Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

They really are refurbing the Burrell building

While it’s handy to have the media reports on things that fall within one’s sphere of interests, it’s also slightly worrying that one must depend on the competence of the reporter or writer concerned.

While most are reputable, it’s always possible for an innocent mistake to be made in a report, or some detail to misinterpreted – both are thankfully rare, and nearly always corrected. But, while some are properly corrected (with an alert or acknowledgement of some sort), some media sources still just edit the original quietly, leaving the only clue to be a change to the publication, triggered by the edit.

Then there’s the more insidious ‘Sponsored Article’ which may really be an ‘Opinion Piece’ for some activists or agenda group masquerading as a legitimate article, or simply a blatant advert sneaking behind a similar masquerade. Thankfully, even if they have sold out by currying such drivel, most reputable media sources also flag such content (usually to be found at the foot of the article, together with the source or author’s name), but not until the end – so always check the end of suspicious content before reading, so you can choose to skip it.

It was a whimsical remark about trusting media tales that made me think about the above, after taking the opportunity to take a spin past the Burrell Collection, or rather its building, in Pollok Country Park recently. It’s no secret that the collection is currently closed while the building is upgraded, and the closure for the £66 million revamp is set to last for four years, from 2016 to 2020.

I didn’t manage to work out an easy way to get there (since being priced off the road), and didn’t manage a revisit before it closed, but found an acceptable solution recently, and took the chance to test it out, albeit on a really grotty evening.

So, I can say I’ve not only read about the Burrell’s refurb and upgrade, I’ve actually seen that it’s real!

Wish I’d thought of this long ago – it really is years (many) since I last saw the collection, now have another two years to wait, and may not last that long!

The building is ringed by a perimeter security fence.

Burrell Collection Building Works

Burrell Collection Building Works

And there’s no way you’re going to sneak in the front door either.

Burrell Collection Building SealedII

Burrell Collection Building Sealed


August 16, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Burrell Collection paintings to be shared with Japan

More than 70 masterpieces from Glasgow’s Burrell Collection will go on display in Japan later this year, part of a campaign to raise the international profile of the museum while the building undergoes a major refurbishment.

The touring exhibition will visit five Japanese cities between October 2018 and January 2019.

James Robinson, director of Burrell Renaissance, which is overseeing the museum’s refurbishment, said: “It is truly exciting that works by Boudin, Degas and Manet will be seen by audiences in Japan for the first time. This is made possible by a recent revision in the Burrell Collection’s lending code which empowers it to participate in exhibitions overseas.

“The tour of Japan is the most extensive programme that we have developed with foreign partners. It will be accompanied by a Japanese language catalogue to ensure that the quality and comprehensiveness of the Burrell’s collection of French paintings is enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible”.

Paintings from Glasgow’s Burrell Collection to go on tour in Japan

Thinking back to the fuss that was made (by a noisy few – it really must be true that ‘Empty vessels make most noise’), this would be a good time to reflect on how many exhibitions and displays have been possible when other countries/galleries shared part of their collections in such tours, allowing US to see items we would not otherwise have been able to enjoy.

The favour works BOTH ways.

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Burrell revamp funding is almost in place

Four supporters have pledged a further £1.4 million in funding for the £66 million project, bring the total to almost 65% of its projected cost to expand display space and improve visitor facilities. The Wolfson Foundation and The Headley Trust which each pledged £500,000, the Gannochy Trust pledged £250,000 and The Taylor Family Foundation pledged £150,000.

Glasgow City Council has agreed to pay up to 50% of the cost of the refurbishment, while the Scottish government has pledged £5 million, and £15 million will come from lottery funding.

The A-listed building in Pollok Park closed in 2016, at which point I discovered just how awkward it was to reach via the multiple varieties of public transport I would need to use to get there – I’d probably be better splashing out for the cost of a taxi! But I live in east, and the Burrell is in the west, so opposite sides of Glasgow. Ouch!

