The Tenement House

Glasgow, Scotland

Frozen in time: The Tenement House in Glasgow is a rare time capsule depicting daily life in 20th century Glasgow.

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Discover The Tenement House in Glasgow

On Buccleuch Street in Glasgow’s Garnethill area, just a stone’s throw from Charing Cross railway station, lies The Tenement House. Glasgow itself is renowned for its architecture, from the regal grandeur of St. Mungo's Cathedral to the intricate design of the Doulton Fountain and the Tenement House is no exception. Owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland, this unassuming flat, located in an 1892 tenement building, was the home of Miss Agnes Toward.

Miss Toward, a shorthand typist, lovingly maintained her home, furniture, and possessions. While other tenements in the area succumbed to modern development, Miss Toward’s remained intact. As a result the building is used today as a living museum, offering a glimpse into 20th century Glasgow. In its unaltered state the flat is filled with authentic furnishings and household items such as a jar of jam dating back to 1929 and amenities like a coal-fired kitchen range. Each year this humble museum receives thousands of visitors and has become a staple cultural landmark in the city.

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- Glen Bowman

The Creation of Tenement Houses

During the 1800s, Glasgow flourished economically in light of industrialisation. However, this rapid growth also had its issues: overcrowding and sanitation issues. The city responded to sanitation issues with infrastructure improvements like the introduction of clean water and improved sanitation systems. Meanwhile the demand for housing resulted in the construction of tenement buildings across the city. These stone-built flats became synonymous with urban Glasgow, featuring communal entrances, stairwells, and courtyards that facilitated community interaction.

Tenement Residents

One of the most striking features of Glasgow's tenements was their social diversity. Unlike other cities where wealthier residents fled to the suburbs, Glasgow's tenements housed individuals from all social backgrounds. Working-class tenements, characterised by single-room accommodations and shared facilities, starkly contrasted with middle-class tenement houses, offering more spacious living arrangements and modern amenities.

Life in a Tenement House

Within the Tenement House, the kitchen was the hub of daily life. Equipped with a coal-fired range that not only served as a means for cooking and conducting household chores but also provided essential warmth. Household items such as mangles and cleaning products exhibit the products used in domestic life a century ago.

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- Glen Bowman

Miss Agnes Toward’s Tenement House

From 1911 until her passing in 1965, Miss Agnes Toward, called the Tenement House her home. The flat is a four-room spread across the first and second levels of the tenement. Original fixtures include a scrubbed kitchen range, black horsehair reclining chairs, and household medicines including a ball of soap turned jet black from years of use. Unlike many of her neighbours, Agnes Toward enjoyed relatively luxurious amenities such as a private toilet and gas lighting inside her flat. These were uncommon in the surrounding area where shared facilities were the norm.

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- Glen Bowman

Visiting the Tenement House in Glasgow

When first entering The Tenement House Museum visitors step into the grand entrance hall, which branches off into the preserved rooms including the kitchen, a parlour, a bedroom, and the private bathroom. Each of these exhibition rooms provide deeper context, showcasing how ordinary Glaswegians lived and worked during the Victorian period in Scotland.

Beneath the dim glow of the gas lighting, visitors to the Tenement House can see what life was like for Miss Toward, by perusing artefacts like the "stone pig" on the inset bed, and personal items like lipsticks, perfumes, and hot chocolate tins. There is also a functioning doorbell, handwritten letters, and peculiar wardrobe box beds.

The museum not only showcases Toward’s personal items but also raises interesting points about the evolving roles of women in the workforce; a gender constrained by societal norms yet contributing significantly to wartime efforts. The current exhibition on ‘Make Do and Mend’ spotlights the millions of people who navigated life during and after the war. Discover thrifty recipes from the Ministry of Food, such as ‘wartime shortbread’ and ‘mock cream’.

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- Glen Bowman

The museum's changing display cases provide a fresh perspective with each visit. But there are always plenty of hands-on activities to try. A dedicated handling table invites children to interact with authentic household items, challenging them to guess their use and quizzes scattered around the house encourage visitors to uncover the stories behind each artefact.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Tenement House?

Whilst there’s no wrong time to visit the Tenement House in Glasgow, Christmas is a particularly good time! Adorned in traditional Glasgow decorations, visitors can learn about local traditions for Hogmanay, while enjoying a cuppa under the flickering gas lights.

The Tenement House
- Glen Bowman

The Tenement House Wally Dug Café

After exploring the Tenement House, visit the Wally Dug Café located on the ground floor. Treat yourself to various sweet treats, snacks, and hot or cold drinks. The café proudly offers gluten-free options and features a new exclusive coffee blend, Nàdar. Get your order to-go or relax in the cosy café, knowing that all proceeds support the National Trust for Scotland. While at the café, why not explore the new Archive Boxes, filled with artefacts from the museum’s collection. These boxes offer glimpses into lesser-known aspects of Glasgow's history.

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- Glen Bowman

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The Tenement House Questions


What you need to know

The Tenement House
145 Buccleuch Street, Glasgow G3 6QN
55.868118, -4.268330
Tips before you visit