The Preservation of Glasgow Style Interiors

The Conservation and Protection of Glasgow Style Interiors

Buildings constructed during an economic boom in Glasgow at the end of the 19th Century embraced the burst of creative expression in the city during this period, with many architects, artists and designers channeling the Art Nouveau style in their work.  Glasgow’s middle class suburbs to the west and south of the centre expanded rapidly from the mid 19th to early 20th century, as wealthier citizens sought to escape from the overcrowding of the city centre and east end.  Those responsible for building and designing these suburbs, populated by a growing bourgeoisie, embraced Art Nouveau and Glasgow Style (as Art Nouveau is widely referred to in the city) in their designs, particularly throughout interior ornamentation in homes, public offices and leisure spaces.

Dramatic examples of Art Nouveau tiles and glass in Glasgow are found throughout the domestic residencies, places of work and leisure spaces of the well-heeled.  Between 1870 and 1914 Glasgow was an important centre for the production of stained glass, with some of Europe’s most innovative artistic producers such as Stephen Adam Jnr, George Walton, WG Morton and EA Taylor designing glass in the Glasgow Style for homes in the city.

What is widely acknowledged to be the oldest public bar in the city, Sloans cafe-bar (dating back to 1797) had a major redevelopment at the turn of the 20th Century incorporating the addition of a beautiful array of Glasgow Style stained glass and tiling amidst the typical late-Victorian fittings, combining to make a striking, unique and wholly modern interior.  A former art publishers headquarters in the Pollokshields suburb of Glasgow contains what is oft referred to as the most striking Art Nouveau interior in Scotland.  Designed by WG Morton, the dramatic stained glass throughout the interior depicts a strikingly diverse selection of imagery ranging from tales of the passing of time to nautical scenes featuring neptune, monstrous whales, mermaids and ships.  Along with the stained glass, the interior’s tiles, mosaic floors, detailed wall mosaics depicting naked nymphs and mermaids, and brass door furniture including handles and finger plates (unique on each of the ten interior doors) are heavy with intricate Art Nouveau detail.

Despite losses incurred during major redevelopment during the 1960’s and 70’s, Glasgow still retains a greater proportion of its historic domestic glass than any other city in Britain.  But while a wealth of this fragile heritage endures, perhaps inevitably over the last 100 years much has disappeared; there is still work to be done to highlight, promote and protect Glasgow’s unique turn-of-the-century interior ornamentation. The more fully this most precious and unique aspect of the city’s built heritage is appreciated, the more we can hope to safeguard what remains for the future.