Being priced off the road – NOT fun.

The museum is presently expected to re-open in 2020, which means I have to keep going for another couple of years at least, and while most museum refurbs generally run to schedule, I kind of have my doubts about this one, given the extent of the work involved.

I’m keen to see the changes, since my past visits left me feeling that nice as it was, there was a lot more hidden away and missing from the displays. Bringing more material into view can only make better still.

Some of the collection remains on display in Kelvingrove, and while it’s only a tiny display it does include information about the changes too.

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

January 18, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Burrell Collection building refurbishment gains planning permission

While it would have been a rather odd result, it is nice to see that plans for the £66 million refurbishment of the Burrell Collection building and display areas have gained official planning permission.

Planning permission has been granted for a major refurbishment of the Burrell collection museum in Glasgow.

The £66m project to upgrade the building and provide more display space also received listed building consent.

Glasgow City Council recently approved funding of up to £27.3m towards the cost of the refurbishment.

The Burrell collection has more than 8,000 artefacts, but fewer than a fifth of them have been on show at any one time.

In April 2015, the council provided £5.7m to kick-start the building’s revamp, which houses treasures donated to the city by collector Sir William Burrell in 1944.

Via Planners approve Burrell collection revamp

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

While the building will receive a much-needed upgrade to its structure and services, the greatest benefit for the visitor has to be the release and creation of a vast amount of exhibition space – so much of the large collection was formerly locked away in storage, but will be able to brought out and placed on display – the old space only allowed 20% of the collection to be on show at any one time:

When it re-opens to visitors in 2020, the basement of the Category A listed building will become part of the exhibition space, so that 90% of the objects can be viewed by the public.

A dedicated space will also be created for special exhibitions and offices will be converted into galleries.

Now, there only seem to be two problems for me… one, to make it to 2020, and the second, to work out a reasonable means of getting to the Burrell from my hovel in the east end of Glasgow. Banished to public transport, I can’t see a direct route and the various bus and train combination I can find seem to need the patience of a saint to follow, and take forever.

Maybe I should buy a new bike, and make up a flask and sandwiches.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

BBC tells untold story of Sir William Burrell’s daughter

This came as a bit of a surprise – and I have to say that with a fortune the size of the Burrell up for inheritance one day… I wouldn’t have been in any sort of hurry to have a row with the family.

Although I’ve occasionally had to dig into the story of the Burrell collection and its bequesting to the City of Glasgow, that was generally satisfied when I confirmed the circumstances and date of the donation, and of its home in Pollock Country Park. I wasn’t really interested in the family, and never noticed anything of particular interest when glancing over the stories of the collection (other than what I was looking for with regard to the collection itself.)

I often suggest the people “Look up” when walking in town, as they are probably missing many interesting features included in the buildings they are walking past – perhaps I should say something similar to myself as I speed-read through references.

Marion Burrell was the privileged daughter of one of the richest men in Scotland but a bitter row with her father meant she never inherited her father’s great art collection.

Glasgow shipping magnate Sir William Burrell bequested his art collection to the city of Glasgow.

A new book, to be launched at the Boswell Book Festival, tells the story of “Burrell’s Daughter”.

BBC Scotland’s arts correspondent Pauline McLean reports.

Via Untold story of Sir William Burrell’s daughter

Unfortunately, few BBC videos seem to be up for embedding, so you’ll have to follow the link given above to hear the short account of this rather sad tale.

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

30 years of the Burrell

It’s rather hard for me to grasp the concept of the Burrell Collection having been in place for 30 years. I won’t even try and guesstimate how long I think it’s been around, but if I had been asked, I would have been well short of the real answer (until I had looked up the relevant date.)

It’s on the ‘wrong’ side’ of Glasgow for me. Although I’ve looked at the public transport option, it seems to involve so many changes that I never considered it realistic as I’d have been knackered (all hot and bothered and thoroughly fed by the time I got there – and still had the return trip to look forward to) by the time I got there.

