42 Miller Street – The Tobacco Merchant’s House – 1909


Photo (C1761): Sourced from Virtual Mitchell and reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.

This 18th century tobacco merchant’s villa had recently had that ugly mansard roof added when this photograph was taken in 1909. Built by wright John Craig in 1775, it formed one of a row of free-standing villas at the south end of Miller Street. It was sold in 1782 to tobacco importer Robert Findlay of Easterhill. The house is a modest Palladian mansion which echos the much larger homes built by the city’s tobacco lords around the Merchant City. There are hints to Glasgow’s shameful colonial past dotted around the city. Jamaica and Virginia Streets are named after the territories where wealthy men monopolised the tobacco and sugar trades, often with brutal consequences for the slaves pressed into hard labour. Treasured buildings such as the Gallery of Modern Art started life as the private mansions of tobacco lords who were also, by extension, slave owners.

By the early 1990s, 42 Miller Street was in a sorry state: derelict and well on its way to becoming yet another city treasure lost to the bulldozer. It would almost certainly have ended that way had the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust not undertaken a complete restoration in 1994. They spent £500,000 stripping paint from the masonry and removing the late 19th century addition to the roof, and in the process they saved this historically important building from certain ruin.

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