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cathcart, glasgow - architecture & history

The ancient parish of Cathcart straddled the county boundaries of Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire. It extended over a much larger area than the present Glasgow suburb, stretching all the way from Langside to beyond Netherlee.
The district was the base of the Cathcart family, whose hereditary seat was Cathcart Castle. Very little now remains on the site of the castle which stood at the top of Old Castle Road. In 1980 what was left of the ruins were declared dangerous and required immediate demolition.
The castle had been built around 1450 on a cliff-top overlooking the White Cart Water by the Cathcart family. During the time of Wallace and Bruce an earlier structure was occupied by Alan de Cathcart, who was a staunch supporter of those legendary Scottish heroes.

Drawing of Cathcart Castle from the east by Gerald Blaikie Drawing of Cathcart Castle from the south by Gerald Blaikie

The ruins of Cathcart Castle, from the east and the south

Reconstruction of Cathcart Castle while still complete, drawn by Gerald Blaikie

Reconstruction of Cathcart Castle while still complete

The above representation of Cathcart Castle while it was complete has been derived from the plans shown below, which show the castle surrounded by a turreted courtyard.
The proportions of the ruins tie in well with the east elevation as shown in the plans, suggesting that it could be an accurate depiction.

Plans, sections and elevation of Cathcart Castle

Plans, sections and elevation of Cathcart Castle while still complete.

Cathcart Castle and the surrounding lands of Cathcart, Bogton and Tankerland passed out of the possession of the Cathcart family in 1546 when they were acquired by Gabriel Semple, the younger son of John, the first Lord Semple. Gabriel perished the following year fighting against the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh and the estate was inherited by his son, William Semple of Cathcart (d. 1578).
The title of Lord Semple had by that time passed on to Sir Robert Semple (c. 1505–1576), third Lord Semple, who was initially a supporter of Mary Queen of Scots but strategically changed his allegiances in the 1560's during the period when Mary was attempting to recover her throne.
The story of Queen Mary's time with her kinsfolk, the Stuarts of Castlemilk, can be seen in a dedicated page of this website.

Cathcart Castle was maintained in a habitable condition until around 1750, when it was abandoned to ruination and attempted demolition by its owners, the Maxwells of Williamwood. This occurred after the erection of Cartside House, (later known as Cathcart House), in the parkland below the castle.
The report below from 1882 suggests that the removed upper part of the castle was a later addition to the old keep. The original mediaeval stronghold survived demolition due to the strength and thickness of the walls.

Details of Cathcart Castle prior to demolition

The estate was gradually broken up and sold in parcels, with the castle and the manor house coming into the hands of Mr. James Hill in 1788. In 1801 the remnants of Cathcart Castle together with Cathcart House and the surrounding sixty acres of land were restored to Cathcart family ownership when purchased by Sir William Cathcart (1755 -1843), tenth Lord Cathcart, who would later become the first Earl Cathcart in 1814. Sir William also acquired the contiguous lands of Symeshill.
By that time the Semple family had no remaining interests in Cathcart. The leader of the family during this period was Sir Hugh Semple (1758–1830), fourteenth Lord Semple.

Sir William Cathcart, tenth Lord Cathcart, first Earl Cathcart

Portrait of Sir William, tenth Lord Cathcart, first Earl Cathcart

Arms of Sir William Cathcart Arms of Sir Hugh Semple

Arms of William (1755 -1843), tenth Lord Cathcart, and Hugh (1758–1830), fourteenth Lord Semple

Lord Cathcart's main residence was an elegant townhouse in Whitehall, London, which was much more salubrious than his ancient family keep. The engraving below of his house dates from 1797.

Lord Cathcart's house, Whitehall, London 1797

Engraving of Cathcart Castle circa 1785

The engraving of the ruined castle (above) and the early map of the Renfrewshire part of Cathcart (below) both date from before 1800. The map shows just one crossing over the White Cart Water, the present day Snuff Mill Bridge, which is shown as a toll bridge at "Holmehead".
The familiar place names in the map give some clues as to their origins, even though the spellings have changed over the years.

