For the last few days I’ve been on the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) consortium’s historic environment field course. This year Historic Environment Scotland (HES) Survey and Recording team have been guiding us CDP PhD researchers around the big city of Glasgow, which, as we’ve learned over the last few days, is steeped in multi-faceted history. From Pictish and early medieval stone monuments at Govan Old Parish Church to the industrial booms and it’s influences on the architecture and layout of the city over the 18th to 20th centuries, we’ve really swooped through the city’s past by looking at it’s upstanding buildings!
We began the course on Tuesday with a walking tour of the city’s architecture, highlighting the different styles and influences present, including the famous Glasgow style associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his peers. With the terrible fire that took place two weekends ago, we sadly couldn’t get up close to the Glasgow School of Art as we had planned to, but the HES staff, particularly Iain, did an amazing job of finding last minute alternative activities for us. We visited The Lighthouse, which has a good display of some of Mackintosh’s architectural designs and some stunning views of the city from up high.
Afterwards we were given a guided tour of the Glasgow Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the oldest surviving music hall in Britain, which is being kept open and running by a team of enthusiastic volunteers. It was interesting to hear over the last few days the relationship such community groups have with the owners of such buildings, which are private, and the challenges of keeping places that have such significance to people maintained and open. Fingers crossed they can get funding to restore the upper floors.
In the afternoon we travelled to Govan to have metric survey demonstrations from HES’s Surveying and Recording team inside Govan Old Church. The church houses the third largest collection of early medieval stone sculpture in Scotland and I even had time to take photos for photogrammetry of one of the famous hogback stones – Viking grave markers so-named as their curved profile looks like the slope of a wild boar’s back. It was nice to give a demo to the other researchers of how I’m recording data for my PhD, and to have a low-res 3D model generated and up on Sketchfab by tea time! Link here for the model: https://sketchfab.com/models/03e3e061c31f4399b31c7b772da6ac06
I had a whistle-stop walk through the Riverside Museum, hopping over on the ferry from Govan! Such a striking design by Zaha Hadid (below).
I think we were all grateful for the slight drop in temperature in the evening as we embarked on a graffiti tour around the local area. Really interesting to hear about the ideas and reasons for the different types made by artists, and to look at graffiti through a cultural lens rather than as vandalism.
On Wednesday the temperatures soared to way past 25°C, so it was nice to be out and about strolling through Kelvingrove Park, hearing about the development of the area in the 19th century and how the surveying and recording teams have worked on various areas of the park, helping with regeneration of the band stand. We explored Kelvingrove Art Gallery too during lunch time, which houses an impressive collection of Mackintosh furniture (I didn’t have time to see the exhibit though)!
Later in the day we travelled to the east side of the city, to Bridgetown, to visit Glasgow Women’s Library. It sounds like the venue has some great events to engage with the local community and encourage its resources to be used by anyone. It’s location, in an ex-Carnegie library, is very appropriate too, and striking when comparing the sizes of the original separate mens’ and womens’ reading rooms (unsurprisingly, little space was dedicated for women in the past…).
Afterwards we explored more of the east end, passing old tenement buildings and dropping in to Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, which has a striking 1960s design with a deep sloping roof and ceiling. We were glad to be in the shade as the temperature climbed in the afternoon!
I’m going to start mentioning some of the highs and lows of my PhD research so it paints a better picture of how things are going (rather than appearing like a glorified holiday album!) so one of the main lows of the day was definitely being bitten by a horsefly as we headed for dinner… I thought I’d be safe from the bugs in the middle of a city!
Tea was in a German-style brewpub located in a former carpet factory, which has a lovely Venetian façade! Nice to have authentic tasting currywurst after visiting Tubingen earlier this year! The apple strudel portions were on the generous size too!
Despite the soaring temperature (30°C!) me and a few other brave and keen students decided to plough on and also visit Glasgow Necropolis. Feeling very vampiric as we hopped between the tallest, shadiest tombs and monuments to keep out of the sunlight, we had a very informative tour from the Chair of the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis group, and it was good to hear about all the conservation work organised by this volunteer group to preserve the monuments.
On our last day we visited The Napiershall Centre, headquarters to the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC) who work with diverse local communities to support people in all sorts of activities. Though the centre isn’t listed, it is historic, being based in an old school building with a large open central hall. The large spaces are ideal for various group activities and offices, but the building is in need of much TLC. As the building is owned by a private company it is under threat, and there is uncertainty for where WSREC will be based in the future.
Phew – a lot packed into such a short space of time! I think I’ve walked over 50,000 steps in the last three days alone! Once I made it to Stirling, for the next leg of my Scottish summer adventures, it was nice to head to the castle just to sit in the shade of a big tree in the Queen Anne Gardens and read for a while! A little bit of calm before travelling onwards to Shetland in the coming days. I’ll experiment with adding some shorter blog posts over the next week (to connect to Twitter) as my summer PhD fieldwork goes underway. Let’s see if I can keep it up!