Pollokshields Heritage  

Pollokshields’ Edwardian Homes for the Future

By the turn of the 20th century most of the villas and tenements in Pollokshields had been built. The Edwardian era from 1901 afforded opportunity for architects and craftsmen to try out the new “Glasgow Style” on interior and exterior detail of buildings, with generous proportions and floor plan layouts to complement the lifestyles and aspirations of people looking for something “modern”.

Some of the finest examples of Edwardian tenements built in the first decade of the 20th century are on the edge of West Pollokshields, in the Maxwell Park area, forming the north facing Fotheringay Road tenements. The block featured here including number 111 was the last section to be built, in 1910. The original plans from 1908 show the planning application by and on behalf of architect Robert Crawford of 59 Bath Street. The adjacent block of tenements were built first, in 1908, for Robert Henderson, and designed by the same Robert Crawford. The block boasts similar wavy parapets to those of its neighbours, some of which were designed by H.E. Clifford.

South facing Kirkcaldy Road lies behind, where tenements built in 1908 by George Eadie faced the fashionable Clydesdale Cricket Club with its new 1904 H.E. Clifford pavilion, and are said to have the most magnificent ceramic tiled closes in Pollokshields.

Tenements at Fotheringay Road & Kirkcaldy Road

Consistently listed householders residing in both of these tenements in 1911 and for some years ahead, all tenants, had occupations ranging from a medical inspector of schools to bookkeeper, chemist, accountant, art publisher, shipbroker, timber merchant, soldier, silversmith, tailor and warehouseman. Typically they are young or middle aged childless married couples, spinsters, bachelors or widows. The voters’ rolls and 1911 census information shows them almost all to have one servant in residence.

One resident in 111 Fotheringay Road was Harriet Jane Fairie, aged 60 in the 1911 census (see figures 1 & 2), moving from 50 Melville Street with her 29 year old companion Mary Forsyth from Wigtown, and 20 year old servant Eliza Johnstone from Ayr, to the newly built Fotheringay Road tenement in the same year. Harriet, single and of private means, died in this flat in 1924 at the age of 74. Both Harriet and Mary are recorded as having the full parliamentary vote in 1918.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The floor plan below would have been the layout of Harriet’s residence. Imagine the dynamics of the three women, one the head of house, one the companion 31 years her junior, and one the servant, occupying these spaces in their differing roles. The dining room and drawing room have prominence at the front of house, with the ladies’ bedrooms behind, and kitchen, bathroom, pantry and servant’s room tucked relatively out of sight to visitors in what is unusual for a tenement footprint an ‘L’ shape repeated along the block and essentially a sizeable service wing at the back of each apartment.

Plan of an apartment at 111 Fotheringay Road

From the original plans we can see how the front reception rooms in both Fotheringay Road and Kirkcaldy Road tenements were all important, as typical of the period, the servant being consigned to the kitchen and a room off the kitchen when not serving, and two residents’ bedrooms being also typical with a shared bathroom. Unusually in Kirkcaldy Road, the example shown here at G/1 and the flats above have their bathroom at the front of the building, possibly to allow two larger sized bedrooms at the rear within the width of plot, but this is an odd decision for two reasons: firstly, the frontage of a dwelling of this style is precious space for providing a view from its windows to the outside street, as today, and secondly, also today, water supply and drainage is usually adjacent, e.g. kitchen and bathroom, and bathroom positioned either to the rear with windows, or internally as it can be today with no windows if mechanical ventilation is provided.

Plan of 86 Kirkcaldy Road ground floor apartments

Possibly the biggest difference in how a grand house or flat layout and functionality was designed a hundred years ago, and the daily work involved in the running of a home, centred round the absence of the technological advances made during the 20th century. In 1912 much of the day, especially early morning, would be spent (certainly in the examples described here), by servants lighting fires in appropriate rooms at appropriate times for appropriate functions. By the time the gentleman or lady of the house arrived for breakfast, for example, the dining room would be already warmed by the fire lit some hours earlier, and so on. Today an electronic device, preset, brings warmth throughout our homes within minutes. Similarly the washing and drying of clothes and linen is achieved by the push of a switch today, where washing day was a major operation in Edwardian times. Gadgets and machines are our servants today.