Old map of Cathcart circa 1800

Bogton House, which was built in 1580 for John Blair, the son-in-law of Sir Robert Semple, third Lord Semple, was situated near to the present day Muirend Railway Station. The House and Lands of Bogton remained in the hands of the Blairs until 1679 when they were were sold to James Hamilton of Aikenhead.
The traditional home of the Blair family was the splendid Blair Castle, near Dalry in Ayrshire.

Engraving of Cathcart House and Cathcart Castle

This engraving shows Cathcart House in the foreground with the castle sitting high above the trees in the background.
Cathcart House was built around 1740 but was demolished in 1927 after Glasgow Corporation had acquired the estate.

Description of Old Cathcart, 1856

Extract from Rambles round Glasgow, 1856, detailing the attractions of Cathcart for ramblers.

This map of Cathcart, from the mid 1880's when the district was being developed as a Glasgow suburb, shows the county boundary still in place, but gives more details of the Lanarkshire side of Cathcart parish.

Old map of Cathcart from  1880's

By 1886 the railway had arrived in Cathcart and would soon expand into the surrounding areas. At this time Cathcart had a twin village, New Cathcart, a settlement developed on the other side of the White Cart Water.

Photograph of Cathcart House and Cathcart Castle

This twentieth century photograph again shows Cathcart House in the foreground but you can clearly see how the ruined remains of the castle had been used as a quarry, providing an easy and cheap source of stone for re-use in rubble masonry.

Photograph of Old Castle Road, Cathcart

This vintage view shows the shops in Old Castle Road, which, as the name suggests, led from the village up towards the castle. The shops run between Kilmailing Road, nearest the camera and Kirkwell Road, facing the corner bay windows.

Photograph of Kirkwell Road, Cathcart

These views show the terraced houses of Kirkwell Road (above) and Kilmailing Road (below) in the early years of the twentieth century. The old schoolhouse at the bottom of Kirkwell Road is now the site of the rear entrance to St. Fillan's Primary School. Kilmailing Road leads to Cathcart Old Parish Church.

Photograph of Kilmailing Road, Cathcart

View of Cathcart Old Parish Church, Kilmailing Road & Manse Brae, 1879

This 1879 photograph of Cathcart Old Parish Church looks towards the top of Manse Brae with the front face of the church tower facing Kilmailing Road. The pathway in the foreground, which led to Carmunnock Road, was bordered with neat hedgerows.

THis 2017 view of the same scene is barely recognisable, with the only remaining features being the church tower and the wall surrounding the graveyard.

View of Cathcart Old Parish Church Kilmailing Road & Manse Brae, 2017

Cathcart Old Parish Church, Kilmailing Road & Manse Brae, 2017

Photograph of Old Castle Road, Cathcart, c.1905

This view of Old Castle Road at the Old Smiddy is looking towards the newly erected three-storey tenements at the corner with Crompton Avenue. The first floor of the Smiddy had an infirmary for dogs, indicated by the sign on the gable. The children playing in the roadway obviously had no fear of any approaching traffic interupting their games!

Leaving the village by Old Castle Road and Snuff Mill Road you would come to the old bridge which originally carried the high road from Glasgow to Kilmarnock.
The viewpoint for the engraving, below, looks towards what is now the entrance to Linn Park to the left and towards the White Cart Walkway, across the bridge to the right.

Engraving showing view of Snuff Mill Bridge from the south

'Granny Robertson's Inn', facing the approaches to the Snuff Mill Bridge was a popular place of refreshment before it was demolished in the early 1890's.

Photograph of Granny Robertson's Inn, Snuff Mill Road, Cathcart

Granny Robertson's Inn, Snuff Mill Road, Cathcart

A more detailed description of the hostelries of Cathcart can be found in my Old Cathcart - Illustrated Guide webpage.

Crossing the Snuff Mill Bridge from the village of Cathcart, you would come to Braehead which is situated at the top of the present day Rhannan Road. Braehead is where I currently live.
This photograph of the cottages at Braehead was taken at the corner of what is now Brunton Street, looking towards the entrance of Braehead House. The pathway to the left of the gateposts leads down to the Snuff Mill Bridge. The photographer is looking up Netherlee Road towards the entrance to Cartbank House which is featured in the White Cart Walkway section of this website.

