Credit: GG Photographer Jenny Dimitrialdi

Campaign launched to protect the Tobacco Merchant’s House

By Giselle Inglis

The Scottish Civic Trust’s “Written in Stone” campaign is looking to establish a capital fund to cover the cost of future repair work and preserve the historic building.

The Scottish Civic Trust has announced a new campaign to protect Glasgow’s Tobacco Merchants House. The “Written in Stone” campaign was launched on 12 October 2020 and seeks to establish a capital fund which will cover the cost of future major repair work and to preserve this historic building – as well as the stories which are held within its walls. 

The Scottish Civic Trust has been situated within the Tobacco Merchant’s House since 1995, following its initial rescue from demolition by the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust in 1989. The Scottish Civic Trust claim that this Palladian jewel is not only a rare example of an elegantly proportioned eighteenth century villa, but is also a powerful reminder of how far Scotland has come on its civic and social journey. The Trust states that their aim is to provide the conservation and (where necessary) adaption for re-use of older buildings of distinction or historic interest. They also strive to ensure their amenity groups are active, empowered, and educated to make a difference in their locality. 

The House was originally built by John Craig in 1775 and is all that remains today of a row of “self-contained gentleman’s villas”. The House was purchased initially in 1782 by Robert Findlay, a tobacco importer, giving the house its current name and place in Scotland’s history. The Tobacco Merchant’s House acts as a reminder that slavery fuelled Glasgow’s fortunes, and was not viewed with the abhorrence that it is today. 

The Scottish Civic Trust are the custodians of the House both of architectural heritage and its wider historic, social, and economic heritage. Sue Evans, the Chair of the Scottish Civic Trust stated: “We wish to ensure that the Trust’s home at the Tobacco Merchant’s House is properly safeguarded and managed. We have sufficient initial funds to undertake some immediate resilience and maintenance work, but will need more public support in the coming years to maintain the upkeep of the building.” 

The House has survived industrial and commercial changes over decades in Glasgow, including a fire that destroyed neighbouring warehouses. The Tobacco Merchant’s House was then home to successive businesses, but due to difficulty of upkeep had to be rescued from demolition and restored by the Glasgow Preservation Trust. 

John Hume, a fellow of the Scottish Civic Trust and architectural historian admired the house as: “a summation of what has been Glasgow’s urban experience during its transition from a compact town to a major city. 42 Miller Street is above all still a living, breathing building, not a museum, truly lovable and loved.” The Scottish Civic Trust invites all with a passion for Scotland’s building and its civic movement to contribute via leaving a gift in their will to protect the House for future generations.


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