and was also involved in bringing water to the city from Loch Katrine.

The 1861 census shows John and his wife Agnes living at Lilybank House, Hillhead with their three young sons, John, William and Albert. His profession is given as “Publisher employing 20 men and boys”, a proud declaration one feels, and by this time he would have also been involved in city politics. But… Lilybank House…?

Lilybank House was built sometime around 1830 for the merchant Robert Allen. This would have been quite early in the evolution of the suburb of Hillhead, when James Gibson was selling off plots of land for development as villas and terraces. When John Blackie took on the tenancy in 1857, Lilybank House was a small Georgian villa with a large walled garden and greenhouses.  Once he actually purchased it in 1864, he commissioned architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson to add a new wing to the south end and relocate the entrance. During his term as Provost, Blackie had the satisfaction of entertaining both William Gladstone and young Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, at his newly enhanced residence.

Lilybank_House_1
Lilybank House has undergone various additions and alterations over the years. In 1894 it was converted to a Hall of Residence for women attending Queen Margaret College, known as Queen Margaret Hall. It was taken over by Glasgow University in 1924 and after it ceased to be a hall of residence in 1966, it has been used to house various departments of the University. It has been the subject of further refurbishment and conservation work and is now part of the Thompson Heritage Trail.

Lilybank House is of particular interest to us because it is situated in Bute Gardens, which is more or less a continuation of the other end of Kersland Street from number 8. So James Blackie Jnr would have been ideally placed to witness the streets of Hillhead emerge and grow before his very eyes, indeed it’s not unlikely that he and James Gibson would have been well acquainted with each other. Which probably explains why in 1871 Blackie purchased a plot measuring 738 and four ninths square yards of ground on the West Side of Kersland Street and, I think, other plots which I can’t identify.

upstairs

Did John Blackie then take a daily stroll down Kersland Street to monitor the progress of the construction which was growing into the 4-storey tenement building which became numbers 8 and 10 Kersland Street (for he was the owner of both addresses). I’d like to think he did, it’s what I would have done, wouldn’t you?

But John did not survive long to live to appreciate his investment. His health had been undermined due to overstrain during the years of his Provostship and he finally succumbed to a sharp attack of pleurisy on February 12th, 1873, in his 68th year. John Senior outlived his son and he died the following year at the grand old age of 91.

John Jnr’s widow Agnes moved out of Lilybank House and took up residence nearby at 6 Wilson Street, now known as Oakfield Avenue, and only four streets away from Kersland Street. In her household were her coachman and two female servants, so her “private means”, including the rental from numbers 8 and 10 and possibly other properties, seems to have left her comfortably off. It tickles me to think that Agnes Blackie and her tenant Madame Stewart might have actually known each other. But I’m probably being fanciful – presumably a woman of property and a tenant would have moved in different social circles, especially as all the actual renting out and collecting moneys and property management would have been done by an agent. It’s not impossible though, is it?

Inkedhillhead 1860
This 1860 map neatly illustrates the proximity of the site of 8 Kersland Street (#1) to Lilybank House (#2), Hillhead House (#3) and 6 Wilson Street (#4).
hillhead 1894
By 1894 the whole area has been transformed, and Hillhead House is no longer there, having been demolished in 1878.

On the death of Agnes in 1887, the Kersland Street properties were passed on to William Gourlie Blackie, John and Agnes’s middle son. One gets a feeling that after the death of his father in 1873, life hadn’t been particularly easy for William. He had married Katherine Rankin in 1875 and their son William R was born in London the following year. Two daughters, Agnes Mary and Ruby Katherine, came along over the next couple of years, both born in Kirkcudbrightshire, and then it’s back to London where another son, John Herndon was born in 1880. William was only 21 when his first child was born – could it be that he left Glasgow under a cloud? Why didn’t he join the family firm? Of course it could be that he just wanted to strike out on his own…

The 1881 census shows William to be an “unemployed printer” living in Clapham with his wife and four small children. Very sadly, they lost the youngest, John, the following year when he was only 2 years old. We find the family still in London 10 years later and William is now working in the publishing industry. There are clues which put the family in Canada in 1901 – indeed Blackie’s had an office there, so perhaps William did after all come to hold down a position with the family firm. But whatever dreams took William and Katherine to Canada, they didn’t last, for the next we hear is the report of William’s death in 1905 at Ballantrae in Ayrshire, at the age of only 51.

Katherine and her daughters then seem to have lived on their ‘private means’ in various places in the south of England until Katherine passed away in 1911 at Hastings in Sussex. She was then 57.

Agnes and Ruby would have been in their early thirties when they inherited numbers 8 and 10 Kersland Street. The sisters never married and as far as I can tell had set up house together and were living in Tunbridge Wells when their mother died. I don’t know that they always lived together – at one point they seem to have had separate houses in St Leonards on Sea and at another time are recorded as residing in Stirling, where I think they may have had relatives. I’m picking up these tiny tidbits from the title deeds and, to be honest it’s a miracle you can pick up anything from them as they are written in that arcane legal language so beloved of solicitors and their ilk. Here’s a wee snippet to show you what I mean (this is one of the clearer bits!)

deeds snippet

Anyway, the years rolled by and the rentals rolled in, until Agnes Mary passed away in 1929, age 50. Ruby Katherine carried on as sole proprietor and at some point in the mid nineteen thirties came to live at 24 Hamilton Park Avenue in Glasgow, a rather nice looking terraced house not a stone’s throw away from Kersland Street. (Hamilton Park Avenue is indicated by the blue arrow on the map below, and Kersland Street by the yellow one). The tenement properties were being managed by agents, but I can’t believe that Ruby wouldn’t have been familiar with them. She could hardly have avoided them whenever she passed by on her way to the Botanic Gardens, or the shops of Byres Road.

So what brought Ruby to Glasgow? As far as I know she’d never lived there, hadn’t known her grandparents, who had died before she was even born, hadn’t known the imposing house where her father had been brought up. I think that once again geography can come to our aid here. When you place 24 Hamilton Park Avenue (then known as James Street) on our 1860 map (#5) and realise how it fits in to the general scheme of things, I think it’s not unreasonable to conclude that this property must surely have been another acquired by the far sighted John Blackie Junior, and that in taking up residence there, Ruby was doing no more than coming home.

inked ham park ave

I’d like to think that Ruby felt a sense of belonging when she came home to Hillhead and got to know the area her family came from and the various locations which were part of her own history.

