The story of Holmwood House, Glasgow’s Ancient Greek palace


In 19th-century Glasgow, paper mill magnate James Couper wanted a house that would be a totally unique fixture in the land and upstage the property of his neighbour.

He commissioned a famous architect to build him an elaborate villa that would outdo his brother Robert’s rather ordinary-looking Gothic home, Sunnyside.

Holmwood House was built in 1857 for the Millholm Paper Mill businessman at a cost of £3,600, near the banks of White Cart Water where the brothers lived and worked.

Glasgow Times: Holmwood HouseHolmwood House

The villa was designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, who was a founding member of both the Glasgow Architectural Society and the Glasgow Institute of Architects.

Inspired by the shapes and designs of the architecture of Egypt, Assyria, India – and of course, Greece – Thomson’s creations hugely influenced Glasgow architecture in the 19th century.

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After his death, the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship was established and produced a relatively well-known student by the name of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Despite Thomson’s influence and legacy, many of his buildings were destroyed in the 1950s and 60s, along with Robert’s home Sunnyside.

One that remains in its full glory is Holmwood House.

James Couper’s wife lived in the house after his death until 1908, and over the years it was owned by numerous families until it was purchased by Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission in 1958.

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The house attracted significant attention from property developers, who wanted to build 93 flats in its place. But Glasgow City Council refused permission, and the National Trust was able to purchase Holmwood.

Glasgow Times: The cupola was restored recently to its original decorThe cupola was restored recently to its original decor

Visitors today can marvel at the intricate detail of its stunning columns, and explore the rooms, gardens and stable lodge.

One highlight is the cupola above the staircase, which emulates an Ancient Greek palace and was recently restored to its original decor which features Chimera, a Greek mythical creature. 

The house and grounds are open from Thursday to Sunday.



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