Bygone Bungo

A Strathbungo History, & More

Category: Conservation

The motorway that nearly killed Strathbungo

I have long been aware of a story that Strathbungo was threatened by a motorway in the 1960s, and this was a crucial event in the formation of the Strathbungo Society, but I have never understood how this could be. The M77 perhaps? But that was always going to be further west. So what was the story?

There were occasional hints. A neighbour gave me an old article from Scottish Field dated 1977 in which Mike Stanger, then chair of the Society, described how properties were blighted by the planned South Link motorway, with no one able to get a mortgage, not even on 1-10 Moray Place.

A Society booklet of 1984 recounts the same story.

But what was the South Link? And why did it threaten the very existence of Strathbungo? With thanks to Stuart Baird, of the Glasgow Motorway Archive, we now know. Read on…

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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?

References

Odd ones out – the white houses of Carswell Gardens

Wandering around Strathbungo, I often wondered why the houses on the south side of Carswell Gardens were different from all the others – a different design, and painted white rather than built in sandstone. Investigating further, with the help of documents from a couple of residents, I have found the answer:

They aren’t actually part of Strathbungo at all.

Before I cause any political upset down that end of the Bungo, I had better explain.

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Nithsdale Mission Hall

The Queen’s Park United Presbyterians

One of Alexander “Greek” Thomson’s great masterpieces was the Queen’s Park United Presbyterian Church on Langside Road, built in 1868 (though sadly destroyed by incendiary bombing in 1943).

Queen's Park UP Church

Queen’s Park UP Church

The Queen’s Park U.P. congregation subsequently arranged the construction of another beautiful church, Camphill Church on Balvicar Drive, completed in 1876; although this church subsequently passed to the Church of Scotland, and then to its current occupants, the Baptists.

The U.P. Mission Hall

Not satisfied with two churches, they then constructed the much smaller Nithdale Mission Hall in 1887-8. It was designed by architect Alexander Skirving (c.1849-1919) who worked under Alexander Thomson in the 1860s. Skirving was also known for Langside Hill Free Church (the “Church on the Hill”) and the adjacent Battlefield monument, and Skirving Street in Shawlands is named in his honour.

Alexander Skirving

Alexander Skirving

Sited in the southside immediately to the east of a deep railway cutting, the small polychromatic red and white brick rectangular plan building is fronted by an impressive ashlar classical facade onto Nithsdale Drive to the north. The frontage is substantial with gated piers, original railings and steps leading up to the classical frontage with four simple square tuscan style pilasters flanking the two windows and central doorway. Above a frieze runs the width of this central portion with simple circular motiffs. The triangular tympanum crowns this with a small acanthus at its peak. Behind rise two massive piers to each side and then a further pair before the blond sandstone gives way to the simple red and white brick of the other facades. The towers were reduced in height from those shown on Skirving’s original drawings. The drawings are available in the Mitchell Library, and are reproduced below – click to see the full set.

Skirving's drawings for Mission Hall Nithsdale Road

Skirving’s drawings for Mission Hall Nithsdale Road – click to view the full set of drawings

Strathbungo, OS 1898

Strathbungo, OS 1898, U.P. Church upper right on Nithsdale Drive

The United Presbyterians merged with the Free Church of Scotland in 1900 to form the United Free Church. In his history of Strathbungo Parish Church, Rev John Munro describes the rival Nithsdale United Free Church’s “more or less languishing existence” coming to an end in 1910. His church’s only involvement was taking over the former’s local Penny Savings Bank that year. He hints some smaller religious groups used the hall subsequently, and it was apparently used by the Plymouth Brethren in the 1960s.

Final years

The building was Grade B listed and came to be owned by Glasgow City Council in its Common Good Fund. The roof collapsed after a fire on 21st July 2005. The interior was cleared leaving just the four walls retained by means of scaffolding. The building became derelict and was placed on the Buildings at Risk Register.

Fire, 2005 (Hidden Glasgow)

Fire, 2005 (Hidden Glasgow)

The hall was put up for sale in 2014, and plans submitted by the purchaser to convert it to four dwellings. While some work has taken place on site, the building remains roofless in early 2017. Hopefully it will be restored soon to its former glory, rather than lost forever.