Victorian photograph of Braehead, Cathcart

Photograph of Braehead, Cathcart

This view, which was taken from the same spot as the Victorian picture, shows that the gateposts for Braehead house and much of the structure of the old cottages are still in place. The remaining parts are used as the outbuildings of Braehead House, which you can see in the background.

Old doorways and lintels at Braehead, Cathcart

A close look at what at first sight appears to be a plain wall reveals the lintels and outlines of the doorways and windows of the old cottages. These openings have been infilled with brick and rubble.

Cathcart Council Chamber

Cathcart Parish Council Chambers

Cathcart Parish Council Chambers were completed in 1907, 5 years before most of the lands within the old parish boundaries became part of the city of Glasgow in 1912.
The architects, Crawford and Veitch, designed the building in an appropriate style for council chambers, with Baroque touches to brighten up the single storey frontage. The symmetrical façade features a central dome clad in lead.
The Chambers are situated in Prospecthill Road and are now occupied by local doctors as a surgery and health centre.
A photographic study of this building can be found in my Mount Florida Illustrated Guide.
Mount Florida is the nearest station on the Cathcart Circle to this building.

Tower of the abandoned Cathcart Old Parish Church, built 1831

Tower of the abandoned Cathcart Old Parish Church, built 1831

Cathcart Old Parish church was dedicated to St Oswald and built in a Norman style which is unusual in Scotland. James Dempster was the architect of the 1831 version of the church.
In 1931 it was partially demolished, leaving only the tower accessed from Kilmailing Road still standing. The surrounding graveyard is worth visiting if you wish to discover more about the local history of Cathcart.

Cathcart Old Parish Church, c1885

Victorian photograph of Cathcart Old Parish Church from a spot near Crompton Avenue

Ruins of Cathcart Old Parish Church

Ruins of Cathcart Old Parish Church from Kilmailing Road

Construction of the new church had began in 1914 but was interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War. When work was restarted in 1923 its architect, Henry Edward Clifford, had retired on medical advice. His partner, Thomas Melville Lunan, was so badly affected by his experiences in the war that he was unable to work on his return to Scotland.
The construction work to complete Clifford’s design intentions was overseen by the practice of Watson, Salmond and Gray. The church was finally completed in 1929, allowing the destruction of most of the previous church to commence two years later. The new church's very solid mediaeval styling, as seen in the drawing of the square tower below, is certainly not typical of early 20th century Scottish architecture.

Drawing of tower of Cathcart Old Parish Church, completed in 1929

Tower of present day Cathcart Old Parish Church, completed in 1929

Drawing of gatehouse at Cathcart Cemetery

Gatehouse at Cathcart Cemetery, 1877

Date plaque at gatehouse of Cathcart Cemetery

The gatehouse at the Brenfield Road entrance of Cathcart Cemetery dates from 1877, as shown in the plaque over the door (left).
The asymmetrical house was designed in the Scots Baronial style, centred on a circular tower.
The cemetery was laid out by William Ross McKelvie at the same time as the gatehouse was being built. McKelvie had gained his expertise at cemetery design during his time as Superintendent of Parks & Cemeteries in Greenock, threafter becoming a specialist in late Victorian Scottish graveyards.

Cathcart Police Station, 1892

Cathcart Police Station, 1892

Cathcart Police Station was housed in a two storey building situated at the prominent corner where Merrylee Road meets Clarkston Road. It was designed in the Scottish vernacular style by Paisley based architect, Charles Davidson.
There is an unusual semi-circular feature facing into Merrylee Road which compensates for the simplicity of the overall design. The Police Station was built in pale cream sandstone, with the year of construction, 1892, featured in the stonework.
Cathcart is the nearest station to this building, which now serves as a local medical centre.

