The Home of Miss Agnes Toward: Exploring a Tenement House

In this Expedition, we’ll explore a middle-class Glasgow tenement house built in 1892. Located at 145 Buccleuch Street, the house was the home of shorthand typist Miss Agnes Toward from 1911 until 1965.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by National Trust for Scotland, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Miss Toward changed very little about the house during her time here, and it retains many of its original fixtures and fittings.

It’s full of her possessions, including a rosewood and walnut piano, a writing bureau from 1750 and many ordinary household objects of the time such as a carpet sweeper, cleaning products and medicine bottles.

Miss Toward also kept many things that most people would have thrown away, for example, recipes, postcards, letters, newspapers and even a pot of homemade plum jam from 1929!

Today, the house is preserved for the public by the National Trust for Scotland.

The Lobby

The lobby, or hallway, of the house is lit by borrowlights —small windows—over the main and kitchen doors and by gas lighting, which had to be reinstalled as Miss Toward upgraded to electricity in 1960. 

The current flooring is wall-to-wall linoleum, but originally, it would have been a square of linoleum in the middle of the floor surrounded by polished and stained floorboards. 

Grandfather Clock

The mahogany longcase clock was made in Dumbarton c.1790 by Jonathan Kay (or Key), and still keeps good time. It strikes on the hour and has two smaller dials at the bottom of the face, one marking the seconds and one the date. 

Oil Painting

This portrait was left to Miss Toward by her maiden aunts. It is believed to be of Miss Toward’s grandfather, James Toward, who owned an engraving business and would probably have had enough money to commission a portrait.

Kilmarnock Chest

This mahogany Kilmarnock, or “Scotch” chest dates from between 1860─1880. The deep central drawer at the top of the chest is called a ‘lum’ drawer and was used for storing gentlemen’s top hats. 

The Bedroom

The bedroom contains a typical late Victorian suite of bedroom furniture made from deal, a softwood timber, usually pine. The suite consists of a pot cupboard, a washstand, a dressing table and a wardrobe. 

The traditional iron and brass bed is covered with a typical white cotton bed cover. Among the personal objects on the dressing table are perfume bottles and a brass and mother of pearl pocket watch holder.

Wash stand

This marble-topped washstand has jugs for cold and hot water that could be mixed together in the bowl to the desired temperature. The soap dish holds an example of a novelty cricket ball soap from the early 1900s. 

Sewing Machine

Dating from the 1860s, this Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine has a foot-shaped treadle—a distinctive feature of W&W machines. The treadle originally had a leather strap over the toes to help keep the seamstress’s feet in place. 


These suitcases were used by Miss Toward when she went on holiday. Like most Glaswegians, she went away during the Glasgow Fair in the first two weeks of July to places such as Arran and her favourite destination, Largs.

The Parlour

The parlour was the ‘best room’ of the House and used only on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Most of the furniture in this room is mahogany. Several pieces were inherited by Miss Toward from her maiden aunts. 

There are two photographs of Miss Toward in the room: the one on top of the writing desk was taken in the 1920s, and the one on top of the piano shows her attending a wedding in 1960. 

Set-in Bed

Tenement houses were built to accommodate large families. The enclosed bed space with door was an economical way of providing extra sleeping space. This particular type of bed was banned in 1900 for health reasons.

Servants’ Bell Handle

This bell handle, which rings a bell in the kitchen, was installed when the house was built. At that time, domestic service was cheap, and many families in Buccleuch Street had a maidservant. However, we have no evidence that Miss Toward ever employed a maid. 

Horsehair Chairs

These button-backed armchairs have mahogany frames and are covered in woven black horsehair. Horsehair cloth was popular as a covering for chairs and sofas throughout the 19th century because it was very hardwearing. 

The Kitchen

This is a typical Glasgow tenement kitchen with all the traditional features: range, coal bunker, sink and recess bed. The range would have been on all the time, making the kitchen the warmest room in the house. 

You can see many cooking and baking implements around the room, including a wooden ’tattie champer’ for mashing potatoes and a ’spurtle’ for stirring porridge. Behind the door is the carpet beater for cleaning rugs and, to its right, a Ewbank carpet sweeper.

Recess Bed

Although the recess bed looks short, it is actually a bit over 6 feet long. The space beneath could have been used for storage or for a “hurlie” bed, a bed on wheels that could be pulled out when needed.


The coal-fired kitchen range was used for preparing meals, for baking and for heating irons. It was kept clean using a black lead polish called Zebo, which protected it from rust and made it shine. 


Small pieces of laundry could be washed at the sink using the zinc ribbed washboard. They were then put through the rollers of the wringer to squeeze the water out (“caw” the wringer) and hung to dry on the clothes pulley overhead.

The Bathroom

Most tenement buildings had either an outside toilet or a toilet on the landing that families shared. To have an indoor bathroom was a luxury. 

The bath, the marble-effect wash basin—large enough to bathe a baby—and the toilet with its heavy wooden seat and china-handled pull chain are all original fixtures from 1892. The windowsill holds many of Miss Toward’s medicine bottles.

Gas Meter

The original gas meter was removed from the house when Miss Toward installed electricity in 1960. This gas meter was donated by the gas board. It was made by Alder and Mackay of Edinburgh in the late 19th century.

Toilet Paper

This Izal toilet paper was a luxury item. It looks and feels like tracing paper and isn’t very soft, but the common alternative was cut up squares of newspaper.


The bath is much narrower and deeper than baths today. Hot water was heated by a back boiler in the range and then piped through from the kitchen.  It is unlikely that the boiler produced enough hot water to fill the bath.

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