Derelict Nithsdale Hall, c.2013 (derelictglasgow.co.uk)

Derelict Nithsdale Hall, c.2013 (derelictglasgow.co.uk)

References

The Railway Boundary at Moray Place

Introduction

The line of the boundary between the railway line (Network Rail’s property) and Moray Place has been an issue of debate for some time, most notably when Network Rail began clearing vegetation from the line in 2004-05.

18-25 Moray Place 2004

18-25 Moray Place 2004

Same view, 2005 after vegetation management

Same view, 2005 after vegetation management. The one remaining tree was removed shortly after.

More recently they proposed further vegetation clearance to renew the boundary fence in January 2015. They planned to remove the metal hooped fence and replace it with a 1.8m high weldmesh fence in the same location. However residents suspected the hooped fence was not on Network Rail’s land.

Railings

Railings after fence and concrete repair and painting, circa 1990

Negotiations led by the Strathbungo Society centered on two points; firstly the need for a more appropriate fence design, and secondly that it needed to be on their land, further back than the existing fence. Eventually Network Rail conceded, leading to the new fence design erected in February 2017. The following is the historical research that led to their concession regarding the position of the fence. It is recorded here for posterity.

The Land Register

Title is currently defined by a map kept in the Land Registry, for any purchase made since 1981. This title map is an extract of an OS Map, with the subject of the title outlined, often in red. An example is shown below.

Sample land registry entry

Sample land registry entry

Network Rail used these maps to argue the fence was on their land. The map is the Keeper’s one off interpretation of the original deeds, but is not thought legally binding, as it is only representative of the deeds. The deeds, however, were often destroyed once the entry had been made. Experience suggests these title maps are inconsistent, and have often just been drawn to the edge of the road on the modern map, as in this example, suggesting the hooped metal fence is the boundary, and leaving it unclear who owns it. Review of the collective title maps provided by Network Rail supported this; every one was different, despite every property being derived from a single land purchase and deed.

It is likely the railway itself is not entered in the Land Registry as it has not changed hands since it was built.

The Evidence

Several residents provided Land Registry Title maps for properties on Moray Place. Some use the current fence as the boundary (e.g. 15, 23 & 30 Moray Place), others extend just beyond it (e.g. 22 Moray Place). These maps are therefore inconsistent.

So can we define the original boundary? Well, yes, from old documents, we can.

The railway line opened in 1848, before any building in Strathbungo.

A proposed but unexecuted feuing map from 1859 for the land now known as Strathbungo clearly shows the stone wall boundary to the line, extending from the road bridge at Nithsdale Road to approximately where Marywood Square is now, with a hedge extending along the remainder of the boundary.

Unexecuted feuing plan 1859

Unexecuted feuing plan 1859; wall (red) and hedge (green).

The original feu disposition between Sir John Maxwell and the developer William Stevenson and others in 1860 for the building of what we now consider Strathbungo defines the boundary as “…on the north west by north by the property of the Glasgow Barrhead and Neilston direct Railway Company along which it extends one thousand seven hundred and seventy one feet or thereby on a line parallel to and situated at the distance of three feet southeast by southward from the centre of the present thorn hedge and from the southeast by south face of the present stonewall …” Thus the boundary is three feet on the South East, residential, side of the original stone wall or hedge.

The original deeds and plan for No 13 confirm the boundary as three feet from the wall. The current title of 22 Moray Place includes a note referencing the three feet distance, but in the absence of the original deeds the note makes no sense in relation to the Land Registry title map.

The wall still exists from 1 to 6 Moray Place.

The feu to the builder of 18-25 Moray Place in 1874 states the building line must be 46 feet from the boundary to ensure the building 18-25 Moray Place is exactly in line with the previous two terraces, 1-10 and 11-17. It was built thus, and so the boundary can be calculated back 46 feet from the building.

A further map prepared by the railway company c. 1875 to acquire additional land on the other side of the line for the construction of Strathbungo Station again shows the stone wall, but also the first three terraces along Moray Place, thus allowing us to measure the distance from the building line to the stone wall to within a foot or so, and this measures approximately 50 feet. Thus the boundary would be 3 feet from the wall, and so 47 feet from the building line. This is in reasonable agreement with the 46 feet calculated above.