Economic conditions became more difficult after the second world war and the title deeds show us that Ruby, through her agents, began selling off the various flats at 10 Kersland Street in 1949, and that this continued throughout the 1950’s, culminating in the sale of number 8 in 1960. This no doubt enabling her to maintain herself as she became older and frailer (she’d have reached her 80th birthday in 1958). Ruby eventually moved into a nearby old folks home (Henderson House) and then possibly one in Edinburgh, where I think she lived out her days and died some time in the mid sixties.

My mum used to say that before us only one family had ever lived in our house, which, as we’ve seen, isn’t right. But she WAS correct in thinking that only one family had ever owned it in the previous 90 years. I wish I could tell her she was right, but she probably knew that anyway; she knew things, did my mum…

 

 

 

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The Story of a House, part 4

Let’s continue from where we left off…

The MacCulloch sisters lived at 8 Kersland Street until about 1926 or 27 and then we see the arrival of Mr and Mrs Smith, Ivan and Elizabeth, who only stayed for about three or four years. I think there was also a son, Alexander. I’m afraid I know next to nothing about the Smiths – there aren’t census returns available beyond 1911, so, paradoxically, it can be easier to find out about people from the 1800’s than the 20th century. So we’ll just have to go with these bare facts from the electorial register.

I’m pretty sure that neither the MacCullochs nor the Smiths would have owned a car, but if they had, they could have parked it around the corner in the Botanic Gardens Garage in Vinicombe Street (opposite the Salon Cinema). The Garage celebrated its 25th anniversay in 1929.

bgg 25 years

A_Brouhot_car_in_Paris,_1910

When the Botanic Gardens Parking Garage was built in 1912, parking in the streets was not permitted in the UK, and besides, the paintwork of motor cars of the time was highly sensitive to weather and sun and had to be protected. This garage was one of the first such structures to be built in the UK and to this day remains of great architectural interest as well as being a reminder of the exceptional wealth of Glasgow at a time when cars were generally considered an extravagant luxury.

BGG 02

The architect, David Valentine Wylie, had spent his prolific career building tenements and factories, and was experienced in the design of warehouses and stables. The Garage was his last project and it feels to me as if he poured his heart and soul into his final structure.  It was a new concept, this ‘warehousing’ of cars. Even the word garage, taken from the French garer, to shelter, hadn’t come into use until 1902. Garages have become a mundane feature of our daily lives, but it’s rather nice to look back on a time when everything was fresh and new and an architect could indulge in a flight of fancy and build one in an ornate Beaux Arts style with a glazed cream and soft green faience facade punctuated by large glazed arches.

The Garage highlights the complete revolution in road transportation that had taken place in the 60 or so years since the tenements of Kersland Street first saw the light of day in the early 1870’s.  When Madame Stewart had lived here, horse transport reigned supreme and at the end of the 19th century Glasgow was ringed with a large number of stables to provide horses for literally hundreds of passenger and goods vehicles. Perhaps a rather smellier world than we are used to now…?

horse tram 1890's
Horse tram no. 324, Kelvinside to Dennistoun, 1890’s.

Between 1898 and 1901, the Macgregors would have seen the electrification of the tramways, with central poles and tramlines being laid all along Great Western Road. The old trams used to run down the middle of the road, which meant that alighting passengers had to run the gauntlet of any traffic running on the inside lane. There are many newspaper reports of the time detailing accidents and near-misses due to this rather hazardous arrangement.

tramcar 730
Phase 1 Standard Tramcar
geatwesternroad_1904
Tramlines & poles at Kelvinbridge, 1904

I always imagined Mrs Isabella Millar, our resident during the Great War, as being someone who would have travelled in a hansom cab or a tram to her daughter’s house in Great Western Road. But actually, I’m now thinking that daughter Ada and her husband Fred the writer, living comfortably in their big house, might have been just the sort of people who would have been early adopters of the motor car, and that Isabella could have enjoyed a rather more modern mode of conveyance.

Of course the year that the Botanic Gardens Garage celebrated its 25th anniversary, 1929, was also the year of the Wall Street Crash.

280579a New York Wall Street
Hunger marches were held in the UK throughout the 1920’s and 30’s as the economy slumped and more and more men and women were left without the ability to feed their families.

In the latter half of the 19th century, fuelled by the industrial revolution, Glasgow had been a place of exceptional economic buoyancy and urban growth. Indeed we’ve already seen how the well-appointed district of Hillhead itself was a product of this growth. Hillhead was never as exclusive as the adjoining areas of Kelvinside or Dowanhill, though it attracted a sizeable population of middle class professionals such as ministers, academics, merchants and managers. And of course there was also the rather more artistic and bohemian section of the community, no doubt partly due to the presence of Glasgow University in the neighbourhood. 

When the great slump came, Hillhead was less affected than other areas, such as the Gorbals, which started from a lower rung on the ladder anyway and were more dependent on shipbuilding and heavy engineering. But times were hard in the inter-war years and I have no doubt that 8 Kersland Street, being at the more artisan end of Hillhead, saw its share of hardship as the years rolled on and the Smiths were replaced by the Bremners in around 1930. Again, I have only the bare facts from the Electoral Register – Elizabeth and James Bremner, and two daughters, Mary and Mima.

But then we come to 1937. And at last, we can put a face to our new residents, for Mr John Brown and his wife Euphemia come within the living memory of their grandson, Hugh Ritchie, who vaguely recalls visiting his grandmother as a very young child. I came across Hugh on the Ancestry website and he has not only given me permission to use material from his family tree, but has also kindly shared further family memories with me. John and Euphemia’s sojourn in Kersland Street was quite a short one, but thanks to Hugh, we can tell their story.

john brown and euhemia

John Brown and Euphemia Logan were married in January 1908 in Edinburgh, where their first child, Ishbel, was born later that year. John and Euphemia were both teachers, but in those days, women would have been expected to give up their profession on marriage, so no doubt Euphemia turned her energies towards bringing up their fast-growing family. By 1910 the family were living at Windsor Cottage, Shotts, where their son Hugh was born, closely followed by a daughter, Anne, who tragically died in 1914 when she was only 2 years old.

