Holmwood House

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Holmwood House


National Trust for Scotland emblem.svg
National Trust for Scotland
Grid reference: NS583596
Location: 55°48’35"N, 4°15’33"W
Website: Holmwood

Holmwood House in Cathcart, Renfrewshire, is the finest and most elaborate residential villa designed by Alexander "Greek" Thomson, the architect behind many of Glasgow's grand classical buildings. A house and a piece of art in itself, Holmwood House is at 61-63 Netherlee Road, Cathcart, which is now in the southern suburbs of Glasgow. Today the house is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and opened to the public.

The house is rare in retaining much of its original interior decor. It is considered to be immensely influential by several architectural historians, because the design as published in Villa and Cottage Architecture: select examples of country and suburban residence recently erected in 1868[1] may have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and other proto-modernist architects.

Holmwood was constructed for James Couper, a paper manufacturer in 1857-1858. Couper owned the Millholm paper mill in the valley of the White Water of Cart immediately below the villa. The principal rooms of Holmwood were orientated towards the view of Cathcart Castle (demolished in 1980). The cost of the house was £2,608:4:11d; the stable, greenhouse & outbuildings cost a further £1,009:19:6d; and the gates an additional £75:2:0d

The polychromatic decoration was designed by Thomson and executed by Campbell Tait Bowie. The most notable survival is in the dining room which has a frieze of panels enlarged from John Flaxman's illustrations of Homer's Iliad. The sculpture on the hall chimneypiece was by George Mossman.

Holmwood was altered in the 1920s by the owner, James Gray. After Second First World Wart was purchased by a local vet, James McElhone and his family, wife Betty and children: Rosemary, James, Helen and Paul. Holmwood was then sold to the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions who obliterated much of the original decoration with plain paint. The gardener's cottage was demolished in the 1970s; the grounds and those of an adjacent villa were used for a Roman Catholic primary school.

The nuns put the property on the market in the early 1990s, and there was a danger that the grounds would be developed for housing, destroying the setting of the villa. Following an appeal, Holmwood was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1994 with the support of £1.5 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. It was restored by Page and Park architects in 1997-1998. Their work included undoing the 1920s alterations and rebuilding the connecting wall. Patrick Baty carried out the paint analysis.

City of Architecture and Design

In 1999, the Clydesdale Bank issued a £20 note to mark Glasgow's celebrations as UK City of Architecture and Design which featured an illustration of the dome of Holmwood House, along with the Lighthouse building on the reverse. The obverse side carried a portrait of Thomson.[2]

Holmwood, South Australia

A second 'Holmwood' was built in 1885 for the wealthy mining magnate, benefactor and politician, William Austin Horn, at North Walkerville, Adelaide in South Australia.[3] The house was built posthumously from Thomson designs published in Villa and Cottage Architecture: select examples of country and suburban residence recently erected by Blackie & Son Publishing in 1868.[1] This published work also included other Thomson designs, including his Romanesque Craig Ailey Villa at Cove on the Firth of Clyde.[4] Although Holmwood was based on Thomson's designs and closely resembles Holmwood House, modifications were made to the internal design making the room layouts significantly different.[3]

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