Alterations from West Shandon House to Hydro



In the autumn of 1877 a company was formed to convert West Shandon House into a sanatorium on temperance principles, and the house, as taken over from the late Mr Napier’s trustees at a fifth of the money that been expended upon it, was opened with a banquet in October, 1877.

It contained then only between 30 and 40 bedrooms, and was of course minus the baths, dining-room, ball-room, nursery, etc, which are recognised requisites in hydropathic regimen. Since then these defects have all been supplied, a new wing having been added, and the institution was re-opened on Friday last.

The alterations and additions made have been necessarily expensive, in order to preserve uniformity with the superior workmanship of the original building, into which it is well known that the late Mr Napier admitted nothing that did not come up to his own idea of what a house should be.

The front entrance to the institution faces the south, and overlooks the main portion of the grounds; the west front faces the Gareloch; the northern end abuts upon the conservatory; and the eastern wing consists of the new bed-rooms and baths, just completed. The architecture of the building is in the Elizabethan style, the material used is white freestone, and the style of workmanship is what is known as ‘spotted’ ashlar, with polished facings. There are mostly elaborately-carved griffins, and other ornamental work, not only in conspicuous places in the front, but in out-of-the-way corners, where least expected. The style in which even the minutest details are finished demonstrates beyond the possibility of a doubt that a man endowed with supremely good taste, and possessing abundant means of gratifying his artistic notions, has presided over everything within and upon the walls.

To the left, on entering the main hall, there is a reception-room, in which guests are welcomed by Mr G R McKenzie, the manager, or by the presiding genius of the establishment, Dr Malcolm. A magnificent suite of drawing-rooms occupies the whole of the lower part of the western front, facing the loch. The total length of the suite is 110 feet, divided into three portions, each of which may be kept separate from the others. The first is at the southern end of the building. The woodwork is finished in white, pale green and gold; the walls in rich dark green and gold; and the furniture is in ebony, upholstered in ruby-coloured velvet. There is a large oriel window overlooking the loch. The mirrors are so arranged that, no matter in what corner of the room a person may be standing, it is possible to enjoy a view of sea and shore. The mantelpiece of this room is in Carrara marble, and the figures are from the chisel of an eminent Italian sculptor. The centre room is lighted by three mullioned windows, and is lined all round with richly-carved oak bookcases. At both ends there is a fire-place in rich saffron Belge, and the apartment is furnished with lounges, chairs, and writing tables in Italian walnut. There is also here a fine harmonium for the use of residents. The doors at each end of this room are so constructed that when shut they appear to form part of the bookcases that line the walls. The apartment at the extreme end, and the last of the suite, is a counterpart of the first entered so far as regards size, but is furnished and fitted in a different style. The ceilings of the suite are to some extent uniform in pattern, the plasterwork being alike in all, but the coloured ornamentation different in each. In the first, or south room, the ceiling is finished in green, white and gold; in the north room the whole of the panels are richly executed in distemper, while the beads and moulds are in cream colour and gold. In the centre room the colouring of the beads and mouldings is dark blue, maroon, and gold, and in the centre of each square is a coat of arms. The effect is exceedingly fine.

The main staircase is built of stone, has a massive carved oak balustrade, and is lighted by a large mullioned window filled with stained glass, on which are portrayed groups emblematic of Peace, Plenty, Commerce and Industry. The first set of bed-rooms – those appertaining to the house in the original form – are reached by stairs from the landing on which the grand staircase terminates.

In the new wing erected to the rear of the old building, and in keeping with the style of architecture, the bed-room accommodation has been increased by 150 beds, and connected with the old house by means of covered ways thrown across the carriage drive. A new and spacious dining hall, in which about 250 persons may be entertained, and fully adequate to the demands of the establishment, has also been added on a piece of ground adjoining the former ball-room or recreation hall. Leaving this hall on the way to the conservatory there is a commodious billiard-room with an excellent table. The conservatory is 165 feet long, richly furnished with flowering plants, and kept in excellent culture all the year round.

The baths are connected with the new wing, though in a different building and shut off from the bed-rooms. There are two suites of them – one for ladies, and another for gentlemen; also Turkish or hot-air baths of the latest construction and arrangement, and a large swimming bath fitted up with trapezes in which as good a header can be enjoyed as in the Gareloch. It has also elbow-room for a good swim, being 43 feet in length by 23 feet broad, and which on certain days each week is to be specially reserved for ladies. This bath is supplied with salt water from the loch, and in all the other baths salt or fresh water, hot or cold, may be used at pleasure. Families quartered at this institution will thus have an excellent opportunity of getting children taught swimming without trouble or danger.

To many, both of those who have children and of those who have none, it will also be a matter of interest to know that in the upper part of the house a nursery has been fitted up, care being taken to render the windows and fireplaces safe for its lesser inmates; so that Shandon promises to shine as a domestic hydropathe. The passages are warmed by a special heating apparatus, so that fires will be unnecessary in the bed-rooms, even in the coldest weather; although in conformity with ordinary usage, all the rooms are fitted with open fire grates. The bed-rooms are uniformly furnished in a plain but comfortable style.