IMG_0286

John taught in Shotts until the First World War saw him signing up, in his late thirties, with the Royal Garrison Artillery, where he served in Mesopotamia, India and elsewhere for about three years. For much of this time he was a quartermaster, probably a quartermaster sergeant or similar. With John away at war, Euphemia and the children went to stay with her brother Donald in the Western Isles. When Donald got married, Euphemia took a cottage in Glen Borrodale, where she taught at the school there for a few years until John came home from the war.

school

I imagine that Euphemia must have been quite an intrepid, enterprising type of person to have taken a post in what is a rather isolated little village on the west coast of Scotland. And one notices that the normal rules about married women working don’t seem to apply in times of war! This is the old schoolhouse which was eventually put up for sale after it had fallen out of use as a school.

Family life resumed and two more daughters arrived in quick succession, Helen (known as Lala) in 1920 and Joan in 1921. When John got the headship of Braidwood School, the family moved there in 1920, followed by a move to Airdrie seven years later when he became head of the newly built (and much bigger) Clarkston Primary School. His final appointment, in 1933, was to the headship of Dalziel Public School in Motherwell, a large secondary school. At this time the family still lived in Airdrie and John would commute to Motherwell every day by bus.

JB obit (1)

Sadly, the First World War had left John Brown greatly diminished in health and in 1936 he fell ill and was off school for an extended period. To reduce his commuting burden, the family moved to Cambuslang. Unfortunately, after only a few days back at work, John took a stroke and had to retire in October 1937. The Browns had lived in Cambuslang for a year. In view of John’s ill health and the position of their house on a steep hill, the family moved to Glasgow, to a ground floor flat, 8 Kersland Street, where John died at home only a few months later on the 15th of July 1938. He was 61 years old. 

hugh brown, sonEuphemia and her daughters stayed on at Kersland Street, and saw the start of World War Two the following year. Son Hugh seems to have spent some time as an evacuee schoolmaster in Northamptonshire, before joining up like his father before him and serving in Italy, where by 1943 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant.  

Back in Hillhead, Euphemia and the girls would also experience WW2 at first hand. In March 1941, the shipbuilding town of Clydebank, a mere five or six miles up the river, was the target of one the most intense Luftwaffe bombing raids of the war. 1,200 people were killed in the Clydebank blitz and the town itself suffered extensive damage with many buildings destroyed. Joan later recalled how, as the bombers flew overhead,  the family would shelter in the basement of their flat along with other residents from the upstairs flats in the next door close. Hillhead escaped relatively unscathed, but the terrifying threat was there.

The Brown family moved out of 8 Kersland Street in 1943 and lived at Park Road, not too far away. One by one the daughters got married and left. Once they had all departed, Euphemia took to staying with them each in turn until in 1951 she eventually got a place of her own, also in the West End of Glasgow. This is probably where the young Hugh Ritchie remembers visiting her. After her health started deteriorating in around 1957, she once again stayed with her daughters while they looked after her. She died on 31st December 1961, in Newport-on-Tay, Ishbel’s home. Here are the sisters, Ishbel, Lala and Joan. 

John and Euphemia are long gone now, as are their children. But the family story carries on in the shape of Hugh and his brother (Ishbel’s sons), and their cousins (Joan’s two sons). Not to mention their children and their children’s children, the 13 surviving descendants of John Brown and Euphemia Logan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

at the eleventh hour…

… of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,

at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them

poppies

The sun is hidden, undecided;  /  The clouds torment the trees,  /  Thunder lurks, loose, yet undivided  /  By the faintest breath of breeze.

The coming storm is longed for, hoped for  /  To ease the electric atmosphere,  /  There is no time now to stop the downpour,  /  Let it come, yet still I fear.

Long streaks of light create a chaos,  /  Rivers swell and oceans roar.  /  Death, destruction, killing, fire,  /  The earth is shaken to the core.

Filled with dread, yet never doubting,  /  This terror comes in the murk of night.  /  But after night will come a dawning  /  Of beauty – breathless, fresh and white.

John A MacFarlane

Halloween Interlude

We’ll take a wee break from the house saga this week and instead have a story for Halloween…

Guisers warm their hands over their turnip  lanterns

Isabella filled the kettle and started putting her messages away while she waited for it to boil. She wasn’t sure about the oranges and peanuts she’d bought for the guisers, remembering the way the kids had looked down their noses at her basket of fruit and nuts last year.  Those modern kids expected big bags of sweets. And pound coins – some even them even expected pound coins! She was getting a bit sick of it if she was honest. Maybe tomorrow she’d turn out the lights and just not answer the door if anyone came calling. Yes, that’s what she’d do.

She’d no sooner poured her tea than the doorbell rang and she called out “Coming!” as she hobbled down the hall to answer the door. She hated it when visitors rang again and again when she took too long to answer. People were so impatient.

It was that Mrs McCusker from the flat in the close next door. “Oh Mrs Steele, I’m so sorry to bother you, but you did say if I was ever stuck…?”

“Yes?” It came out rather more sharply than she intended.

Mrs McCusker stepped aside, revealing the skinny, wretched-looking child who was standing behind her. “It’s Beccy here, she’s sick and she’s been sent home from school. I really shouldn’t have taken her in this morning, but I thought she’d be okay once she got there – you know how they exaggerate sometimes – and I simply have to get back to work, we’re so short staffed at the moment. I’m sorry to ask but my mum’s got a hospital appointment today and I have no-one else. You couldn’t…? I mean would you mind…? She won’t be any trouble and I’ll come and get her just as soon as I’ve picked up the boys from after-school club at five o’clock.”

Isabella felt her heart melting as she looked at the two anxious faces. “Well of course she can stop with me, Mrs McCusker, what are neighbours for? Come away in Beccy, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine while your mum goes to work won’t we? Have you time for a cuppa, Mrs McCusker, before you go?

There was no time for a cuppa. She gave Beccy a peck on the cheek. “You be a good girl now Rebecca.” Her words trailed after her as she hurried down the street.

Beccy watched her mother disappear round the corner then stepped nervously into the hallway. Isabella realised that although the family had come to live next door three, no four, years ago, this was the first time any of them had ever stepped over her threshold. Isabella took pride in keeping herself to herself, but now it struck her that it seemed plain unfriendly never to have invited her neighbour in for a cup of tea even though they often passed the time of day when they encountered each other on the way in or out.

She could feel the child shaking as she directed her into the lounge, so she spoke gently, “Why don’t you just settle yourself here on the settee, Beccy, I can see you’re feeling quite poorly, you look so pale and miserable. I’ve got this nice fluffy blanket so let’s tuck you in nice and cosy. I’m just going to fetch my cup of tea from the kitchen and then I usually watch Homes Under the Hammer round about now, is that alright with you?” Beccy smiled and nodded, “My Nan watches Homes Under the Hammer”… and she has a blanket just like this one, she thought sleepily.

