Bygone Bungo

A Strathbungo History, & More

Category: Alexander “Greek” Thomson

47 Nithsdale Street – last chance to see?

It is remarkable that the Victorian vision for Strathbungo has survived almost untouched. Barely a single building has been lost, but that may be about to change. The house at 47 Nithsdale Street is disintegrating before our eyes, and may not be with us much longer. Sadly it appears this may be deliberate on the part of the building’s owner. So what is the story of this building?

The origin of the building is not that clear. It is marked out on a large scale OS map of Glasgow in 1892-4, and only gets its first mention in the Glasgow Post Office Directories in 1895. On the other hand, two small buildings that may be the pavilion ends appear on Bartholomew’s first P.O. map in 1882. This is rather too late to be by Alexander “Greek” Thomson, who died in 1875, although he did design the Nithsdale Road tenement behind it, and was involved in the Salisbury Crescent tenement opposite.

John Bartholomew New Plan of Glasgow with Suburbs, 1882, showing two small buildings on Nithsdale Street – were these the two pavilions of this building?

Nithsdale Street, OS Map 1892-94

OS Map of Nithsdale Street 1892-94,
showing the two pavilions and connecting workshop centrally in Nithsdale Street, marked by red asterisks

The building originally consisted of two pavilions, connected by a single storey workshop, seen in the centre of the map. The first known photograph shows an early motorised fire appliance passing the premises.

47 Nithsdale Street

47 Nithsdale Street, date and origin unknown

Niall Murphy, chair of Pollokshields Heritage, describes its merit and possible origins further:

What the historic photographic evidence clearly shows is the building having ‘Greek’ Thomson’s distinctive flared Egyptian style chimney pots, while the arrangement of triple light first floor window on the gable of the now missing east pavilion was also very ‘Greek’ Thomson in style. Therefore, the knee-jerk response is that it is a ‘Greek’ Thomson building – hence the concern particularly in the Bicentenary year. However it is thought unlikely to be by Thomson himself and far more likely to be by someone else in the A & G Thomson & Turnbull office or, the later successor practice of D Thomson & Turnbull.

To touch on design there are stylistic cues which give pause for thought. The skews on the east pavilion just don’t look like the kind detail Thomson would do. Then there are the window surrounds which are unlike Thomson though he did occasionally use them – Eton Terrace and Allison Street for example – but the ones on the surviving pavilion, and, even more emphatically, the ones on the ground floor of the East pavilion, simply aren’t his style.

Curiously, the chimney of the East pavilion has a different chimney can – much more like the type Charles Wilson uses in Park Circus. Wilson’s chief draughtsman, later partner, David Thomson did go into partnership with Turnbull in 1876.

So, I’m wondering if perhaps someone in this follow on partnership, perhaps David Thomson (the Alexander Thomson Society are suggesting Alexander Skirving as an alternative) has been trying to achieve a contextually sensitive solution for an awkward site as part of the broader Thomson masterplan for the area.

The shift in axis of the plan / west gable of the surviving pavilion is somewhat coarsely detailed but does echo that of the Titwood Place west gable, while I suspect the bay is meant to capture the view down Nithsdale Street from the west, just at the point where the service lane to the Titwood Place tenements intersects with Nithsdale Street, as a sort of coda to the circular turret right at the end of Titwood Place.

Therefore, for me it is perhaps more the urban design rather than architectural merits that makes the building worth saving. What I find of greatest interest in urban design terms is that Thomson’s masterplan for Strathbungo was able to accommodate the full spectrum / transect from a service / industrial building, through mixed use tenements to a very fine set of townhouses and, with a degree of skill, that this service building was able to be inserted into this more domestic context in a contextually sensitive way to a achieve a harmonious result. If this more modest building disappears then the evidence of that spectrum will be lost in part.

The Bygone Bungo database can be searched for historical records, currently under numbers 21, 25, 39 and 43. The numbering is confusing however, with references at different times to 21, 23, 25, 39, 43 and 47 Nithsdale Street. It appears the left hand pavilion was 39, the workshop 43 and the house 47, while 21-25 were the adjacent yard and buildings owned by Glasgow Corporation, used variously for stables, for the cleansing department, the police commissioners and the Regent Motor Company, but now occupied by the Dulux Decorator Centre. The database tells us some of the occupants, starting in 1895, when the building was owned by David Imrie, and appears to have been used as a dairy and stables. After 1915 it was sold, and became a garage and workshop, used firstly by Nithsdale Motors Ltd (1920) and later Miller and Morrison (1925 to at least 1939).

Miller & Morrison ran a garage, motor hire, repair, and undertakers business from the premises. In 1931 they demolished the left hand pavilion, and the workshop was extended in its place, as illustrated by the before and after pictures from the Mitchell Library. This remains the current configuration of the building.