While I could not even try to count the number of times I’ve fallen through the doors of Kelvingrove, I’m afraid my visits to the Burrell would probably need the fingers of only one hand, and not all of them.

I confess that the charge for the car park put me off, as the collection itself has not admission charge. And the problem was not the amount charged, but that there seemed to be nothing in return. On the few occasions I did visit, the car park was unstaffed (ticket machines took my money), and the high point of each visit was seeing the police attend as the locals seemed to see the cars as their own ‘Smash & Carry’ takeaways, which must have ruined the day for those who were targeted to have their windows smashed. At least I knew well enough to empty mine, and leave nothing on show, not even the car radio (removable).

I haven’t been there for some years now, so don’t know if the car park is still the same.

But the car park is not the collection, and that is still something to celebrate.

The Burrell is said to attract in excess of 200,000 visitors per annum. A good number, but I can’t think a more accessible location would see more feet through the door – but on the other hand, the building and its location were given specific conditions as part of Burrell’s bequest of his collection to the Glasgow, so I can only make that a personal observation and thought.

The building (which was A listed not too long ago) is due to close for some 4 years come 2016, in order to allow refurbishment to take place. The new works will ultimately allow an increase in the number of items which can be displayed.

it is hoped that items from the collection will be allowed to go on a World Tour while the building is closed, however there is some controversy associated with this proposal. Understandably, at the time of the original bequest, one of the conditions laid down by Burrell was that items would not be loaned, as he feared they would be damaged in transit. Clearly, transport has come a long way since then, and such items are now routinely moved without harm, so permission is being sought at Parliamentary level in order to modify the terms. The hope being that by circulating items from the collection, it will become better known throughout the World, leading to even more visitors to the collection proper.

They certainly have the space (and more after the refurb) as the building had appeared almost deserted on the occasions I did visit.

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Private Bill to relax Burrell bequest terms begins Holyrood journey

While I couldn’t resist the inevitable poke at Glasgow City Council’s traditional habits last time round, I’ll keep my ‘funny bone’ in check this time round.

It’s true that when shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) made his original bequest to his city of Glasgow, and gifted his massive collection to city, transport of anything fragile was a risky business, and if anyone should know just how risky it was, Sir William should have, given his description as a shipping magnate.

One condition of the bequest was that his prized artworks and historical artefacts would not be loaned overseas, for fear of damage during transport.

In all fairness, transportation of such items has come a long way since Sir William’s day, and the chances of such damage occurring are slight when carried out properly – as might be expected in the case of Burrell artefacts.

It seems that some 30 or so requests for loan items are being turned down annually, in line with the terms of the bequest. A figure that could grow if the terms can be varied.

However, it also seems that items in the collection are parts of larger sets that were broken up many years ago, as they were acquired by Burrell, and by being able to share such items, it will be possible for such parted items to be brought together and displayed as a whole, which would be a bonus for all concerned. Think of it as a two-way exchange, as we could not only loan our items, but ask for others to be loaned to us. Something that is hard to do when you are unable to return the favour.

It’s hard to see how the Bill could fail reasonably, unless someone can make a case of the “Bequest being the bequest” and written in stone, never to be altered.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that what is on show at any given time is only a fraction of the total collection, with much of the content being held in storage, and out of sight.

Via Private Bill bid to let Burrell Collection ‘go on loan’

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow City Council rewrites bequest and Burrell Collection gets set for World tour when building closes for refurbishment

While I don’t subscribe to the general drivel that some promote regarding the behaviour of Glasgow City Council, it’s sadly true that the council does take advantage of its position to get its own way against the wishes of others.

Case in point, the famous Burrell Collection, and the wishes of shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), who made the bequest to his city on condition that his prized artworks and historical artefacts were not loaned overseas, for fear of damage during transport.