The stone wall no longer exists from 7 Moray Place onwards, and has been replaced by a hooped metal fence, erected probably 1870-1890. This was perhaps when Strathbungo Station was built, the station opening in 1877, and the platforms extending as far as Marywood Square.

The proposal for Strathbungo Station, 1875

The proposal for Strathbungo Station, 1875, again shows the wall, 49-50ft from the building line of the houses on Moray Place. The original boundary was 46ft from the building line, and the current hooped fence is 45ft from the building line, and so on residents’ property.

The distance from the hooped metal fence to the face of the buildings was estimated by laser measure in March 2015 at seven different points along Moray Place, and it is on average 45 feet from the building line, placing the boundary one foot on the railway side of the metal fence, and implying the original stone wall was some 4 feet further back on the embankment than the hooped metal fence.

Thus the hooped metal fence is on residents’ property, their boundary extending 1 foot the other side of it.

The Gardens

When the houses were built between Vennard and Carswell Gardens, in 1927, the feu disposition defines the properties as three feet southeast by south of a sleeper fence erected along the railway. While the position of the fence is not defined, it presumably lies along the line of the original hedge, as this land was included in the original feu disposition of Sir John Maxwell to William Stevenson in 1860, and that boundary would still apply when the land was feued by William Stevenson’s trustees to the builder.

The sleeper fence is clearly visible in contemporary photographs c. 1930, some 5 feet from the kerb. The sleeper fence appears to correspond fairly accurately to the more modern post and wire fence, which replaced it in the 1960s or 1970s. Thus the boundary along this section likely lies three feet to the South East, residential side, of the current fence.

sleeper fence

Moray Place c 1930 showing sleeper fence

End of sleeper fence

End of sleeper fence, start of hooped railings. c 1930

Network Rail view

In correspondence, Network Rail officials initially claimed the land to the metal hooped fence, and the fence itself, as their own. They based their claim on a supplied copy of the Disposition of land to the Glasgow & Barrhead Direct Railway Company of 1858, but this has insufficient detail to determine any boundary accurately, as there is no detailed description and only a small scale map with no geographical features. One thing to note from the 1858 Disposition is the comment on the small scale maps that the boundary at a number of points extends three feet beyond the boundary feature (railings, etc). While this is not mentioned on the Strathbungo section, it would appear to confirm the three feet beyond the original wall & hedge does belong to Network Rail, and that it was standard practice of the Barrhead & Neilston Direct Railway Company to erect their boundary markers three feet inside their land boundary. Indeed later Network Rail conceded this remains normal practice; they now normally place fences 1 metre inside their boundary.

Conclusion

The original boundary was three feet South East of the railway boundary wall and hedge.

While only a short section of wall remains, the line of the boundary can be clearly seen on old plans, and determined from measurements included in the original feu documents.

The boundary is 3 feet from the stone wall at 1-6 Moray Place, and thus 47 feet from the building line there, by laser measure. The boundary is likely the same for 7-10, and thus at the wooden fence, which is 47 feet from the building line.

Beyond the footbridge at Regent Park Square, a more recent metal hooped fence ran to Vennard Gardens, replacing the original stone wall, but closer to the buildings by 4 feet. This lay 45 feet from the building line, and therefore 1 or 2 feet inside the residents’ boundary, which is stated in the feu documents as 46 feet from the building line.

Beyond Vennard Gardens, the wire and post fence likely followed the line of the previous sleeper fence, and the hedge before it, and thus the boundary lies 3 feet South East of the post and wire fence.

The following illustrates the pre 2017 fences, and the line of the proposed replacement.

Railway boundaries, proposed changes

Railway boundaries, proposed changes

2017 Update

The replacement fence is now in (March 2017), and set well back from the road edge. The depth varies, but in some places it is even further back than the original fence line. This is well illustrated below, where during vegetation clearance, the remains of the old sleeper fence has emerged from beneath the shrubbery, and the new fence is even further behind it.

The new railway fence, March 2017

The new railway fence, March 2017. Note the stumps of the old sleeper fence in the centreground.

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