I’m taking a short break from blogging about our Wyoming road trip to tell you about the Scottish Heritage Angel Awards which recognise the work of voluntary groups and individuals in protecting and celebrating Scotland’s built heritage. One of the organisations I volunteer for, Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, was up for an award and four of us attended the ceremony last night. We didn’t win our category (though got a certificate of commendation) but we saw ourselves on a great big screen and the Trust gets to use the short promotional film that was made. I don’t have a speaking part, but I’m there in full tour-guide mode and you can see I’m very good at pointing….
Today is the day when many of my blogging friends are revealing their A to Z Challenge themes. I had a brilliant idea for a theme, based on the success of last year’s Gallus Glasgow. (Actually, what I mean is that pal Helen MacKinven had the brilliant idea for me. Check out her site if you want to see a poodle in pink shades.) People make Glasgow is the city’s current marketing slogan, and the idea was to choose some of the city’s historical figures to show how they still influence Glasgow today. The downside is that I left the research too late and had too many letters missing, so it’s going to appear as an occasional series instead. This is the first.
One way of influencing a city is to have part of it named after you – impressive! Mary Hill (1730-1809) and her husband, Robert Graham, inherited the Gairbraid Estate because Mary’s father, Hew Hill, had no male heirs. Mary and Robert ran into money troubles after speculating in coal-mining, but their big break came when parliament approved the planning of the route of the Forth & Clyde Canal in 1768, which went through the estate. They were compensated for this and once the canal was completed, around 1790, their land along the canal suddenly became much more valuable and they sold it with the condition that if a town was to develop in the area it would be named after Mary.
Maryhill became a burgh in 1856 and was incorporated into the City of Glasgow 1891. Its Burgh Halls were built in 1878, fell into disrepair in the 1960s and were rescued and reopened in 2012. A major factor in raising money for the refurbishment was the stained glass – 20 panels featuring the small industries and factories in 1870s Maryhill. Normally, stained glass is seen in churches and palaces, so I think it was visionary for the time to create windows showing ordinary people in their ordinary working clothes going about their daily tasks.
I live very close to Maryhill, and since last autumn I’ve been volunteering as a Heritage Tour Guide at the Burgh Halls, on both the general tour and the Women of Maryhill tour which I’ve researched and developed myself. I graduated in history a very long time ago and I’m really enjoying being able to put that to use in retirement. You can see me (red stripey jumper) at the tour launch below …
… and enjoying tea and scones with some of the participants after the most recent tour on Saturday.
If you’re in and around Glasgow, keep an eye on the Maryhill Burgh Halls website for news of more tours and events.
The Forth and Clyde Canal, which runs sea-to-sea between the two rivers, has passed through Glasgow since the eighteenth century, though it ceased to be navigable in 1963. However, the multi-million Millennium Link Project saw it reopen in 2000/2001. Inspired by the Maryhill Walking Trails and Glasgow’s Canals Unlocked booklets, we set off on Sunday to walk from home to the end of the spur leading into the city centre. There is still some dereliction alongside the banks, but there is also green space and some (for Glasgow) quite exotic-looking new housing. The booklets helped us imagine how the canal would have been in years gone by, with a multitude of industries using its waters: iron, lead, rubber, oil, glass and timber were all produced here.
We joined the canal at the nearest point to our house at Kelvindale. The photos will guide you along the same route that we took.
Soon after joining the canal, we reached our first aqueduct. The rest crossed roads, but this one straddled the Kelvin. The disused piers in the river once carried railway lines across it.
Next, we reached Maryhill Locks –
– and not long after that, we left the towpath temporarily to visit Maryhill Burgh Halls for a delicious lunch at the Clean Plates Café. When opened in 1878, the halls had 20 stained glass panels depicting the trades then carried out in Maryhill, and eleven of the panels are now back on display. The walks booklets point out where the scenes from the stained glass might have taken place. More modern is this panel showing the different trades’ badges.
Back on the canal, we soon reached Murano Street Student Village, site of a former glassworks. Apparently, Maryhill was once called the Venice of Glasgow on the grounds that it had a canal and a glassworks named after the famous Murano works. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but we’d already passed the Mondrian Flats which looked very European to me, so I was beginning to wonder if we really were still in Glasgow.
We took another detour at Firhill up a steep path to the flag pole atop Ruchill Park. From here, Glasgow University dominated the view. Nearby, the 165-foot high water tower (1892) is almost all that now remains of Ruchill Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Continuing along the banks, the University remained prominent and we met several swans.
We passed Firhill, home of Glasgow’s other football club (i.e. the one that’s not Celtic or Rangers), Partick Thistle, commonly known as the Jags.
The picturesque Applecross Workshops are probably the oldest remaining buildings on any canal in Scotland.
Spiers Wharf, formerly mills and a sugar refinery, was converted into flats in the 1990s. The blue painted shop front is Ocho where we stopped for a coffee.
Just after this, the canal spur ends in a huge construction site which will soon be Pinkston Paddlesports Centre. After having a look at that, we retraced our steps to Spiers Wharf and took the path down to Cowcaddens from where we could get the Subway home. The underpass here is decorated with 50 Phoenix Flowers, called after the former Phoenix Park which was destroyed to create the M8 motorway above.