47 Nithsdale St

47 Nithsdale St, Feb 1931, before demolition of the left hand pavilion.

43 and 47 Nithsdale St after conversion

47 Nithsdale St, Jan 1932, after conversion

47 Nithsdale Street, 2015

43 and 47 Nithsdale Street, 2015

The house has been empty for some time, but the single storey workshop was a showroom for Ride-On Motorcycles until recently, while they also shared the adjacent modern building with Dulux. There is even a ramp to the roof, which was available as a small test track, visible on this aerial view.

Nithsdale Street aerial

Nithsdale Street aerial 3D view, from Google

When Ride-On left, World Foods took over the modern shop, and the workshop became a dress shop. The house at 47 however, continued to deteriorate, and at some point the internal floors were removed. The roof is now on the verge of collapse, and the council have recently cordoned off the building, and closed the adjacent shop, as it is considered unsafe.

The building is not listed, although it can not be demolished without permission of the council, as it is within within the Strathbungo Conservation area, and at the time of writing the Council say they have received no such request. It is also an unlisted building of merit in the Conservation Area Appraisal for Strathbungo (Page 13, Diagram 4).

47 Nithsdale Street, May 2017, just before it was cordoned off.

47 Nithsdale Street, May 2017, just before it was cordoned off.

So, will it survive?

Update: No, it didn’t

Sadly, having been deemed unsafe, the building was demolished on 7th June 2017. We await further developments.

Nithsdale no more - site following demolition in June 2017

Nithsdale no more – site following demolition in June 2017


Neale Thomson, Camphill House & the Crossmyloof Bakery

Neale Thomson

Neale Thomson

The Thomson family were successful in the cotton industry. Robert Thomson (1771-1831) was a partner with his father (also Robert, 1742-1820) in Robert Thomson & Sons, whose Adelphi Cotton Works in Hutchesontown was said to have been the first in Glasgow to manufacture cotton goods. He purchased land at Camphill in 1778, and had Camphill House built shortly thereafter. The architect is thought to be David Hamilton (1768-1843), who built the similar Aitkenhead House (in Kings Park) in 1806.

Neale Thomson was born at Camphill in 1807. The family business fell into his hands when his father Robert died in 1831, followed shortly thereafter by Neale’s brothers, two in 1833 and the third in 1843.

He became known for the care of his workforce, introducing shorter hours before the law on this was passed. He also encouraged workers to open savings accounts, including matching their contributions with his own, and established a bakery in Crossmyloof for his workers, where good quality bread could be bought far more cheaply than was normally the case. This proved such a success that shops soon opened, with large crowds gathering to meet the delivery vans, and the experiment in philanthropy grew into a flourishing business.

In 1855 he commissioned Alexander Greek Thomson to build terraced housing for his workforce in Baker Street. There were apparently two terraces originally, but by 1964 only one remained, and this appears to have been demolished in the 1970s. In this photo c 1971 the cottages with their overhanging eaves are on the right, and Langside Halls is visible at the end of the road. There are further photos on The Virtual Mitchell website from 1964.

Baker Street, Crossmyloof

Baker Street, Crossmyloof

Hugh MacDonald was given a tour of the bakery and described it in detail in his Rambles Round Glasgow, calling it possibly the largest bakery in the Queen’s Dominion.

In 1852 Thomson acquired Langside House, a large elegant mansion on the highest point in Langside, bulit by Robert Adam in 1777. He was responsible for the development of the villas around Mansionhouse Road. Thomson acquired the land of Pathhead Farm adjacent to Camphill in 1854, and in 1857 sold it to the city for the construction of what became known as Queen’s Park He did so at a lower price than he had paid, despite the land’s increasing value, for the benefit of his fellow citizens. He died at Camphill, after a long illness, on 26 June 1857.

His biography appears in MacLehose’s biography of 100 Great Glaswegian men, including an account of his competitors’ efforts to undermine his business. They repeatedly accused him of selling underweight bread, which he defending vigorously in letters to both the Glasgow Herald and Courier.

Camphill House by Duncan Brown

Camphill House by Duncan Brown

Camphill House and its grounds were added to Glasgow Corporation’s Queen’s Park in 1894. The building was converted into a museum in 1895-1896 and contained displays of costume and relics relating to the Battle of Langside, which was fought nearby in 1568. The museum closed in the 1980s and the building was converted into flats.

Langside House

Langside House

Langside House survived until the 1980s, but has now been replaced by the modern housing of Langside Gardens.

The bakery continued in operation until 1880, and some of the buildings still survive. The Glad Cafe now sits on part of the site, and organised their Doors Open Day around the history of Neale Thomson in 2016. They sell a “Crossmyloaf” in his honour.

More information on Crossmyloof and Langside can be found in the Council’s Langside Heritage Trail leaflet.

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