Beccy was fast asleep by the time Isabella returned and she found herself just sitting watching the sleeping child; the programme and the now cold tea forgotten. It had been quite a while since a child had slept in the house, and the memories of her own young ones and her dear Jimmy came flooding back to her as she too nodded off.

She woke with a start. Why do the adverts always play so much louder than the programme, she thought crossly as she quickly turned off the trailer for Strictly Come Dancing. Good, the child was still sleeping, she’d just let her be and go and listen to the news in the kitchen. “Sleep is the best medicine” was what she always used to say whenever any of her girls fell ill. And she had heard them say that to their own children, just as her mother had said it to her…

I’m in a funny mood, she thought, and I feel like baking a cake! She hummed as she bustled about, just as she did in the days when often as not she’d be taking a cake or some scones out of the oven just as the girls got home from school. They’d crash in the front door and head straight for the delicious smell coming from the kitchen, leaving a trail of bags and coats and musical instruments in their wake. She wished now she’d spent less time telling them off and wanting them to be quieter, tidier, more helpful, less … what? How could she have known how much she’d come to miss the noisy chaos, the sheer life of them around the place. Oh, they brought the grandchildren to visit occasionally, but it wasn’t the same, was it?

A soft knock on the kitchen door interrupted her reverie and she turned to find Beccy peeping shyly into the room. “I hope you don’t mind, I woke up and …” “Of course not, dear, come and sit by me. Look I’ve made a cake! Do you think you could manage a slice, you’re looking so much better than you did earlier, your cheeks are quite pink now.”

“I’m starving, I puked up all my breakfast!”

Isabella laughed and cut into the cake. “I should really let it cool for longer, but if you’re starving…”

Beccy seemed like a different child as she tucked in to the cake and looked curiously around the room.  She spotted the fruit which Isabella had emptied into her Halloween basket. “Mrs Steele? Your basket’s got spiders on it, is that for Halloween? For trick or treat?”

“Hmm, well maybe . And we never used to call it trick or treat when I was a girl”

“Did they not have Halloween in the olden days then?”

“Oh bless you, yes of course we did! It’s just we used to call it guising and we had turnips for lanterns, not pumpkins, and the wee boys used to say ‘Gonnie gie’s ma Halloween!'”

As the afternoon wore on, the old lady and the little girl sat at the kitchen table and chatted away like old friends. Isabella learned all about Beccy and her two little brothers, James and Ronnie, and how the three of them were all excited about getting dressed up in their skeleton costumes and going out trick or treating with their Mum the following evening.

Isabella found herself telling Beccy what Halloween used to be like ‘in the olden days’ when the shops weren’t full of pumpkins and bags of Halloween sweets and ready-made costumes. She unearthed her old photograph album and found the picture of Lizzie, Kate and Maisie all dressed up in old clothes and home made masks. “All the children in the street used to go up and down the closes together, and be made to sing a song or say a poem to get a sweetie or an orange, or even sometimes a sixpence.”

And Jimmy, she remembered, would shadow the band of excited children like an unseen guardian angel making sure that nothing untoward happened to his girls until they fetched up safely home again with their Halloween bags full to the brim. The family always had bangers and mash for their special Halloween tea, and Jimmy would scare the girls witless with his tales of witches and spirits and how the ancient Celts believed that on the night of the 31st of October the ghosts of the dead would walk again amongst them, and large bonfires were lit in each village in order to ward off the evil spirits. She could hear his voice now, “And that” he’d declare “was how Halloween began.”

“Mrs Steele? Are you alright Mrs Steele? Did I upset you?” Beccy’s face was full of concern and Isabella patted her hand as she wiped away a tear. “Oh no dear, not at all, I’m just remembering how things were… how I was…

“Oh, there’s the bell, that’ll be your mum and your brothers, let’s go and let them in, maybe they’d like a piece of cake.” 

Beccy’s brothers didn’t need to be asked twice and their mother followed them into the kitchen for the long-overdue cup of tea, just a quick one! The two little boys were beside themselves with excitement – mum had bought a pumpkin and they were going home now to carve their very own lantern. Mrs McCusker – “call me Sophie” – gave a tired smile. Isabella thought how very weary she looked and on impulse said “Why don’t you all come back here for your tea once the pumpkin carving is done? I make a mean macaroni cheese!”

“Oh no, we couldn’t, we’ve imposed upon you enough already today…”

“Nonsense, I’ve had a lovely day, having Beccy here has made the house come to life again, you’d be doing me a favour. And anyway, when are you going to find time to cook if you’re busy carving a pumpkin?”

The children looked hopefully at their mother; they all loved macaroni cheese. Sophie knew when she was beaten and smiled gratefully at Isabella.

As she grated the cheese, Isabella’s brain was busy. I wonder if I could persuade them to come for bangers and mash tomorrow? I can go to the supermarket in the morning and get potatoes and sausages, and some of those bags of gruesome sweets the children love so much. And maybe a small pumpkin to make a lantern for the window, I’m sure it must be a lot easier to hollow out a pumpkin than a turnip….

lanterns

 

The Story of a House, part 3

I think I should be calling this a Saga rather than a Story as we’ve reached part 3 and are still only at 1906! Trouble is, there are just so many interesting facts to be discovered, so many assumptions to shatter, unknown lives to celebrate. Let’s see how far the story takes us today, you’re not in any hurry are you…?

1906-1917. With the Macgregors gone, a new tenant took up residence at number 8. Mrs Isabella Millar was a lady in her sixties, a widow whose husband David had died, age 70, in March of 1900. The pair had been married for 36 years and had lived at St George’s Cross where David Millar worked as a hatter. Isabella now came to live in Kersland Street with her maid Mary Brown, a 20 year old girl from Leadhills.

hats

Mrs Millar had private means, her husband having left behind an estate of about £360, which would be worth around £11,555 in today’s money. So she didn’t need, and wouldn’t have qualified for, the new Old Age Pension which came into being in January 1909 – “Pensions Day” – and paid a weekly pension of 5s (7s 6d for couples) to eligible people aged 70 or more. The Old Age Pensions Act, passed in 1908, was just one of the reforms brought in by the Liberal Government led by Herbert Asquith, then David Lloyd-George. Probably as much because they were afraid of the promises being made by the newly formed Labour Party as an overwhelming desire to improve the lot of the poor working classes. I’m sure they did mean well too, but politics is all about winning votes, right?

