Holmwood House was built by Alexander Thomson in 1857-58 near the village of Cathcart, on the southern fringes of Glasgow. The client was James Couper who, with his brother Robert, owned the nearby Millholm paper mill.
Although it appears that no drawings or correspondence concerning the building of Holmwood have survived, an important source of information exists. In 1868 Blackie and Son, the Glasgow publishers, produced a well-illustrated book that was a compilation of work by a number of different architects – Villa and Cottage Architecture. It seems that the text was supplied by the architects whose work was illustrated. One of the contributors was Alexander Thomson, who chose to include Holmwood among his featured works.
Holmwood is considered to be immensely influential because the published design may have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and other proto-modernist architects.
In spite of being in monochrome, the engravings reveal something of the elaborate nature of the interior ornament, with ornate plasterwork and rich stencilled decoration. Recent work by Stenhouse, Historic Scotland’s conservation centre, has revealed the nature of some of this original polychromatic decoration which 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.
Having been a private house for a hundred years, Holmwood was bought by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, who built a school in the grounds. In 1992 the school closed, and after a successful campaign to save the house, it was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland.
I was commissioned to carry out the paint analysis of many different areas of the house, inside and out.
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