Funds sought for Alexander “Greek” Thomson “treasure” ahead of bicentenary

Holmwood House by Alexander Thomson. 

PIC Phil Wilkinson/TSPL.
Holmwood House by Alexander Thomson. PIC Phil Wilkinson/TSPL.
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The Chancellor has been asked for funds to restore one of Alexander “Greek” Thomson’s greatest Glasgow properties ahead of the bicentenary of the architect’s birth next year.

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, has urged Philip Hammond to invest in the conservation of Holmwood House on the city’s south side, an ample Victorian villa considered to be the architect’s finest domestic masterpiece.

Alexander "Greek"Thomson. The 200th anniversary of the architect's birth will be marked next year. PIC Contributed.

Alexander "Greek"Thomson. The 200th anniversary of the architect's birth will be marked next year. PIC Contributed.

It comes amid plans in 2017 for a major commemoration of the life and work of Thomson, who is regarded as Glasgow’s “architectural hero”, to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

READ MORE: What next for Glasgow’s Egyptian Halls?

Mr McDonald earlier met with Scottish Secretary David Mundell at Holmwood House, in Cathcart, to discuss the bicentennial year and the need for further investment in the property, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

The MP said: “Holmwood House is a real treasure but requires quite a bit of restoration work.

“At the moment Holmwood House attracts around 4,000 visitors a year, a very low figure in comparison to similar venues around Glasgow and west Scotland.

“The only thing holding back this valuable cultural asset is funding.

READ MORE: What is Scotland’s best building of past 100 years?

“There is no shortage of ambition to make Holmwood House the outstanding visitor attract that it should be.”

The letter comes after the Chancellor’s predecessor, George Osborne, committed £5m to the restoration of the Burrell Collection, with the funds raised by fines paid by banks following the Libor scandal.

Holmwood House was built in 1857-8 for James Couper, a paper merchant, with the rooms richly ornamented in wood, plaster and marble.

The architect enjoyed a large clientele who wanted medium-sized villas and terraces of cottages in Pollokshields, Shawlands, Crossmyloof, Cathcart, Langbank, Bothwell and Cove and Kilcreggan.

His original style adopted precedents set by the Greeks, Egyptians and other ancient civilisations with his structures defined by imposing columns and pediments as well as new forms of high decoration.

In Glasgow city centre, his work includes the Egyptian Halls, a semi-derelict Grade I listed building, and St Vincent Street Church, one of three Presbyterian churches he designed and the only one to remain fully intact.

National Trust for Scotland and the Alexander Thomson Society are planning a year-long celebration of the architect and his work in 2017.

The society has announced an ideas competition for a contemporary tribute to the Glasgow architect’s innovative Double Villa, with proposals sought for a semi-detached home in Pollokshields.

A major exhibition of Thomson’s work is due to be staged in The Lighthouse, in Mitchell Lane, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh - the second winner of the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship, which was created following the death of the architect in 1875.

Meanwhile in Balfron, Stirlingshire, where the architect was born, a series of events have already been planned by local enthusiasts to mark the bicentenary.

The Chancellor will make his next round of funding commitments in his Autumn Statement on November 23.