Thank goodness for Agnes Toward. Thanks to this obscure, unremarkable woman we have one of the most complete and vivid slices of Glasgwegian social history, spanning six decades.
Her former home has been transformed into The Tenement House, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and a Full Sandford Award winner for its contribution to heritage education. Situated on the first floor of a still inhabited red sandstone tenement building just around the corner from the famous Glasgow School of Art, and unaltered for most of this century except for newly restored gas lighting.it offers an outstanding insight into tenement life.
Miss Toward and her widowed mother moved into 145 Buccleuch in 1911. They were not well to do, but neither were they poor. "Comfortable" perhaps sums it up. Even so, when her mother died in 1939, Agnes took in lodgers to supplement her income as an office clerk, a job she held with the same company for 45 years.
Her home gives us a glimpse into her own idiosyncrasies as well as into the times in which she lived. She was a terrific hoarder, hanging on to old Victorian furniture, jars and bottles of cosmetics and medicines, wartime paraphernalia, old household bills and letters.
Primary school groups visiting the Tenement House are given an introductory talk by staff in an adjoining education room before being shown around the house and then taking part in hands-on activities such as using a washboard, clothes-wringer and pulley, using flat irons and weighing scales and putting together an old-fashioned brass doorbell. It's like stepping back into a former time, a compelling experience.
The Tenement House, weekday mornings only between March 1 and October 31. Bookings, at least two weeks in advance, on 0141 333 0183.