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Those were the days – 1952: ‘Alarming and disturbing’ plight of Mackintosh tea room

CONCERNS were expressed in Glasgow in 1952 about the future use of Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed tea-rooms in the city’s Ingram Street. The premises were originally occupied by Miss Kate Cranston, and later by the firm of Cooper’s & Co. They were bought for £22,000 by Glasgow Corporation in March 1950, with the aim of preserving an example of Mackintosh’s work, but were still unoccupied by August 1952, and had gathered dust and dirt.

Councillor John D Kelly, who was City Treasurer at the time of the purchase, said: “We had prospective tenants for part of the tea room but they did not approve of the plans drawn up by the corporation… I am hoping there will be some action before long.” Douglas Percy Bliss, principal of Glasgow School of Art, said he had started the move to save the premises, but the result had been disappointing. The resulting plight was most alarming and disturbing.

Today, the elegant Oak Room from Ingram Street, designed in 1907, can be admired at the V&A in Dundee. It was rescued from destruction in 1971 and was subsequently stored in hundreds of pieces by Glasgow before being conserved and re-assembled by teams of experts.

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The V&A describes the room, with its warm, dark-stained oak and richly coloured glass, as one of Scotland’s most important interiors.

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