The first post of the Gilmorehill Story Project comes to us from our Club 21 volunteer Lauren Moffat!
Pearce Lodge is unique amongst the University buildings at Gilmorehill in that it exists as a material connection to the University’s old site on the High Street. While the other buildings from the High Street site were demolished in 1870, the decision was taken to preserve and move the façade of part of the Old College entryway out to the University’s new West End home. The stonework now forms part of Pearce Lodge as it stands at the north-east corner of the Gilmorehill site. The main preserved features can still be seen today: in the archway that leads through the lodge, the two prominent stone balconies that lie to the west of the archway and wrap around the north-east corner of the lodge, the royal arms of King Charles II, sculptured vases, and window furnishings. There are also two stone panels – one gives the date ‘1658’ and the other gives the initials of Charles II, ‘CR2,’ which was positioned above the original gateway after the Restoration of the monarchy in May 1660.
The building’s reconstruction at Gilmorehill was funded by Sir William Pearce, chairman of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, and the building bears his name as tribute. Pearce’s donation allowed architect and engineer Alexander George Thomson to save some of the magnificence of the Old College’s Renaissance Palace style architecture and incorporate it into the new campus. Thomson, who to this day is famous for having protested the demolition of the Old College campus, was able, with Pearce’s backing, to arrange for the gateway to be dismantled, moved, and rebuilt to his own design, allowing him to save what he could after his protests were unsuccessful. The building bears a plaque recalling the link the building provides between the old and new University sites:
This incorporates the old main gateway and other features from the High Street frontage of the Old College, built in the time of Charles II. It is named after Sir William Pearce, whose generosity made possible its reconstruction on the present site in 1887-88.
Over the years, the building has been re-purposed many times. Originally housing the University’s Department of Naval Architecture, it became home to the Student’s Representative Council until 1969. The lodge now houses the offices for the Safety and Environmental Protection Services.
The sole tangible link back to the University’s previous incarnation, Pearce Lodge is as important now as it was in 1887. Pearce and Thomson’s salvage work created one of the best collections of 17th century Scottish architectural sculpture.
The story of Pearce Lodge is the first of three blogs written by Club 21 volunteer Lauren Moffat. Follow us @GUArchives #gilmorehillstory for Lauren’s blogs published weekly on Thursdays!
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