I found out something quite remarkable as I was searching for Mrs Millar in the records. We all know that women weren’t given the vote until 1918, don’t we? But did you know that women could actually vote in non-parliamentary elections as early as the 1830’s? No, neither did I! But there are some dusty old ledgers sitting on a shelf in the Mitchell Library listing ‘Female Voters’ and dating back to at least 1831. So when it came to Town Councils, Parish Councils, School Boards, women were there voting with the men. And I don’t think it was only women with property either, as you’re just as likely to see ‘tenant’ and ‘charwoman’ as ‘proprietor’ and ‘private means’

Edwardian-Platter-Hat-1

And Isabella B Millar is right up there, listed with the best of them, so it would be great to think of her jamming her platter hat firmly on her head and marching round to the Burgh Hall to exercise her vote in the latest municipal elections. Oh alright, walking round in a dignified way if you prefer…

I don’t know how many children Isabella and David had, but there was one daughter, Agnes, known as Ada, who lived quite near her mother in a house called Ashcraig, just a little further up Great Western Road at Kirklee. Ada had married a chap called Frederick Lansdown Morrison, MA, LLB. Fred had had a distinguished academic career (he’d gone up to Glasgow University at the age of 16) and the 1901 census lists him as being a writer.

Ashcraig was the Morrison family home and Ada and Fred lived there with their three sons Ronald, James and Leslie, so I guess Isabella would have been able to visit her daughter, grandsons and son-in-law quite often. And they must surely have come to number 8 to visit granny. I wonder if they’d be shown in to the parlour upstairs, or gone down to the cosy kitchen in the basement where Mary Brown might have been baking cakes in the cast iron range.

cooking range

When war broke out in 1914, Fred Morrison was among the first to sign up, even though he was already 50 years old. He served with the Highland Light Infantry, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Fred served in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine and was much decorated, though he felt he had done nothing to deserve it other than to survive, and paid warm tribute to the bravery of his officers and men who had died in battle. Colonel Morrison’s battalion had suffered very heavy losses at Gallipoli – only 5 out of 29 officers survived the campaign and 321 out of 1033 other ranks.

Two of Ada’s sons, Ronald and Leslie, also joined the Highland Light Infantry and I have an idea that James, the middle son, went to Canada and joined up there.

With all her men away at war, I think that Ada brought her mother to live at Ashcraig, where no doubt the two women could console and support each other, and Ada could look after Isabella, whose health was failing. I’m sure that worry about her grandsons and son-in-law did her heart condition no good at all and on the 7th July 1917 Isabella passed away at age 78 with Ada by her side. The cause of death was myocarditis and dilatation of the heart. Poor Ada’s woes weren’t over, for on the 22nd December that year, Fred died at 54 in Alexandria Egypt, the strains and hardships of war finally taking their toll. He was buried at the Alexandria War Memorial Cemetery.

This one family’s story mirrors what was happening to families up and down the land, indeed throughout the world. Among the many memorials which were raised to commemorate this lost generation, locally a peal of 8 bells were gifted to Kelvinside Parish Church by Mr Nicol Paton Brown, whose only son, Captain Kenneth Ashby Brown lost his life in battle, shortly after the bells were installed.Watch-gravesThe peal forms a memorial to the men of Glasgow Academy, Kelvinside Academy and the church congregation who died in the Great War. The bells were rung for the first time on Christmas Day, 1917. I don’t suppose Ada would have felt much like celebrating Christmas as she listened to them ring out and remembered all she had lost that year, and might yet lose, with her boys so far away. But I believe she was spared further sorrow for by all accounts all three young men survived the war and came home.

In December, 1918, the bells were formally dedicated in a special service at which both West End schools were represented. To this day they can still be heard ringing out at 11 am each year on the 11th of November.

  • curtain blowing1918-1926. With the passing of Mrs Millar, number 8 saw the arrival of new tenants, the MacCulloch sisters, Jessie, Nellie and Rebecca, and their occupation is recorded as ‘Governess’ – all three of them. Now I don’t quite know what to make of this – I would have thought that a governess was someone in Victorian times who lived in the household, not quite a servant, but not part of the family either. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here as the sisters were all living in Kersland Street, so perhaps they were kind of ‘day governesses’, going off each day to teach their charges and coming back home at night, or… could their pupils have come to them? But if that’s the case, why not call yourself a tutor, or a teacher? I’m afraid I can offer no answer to these questions.

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What I do know is that the MacCulloch sisters came from a large family of seven girls and one boy.  We can follow the family’s progress through the years by catching up with the census every decade. It makes interesting reading…

  • In 1861, David and Mary MacCulloch already had two daughters, Jane (7) and Jessie (5 months), and a son, Andrew (6). They lived at 22 St Vincent Street (near George Square in the centre of Glasgow) and David worked as an Emigration and Insurance Agent, probably at one of the nearby firms in the city.
  • By 1871, the family had grown considerably and Jane, Andrew and Jessie were joined by another five sisters: Mary (8), Ellen (7), Rebecca (5), Isabella (2) and Robertina (4 months). The family had moved south of the river to what looks like a large workman’s cottage on Shields Road – St Andrews Cottage. Also in the household were a servant and a nurse – I should think so too! David was now working as an Iron Merchant.

Over the next ten years, all the older children would leave home, I’m not quite sure where to, except that I think that Jane got married to one William Keighley, and went to live in Yorkshire.

  • In 1881, the household comprised David and Mary, with Jessie (20), Rebecca (15), Robertina (10) and a servant girl. The family fortunes seem to have flourished because there has been another move which now sees them at a ‘good’ address in the West End, 27 Hayburn Crescent, Hyndland. David’s occupation is described as ‘Commission Agent, Metal Trade’ – so still an Iron Merchant then!

Young Isabella, who would have been 12, would appear to be missing, but we mustn’t jump to conclusions – David and Mary might have suffered the loss of their child, but she might equally just have been absent on census night, perhaps staying over with a friend or one of her older siblings. At 51 and 46, you would have thought that David and Mary could have been looking forward to seeing their remaining children settled, and for their own lives to become a little less hectic.

  • However!!! 1891 sees the family now living at 3 Elgin Terrace (now Havelock Street) in Partick, which is definitely a move downmarket. David, at 61, is described as an Oil Merchant’s Clerk, and the household now consists of Jessie, Mary, Ellen, Rebecca and Robertina plus Jane Keighley with her two daughters, Lena (7) and Gladys (2), both born in England, plus another grand daughter, Margaret MacCulloch, age 4, born in Giffnock, Glasgow.

