The Hill House

Helensburgh (1902-1904)

‘I was astonished at the youthfulness of the distinguished architect...’

Hill House in Helensburgh is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s most famous works, arguably second only to Glasgow School of Art.

It was designed and built for the publisher Walter Blackie in 1902 – 1904.

Talwin Morris – Art director at Blackie Publishing recommended Mackintosh for the design of his boss’s new house in Helensburgh.

Morris was in Mackintosh’s artistic circle and Mackintosh’s partner, John Honeyman was an active member of the Glasgow Archeological Society when Walter Blackie joined in 1901.

Despite these connections, it transpired that Blackie had already been a Mackintosh fan without realising it. He later wrote:

“The new School of Art was nearing completion. I had watched with interest its growth into the imposing structure that emerged, vaguely wondering who was architect, when Morris named Mackintosh and recommended him as architect for
my projected villa house. I was at first taken aback, thinking so distinguished a performer would be too big a man for me. Morris, however, persisted in his recommendation and undertook to get Mackintosh to call upon me. He called the next day, When he entered my room I was astonished at the youthfulness of the distinguished architect.”

In addition to the house itself, Mackintosh also designed most of the interior rooms, furniture and other fixings. Mackintosh’s attention to detail even extended to prescribing the colour of cut flowers that the Blackies might place on a table in the living room, in order that they didn’t clash with the rest of the decor.

Walter Blackie and his family lived in the house for fifty years. It was taken over by the RIAS in 1972.

In 1982, it was transferred to the National Trust for Scotland and remains open to visitors as part of their heritage portfolio.