Glasgow City Council recently approved the promotion of a Private Bill in the Scottish Parliament to change the terms of the original bequest – the decision to tour some items belonging to the collection had to be passed by law as it went against the terms of the original bequest.

Apparently, Sir William was unable to attend the reading of the Bill, and contribute to the debate.

It was argued that a tour would reaffirm the collection’s status as one of the most important in the world but also help with public fundraising efforts toward the cost of the refurbishment.


The museum is set to close from 2016 to 2020, when many of its 8,000 exhibits going on a World tour now that the bequest terms have been overturned, or “relaxed” to use the council’s terminology.

I’ve taken the opportunity to slot in some pics that show the interior as it appears now, and we can maybe have a look again after it reopens, and see how things compare – I’m hoping for good things.

I hope they do something with the restaurant. In the flesh, it looks as if they just threw some tables and chairs along the window space, as nothing ties it together with the serving area, and if memory serves me correctly (haven’t been able to get back for some time) the lifts spill into the same area, so I don’t think it was originally thought out.

The Burrell Renaissance group has been formed to advise on aspects such as the display of items as well as developing a fundraising programme, and will be chaired by former National Galleries chairman Sir Angus Grossart.

The present museum building immediately gained recognition as a superb home for the collection, set in a uniquely beautiful setting.

But the building has been there since 1983, and is now in need of renovation, and the work is seen as an opportunity to create new gallery space, allowing more items to be displayed.

This seems reasonable, as a visit to the museum presents the visitor with a display that is undeniably extremely spacious, but shows only a fraction of the collection, when more could be made available. I know my second visit, when I had more time to reflect on what I was looking at, had me wondering about the remainder of the collection.

It’s interesting to note the comments of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a former ambassador to the US and head of the Foreign Office,who  has also been appointed to the Group and said he hopes the project will increase the collection’s international profile:

I believe the Burrell Collection is Scotland’s special secret and it’s high time for it to be more widely shared.

When I was ambassador in Washington I was shocked to find that so few in the States had heard of it, though the collection is comparable to the famous Frick in New York, and should attract comparable crowds.

I’m proud to be associated with the imaginative Renaissance plan, an initiative of which Glasgow can be justly proud.

This doesn’t surprise me, as I can think of few instances where I have come across mentions of the collection, or seen it figure in lists of well-known attractions.

Via British Museum director to advise on Burrell Collection revamp

Also Burrell Collection refurbishment overseen by British Museum head | News | Glasgow | STV

One of the original features of the building was the incorporation of some of the features into the architecture of the structure, which meant that some of the larger artefacts could be accommodated in a way that led to their re-use:

Lest I be slotted into any sort of “anti-tour protest group” or suchlike, then I should add that this is not the reason for my opening gripe, which is really intended only to mark Glasgow City Council in my “Little Black Book”, with a documented instance of it not only doing as it wished, regardless of someone else’s wish, but of the extent to which it will go to in order to achieve that end.

In fact, the idea of a World Tour is an obvious means of gaining publicity for the Burrell, and I would hope that in the time since the bequest was made, we have the means and methods available to carry out such an event with little or no danger to the artefacts, and hope there is no story in 2020 about damage.

These days, I’m actually more concerned over the likelihood that artefacts will go missing.

And, the last shots we dug up showed the interior, and give and idea of the setting, with wide glass window that open onto the greenery of the surrounding.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , | Leave a comment

Burrell museum building granted category A listed status

Coming just days after the collection made it into the news following the suggestion that Sir William Burrell’s bequest terms of ‘No transport for fear of damage’  be set aside at the behest of Glasgow City Council, and that the collection be sent on a world tour while repairs are carried out to the museum building, comes news of the building itself being granted category A listed building status.

The grant was made by Historic Scotland as the building reached its 30th birthday on the basis that it represents a masterpiece example of design from the 1970’s – the museum was completed and opened within the setting of the city’s Pollok Country Park in 1983, at a cost of some £16.5 million, and followed a 13 year path for its design and build.

