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Southpark House … a faded star

By on August 14, 2013

Southpark House, a University of Glasgow building at 64-66 Southpark Avenue, was built around 1850 as a double villa in what was then called Ann Street, writes RONNIE SCOTT.

It was one of many large family houses set in their own grounds in the country district of Hillhead, which was owned by the Gibson family until 1862. The district became a suburb of the city after the university moved from the High Street to Gilmorehill in 1870 and was formally incorporated in Glasgow in 1891.

Both 64 and 66 were occupied by members of the Govan family, who were muslin manufacturers at the Renfield Works in Shawbridge Street, Pollokshaws, and an office at 15 Renfield Street in central Glasgow. Over the years, William Govan Senior and his sons William, Arthur and James lived in the double villa.

In 1898, No.64 was the manse of St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Great Western Road, occupied by R Howel Brown, the church’s rector. In the same year, No.66 was occupied by John M Campbell, of John M Campbell & Sons, ship and insurance brokers and export merchants, at 154 St Vincent Street.

By 1905 the occupant was Alexander Russell, a solicitor with Russell & Duncan, writers, of 105 St Vincent Street. Russell was also secretary and treasurer of the Glasgow Veterinary College, secretary and treasurer of the Scottish Furniture Manufacturers’ Association – and clerk to the Glasgow United Fleshers’ Society (a regulatory body for meat traders).

Charles Edward Whitelaw, a Glasgow architect, occupied both houses during the 1910s. Whitelaw – who served his apprenticeship with Honeyman & Keppie, where Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a partner until 1913 – specialised in designing marine villas in Helensburgh. He also designed the interior of the steamships ‘California’ and ‘Virginian’ for the Anchor Line. Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald were near neighbours at 6 Florentine Terrace (later called 78 Southpark Avenue).

In the early 20th century, Nos 64 and 66 were bought by the university and amalgamated to form one of a number of residences for female students. These were owned and operated by Queen Margaret Hall Limited. Other residences included Lilybank House, Robertson Hall (in Lilybank Terrace) and 18-20 Bute Gardens.

These properties, which housed 114 women students and six members of staff, were put to new use after the new Queen Margaret Hall opened in 1964 in Bellshaugh Road, Kirklee.

In 1937, the warden of Southpark House caused quite a flurry by becoming the first woman elected to the University Court. Elizabeth Wallace, who was the candidate of the Federation of University Women, was previously secretary to the Mistress of Queen Margaret College.

In 1966, Southpark House was transformed into the biggest educational television facilities in the UK, providing learning materials for students across the university as well as making training programmes for school teachers. One of the first projects of this kind was a 10-programme series on recent developments in the biological sciences, delivered to Glasgow’s science teachers through the ETV (Education Television) studios in Bath Street.

The house is a shadow of its former self, with much of the original interiors removed, the front door and ground floor windows of 66 crudely concreted, and the garden setting degraded. It now houses the university’s Media Services, the successor to the pioneering TV studio, and Learning and Teaching Services.



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