Before leaving Cowcaddens, we took some photographs of Dundas Court, formerly Dundas Vale College and before that the Normal School for the Training of Teachers (1837), a precursor of Jordanhill College where I worked for over 20 years. It’s now offices.
An urban walk can be just as enjoyable as a country walk – I feel I learned a lot about my home city on this one.
When we have nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, and when it’s not raining which restricts things quite a lot, we enjoy taking a walk around our beautiful city. At this time of the year, the days are still very short and some of the grander buildings are lit up before we get home. These lovely examples are all in Glasgow’s West End near where we live.
Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery:
Maryhill Burgh Halls:
We’ve lived in our present house for nearly twenty years, and every time we leave it we pass this at the end of the road, yet we’ve never been in:
Doors Open Day seemed a good chance to rectify this so we visited on Saturday morning. The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre has existed since 1981 and has been in its current premises (an old council cleansing depot) since 1989. It’s a lot more attractive inside than it looks from the outside! They do puppet shows, birthday parties, workshops with schools, exhibitions, training and much more – check the website for details. We met founder Malcolm Knight, manager Sarah Lee and Ken Barnard who, at 90 years old, is still carving marionettes in the workshop. Definitely worth a visit, especially for those with small children.
The Theatre and the masks on its walls:
The Café and exhibition area:
In the workshops:
After this, it was on to Maryhill Burgh Halls, which I blogged about on an earlier visit. This time they had special events on for Doors Open Day and we went to a talk by Alec Galloway on the stained glass, old and new. When opened in 1878, the halls had 20 stained glass panels by Stephen Adam, depicting the trades then carried out in Maryhill. It must have been a hive of activity. Ten of the panels are now back on display – here are a couple of examples, the Iron Moulders and the Calico Printers:
What surprised me is that there seems to be no documentation from the time to identify the exact locations and the people depicted in the panels, and no pictures of them in their original positions in the Hall. Research has come up with some likely possibilities and there’s an interesting booklet you can pick up to read about it. There’s also a display in the foyer of miniature replicas of all 20 panels set against a map showing roughly where the businesses were that they are thought to represent. What is known, is that they were ahead of their time, as most stained glass at this time was in churches and showed religious subjects. I think their simplicity is modern too, and you would not be surprised if you were told these were the new designs.
Alec went on to talk about the new panels which he designed and created. The brief was to reflect Maryhill as it is today, but not to replicate the style of the original glass. After much research and workshops with local people, not to mention time spent in Jaconnelli’s café, ten themes emerged for the panes. Techniques used included screenprinting photographs onto the glass with fascinating results – as with the original glass, you can pick up a booklet in the halls to find out more. Here are the Space Age and Regeneration panels:
The first has a QR code in the corner, which actually works, making it possibly the first interactive stained glass panel in the world.
Because we had other things going on over the weekend, that was all the Doors Open we had time for this year, but we made the most of what we had and learned a lot from both visits as well as enjoying them.
Maryhill is an area of Glasgow close to where we live which, although not particularly touristy, has some interesting developments going on. It dates from the coming of the canals in the 1790s and was called after Mary Hill who, with her husband Robert Graham, sold the first land for the township in 1791. Today’s destination was the former Burgh Halls, opened originally in April 1878 along with the adjacent police station, and derelict for many years before being sold to a Trust which raised the funds to reopen them earlier this year (although there’s still work going on on the roadway outside as you can see above). Today, the buildings house the main hall, meeting rooms, offices, a cafe and much more. For further information about the halls, including pictures of the stained glass, both original and modern, see the Trust’s website – there’s also a walking trail round more of Maryhill which I hope to follow very soon. Today, there was just time for lunch with a friend.
We entered through the gates below, which lead into a courtyard which was once the site of the Maryhill Fire Station. New gates by Andy Scott depict period firemen and their equipment. To the left is the Maryhill Leisure Centre, refurbished from the old Baths and Washouses (1898). However, we turned to the right to the Halls and the Cafe.
The Clean Plates Cafe is part of the Grassroots Organics family. It serves soup, sandwiches and a few other dishes. I had a hummus and aubergine sandwich and David had the aubergine skewers, both delicious. For future reference, I noted the presence of an all-day veggie breakfast ……….hmm, tempting. Upstairs, there were some old pub signs on display:
From the top picture, you can just see down into the cafe. This sign once sat on metal rails above the entrance to the Olde Tramcar Vaults and the soldier in his sentry box sat outside the HLI (Highland Light Infantry who used to be stationed at the nearby barracks).
Finally, we nipped across the road to Maryhill Library, a 1905 Carnegie library which also has interesting local history displays. I liked the report of its opening from the Daily Record and Mail in which the Lord Provost described libraries as “avenues of knowledge and wealth” and “potent factors in the destiny of a nation.” If only this spirit were alive in more places today.
All the buildings I’ve mentioned are listed, and all appear in the Maryhill Trail. A late breakfast in the cafe, followed by a couple of hours walking the trail could be a really good way of spending a Saturday morning. Watch this space!