These alterations and additions have been necessarily expensive, in order to preserve uniformity with the superior workmanship of the original building, into which it is well known that the late Mr Napier admitted nothing that did not come up to his own idea of what a house should be. First and last they have cost the company about £25,000. Furnishings and fittings to correspond have run away with a further £15,000. The building as it now stands in working order, and capable of lodging nearly two hundred people, represents an outlay of £80,000 to the company. The gross expenditure since Mr Napier laid the foundations in 1851 cannot be much less than £200,000. The grounds, extending to about 60 acres, have a frontage of 900 yards towards the Gareloch, and are laid out with great care and taste. The plantations, principally of pine, are of great beauty, and the effect is varied by happily arranged clumps and reaches of other trees and shrubs. The gardens are extensive and richly stocked, and from these the house is supplied with vegetables and fruits – the vineries alone producing upwards of 700lbs of grapes in the year. Carriages and boats are kept on hire for the visitors, and skating, curling, lawn tennis, and other games have been provided for.

On Friday last, the directors (who represent the West and East coasts in equal numbers, three of them being Glasgow and the other three Edinburgh gentlemen) invited the shareholders and their friends, to celebrate the house-warming by a dinner and ball. The weather was very unfavourable, but the early trains from Glasgow and Edinburgh were all extra loaded with visitors. At Helensburgh omnibuses belonging to the establishment awaited them, in which they were driven to Shandon. At half-past six o’clock about 300 guests sat down to dinner in the large hall, which was very neatly laid out. Bailie Morrison, Glasgow, chairman of the board of directors, presided, and the other directors acted as croupiers.

After an excellent dinner, which was served in first-rate style, the Chairman said, with the leave of those present, he would give the toast of ‘The Queen’, and drink it in the pure sparkling wine from the springs on the grounds of Shandon. (Laughter). The toast having been duly honoured, he then, on behalf of the directors, begged to give those present a right hearty welcome to Shandon. The aim of the directors was to make the Shandon hydropathic establishment not only equal to others, but to make it the finest institution of the kind in the country, with respect to not only the dietary and treatment given to visitors, but also to the excellence of the various internal arrangements of the house, and the beauty of the surroundings. The directors did not hold the idea that hydropathic establishments should be places in which visitors should deny themselves every luxury, and so, as might have been seen, the dietary was on a liberal scale. They also wished it to be a place in which visitors might feel themselves thoroughly at home, and so there were no rules excepting such as were tacitly observed in every good family. It should, however, be remembered that if one person were desirous of enjoying comfort and luxuries such as were to be found here, it would necessitate the possession of an income of £10,000 a year, yet the directors were giving these things to the visitors for 10s 6d per day. (A laugh). He would be glad if the visitors would inspect the splendid set of baths newly added to the house. The swimming bath was a feature that deserved special notice, it being specially supplied with sea water. (Applause).

Bailie Rowat, Edinburgh, said he had been in most of the hydropathic establishments in Scotland, and he had never yet saw one that approached that of Shandon in extent and magnificence. Indeed, few seem to have imagined there was a place of the kind in Scotland. It was not 5 per cent, nor 10, nor 15, but 25 at the very least that the directors might calculate on if things went on so prosperously. He concluded by proposing the health of the directors of the institution. (Applause).

The company then adjourned to the drawing-room while the hall was being cleared for the ball, which was fixed to take place at half-past nine, and which was attended by about 300, amongst the new arrivals being many of the young members of the families in the neighbourhood. There was an open table all evening in the recreation hall, which was filled with everything necessary to satisfy the appetite, and was largely taken advantage of. Dancing concluded about two o’clock the following morning, and the whole proceedings were of a most agreeable nature.

The music was supplied by a small orchestra, under Mr Hatton, Glasgow, and gave every satisfaction.

The architects and contractors for the new addition were: – Architects – Kinnear & Peddie, Edinburgh; mason and joiner work – D Guthrie & Co, Glasgow; plumber – William Reid, Helensburgh; plasterer – Alex Duncan, Rothesay; gas fitting – J McHaffir & Co, Glasgow; slater – J Morrison & Son, Glasgow; painting – Torrens & Husband; engineers – R Murray, C E Turnbull, Grant and Jack, Glasgow; furnishing – Wylie & Lochhead, Alex Cree, Alex Bissett, Glasgow; silver plate – E Edwards & Sons, Glasgow; iron work – Thomas Hudgson, Coatbridge.

Messrs Reid & Galt, C.A., Glasgow, are secretaries to the company.

Mr Mackenzie is a most excellent and painstaking manager, while Mrs McGregor, housekeeper, and Mr McLean, head gardener, are both very active in their respective departments. Dr Malcolm, the resident physician, is one of the most successful of the advanced school of hydropathists. He has traveled widely, and has spent a number of years in South Africa, and of late has been in practice in Malvern and London.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: