As well as being home to some of the city’s most stylish boutiques, Ingram Street is also resident to Hutchesons’ Hall, one of Glasgow’s most stylish buildings.
In recent years this grand A-listed building has been used as a shop, gallery and event space, under the National Trust for Scotland’s ownership, and its story is an essential part of the city’s built heritage. Although the building is within an area of ongoing regeneration, it has rather languished of late, particularly since environmental damage in early 2008 rendered it unsuitable for public access. However, essential repair works have recently taken place and with new funding now earmarked for further restoration works, this magnificent building is in line for some crucial attention.
A home for the poor and decrepit
Hutchesons’ Hall was built to replace the former 17th century Hutchesons’ Hospital on the Trongate, which was demolished in the late 18th century as part of a wider programme of redevelopment in the area. The hospital was founded by George and Thomas Hutcheson brothers, wealthy Glasgow lawyers, landowners and philanthropists, who bequeathed a sum of money for the construction of a hospital for poor craftsmen and “the decrepit old men of Glasgow”, to take care of them in their final days. The brothers also funded Hutchesons’ Grammar School in the south of the city, originally built as a school for the city’s orphans.
Following the demise of the original hospital, the Ingram Street building was designed in 1802 by local architectural hero David Hamilton (perhaps most famous here in his hometown for the Royal Exchange, aka GoMA in Royal Exchange Square). Two sculptures, depicting the Hutcheson brothers, were saved from the 17th century hospital and now sit pride of place, integrated into the building’s facade. They are widely believed to be the oldest portrait sculptures in the city.
While little has changed on the outside of the building (aside from the sandstone having been painted), the interior was remodelled in 1876 by Hamilton’s former pupil, fellow Glaswegian John Baird II, one-time partner of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. This reconstruction created the dramatic double-height hall with lavish stained glass, wooden panelling and detailed plasterwork that can still be seen there today.
Hutchesons’ Hall recently hit the headlines when it was transformed into a four-day ‘pop-up’ Champagne bar and boutique, initiated by Seumas MacInnes from Glasgow restaurant Cafe Gandolfi. “I’d read about pop-up bars and restaurants in New York and Paris,” says Seumas about the concept, “and thought Hutchesons’ Hall would make a great spot for such an event in Glasgow; it’s such a standout building, and it’s empty. We wanted to breathe new life into it.”
About the architecture, Seumas commented: “There’s something almost ‘Marie-Antoinette’ about the building, everything becomes grand, and the scale of architecture helped me to dream about what I could do with the space. People were overwhelmed by the whole experience and just loved the interior.”
A future for an icon
Torsten Haak, director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust, has no doubts about the importance of the building: “Hutchesons’ Hall is significant not just for the physical building, which is fantastic, but for its social and cultural history too. Both the patrons and the architects played an important part in the history of the city, and the fact that the facade has been altered so little from its original appearance makes it so significant.” With funding from GCHT, the Merchant City Initiative, Glasgow City Council and the National Trust for Scotland, repair and restoration works will be carried out including roof and stone works, leadwork renewal and repair to windows and doors. These essential works will safeguard the building for future generations and will continue the story of the Hutcheson brothers, as well as the design legacy of Hamilton and Baird.
Glasgow City Heritage Trust works in partnership with heritage, conservation and community groups across the City to promote and facilitate the preservation of our historic built landscape; for more information visit their website on www.glasgowheritage.org.uk
words Helen Kendrick · photo Susie Lowe
Published in i-on Glasgow, March/April 2010