Owner of Alexander '˜Greek' Thomson's old home to open his door to the public
The owners of the former home of Alexander '˜Greek' Thomson are to open their house to the public to celebrate the bicentenary of the Glasgow architect's birth.
Andrew Greg and his wife Charlotte will open No. 1 Moray Place in Pollokshieds as part of a celebration of Thomson’s legacy next year.
A series of events are being planned throughout Glasgow to mark the 200th anniversary of Thomson’s birth, in Balfron, Stirlingshire and to honour his vast architectural imprint on the city.
Thomson built Moray Place, considered to be the “most beautiful of all the 19th Century terraces”, and moved into No.1 after the project was finished in 1861.
Mr Greg, a museum curator, said he found the property “hard to resist” after it came on the market in 2009 and has spent much of the time since peeling back the interior to let the original Thomson features shine through.
Mr Greg said: “The house needed a lot of work done to it and it deserved looking after. It was a project - and still is a project.
“You can see the Greek Thomson style throughout the house, in the plaster work, the woodwork and the metalwork. Much of it was painted over and a lot of time has been spent restoring it to how it would have been.
“The most exciting thing was when we found the original wall decoration on the staircase and the landing, under layers and layers of wallpaper. We found friezes in a geomoetric style. They are very plain, very distinctive and very typically Thomson.”
Restoration students form the University of Northumbria have visited No.1 several times to help with the delicate restoration of the paintwork.
“It is quite a responsibility, the house,” Mr Greg added.
Mr Greg said he hoped the bicentenary and the opening of his house would help further draw attention to Thomson’s work,
“Thomson is quite well recognised now but there is no harm in constantly remind people of his work, which is very much part of the fabric of the city. Opening up his old home I think will be of great interest to people.”
While defining a new style of suburban home for Glasgow middle classes, Thomson also completed numerous tenement blocks in the city, three churches - only one, St Vincent Street Church, survives intact - and a number of industrial spaces.
While he completed around 140 projects, only 40 or so buildings remain. Some have been demolished, including his former offices on the corner of West Regent Street and Wellington Street, while other examples of his work lie in a parlous state.
The Egyptian Halls, a Grade A listed building formerly a commercial premises for an iron manufacturer, sits semi-derelict in Union Street with an ongoing battle to secure its future. Some consider the halls to be his masterpiece.
The Alexander Thomson Society has arranged a number of events to mark the anniversary, including an architectural competition to design “double villa” - Thomson’s domestic signature - for the 21st Century. A major exhibition of his work is planned as well as a series of public lectures and a civic reception.
Mark Baines, chairman of the society, said: “Thomson is really and architect’s architect, truly original and really so very inventive. He has never had the same publicity as Charles Rennie Mackintosh so were are interested in really pushing the boat out to push the work of Thomson as far as we possibly can.”
Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow Southside, said the bicentenary was a good opportunity to pull more visitors south of the river.
“The is this massive focus on Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and you could be forgiven for thinking Glasgow produced only one architect.
“When you look around Glasgow and see some of the rubbish that is built, the materials, the design, you can see that we don’t build building the way we used to . We really have to treasure the stuff that we have.”
Mr McDonald said he had been in touch with Visit Britain and Eurostar to help promote the 200th anniversary.
“I am all about trying to bring visitors to the southside. When you come off the train from London, you’ll go to the west end or to the city centre or the Merchant City. Quite often the map doesn’t go south of the river.
“The bicentenary is a great starting point to increase the number of people to come to this part of Glasgow. Not just visitors, but also people from Glasgow itself.”