There must surely have been a series of catastrophes to have brought the family to this state of affairs, but the census really only leaves us with more questions than answers. Did William Keighley die, leaving Jane alone with two small children? Why did Mary and Ellen come back home? Was one of them Margaret’s mother? Who was the father? How did it come about that all five of those unmarried daughters are described as ‘Governess’, with skills, variously, in English, French, Music and Latin.

I am very intrigued by this singular family, and I feel sad that I haven’t found out any more about them other than these bare facts. If I was a more skilled researcher, with more time, perhaps I would know where to look to see how they fared in the years between this census of 1891 and 1918 when Jessie, Nellie and Becca landed in Kersland Street in the wake of the Great War. By this time, these women were in their 50’s, marriage had passed them by, and employment opportunities for women in those days were sparse.

But I imagine that they stuck together, as their family had always done, and did what they needed in order to survive, getting what teaching work they could to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. There were probably periods when they took in lodgers, as some years the electoral register throws up some additional names – Christina Yuill, Mary Alexander, John Dewar, Stanley Wylie, all perhaps finding a home for a year or two before moving on. I imagine hardworking, enterprising people, and I admire their resilience.

And I’d also like to imagine Jessie, Nellie, Becca and their lodgers occasionally finding time to visit a new phenomenon in the neighbourhood, the Salon Cinema which was quite literally round the corner in Vinicombe Street. The Salon was one of the first suburban cinemas in Glasgow (1913), and was also notable for housing a full orchestra, and for serving tea and biscuits to its patrons during the afternoon! Sounds ideal for the sisters, doesn’t it?

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The stunning building that was the Salon Cinema (now a restaurant)

 

 

The Story of a House, part 2

Handy hint – if you haven’t already,  it would probably be better to read the first part of this story before proceeding to part 2!

Madame Stewart lived at 8 Kersland Street for a few years from 1877, and then the tenancy was taken up by a Mrs Addie who lived there until 1891, when a certain James Macgregor moved in. I’ve not been able to discover anything at all about Mrs Addie, other than that her rental was £30 per annum. However, it’s a different story when it comes to James Henderson Macgregor as – finally! – we have some actual facts to go on, thanks to census returns of 1891 and 2001.

When James moved into Kersland Street with his wife Isabella in 1891, they were newlyweds, having been married on the 17th June only the year before, at the Alexandra Hotel in Bath Street, Glasgow. Like my own parents, neither were native Glaswegians: 29 year old Isabella Oliver came from quite a large family in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire. Her father was a master baker and the 1881 census records that she, at age 20, was a pupil teacher. James (27) came from Stirling and his father had been a timber merchant. Stirling and Tullibody belong to the same part of the world, so it seems likely that James and Isabella became sweethearts when they were still living at home with their families.

James seems to have been the first of the pair to move to Glasgow – his address on the marriage certificate is given as Hill Street, Garnethill (yes, more hills!), and he had a job as a commercial traveller. I get the feeling that James hadn’t been there for very long when he arranged the wedding in a hotel quite near to his lodgings in the city centre. It was the sort of place where business meetings were also carried out, so perhaps familiar to him through his work. As you can see it was quite a grand place (no longer there), so seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.

Isabella’s address was Stirling Road, Tullibody, so I imagine she travelled to Glasgow to marry James, and presumably lived with him at Hill Street until they took up their new residence in the West End. It’s possible that Isabella was pregnant when they moved in, for their first child, Lilian, was born in 1892, probably at home. A brother, James, followed in 1895 and a sister, Isabella, in 1898. The 1901 census also notes a servant, Susan Campbell, 30.

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8 Kersland Street was (and is) a traditional tenement building, not distinguished by any great architectural features or notable inhabitants, and certainly not as well appointed as some of the grander terraces and villas in the neighbourhood. But neither was it a cramped little single end or two bedroom flat with a shared outside toilet such as the one where we lived in Govan when I was a child, and which were very prevalent throughout the poorer parts of Glasgow. Even the most ordinary tenements in this corner of Hillhead provided more than adequate accommodation for their residents, with sizeable rooms, bay windows and high ceilings. Not to mention proper plumbing and gas, then electric, lighting.

So all in all, I think that number 8 would have suited the Macgregor family very well. James would only have had to step out to Great Western Road to join the bustling commuters taking trams or trains into town, where his firm, J Hartley & Co, Glassmakers, had an office at 130 Bath Street. Or further afield if he was visiting clients. And he could also have taken the Subway, which opened in 1891, the third oldest metro in the world.

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With Papa safely off to work in the morning, it would be time for the children to go to school. I’ve searched through the admission records of the two nearest primary schools, Dowanhill and Church Street Primaries, but I’m afraid I drew a blank and I don’t think Lilian, James or little Bella would have attended the Catholic St Peter’s Primary, as their parents had married according to Church of Scotland rites. And then I remembered – Isabella had been a teacher, could she possibly have taught the children herself at home? However, I feel this is not the likeliest solution – the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act had made primary education universal and mandatory, and it seems that the School Boards were pretty assiduous at chasing up non-attendees.  Whatever the truth of it, I imagine that they would have been in a class looking something like this, girls in pinafores, boys in collars.

school class

I’m always quite impressed when I learn that a family had a servant or two – what a luxury! But then, I’m looking at it from the point of view of someone who takes for granted all our modern electrical ‘servants’ – washing machine, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, central heating…. In 1900, they had none of those advantages, so of course everything would have to be done by hand in a laborious and time consuming way. When you think of all the daily tasks that had to be done in this fashion, one servant doesn’t seem enough, and seems more like a necessary expense than a great extravagance, especially when there are young children to be looked after.

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Take the laundry, for example. There was a communal wash house in the basement, shared by all the households in the building.  Each house would have its own laundry day, when you would light a fire under the big copper boiler, wait for the water to heat and then boil your clothes and linens in it, popping in your Recketts Blue Bag which would make the whites look whiter by disguising any yellowness. Then boil up more water for rinsing and hang it all out to dry in the back green. And then of course there would be all the ironing (and starching) and putting away to do afterwards. If you were little better off you could send your washing to the laundry, so perhaps the Macgregors could do that at least some of the time.

