The Hill House

Situated in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, 23 miles (37 km) northwest of Glasgow, the Hill House is generally regarded as the finest of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's domestic buildings. Built in 1902-04 for the Glasgow publisher, Walter Blackie (1860 - 1953), the Hill House sits, as the name suggests, towards the top of a steep slope and has commanding views of the Clyde estuary. It represents an Art Noveau reinvention of the Scottish tower house, comprising two storeys and an attic, with wings extending from a central tower in an L-plan, round towers, prominent gables, grey-harled walls and slated roofs. While the outside has been described as austere and lacks detailing, Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald (1864 - 1933) specified every aspect of the interior including the doors, mantelpieces, wall-coverings and furniture. There are also fine gardens.

Mackintosh was a very 'hands-on' architect and insisted on staying with Blackie and his family to understand their lives and needs before framing his design.

Hill House was A-listed in 1971 as an iconic representation of Scottish domestic architecture, and the finest example of Mackintosh's work. It was bought by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 1972 and, in 1982, ownership passed to the National Trust for Scotland. Mackintosh's experimental portland-cement harl has not endured the wet climate here well. The walls had become saturated, were crumbling and the interiors threatened. To enable a ten-year conservation programme, NTS have built a temporary steel-framed 'box' enclosing the entire house to let the structure dry out. Elevated walkways are accessible to visitors, providing a view of the house never seen before.


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