The Mackintosh Architecture Project

 

You would think, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh being so revered, especially in Glasgow, that a definitive survey of his architecture would have been made long ago. Wrong! The Mackintosh Architecture project, led by the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University, will be the first authoritative survey of all known architectural projects Mackintosh and also, for the period of his professional career in Glasgow (1889 to 1913), of projects by John Honeyman & Keppie (from 1901 Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh). At the moment, the project link leads to sample pages from the resulting catalogue – the whole database goes live in July, and will be accompanied by a major exhibition at the Hunterian.

One of the researchers, Dr Nicky Imrie, recently came to the MmITS AGM to give a talk on her experiences of working on this fascinating project. She discussed the challenges of identifying Mackintosh’s architectural work, how they tackled the process of cataloguing and digitising the diverse sources, and some of the perils faced along the way, such as being accidentally locked into the odd building! The website now has 358 project entries and 2700 images and, although the catalogue is at its heart, it also contains biographies of contractors and clients, essays, a glossary and a map.

As a result, lesser known and under-researched architecture and buildings to which Mackintosh merely made a contribution have been documented. As they were working, researchers gave each a building a “Mack Factor” to indicate Mackintosh’s involvement. These ranged from 1 (beyond doubt) to 4 (executed during his period of employment but with no evidence of his involvement). There were two buildings mentioned which I know well, but which I had no idea had anything to do with Mackintosh.

I have walked past Ayton House in Dowanhill many times. Originally built around 1859, it was damaged in the 1941 blitz and almost demolished in the 1980s. However, a developer took it over and restored it with a decidedly 21st century penthouse. I’ve always been so fascinated by this that I’ve never looked round the side and noticed what Nicky identified as a Mackintosh extension with Mack Factor 1. Since the talk, I have been back to the house to photograph it:

The other building is Jordanhill School. I worked for many years at Jordanhill College / Campus which overlooked what was originally its demonstration school. I’m not sure what its Mack Factor is, as Nicky only mentioned it in passing but, according to Stuart McLean’s Jordanhill Local History site,  it was built by Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh after a design competition in 1912, and Mackintosh received £250 as his part in it – though there might have been some dispute about the exact attribution. I took the photograph below when I was documenting the campus before it closed in 2012.

Jordanhill School
Jordanhill School

All in all, this was a fascinating talk and I’m really looking forward to the exhibition and website going live so that I can find out more.

Disaster on the Green: the Templeton Disaster of 1889

Templeton Carpet Factory
Templeton Carpet Factory

In 1889, 29 young women lost their lives when a wall blew down in a gale at Templeton Carpet Factory on Glasgow Green. Last month, the Mitchell Library hosted a lecture, Disaster on the Green, by local history researcher Bill Black. As the disaster features in one of Glasgow Women’s Library’s Women’s Heritage Walks, a few of us from GWL’s Women Make History Group decided to go along. It was a fascinating, if sombre, evening.

The tragedy happened while the factory was under construction alongside the existing weaving sheds. James Templeton had hired architect William Leiper to produce the amazing west façade you can see above – apparently, wealthy residents of nearby Monteith Row did not want to live next to a factory, so the design was modelled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice in order to fit in with its upmarket surroundings, and also to match the grandeur of the carpets it would produce. However, engineer Alexander Harvey was responsible for the more functional mill behind it.

On 1 November 1889, an evening of driving rain, the builders finished at 5 pm, but the women at the 40 looms in the weaving sheds weren’t due to finish till 6. At 5.15 pm, three great gusts of wind brought the five storey mill building down onto the sheds. A rescue operation went on throughout the night, with the last of the 29 bodies being brought out at 3 am. In addition, 32 women were injured.

Bill discussed various possible causes for the collapse, but it seems that the flimsier east wall, which was insecurely fixed, fell first bringing Leiper’s west façade with it. At the time, there were no building regulations and local builders worked mostly with stone, not the brick used here. In addition, Templeton himself does not seem to have liaised very well between Leiper and Alexander, who never actually met. There was an enquiry, but this was more to find facts than to throw blame.

More interesting to me was hearing some of the personal stories of the women who died. Most were teenagers – the youngest 14 and the oldest 25. One girl was identified only by her stockings. Another had been planning to go to a ball that evening. Ellen Wallace was one of the few married women. She had a small son, but her husband had been made redundant so she went back to work. Templeton, who was considered a good employer by the standards of the day, paid for the funerals and a relief fund started by Lord Provost James King raised £9000 for the families. You can see a page from a notebook detailing the names of the dead, injured and those who donated on the stoddardtempleton blog. As for the factory, it was rebuilt by 1892 – using steel.

There is a memorial to the dead opposite Templeton’s, which is now a business centre, at 423 London Road (Thenue Housing Association). It was recently refurbished to include paving stones with the names of all the women. A few days ago, I went to see it and took a few pictures. It was rather wet, but I think you can still make out the names. It’s a low-key, but touching, tribute.