But it would also be nice to think that life wasn’t ALL about the daily slog. I’ve mentioned before that the Botanic Gardens was no more than a hop, skip and a jump away, and I feel sure that the children would have been able to play in the street after school with their friends, or in the back garden if they could dodge the washing flapping on the line. They might have found a little time in the evenings to gather round the piano and sing, or maybe they liked to play card games or enjoyed reading or sewing, though the latter was maybe more of a necessity than a leisure activity. Perhaps James and Isabella would take their family to church on a Sunday morning and then a stroll in the park in the afternoon.

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The nineteenth century became the 20th, and the new Edwardian age began with the passing of the old Queen on the 22nd January 1901. That same year Glasgow played host to a great International Exhibition which ran from May until November at Kelvingrove Park, just beyond the University. The event was hugely popular, and clocked up over 11 million visits by the time it closed its doors to the public on the 9th of November. You can get an idea of the scale of it from this picture showing the halls, pavilions, cafes and other attractions spread out on the 73 acre site on both sides of the River Kelvin with the University looking down from Gilmorehill to the right.

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The large white structure with the golden domes was the main industrial pavilion, a temporary edifice which won awards for its Scottish architect, James Miller. However, it was the building to the right, the new Palace of Arts, designed by London architects Simpson and Allen, which was the centrepiece of the exhibition and which would become a lasting, and much loved, legacy for the city, renamed the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The construction of Kelvingrove was partly funded by a previous, equally successful, Exhibition which took place in 1888.

I do hope that the Macgregors took full advantage of the historic exhibition during the six months when it was happening more or less on their doorstep. Perhaps they even went along to to watch Princess Louise, the King’s daughter, perform the opening ceremony, or were there on the day the King of Siam paid a visit, or the French Empress Eugenie. They could have bought a programme and discussed over dinner which attractions they would explore on their next visit.

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The years rolled by and in 1906 we lose sight of James and Isabella and their little family for it is at that point, after 15 years, that they leave Kersland Street, the home where they started their married life and where their children were born. I can find no clue to tell me where they went after that. I note with a heavy heart that only 8 short years later the world would be in turmoil and that young James at 19 would be of an age to find himself in the awful trenches of the Great War, while his sisters, at 22 and 16 might have known what it was to lose a sweetheart. There is always an element of sadness when you’re delving into the past and know that the lives you become involved with – and come to care about – ended before you were even born. And of course it’s especially poignant when hindsight tells you that those lives are inexorably heading towards a dark cloud which may shatter their hopes and dreams forever.

I can only hope that the Macgregor family of Kersland Street came through the First World War relatively unscathed and that perhaps some stray descendant of theirs might come across this blog and be moved to share with us some of the answers to the question, “what then?”

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The Story of a House

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As I’ve been exploring the history of my kinsfolk in this blog, a prominent feature of each tale has always been the family home –  Spean Cottage, 50 High Street, 56 Logan Street, dwellings in Blackpool, Inverness, Cleckheaton…

whole buildingAnd of course there’s also the house at 8 Kersland Street in Hillhead, Glasgow, the ‘front door’ (i.e. ground floor) tenement flat, which played such an important part in my childhood and was our family’s address for 50 years. So for this, my 50th post, I thought I’d have a go at tracing the history and character of this house of ours, right from the latter part of the 19th century when it first appeared on a map, until the present day.

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At the beginning of the 19th century the area of Hillhead, to the west of Glasgow City, was still an undeveloped rural district nestling in the curve of the River Kelvin. If you look at the above map you can see that the most prominent feature was a house in wooded grounds on the brow of the hill leading down to the river. This was Hillhead House, a long, pavilion style villa which dated back at least to 1680. Here is a picture of the house as it was in 1875.

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Hillhead House came into the possession of one Andrew Gibson in 1707, and a few generations of the Gibson family seem to have lived there in prosperity and tranquility for the next 100 years and more. To the east, throughout the 1700’s, Glasgow itself grew and prospered at an unprecedented rate, largely due to the enormous fortunes being made at the time out of the tobacco trade with the colonies of America. By the beginning of the 1800’s the industrial revolution was taking hold and over the years the city became increasingly overcrowded and subject to poor air quality due to the factories which were springing up within its bounds.

Enter one James Gibson, last of the Gibson dynasty to live at Hillhead House and inheritor of the house and of the “twenty shilling land of old extent of Byres of Partick and Hillhead” which his forebear Andrew had acquired. James must have recognised that the time was ripe for development of the land, for the following notice appeared in the Glasgow Herald on the 31st of August 1827, with, you’ll notice, instructions to apply to Mr Gibson at Hillhead…

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There was a plan! And as part of that plan, James Gibson had instigated works which would result in Hillhead becoming much more accessible from the city; namely a turnpike road (Great Western Road) and a bridge over the river Kelvin at the bottom end of what is now Gibson Street.

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The ‘King’s Bridge’ erected by James Gibson in 1822 was replaced in 1895 by Eldon Street Bridge, still in use today.

Gibson’s plots proved popular and were soon snapped up by eager developers who paid top dollar for some of the best architects of the day, including Alexander ‘Greek’ Thompson, to design handsome villas, terraces and tenements, in order to attract those wealthy Glaswegians who were keen to move upwind of the increasingly unwholesome city to more salubrious surroundings. Although Byres Road is today the hub of the West End, tenements and shops didn’t start appearing there until 1870. The original development centred on Hillhead Street, which was built to connect Hillhead House with Great Western Road, and it spread out from there.

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1858 map showing the first completed terraces. Victoria Street would later be renamed Byres Road, and I think the single small building at the bottom of the hill must be the Curler’s Tavern, the oldest building on that road.

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The earliest development of the suburb, when building land was plentiful, was for villas with gardens, rather than terraces and tenements.

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Granby Terrace, one of the earliest terraces, is still standing today.

Development continued apace and the West End grew rapidly; by the late 1860’s Hillhead’s population had increased from a few hundred to over 3,000 and burgh status was awarded in 1869. Having set the whole enterprise in motion, James Gibson JP retired to Dunoon in 1861 and died there the following year. I wish I knew more about the man who was so instrumental in the creation of Hillhead, whether he was a great visionary or just an entrepreneur with family land who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Probably a bit of both. Hillhead House had a few more tenants, including a period of four years when it became Hillhead House School, before it was finally demolished in 1878.

