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Four Acres Charitable Trust was founded in 1983 and acquired Cottiers, then Dowanhill Church, in 1984. The trust aims to return important redundant Victorian buildings to meaningful use within the community retaining their character and conserving their fabric. In Scotland congregations are struggling to retain Victorian churches many of which have great art historical and townscape importance.
The former Dowanhill Church, built in 1865 by William Leiper (1839-1916), is an exceptional example of Victorian design and artistic workmanship. It is an important Category ‘A’ listed building, of international importance due to its decorative scheme and stained glass designed by Daniel Cottier (1838-1891).
The trust has established a landmark reputation for the building which had fallen into great disrepair by the mid 1980s. Funds had to be sourced over many phases and a successful business enterprise was established by the mid 1990s to ensure future sustainability. A grant by the National Lottery in 2004 was key to its ultimate success not just as an arts venue but also as a wedding venue and social hub.
Over the past several years, the trustees extended their activities by seeking a new role for Lansdowne Church on Great Western Road near Kelvinbridge underground station a building that made the reputation of Glasgow architect John Honeyman. As well as being one of Glasgow’s most notable landmark buildings, the building contains outstanding stained glass by Alf Webster (1883-1915) and the trustees have set up a sister charity to take on the project and renamed the building ‘Websters’ again in an effort to bring to prominence a stained glass designer who deserves much wider recognition.
This building also has a publication dedicated to it published by Glasgow City Heritage Trust and Four Acres Charitable Trust – ‘A Notable Ornament’ by Gordon Urquhart, architectural historian and author of “Along Great Western Road”
Websters is taking on a role similar to Cottiers but concentrating more on theatre in the body of the church with an adjacent studio and events space called ‘Websters 2’ above a theatre bar which has been decorated in the Aesthetic Movement style replicating some wall decoration found within this Honeyman building. These designs are similar in character to much of Daniel Cottier’s work of that period.
In 2018-19 the trust has been promoting an exhibition funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund entitled Women, War and the West End. This exhibition draws attention to the role of women particularly women designers at the time of the Great War. Working towards this important centenary Four Acres Charitable Trust was also able to complete a prominent war memorial following the style of Dowanhill Church as part of a scheme to complete the late Victorian terrace adjacent to the church designed by another Glasgow architect of artistic prominence, Peter Macgregor Chalmers (1859-1922).
It is by paying homage to these outstanding design traditions that the trustees hope to contribute to a better understanding of the influential role that Glasgow and it's creative men and women played in the sophisticated culture of the city’s Victorian heyday.