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£4M funding boost for historic Glasgow tea rooms

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The historic Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow has received a £3.579m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete the restoration of the historic building and its unique interior, and create a visitor centre.

The award will allow for the completion of The Willow Tea Rooms Trust's mission to conserve and restore the Willow Tea Rooms Building at 217, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. The tea rooms and new visitor centre are scheduled to open for the City of Glasgow’s celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of its architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s birth on 7 June 2018.

The Trust also plans to incorporate an interactive visitor centre, education and learning suite, conference facilities and shop to ensure that the project is sustainable for future generations to enjoy. It will operate as a genuine social enterprise delivering a range of exciting activities far beyond its original function as a tea room.  

The story of the Willow Tea Rooms

The Willow Tea Rooms Building is the only surviving tea room designed in its entirety by Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, had total control over both the architecture and decorative elements, from the interior and the design of the cutlery to the waitress’s uniforms.

The restoration will conserve and interpret the building's history and heritage, increase accessibility with the installation of new visitor facilities and provide a range of opportunities for learning and skills development

The achievements of Glasgow businesswoman, Miss Cranston, the original owner who commissioned the tea rooms designed by Mackintosh in 1903 will also be celebrated within the visitor centre. Miss Cranston's entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, as well as her enlightened views on the role of women, social enterprise and philanthropy, provide a fascinating reflection of Glasgow at the turn of the 20th century.

Preserving a rich heritage

Celia Sinclair, Founder and Chair of The Willow Tea Room Trust said: “Thanks to National Lottery players the important cultural and rich heritage of The Willow Tea Rooms Building will be conserved. Works to the exterior of the building are almost complete. The Heritage Lottery Fund award means that our vision for restoring the interior, commissioning furniture, crockery, cutlery and building the interactive visitor centre along with an education and learning suite, conference facilities and shop can now forge ahead.”

The Board of Trustees are supported by an Expert Mackintosh Advisory Panel who scrutinise every detail of the restoration. The Trust has also been supported by The Monument Trust, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, Historic Environment Scotland, Glasgow City Council, Dunard Fund, Scottish Enterprise, The Architectural Heritage Fund, The Hugh Fraser Foundation, Thomas Tunnock Ltd, Robert Barr’s Charitable Trust, The Dean of Guild Court Trust and public donations.

For more on the project, visit the website.

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