Shields Road Townhouse

Indeed, where the grand Edwardian tenement householder may have had to make do with one servant, in a villa or townhouse there may have been a larger group of staff in residence. These notes belong to 21 year old Edith Leckie, resident of Shields Road in Pollokshields. In 1901 Edith, like many young ladies at the time who no doubt wanted to know how to run a house properly when they eventually married, even if they did not intend to do any of the work themselves, attended lectures and cookery demonstrations at the Glasgow School of Cookery and Domestic Economy in Bath Street.

Edith’s “little black book”, found under the floorboards by the present owners, is full of notes hastily written by Edith when attending cookery demonstrations. It also offers an insight into the criteria for selecting and running a household staff in her time, noted from the lectures she attended. Whether Edith ever managed to go on to employ a number of servants in her future life we do not know, but the notes at least offer the aspirations of an Edwardian lady to achieve the ultimate:

Housekeeper: choice and calibre of house and furniture; manage and clean, arrange meals, buys in, keeps accounts, cooking. Good temper, early to bed and early to rise; see that she has rest and fresh air – ¼ hour rest in the middle of the day; a cup of strong beef tea a powerful stimulant.

Servants Points to consider:

  • Allow 1/13th of income for wages: for general servant £8 to £20; Cook £18; Housemaid £14 to £22; Parlourmaid £16 to £25; Laundrymaid £12; Boot boy – 2/to 12/
  • Can be dismissed at once for dishonesty, drunkenness, immorality, hopeless incompetence in the house
  • Food allowance weekly: 1/2lb butter, 1lb sugar, 1/4lb tea, 1/4lb coffee, portion per day of bacon, cheese etc.
  • Breakages to be reported at once or payment must be made.
  • Servants’ bedrooms – light and airy; floor wooden; rug at side of bed; iron bedstead; with one mattress cost 17/to 1/ 11d; mattress and pillow covered with unbleached linen; quilt, washstand, iron with enamel from 7/6d.; chest of drawers with mirror on top. Cleaned once a week.
  • Dress – morning, suitable for her work; Afternoons – serge 18/to 19/; Aprons – morning, linen; Afternoon – plain muslin apron; Cook : strong shoes; Parlour maid: quiet shoes; Underclothing: strong”

Edith lived with her mother, sisters and brothers in one of the Pollokshields Victorian terraced townhouses, located on the edge of West Pollokshields where, rather than being detached and within surrounding private gardens as seen in most West Pollokshields villas, the terraced townhouses are situated on the edge of the gridded street area of East Pollokshields, along the east side of Shields Road.

Edith Leckie’s family home at 501 Shields Road was and still is a striking townhouse near the brow of the hill opposite Bruce Road. Perhaps simpler in style than the townhouses further along the same side, which were heavily influenced by the style of “Greek” Thomson, this house and its neighbours complement the nearby tenements. The house is first recorded in the Glasgow GPO Directories in 1879 and is in the section of Shields Road known as Belmar Terrace.

The townhouse was built by and for the Leckie family. The title deeds show the standard requirements of the day: Alexander Leckie was to have the property built within one year: it must be a single dwelling house with no fewer than six rooms, to include a kitchen and water closet, and to be no more than two storeys in height plus attic. Strict stipulations about height and distance back from line of Shields Road, the height and type of iron railings and to brick walls relating to the “Meuse Lane” at the back, all show that careful and consistent planning was being considered for Pollokshields prior to 1880.

By 1880 the resident of the house is James Leckie, of Leckie, Hodge and Co, fruit, coffee and general merchants at 79 Dunlop Street, and by 1889 lists Alex Leckie Junior and James Leckie, grain and flour merchants of 19 Waterloo Street. In 1895 William A. Leckie is listed in the house under its Belmar Terrace name, with his business as wine and spirit merchant at 13 Washington Street, and by 1896 Mrs. E. A. Leckie is recorded as the householder. This is probably 63 year old Agnes Leckie, a pawnbroker, by now a widow, shown here on the 1901 census with her six children ranging in age from 17 to 28 years: Mary, Josephine, Thomas, Edith, William and Florence, and two servants, 16 year old Kate Guinness from Shotts and 15 year old Christina Devoy from Coatbridge. The Leckies’ last recorded residence here is in 1906.

From 1908 David Robertson, of John Robertson and Son, grain merchants and stevedores of eastend, Princes Dock, was resident along with his Edwardian family, and was still there in 1915, after the First World War. The 1911 census (see Figures 1 & 2) shows David Robertson’s occupation as stevedore, also as an employer, then aged 49, married for 22 years to his wife Sara, also resident, along with their five daughters, Margaret, Marjory, Dorothy, Joan and Janet, ranging in age from 8 to 21, the eldest two having left school. Their one servant is 29 year old Elizabeth Campbell from Kilmarnock. The First World War was imminent, and it would be interesting to know what roles, opportunities or fate befell the girls.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Following the end of the war, in 1919, the voters’ roll lists 24 year old Miss Marjorie Robertson as householder and having the full parliamentary vote. Her sister Dorothy is the only other registered resident, aged 21, her occupation as typist, with only the local vote.

501 Shields Road Townhouse Plans

These sketch plans of the original layout make assumptions about the function of rooms, as the original plans are not available. It is likely, given other norms of the day, that a number of these would be “reception” rooms, i.e. the parlour, the drawing room, the dining room, with less emphasis than today on the public appearance of rooms such as the kitchen (often the piece de resistance in a house today, also used for dining often, or as part of an open plan layout), or on the number of bathrooms, which we place so much importance on today, i.e. bedroom en suites. Life has not changed that much however in that we still today like to have special spaces where we can entertain visitors (see The Lawlor House article in Design Matters).

Finally, this extract from another of Edith Leckie’s lecture notes shows how, in 1901, the women of the day wished to be au fait in matters relating to the choice of a site for building a house, the criteria to consider, and aspects of interior decorating.

“Points in the Choice of a House:

  1. Aspect NW has best light; SE is best position; SW best height. Dry and warm
  2. Soil – height, not reclaimed or rubbish heap
  3. Plans – show taps, water pipes, gas pipes, drainage
  4. Surroundings – always see/clear
  5. System of Ventilation and Warming
  6. Sanitary conveniences
  7. System of drainage – kitchen sucks, properly trapped
  8. Water supply – soft; cisterns, toilets, where water comes from
  9. Size and Positions of Windows
  10. The Floors
  11. State of Repairs
  12. Last Tenant’s Health

Decorations of Interiors Points to remember:

  • Purpose of rooms
  • Proportions and fitness of decorating articles
  • The relation of rooms to other rooms
  • Aspect of rooms and windows
  • Privacy

• Different parts to be decorated – walls, ceilings, floors, openings Walls

  • Space to be decorated – skirting, dado, space, cornice, corners, covered with whitewash
  • “tinting”, “fresco”
  • Papering
  • Tapestry, panelling, fresco, painting
  • Light colours, small patterns to make room look larger
  • Advantages and disadvantages of papering: cheap, easily put on, cannot easily be cleaned, readily fades, easily damaged and some papers contain…poison green and yellow

Ceiling: whitewashed, plaster with well designed paper (small design is best), stucco, panelled, coved Floors: wood (deal) in planks, wooden floors stained and polished Stairs: permanganate of potassium dissolved in water, rubbed on with fibre brushes, two or three coats, once a week a good polish with beeswax or turps; parquetry, blocks of wood in patterns; tiles – marble, slate, brick, stone Openings of rooms: doors, windows, fireplaces, recesses

  • doors – painted, pine, panelled;
  • windows – near cornice; advantages and disadvantages of large panes – give more light, expensive, look cold, sash windows best
  • fireplaces: deal, stone; back and sides in fire brick; firebricks should leave room for air to get under fire; 12” from wood beams. Fire will last from 9 o’clock to 4 o’clock”

The reference to poison in wallpapers relates to deaths and illness being attributed to greenpapered rooms thought to be caused by flecks of green dust detached from the wallpaper being breathed in. However, the cause of this arsenical illness was much more subtle: in damp rooms with arsenic green wallpaper there was a “mouselike” odour and fungi living on wallpaper paste converted inorganic arsenic into a gas the highly toxic trimethylarsine. This gas killed many, mainly children dying in their green decorated bedrooms. At the turn of the 20th century arsenic greens were phased out.

Clearly, in this new age of dawning emancipation, decisions were no longer left to the man of the house to preside over. Not only were women soon to get the vote, they were also to influence their homes more significantly. Soon they would be in a country at war and would, for a while, enter occupations they had never dreamed of. When Edith was making these notes in 1901, she would have had little idea of what was to come by the time she was in her thirties, but she, like Harriet Fairie and sisters Marjory and Dorothy Robertson, were indeed living through interesting times in Edwardian Pollokshields.
Helen McNamara
March 2012