So where, I hear you asking, does Kersland Street come into all this? Follow me to the Mitchell Library, repository of Glasgow’s municipal records, and many hours spent trawling through old maps, Post Office Directories, Valuation and Electoral Rolls. If it sounds long and tedious, let me assure you it is! It’s easy enough to find information about the fine red and blond sandstone villas and terraces of Hillhead; about notable churches and halls; new roads and bridges; famous inhabitants and institutions such as the University of Glasgow or Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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Glaswegians have always made good use of ‘the Mitchell’ – this is the reading room, c. 1931

But the more modest Kersland Street does not feature in any of those accounts. The origin of Kersland Street is to be found by a process of elimination! The 1979-80 Post Office Directory gives us the first clue, where we find one ‘Madame Stewart’ living at our address. This is the first mention of 8 Kersland Street in the directory, but it doesn’t mean that no-one lived there before that – you had to pay to be included! But each edition comes with an associated map – great big laminated sheets stored in an old map chest.

So off we go to the map chest and out they come, one by one – 1879, ’78, ’77, and so on. And there it is. 1873 shows Kersland Street; 1872 shows an open space! This was quite exciting, as you can imagine – I kept jabbing my finger at the two maps, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. But we’re in a library; my whoopee moment had to be internalised. All the same, all those years of doing those stupid ‘spot the difference’ puzzles with the children have finally paid off, yippee!

Armed with this information, I think we can pinpoint 1870-72 as the critical period when our tenement building came into being, round about the same time as Byres Road, just around the corner, was undergoing development (mainly shops with flats above) and Glasgow University was moving to nearby Gilmorehill from the site on the High Street which it had occupied since 1451. By the way, if you’re wondering why so many of Glasgow’s streets and districts include the word ‘hill’ it’s because the whole city is built on a series of drumlins (small hills) which were left behind by glacial action after the last ice age. So, yes, Glasgow is a very hilly place!

Here’s another map for you (our location indicated by the blue arrow), an interesting contrast to the one above for it shows the whole area between Hillhead Street down the hill to Byres Road now more or less completely developed into the configuration which it still has to this day.

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So, Madame Stewart, our tenant – what do we know about her? Her entry in the PO directory is given as ‘Stewart, Madam’. Oh my goodness, I thought, the house is just built and already it’s a house of ill repute! But I will quickly apologise for this speculation as further research indicates that this Madame Stewart was the Lady Superintendent of English and French at an Institution for young ladies, an altogether more gentile and respectable occupation. I’d love to know brought this lady to Kersland Street. I think that there maybe wasn’t a Mr Stewart or surely he’d have been mentioned. Perhaps Madame was a widow, and came to live in Kersland Street along with a ladies’ maid or a cook – there’s plenty of room to accommodate both – and worked in some nearby establishment educating the daughters of the wealthy.

I’m going to take an imaginary walk around the block with this Victorian lady – let’s call her Eliza – and try to imagine what she might have been like. The year is 1886. (You can easily follow this walk on the map above.)

We cross the lane at the side of the house, and I see that number 6 is occupied by an office of some sort. I tell her how, when we first came to live in Kersland Street, this was a small newsagents, Brown’s, where we used to spend our pennies on sweets – penny caramels, blackjacks, rhubarb rock. Eliza smiles rather gravely, I can’t tell whether she disapproves or not.

We round the corner onto Great Western Road, and head towards Kelvinside Parish Church, on the corner with Byres Road. It strikes me that the church would be very convenient if Eliza wished to attend services there; she just nods politely when I make the suggestion, so I refrain from telling her that the building’s 21st century manifestion is as a popular venue and drinking establishment named Oran Mor.

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Kelvinside Parish Church, built 1862, with funds raised by a group headed by John Blackie, the publisher.

A  tram goes by and Eliza indicates that yes, she sometimes travels by tram. She’s not forthcoming about where she goes and I find I can’t inquire. Instead I tell her than in a few short years, a railway station would be built at Botanic Gardens and would open in 1896, as would the Glasgow Underground. I start sensing that Eliza doesn’t really want to know about things that haven’t happened in her world yet, so we turn to the Gardens themselves and the wonderful Kibble Palace glasshouse, where, she is happy to tell me, she occasionally takes her young charges when they are becoming bored with French and English lessons.

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A tram on Great Western Road, passing Botanic Gardens Station, build in 1894 during the heyday of Victorian rail travel.

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The Kibble Palace, erected in 1873, is one of the outstanding features of the Botanic Gardens, which were opened on the 1st April 1842.

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Adjacent to the Botanic Gardens, perhaps Madame Stewart might have pointed out Queen Margaret College to her pupils. North Park House was taken over by the University of Glasgow in 1883 to answer the growing demand for education for women.

As we turn another corner and head down Byres Road, we pass Hillhead Burgh Hall, built in 1872 to provide accommodation for the Burgh Court Hall, Fiscal’s Office and Police Office, with ample cells for local miscreants. The Council Chambers housed various municipal officers. I definitely choose not to tell Eliza that this fine building was rather regrettably demolished in 1970 at a time when it wasn’t considered necessary or important to preserve Glasgow’s Victorian heritage. An also rather regrettable modern library was built on the site.

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We continue strolling and turn into Cresswell Street, where Hillhead Baptist Church is a prominent feature. I look into Eliza’s face to see if there’s any hint to tell me if this might be her place of worship, but, as ever, she’s giving nothing away. So I tell her how I used to take my little ones to playgroup in this very church hall.

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Hillhead Baptist Church, built 1883. Have had to use a modern picture as I can’t find a Victorian one!

Another corner and we find ourselves in Cranworth Street, location of the Western Swimming Baths, a private – and rather exclusive – swimming and leisure club. I think I detect a twinkle in Eliza’s eye as we walk past, but she doesn’t say anything and I start to think I’ve imagined it.

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At the back of the Burgh Hall, we find the Western Swimming Baths, built as a private swimming and leisure club in the late 1870’s.

We turn right into Vinicombe Street, up the hill, then left into Kersland Street where we are soon back at number 8. Eliza gives my arm a gentle squeeze before she softly fades back into the past, leaving me with many questions, and the feeling that she has found out far more about me than I did about her. But I still think it’s not impossible that she could have attended the social evening and display of ‘natation’ at the Western Baths, as depicted in this cartoon from October 1886.

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The audience at the poolside and in the gallery enjoying the gentlemen members as they carry out their tricks with the apparatus over the pool. From the ‘Bailie’ magazine, October 1896.

Next time, we’ll explore the fate of the house and its inhabitants in the 20th century.