The Burrell Collection housed within (literally, since some parts are architectural features incorporated into the fabric of the building) now attracts some 200,000 visitors every year, and comprises a collection of some 8,000 objects of art,  paintings, and pieces of furniture which shipping magnate Sir William Burrell amassed over the years, and left to the care of the city of Glasgow after his death – with a number of conditions to be met. These included the provision of a suitable home for the artefacts, with a protective environment which would guard them from the horrendous pollution which then covered the city in Burrell’s time. The coal-fired industrial revolution was then completely unregulated, and both the city and the land were slowly turning black under a pall of soot which was pouring forth endlessly from all the chimneys and steam engines driving the Victorian industrial revolution. Burrell wanted his treasure protected from that black poison. And there was also the aforementioned restriction on allowing the exhibits to travel, as he feared such journeys would lead to the items being damaged while in transit.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

The Burrell Collection is one of Glasgow and Scotland’s most impressive buildings of its period. This is a fantastic building that not only houses the internationally renowned collection of art and antiquities from across the world but is itself a masterpiece of structural design.

Category A status is the highest level of architectural protection given to buildings, and makes up about 8% of 47,600 listings in Scotland. It is awarded to buildings which Historic Scotland determine have “national or international importance, either architectural or historic.

Via Glasgow’s Burrell Collection becomes listed building

Further information: Burrell Collection

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow City Council set to ignore people’s wishes again, as Burrell Collection tour is proposed

It seems I am destined to forever be writing posts about the unbelievable arrogance – some just come right out and say ‘corruption’, but I wouldn’t dare do that – and it’s only a few days since I noted:

Although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to such things (since the truth gets lost by those who like to play politics), we have had such things in the past in the form of the Go Ape story in Pollock Park, the handing over of management of museum assets to private companies (which seemed to upset many), the extermination of Paddy’s Market (to suit some trendy idea about art, possibly because it lay so near re-reborn The Briggait) and most recently, an announcement almost out of nowhere that the Glasgow’s George Square was to be subject to one of six possible makeovers, of which the council would make the final choice of the award of £15 million to the design it preferred, a choice not offered anywhere to the people of the city:

It seems that Glasgow City Council is out to do the same yet again, this time seeking to set aside the wishes of shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), who made the bequest to his city on condition that his prized artworks and historical artefacts were not loaned overseas, for fear of damage during transport.

Worse still, not only does Glasgow City Council want to betray his trust, managers of Glasgow’s Burrell Collection want to put some of the 8,000 treasures on display abroad while the museum building in Pollock Park is refurbished. Worse still, the plan would see the artefacts go on tour, further increasing the chance of the very damage their collector feared.

Now bosses at Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life are in discussions over how they can amend the restriction, including a special parliamentary Bill.

An international tour would help fund the much-needed refurbishment, while reaffirming the collection’s status as “one of the most important in the world”, they have argued.

A statement said: “The Burrell Trustees, chaired by Sir Peter Hutchison, alongside Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, are examining proposals which would relax restrictions and allow an international tour taking account of the concerns which Sir William Burrell had and how circumstances have changed in the last 60 or so years.”

Via: Burrell Collection could go on world tour against wishes of creator | News | Glasgow | STV

It’s hard to believe that the trustees have not taken a stance against this, and that “how circumstances have changed in the last 60 or so years” is seen as an acceptable reason for attempting to overturn the terms of a bequest. I wouldn’t argue that transport is much safer today, but transport was excluded by the original bequest. The tour could see the collection temporarily housed in major venues in the UK, Europe, North America, and Asia.

The Burrell Collection is housed in its own museum in Glasgow’s Pollock Park, a venue which Glasgow’s council of the time took years to identify as honouring the terms of Sir William’s bequest of 1958, and which was not opened until 1983 (by the Queen, and has gone one to be voted Scotland’s second greatest post-war building in a magazine poll of architects in 2005.

