In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Govan was much different in appearance to the present day. Indeed, until the proliferation of shipbuilding and industry in the nineteenth century, the parish was a small, rural salmon fishing community. By the late eighteenth century, this idyllic village was becoming particularly attractive to the flourishing mercantile elite from Glasgow as a quiet country retreat within reach of the city. As a result a number of mansion houses were constructed in Govan which are detailed in the late nineteenth century book The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry, by John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, 1878. This book provides information relating to ownership and use of the properties, as well as a collection of photographs - granting a unique view of Govan during this period, prior to its industrialization.
House for an Art Lover has links to two such estates – Bellahouston (or Bellyhouston as it is sometimes referred to in early sources); and Ibroxhill. It is on the site of Ibroxhill House that House for an Art Lover now sits and so it is this estate that will be discussed here.
In 1590, James VI granted a charter of confirmation of lands to certain heritors of the parish of Govan, who had previously held them as rentallers from the Archbishopric of Glasgow. A rentaller is someone who rents property usually for life and at a very favourable rate. This was so that “the tenants being thereby become heritable possessors of their several possessions might be encouradged by vertue and politie to improve that country.” In the list of men confirmed in their land was Thomas Hill, of the 25s. lands of Ybrocks. This family of Hills kept the estate of Ibrox until the mid-18thcentury, when John Hill sold the majority of it to John Picken, a maltman from the Gorbals; and the rest to the Graham family. The latter portion of the Ibrox estate was passed to Glasgow merchant John Trotter shortly thereafter. Alexander Trotter succeeded his father and sold the land to Glasgow based writer, John Bennet in 1801, who built the house and named it Ibrox, after the estate.
The property and estate was bought in 1816 by John McCall. He extended the residence using designs from his brother-in-law, James Smith, and renamed it Ibroxhill in order to distinguish it from other portions of the property. John McCall died without issue in 1833, and the estate was passed to his nephews, though his widow continued to live there until her death in 1871. Contemporary literature predicted that if the house remained uninhabited, it would not survive the onslaught of industry, and indeed, after a brief spell as a tearoom owned by the City of Glasgow, Ibroxhill House was demolished in 1914.
Today, the last pieces of physical evidence of House for Art Lover’s earlier heritage are the Victorian Walled Garden and the original portico, which was saved from destruction and reconstructed in the grounds. The Victorian Walled Garden dates to before 1860 and was utilised by the kitchen to supply Ibroxhill House with fresh fruit and vegetables. Located in the west corner of the garden and built into the wall are the original gardener’s bothy and potting shed – features which are repeated in the opposite corner.
Below is a photograph of Ibroxhill House taken by Thomas Annan in 1870. You can see the portico (which survives in the grounds of House for an Art Lover) in situ; and a group of women playing a game on the lawn. And beneath that are photos showing the portico in the grounds of House for Art Lover (left) and the Walled Garden with the gardener’s bothy in the corner (right).