This is the story of the residents of 8 Moray Place, Strathbungo; including a careless jeweller, a carting contractor and a cinema proprietor. It is based on the database entries for 8 Moray Place.
Simpsons the Jeweller
James Simpson was born in the Gorbals in 1817 to James Simpson, a handloom weaver, and Margaret Hardie.
By 1852 he had a jeweller’s shop at 47 Bridge Street, and later at 55, just south of Glasgow Bridge. In 1860 he moved the shop a short distance to 49 Eglinton Street (now the Bridge St Station car park).
He was living in James Street, Kingston in 1852, but had moved to 266 Eglinton Street by 1855 (the Lilybank Buildings, now replaced by The Saw Centre), and then briefly to a house “Titwood” on Pollokshaws Road in 1861. In 1862 he moved into the newly built 8 Moray Place in Strathbungo .
James Simpson in the papers
James was variously described as a jeweller and a watchmaker. There were at least two Glasgow silversmiths called James Simpson in the 19th Century however, making it difficult to identify his work, although a drum-head clock marked James Simpson, Glasgow may have been his.
Apart from his advertisements, James appeared a few times in the newspapers for other reasons. He seemed somewhat careless; three times he advertised having lost an item in the street – keys, a bracelet and a ring – offering a reward for their return .
Twice he was the reported victim of crime, once when “four men in moleskin trousers” tried to force their way into his Bridge Street shop through the window shutters . On the second occasion a man entered his shop to look at rings, followed by his female decoy. When they left, James found two gold and diamond rings were missing .
The Spences from Unst
James married Margaret Hay Spence in December 1841. Margaret was one of two daughters of Dr William Spence of Greenfield, and Catherine Farquhar, both of Haroldswick on Unst, Shetland. Haroldswick was an incredibly remote settlement in the early 19th Century; the most northerly house in the United Kingdom, Skaw, is only three miles up the road. The remains of Greenfield are still visible in the village.
Dr Spence was sent off to become a British Army Surgeon and served in the Napoleonic Wars before returning to practice in Lerwick . He was in service from 1806 to 1814, though his first child Wilhelmina was born in Edinburgh in 1811, and Margaret was born back at Haroldswick in 1813. William and Catherine appear to have separated soon after as William married again in 1815, and his first two children did not feature in his will.
How Margaret then got from a place so remote to the Gorbals to meet James is anyone’s guess, but they went on to have four children. Catherine (1843) died just under one year old, but was followed by Margaret (1844), James (1846) and William (1850).
Margaret died at 53 in 1866, and James lost his son William, a shipping clerk, to peritonitis at the age of 21 in 1873. Both deaths occurred at 8 Moray Place, and William was certified by his doctor, and next-door neighbour, Dr William Fenwick of No. 9 Moray Place.
In 1874 James remarried, to Agnes Gilchrist at Inverkip. The couple left Moray Place, first for Cambuslang, then Prestwick but James died four years later while visiting Oxford Lane in the Gorbals.
James’ daughter Margaret married John Miller, a Bremen-born writer and notary public (a solicitor) on 7 Aug 1873. When her newly remarried father moved out the following year, she came to possess the house. Her husband had his office at 179 West George Street. However I believed the couple later emigrated to New Zealand, perhaps after her father’s death.
The valuation rolls and other records note the occupant from 1880 to 1914 was Mrs Margaret Howatt, although she was a tenant of one James Smith.
Margaret Howatt was the daughter of John Smith, a Glasgow merchant, and Ann Anderson. She was the widow of Dr Henry Robertson Howatt; they had married in 1856, but had no children. He qualified at Marischal College Aberdeen, was a fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and Treasurer of the Glasgow Southern Medical Society in 1862-3. .
In 1861 they were living at 1 Apsley Place, in the Gorbals. Henry however moved to 13 Cumberland St by 1870, and stayed there until his death in 1874. Margaret subsequently moved to Moray Place by 1880, although the house appeared to be in the name of her brother, James Smith.
She died at Moray Place on 23 Dec 1914; her executors were her nephew & nieces who lived in Aytoun Road.
It is worth noting how several future Moray Place residents lived in Apsley Place, as did Alexander “Greek” Thomson, the architect of 1-10 Moray Place. Although he was never one of the developers of Strathbungo, just their first architect, one wonders if he set out to sell the benefits of Moray Place to his former Gorbals neighbours. There are links to Apsley Place for residents at at least 1, 6, 8, 9 and 11 Moray Place.
From around 1915 to 1939 the house was the property of Grace Wemyss Erskine Frew, who lived there with her husband Matthew Frew.
Grace was born Grace Beveridge in Pathhead, Kirkaldy in 1869. As an aside, and perhaps not co-incidence, the Rev James Cameron was a minister in Pathhead in 1870, and later moved to the southside, living briefly at 9 Moray Place around 1895.
Grace married Matthew Frew in Edinburgh in 1897, and their first child Jean was born in Glasgow the following year. Their son James Robb Frew was born in 1902 in Dennistoun, and the family moved to Moray Place in 1915, after the death of Mrs Howatt.
Matthew was the son of James Frew of Kilmarnock and Helen McCrae of Sorn, and one of seven children. He worked with his father James and brother Thomas as a carting contractor, with an office in East Clyde Street. Matthew died in 1920 in “Pollokshields”, likely at Moray Place .
Their son James Robb Frew lived with his mother until approx 1930, but she stayed on at least until 1940. She died at Milton of Campsie in September 1946, although her home was at 33 Holmlea Road, Cathcart at the time, close to her son’s house.
From the late 1920s to the early 40s, other residents occasionally crop up at 8 Moray Place, presumably lodgers taken in by Grace.
These include a Hilda Savill, and Sidney B Baxter & Mrs Elizabeth Baxter in 1928, and a George Zederbaum in 1938, possibly the Glasgow born son of Samuel & Regina Zederbaum who had moved from Poland to Belgium to London to Glasgow in the interwar years.
In 1931 one H Winocour was lodging at 8 Moray Place. This was Harry Winocour, born Hersz Winokur in Poland, and naturalised in 1947.
Harry was a very well known independent cinema proprietor. In 1931 he was a co-director of the new Astoria Picture House Paisley, with brother C Winocour, and H Maitles.
It had opened in 1909 as the Astoria Roller-Skating Rink but was reconstructed by the Winocours . The same year he also took over the Coatbridge Theatre Royal, and his firm owned several cinemas in the West of Scotland.
In 1936 he built the Embassy Cinema in Kilmarnock Road, Shawlands, by architect James McKissack. It was opened by special guest Harry Lauder on 3 February, playing Al Jolson’s Cafe de Paree (aka Go Into Your Dance). The cinema was demolished in 1965 to make way for Shawlands Arcade, and the Sir John Stirling Maxwell pub now sits on the site .
Harry later moved to 219 Nithsdale Road but died suddenly on holiday in Cannes in 1950. He left £235,000.
Additions and corrections are welcome.
February 10, 2023 at 4:10 pm
The Embassy cinema was a handsome building, certainly more appealing than the dreary arcade.
Mr Winnacour sounds interesting. Dying in Cannes has a certain style to it and leaving £235 thousand in 1950 must have been a huge fortune. Actually not too shabby an inheritance in 2023
February 12, 2023 at 7:07 pm
Very interesting- thanks Andrew.