New Cathcart Church, 1908

New Cathcart Church, 1908

The "New" in the church's title refers to its location in New Cathcart rather than the building, which was erected by the United Free Church of Scotland in 1908.
The village of New Cathcart grew around the present day Clarkston Road which dates from 1810. The new settlement was situated on the other side of the river from the old village.
The original building (now the hall) was erected in 1898 for the Free Church of Scotland, which combined with the United Presbyterian Church in 1900 to create the United Free Church. The present church was completed in 1908 for the new body. It was designed by John Bennie Wilson and built with rock faced red sandstone with an attractive octagonal tower.
The first minister of the church, Reverend Thomas Pearson, served the various congregations of New Cathcart for over 30 years from 1898 until 1929, when the United Free Church became part of the Church of Scotland.
The church ceased to be used as a place of worship on 19th November 2002, when New Cathcart merged with Cathcart South Church in Clarkston Road to become Cathcart Trinity Church.
The buildings at New Cathcart Church were converted into apartments, which became available for occupation in late 2006.

<Early 20th century view of Newlands Road with New Cathcart Church in the background

Early 20th century view of Newlands Road from Clarkston Road, with New Cathcart Church in the background

Clock tower at entrance to Weir's Engineering Works, Cathcart

Clock tower at entrance to Weir's Engineering Works, Cathcart

The most striking landmark in New Cathcart is the Art Deco clock tower at the entrance to Weir’s Engineering Works in Newlands Road. The tower and its glazed staircase are part of the offices & amenity block added to the complex in 1937 to the designs of architects, Wylie, Shanks & Wylie.

Map showing area around Holm, Cathcart, c.1858

Map showing area around Holm, Cathcart, c.1858

Weirs had started business in Cathcart in 1886, the same year as the arrival of the railway. The Holm foundry was built on the site of an old steading, the Holm, which was surrounded by green fields when the above map was surveyed in the mid-1800’s.
At that time the major industrial employer in the area was the Geddes carpet factory and dyeworks. The works were demolished around the time of Weir’s arrival in the 1880’s. The site was redeveloped with tenement housing, the present day Holmhead Crescent and Holmhead Place.
The “New Bridge” shown in the map had opened in 1800, facilitating development of the land on the other side of the river from the old settlement of Cathcart. It was replaced with the present day polished granite bridge in 1901, allowing the extension of the tram routes all the way to Netherlee.

Darracq motor car at Weirs of Cathcart

Managing Director, William Weir in his Darracq racing car, c.1904

Offices at works of G & J Weir Ltd; architects Wylie, Shanks & Wylie, 1937

Offices at works of G & J Weir Ltd; architects Wylie, Shanks & Wylie, 1937

Aerial photograph showing Weirs, New Cathcart Church and Holmlea School

Aerial photograph showing Weirs, New Cathcart Church and Holmlea School

Holmlea School, Cathcart

Holmlea School, Cathcart

Holmlea School, which was designed by A. Balfour, opened in 1908. It has a symmetrical Renaissance style frontage with modernistic Art-nouveau decoration to both the stonework and the fencing surrounding the playground. The red sandstone façade has more elaborate features than is usual for schools of this time.
Holmlea served as a local primary school for nearly 100 years, until June 2005, when the last pupils crossed its doors.
The costs of repairs and renovation, required to bring the building up to the same standard as modern custom-built schools will mean that if an alternative use cannot be economically found, demolition will be the eventual fate of this fine old structure.
Cathcart is the nearest station to this building.

Drawing of Holmlea School, Cathcart

Large windows at Holmlea School, Cathcart

Tramcar passing Holmlea School c.1910

Tramcar passing Holmlea School c.1910

Cathcart bound tramcar in city centre, c.1905

Cathcart bound tramcar in city centre, c.1905

View of Old Castle Road and George Cinema from railway bridge at Cathcart Station

View of Old Castle Road and George Cinema from railway bridge at Cathcart Station

Cathcart Trinity Church, 1893

Cathcart Trinity Church

Cathcart Trinity Church originated as Cathcart United Presbyterian Church in 1894. After this denomination's union with the Church of Scotland it was known as Cathcart South Church from 1929 until its merger with New Cathcart Church in 2002. Stained glass recovered from New Cathcart is on display in lightboxes near the main entrance.
This church is situated on the western side of Clarkston Road, between the Police Station and the Couper Institute, where its small scale Gothic charm contributes much to the architectural variety of the street.

