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Schaw House and the Schaw Family History

One of the most recognisable landmarks in my part of Glasgow is Schaw House, a former tuberculosis hospital which is now apartments.

Schaw House was run by Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the early 20th century, although at that point Bearsden was a separate village with green fields between it and the city of Glasgow. It was used as a convalescent hospital, for people who were not sick enough to be in hospital, but not well enough to be at home. In the late 20th and early 21st century, Schaw House was a private nursing home, and was eventually bought by developers to turn unto housing in 2007. But who were the Schaw family?

The Schaw Family History

The money to build the convalescence hospital was donated by Marjory Shanks Schaw, part of a prominent Glasgow family. Marjory was born in 1836 in Glasgow to George Schaw and his wife Margaret Shanks. Marjory had an older brother, Archibald Shanks Schaw. who was born in November 1819 and baptised in the Gorbals parish on Boxing Day, 26th December of that year.

Archibald was in the right place at the right time in the booming Glasgow of the 1850s and 1860s, and made his fortune as a commission merchant, trading in iron goods and the raw material. Glasgow's iron industry at the time was world-leading, and there was no shortage of work for an ambitious merchant like Archibald. Archibald never married, and his life can be traced through various smart Glasgow addresses. In 1858 he was living at 18 Windsor Terrace, a street just to the west of the Botanic Gardens which was later renamed as Kirklee Terrace. By 1871 Archibald had moved into an even smarter address of 26 Park Circus, where the household comprised Archibald, his sister Marjory, and three servants.

In September 1889 Archibald Schaw died after a long illness and left a huge fortune to his sister, Marjory. When confirmation was granted to his executors in October 1889, the value of the estate was given as £379,208 16s 1d. Exact comparison of value is difficult, but this is a huge fortune, probably around the £30 million mark by today's figures.

Marjory Shanks Schaw's Bequests

Marjory's first significant bequest of £40,000 was to fund the building of Schaw House in her brother's memory, and construction took around four years. After Archibald's death, Marjory remained in the 26 Park Circus property, living off income from her not insignificant investments.

Marjory died in February 1915 at the age of 79. Her estate had grown considerably from the money left by her brother, and confirmation put the value at almost £421,000. Of this amount, £311,511 was left to various charitable causes in and around Glasgow including:

  • £100,000 to Glasgow Royal Infirmary

  • £60,000 to Victoria Infirmary

  • £10,000 to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children

  • £10,000 to the Merchants House, for the benefit of "maiden ladies resident in Glasgow".

Glasgow Royal Infirmary used their bequest to fund three wards in their new endocrinology department, and the money donated to the Merchants House is still being invested and put to charitable use today.

Marjory and Archibald Shanks Schaw are both buried in the Glasgow Necropolis cemetery, behind the Cathedral.

Interested in exploring the history of your house, or a grand building close to where you live? Get in touch and we'll chat about what I can help with.


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