It seems that while Glasgow City Council was prepared to spend years (back in the 1960s) in efforts to meet the terms of Sir William’s bequest, by 2013 it was only prepared to be “mindful” of his wishes… or just ignore them to suit itself:

Cllr Archie Graham, depute leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The collection’s home in Pollok Park is in serious need of attention and the council will consider options for its refurbishment.

“Sir William Burrell left his mark on the world, both as a businessman and as an art collector, historian and philanthropist.

“His gift to the people of Glasgow cannot be underestimated and we are now working to find a way to make this international touring exhibition happen.”

Cllr Graham said any progress on a tour would “be mindful” of Sir William’s wishes and “help to secure much wider recognition for his vision and achievements”.

Via: Glasgow’s Burrell Collection ‘may go on tour’ during revamp

More info: Burrell Collection

Burrell building

Burrell Collection, Pollok Park, Glasgow © Iain Thompson via Geograph

January 23, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

The Burrell Collection is 25

The Burrell Collection, Pollok Country Park © Iain Thompson

The Burrell Collection, Pollok Country Park © Iain Thompson

It took a nudge to make the connection, but the Burrell Collection has been on display for 25 years, having been opened by the Queen back in 1983.

The collection was gifted to Glasgow in 1944, by Sir William Burrell and his wife, Constance, Lady Burrell. Over 9,000 works of art reputed to be the greatest collection amassed by one person. Burrell had discussions with a number of interested parties regarding the disposal of the collection, eventually it was donated to Glasgow, the city of his birth and centre of his business activities, in the names of himself and Lady Burrell. By this time it numbered some 6,000 items, but he kept on collecting, and even made provision for interest on money he later gave to the Glasgow to be used to make yet more purchases. A few years later he gave what was then Glasgow Corporation £450,000 for the construction of a building in which the collection was to be housed and displayed. The terms of the Deed of Gift as regards this building, however, presented difficulties. Burrell stated that it should be within four miles of Killearn in Stirlingshire and not less than sixteen miles from the Royal Exchange in Glasgow. He felt that the collection would appear to best advantage in a rural setting and was also deeply concerned at the harm which could be caused by the high levels of air pollution present around Glasgow. Burrell died in 1956, with no site having been found, but Mrs Anne Maxwell Macdonald and her family gifted Pollok House together with 360 acres of Pollok Estate to the City of Glasgow in 1967. Although the site lay within the city boundaries (about five miles instead of sixteen), this was deemed acceptable as the location offered such an ideal setting for the collections, and we’ve invented air-conditioning since the original conditions were set, and all but done away with coal as a fuel.

Unfortunately, this 25th year of the Burrell may mark the end the peace of that wonderful setting, as Glasgow City Council decides it has the right to “sell the family silver” and lease the land gifted to the city and allow a commercial eventing company to set up an outdoor adventure feature next to the collection – despite the objections of those who live around the area. Even though it has a financial interest in the venture, it seems the council is free to ignore objections and approve (or deny) the application, and the Scottish Government has turned a blind eye, and declined to become involved in a little local planning dispute.

The building which houses the collection was the winner of an architectural competition, chosen to provide a degree of harmony between the building and its collections. The result is a light an airy environment, which is very spacious and never feels cluttered or obscured. The building took second place to St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, as Scotland’s second greatest post-war building in a list of the one hundred best modern buildings of the past fifty years by Prospect magazine in 2005 (or maybe 2006, two sources disagree and we don’t subscribe). On a purely personal note, while it is all very nice, and works very well, it also has the effect of making things feel very bland, and a little, just a little, less neutrality around the displays would enhance the experience of a visit.

There appears to be talk of a major facelift for the building, so there may be an opportunity to liven it up inside, just a little, not too much, and see if it can manage another 25 successful years.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment


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