Drawing of Cathcart U.P. Church exhibited by by W.G. Rowan

Drawing of Cathcart U.P. Church exhibited by by W.G. Rowan at Glasgow Institute for the Fine Arts, 1893

Drawing of font for Cathcart U.P. Church

Drawing of baptismal font for Cathcart U.P. Church by W.G. Rowan, 1896

The building was designed by William Gardner Rowan with the opening service taking place on 3rd May 1894. Rowan specialised in the Scots Gothic style of architecture although he made occasional forays into other styles. He lived in Pollokshields and is associated with many well known south side churches, including Queen's Park Baptist Church and Pollokshields Glencairn Church.

Ventilator on roof of Cathcart Trinity Church

Ventilator on roof of Cathcart Trinity Church

The present day church hall was actually the original church when it was completed in 1889. The Buchanan Hall, behind the old church hall, was added to the complex in 1912. It features the beautiful dome, shown below, as part of its extravagant styling.

Dome at Cathcart Trinity Church

Glazed dome at Cathcart Trinity Church

Tower of Couper Institute

Tower of Couper Institute

The Couper Institute in Clarkston Road was funded by a bequest from Robert Couper, a member of the family who operated the Millholm Paper Mills on the banks of the White Cart Water.

Plaque at Couper Institute

The Public Halls opened in 1887, commerated by the plaque (left), above the entrance. The architect was James Sellars of the prodigious Glasgow partnership of Campbell Douglas and Sellars, who were responsible for other southside landmarks such as the Victoria Infirmary and Queen's Park Church.
The building was constructed with locally quarried sandstone in an attractive Beaux-Arts style featuring a squat little spire. The 1895 Ordnance map shows the original outline of the halls with a small library and reading room to the left of the main building. These were replaced after the First World War with an additional hall which, together with a new public library on the other side, left the original building at the centre of the extended complex.

James Sellars, Architect

James Sellars, Architect

Couper Institute Library

Couper Institute Library, Cathcart

In 1923 the Couper Institute was extended with a new hall, followed the following year by a library (above). The stone colour and the building style closely match those of the halls erected 30 years earlier, creating a seamless frontage to Clarkston Road.
Matching pavilions were built on either side of the existing halls to give a balanced composition. They were designed by Glasgow Corporation's Principal Architect, John Houston, who had been influenced by the pioneering work of William J Anderson, the Dean of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1890's. Some of the unusual buildings designed by Anderson and his other pupils are featured in my Victorian Commercial Architecture page.

Holmwood, Cathcart

Holmwood House

Holmwood House in Netherlee Road, at the Glasgow city boundary, is Cathcart's architectural masterpiece, dating from 1858.
It was designed by Alexander "Greek" Thomson as a house for James Couper who, with his brother Robert, owned and operated Millholm Paper Mill on the banks of White Cart Water.
Holmwood shows a novel adaptation of Classical Greek styling to fit in with mid-19th Century Scottish taste.

Holmwood, Cathcart

The house has been acquired by the National Trust for Scotland, and the original internal decoration restored. Fortunately the stencilled decoration by C.T. Bowie was left intact under layers of wallpaper during the period when the house was used as Our Lady of the Missions School by an order of religous sisters.
The house is open to the public on afternoons during the summer months, when the surrounding gardens are also at their best.

Holmwood, Cathcart

A Illustrated Guide of Holmwood House and the surrounding scenery can be viewed at my dedicated page.

Savings Bank, Muirend

Savings Bank, Muirend

The former Savings Bank of Glasgow in Clarkston Road illustrates an inter-war version of the neo-classical which is much simpler than the Victorian interpretation of the same style. It has a glass roof over the banking hall which can be compared to the elaborate glazed dome over the Savings Bank in Ingram Street, which can be seen in the Merchant City page of this website.
It was completed in 1927 to the designs of architects, Alexander Nisbet Paterson and Donald McKay Stoddart.
The bank was converted into Muirend's first ever pub, which opened in the summer of 2006 with the highly imaginative title of "The Bank"!
It's good that some useful purpose has been found for this unusual little building.
The nearest station is Muirend, the first stop after Cathcart on the Neilston branch line.

Midwinter sun aligned with window opening of ruined Cathcart Old Parish Church

Eerie sight of midwinter midday sun aligned with opening at tower of Cathcart Old Parish Church


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All original artwork, photography and text © Gerald Blaikie 2017
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