The search is on to find early examples of Glasgow tenement wallpapers

04 September 2023
Residents of Glasgow are being asked to dig out old photographs and wallpaper scraps to help the National Trust for Scotland develop a new archive of wallpaper designs.

The conservation charity’s appeal to inhabitants of Scotland’s largest city, is hoping to piece together a more accurate account of the varying styles of decoration used to adorn the walls of the tenements that have been a mainstay of Glasgow’s cityscape since the 1800s.

The National Trust for Scotland, which cares for and shares the Tenement House, is aiming to develop an exhibition of interior design tastes from the 1800s until the 1950s at the property in the city’s Garnethill area if it receives sufficient interest and examples from residents.

A glimpse of former interior decorating tastes

Emma Inglis, National Trust for Scotland Curator for Glasgow and the west, said: “We’re curious to know more about the decorating choices of the past, and we’re calling on the people of Glasgow to help by sharing evidence and memories of interior design styles in their homes to uncover the different tastes of folk who called these apartments home in the late 19th or early 20th century Glasgow Style.

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"Other pieces are less distinctive, although most are variations on leaves and flowers. They would have brought much-needed colour into rooms that were originally subdued under gas light. The kitchen and hall wallpapers were varnished to make them easier to clean and more hard-wearing.

“Of course, the Tenement House is just one tenement home among the many thousands that spread across the city. Occasionally, a black and white photograph gives us a further glimpse of a patterned wall, with wallpaper turning up in even the most modest, single-roomed homes, yet sadly the colours can only be imagined. In many tenements, the kitchen doubled as a living and sleeping space and was often decorated with wallpaper to reflect these functions.

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“Our collection of wallpapers at the Tenement House is complemented by a small archive of wallpapers from other buildings in our care. At Moirlanich Longhouse in Killin, Perthshire, the layers of early 20th century wallpaper at the rural property provide a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of that time.

“My historical research of typical tenement style décor has shown that the popular wall coverings haven’t been well studied and so we’re appealing to residents of Glasgow to look out old photographs, scraps of wallpaper, even old receipts from wallpaper purchases to help fill the gaps in our knowledge and to document the different styles used around the turn of the century. We are hoping to develop a small exhibition at the Tenement House if we receive enough examples and those wishing to send in their examples can do so via our Facebook page. Together, let’s start to build a picture of interior decorating, tenement-style.”

Those wishing to submit photography, wallpaper scraps and other items can share via the NTS Facebook post here.

(Report and images copyright National Trust for Scotland)