Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Bellgrove Hotel made it onto the web

The Bellgrove Hotel, which can be found in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, has always been something of an irritation to me.

Even when I added a normal wide-angle lens to my collection, I still couldn’t take a decent picture of the façade, as the result was – for me – wasted by having the extreme edges of the building cut off because they fell outside the frame, or with excessive perspective distortion because I had to shoot low and angle the camera up in order to include the whole building in the shot. I was also fed up with the easy solution to this problem – a view taken looking at the corner, which can be caught simply by walking a bit further along the road.

I happened to be along that way recently, carrying some of my more recent toys, and discovered that I could not only get the whole façade in frame now, but could also do without having to lean back and have the roof disappear into the distance. Such perspective may make for a dramatic shot, but it’s of little use if your real intent is merely to record the building detail.

The only downside is that while I can now catch this in a single shot, I can easily make seamless stitches of the same view using multiple shots to include the same area – such is progress.

It became “famous”, or perhaps infamous, when a bunch of false reviews were posted on various online review sites, and raised its status into some Top 100 hotels in the country.

Reminds me of a trip I made down to Richmond-on-Thames, a fairly up-market area of London. I reserved my hotel in advance, and thought the call had an unusual echo, but thought nothing of it. When I got there, even though I had the address, I never found the hotel (and never found it later either). I didn’t end up on the streets (it can be hard to get a walk-in room in London sometimes) as I found a handy guest house. It worked out quite well, as my stay had to be extended, and while the owner couldn’t accommodate me for the whole period, he got me room in other houses nearby, and it cost a lot less than most hotels I usually used down there.

Bellgrove Hotel

Bellgrove Hotel

There a full set of more detailed recent pics online, that slightly postdate mine, and can be found here if you are interested: Bellgrove Hotel

While the building looks quite tired now, in days gone by it actually looked a lot better, but I imagine it gets little in terms of care and maintenance these day, and its former Art Deco splendour can on only be imagined. I understand it has 160 rooms, licensed for single occupants, of whom many have lived there for years

In reality, it houses homeless men, many dealing with alcohol-related problems. But it only holds the licence needed for a normal hotel, and the required HMO licence needed for places of multiple occupancy. It is not a care home, but a private hotel, so does not fall under the monitoring carried out by bodies such as the Care Inspectorate, local authorities,  and the Housing Regulator. Funding comes from residents’ housing benefits, with carers from Cordia visiting some of the most vulnerable men.
Digging into its history reveals it has not changed all that much, and was never an upmarket hotel.

It is described as an example of Thirties Moderne architecture, having had clean white lines, curves, a horizontal bias, and decorative bands of coloured tiles. Plans show that 2 lavatories, 1 footbath and 1 bathroom were allocated per floor, and the original entrance was depicted in the corner, rather the off-centre location where it is seen today. Accommodation is described as being in exceptionally small single rooms with space for small single bed, wash hand basin and radiator, and double rooms located in the corners of the building.

It was built as a working men’s hostel between 1935 and 1937, at a time when the surrounding area had become heavily industrialised, and modes accommodation was needed for workers drawn to the area.  Historical photographs of the building when it was in use as a hostel show men relaxing in the present dining hall, at tables and chairs or in easy chairs, and a “corner of the restaurant” where aproned waitresses stand beside ordered tables.

Back in October 2000, the BBC (which seems to have a soft spot for Scotland, and runs quite a few documentary type programmes about deprivation and problems) aired an episode of Frontline Scotlandon BBC 1, claiming to have discovered that the Bellgrove Hotel in the city’s Gallowgate was home to 100 residents who each paid £100 a week in housing benefit,  and lived in “appalling conditions”. The programme included allegations that unsupervised residents were allowed to cause chaos, and accusations that profit was put before care.

BBC News | SCOTLAND | Hotel is ‘worst’ homeless hostel

BBC News | SCOTLAND | Heartbreak Hotel: transcript

In March 2012, local East End MP John Mason wrote to Nicola Sturgeon, then secretary for health and wellbeing, saying: “Although the staff there seem to be doing their best to ensure cleanliness and so on, the basic fabric of the building leaves a lot of be desired,” and has since been lobbying Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government about tighter regulations. When he visited the hotel in December 2012, it had 143 residents.

It has been reported in the local press that a spokesman for Glasgow City Council, which stopped referring people to the facility in February 2010, said the Bellgrove Hotel is classed as a hotel as residents pay to stay, while a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We understand that Glasgow City Council and local agencies are in discussion with the owners to agree a long-term strategy.”


All that (and more not mentioned) just from happening to take a pic while walking past a sight that has been there for so long I almost don’t notice it – but have always wondered about its history and origins. And now I do.

Hotel Moscow – compare and contrast

Purely for fun…

Coincidentally, a photoset of the Hotel Moscow was passed to me just as I wrote the Bellgrove post, so I could hardly avoid comparing the two. Despite their obvious difference, both were constructed around 1935, yet it is the down market Bellgrove that still stands today, while Hotel Moscow has been razed in 2004 – and replaced by a reproduction in some sort of act of madness.

Perhaps Stalin left orders for this to be done, and no-one dared ignore them, for fear of him still being alive somewhere.

It may be a myth, but the original hotel wings were of different designs. Legend says architect Alexey Shchusev submitted two different designs for the wings of the building, and Stalin was supposed to pick the one he liked best. However, he simply signed off the plans, without making a choice. Unwilling to face a firing squad by upsetting the dictator, the builders were afraid to inform Stalin that he had failed to select a design, and ask again, they simply constructed one wing of each option on either side of the building.

zyalt: Гостиница Москва

If you can’t read Russian:

zyalt: Hotel Moscow

Hotel Moscow

Hotel Moscow – compare left and right wings


June 4, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian, council | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hi my name is pat am irish
    I am a recovering alcoholic
    The belgrove was my home
    For 3-4yrs i now live back
    In eire i thank joe mckee kathleen steph stewart paul and all the staff who withou
    There help i would be dead
    As so many did i can say tha
    Even though men did pass away the staff and managment
    I cannot in al honesty lay an
    Blame at there door so god bless al those living and passed on who jurnyed through
    The belgrove hotel 607 the gallogate glasgow
    God bless reguards pat r


    Comment by Pat Reale | July 18, 2014

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