The £3.579m, award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) forms a large part of the £10m project to restore and preserve one of Glasgow’s most famous buildings with the renovated exterior unveiled today. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Tea Rooms Building, in Sauchiehall Street, was bought by the Willow Tea Rooms Trust in 2015 with the aim of restoring the site to its former glory.

A shop building next door at 215 Sauchiehall Street will also be transformed into an education and interpretative centre, directly linked to the Willow Tea Rooms at all levels. It will house an education and learning suite, audio visual suite, shop, museum and visitor centre.

The HLF award will not only allow The Willow Tea Room Trust to continue their work restoring the original tea rooms and famous Salon de Luxe as a 200 seater tea room and restaurant but also make the heritage site sustainable for future generations to enjoy. It will operate as a genuine social enterprise delivering a range of exciting activities far beyond its original function as a tea room.

Left: The original exterior of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Tea Rooms Building at 217, Sauchiehall Street and right the original interior including curtains. The building is recognised internationally as the only surviving tea room designed in its entirety by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Willow Tea Rooms Trust say: "The tea rooms building will become a focal point for cultural tourism in the city, attracting both domestic and international visitors. Just as Gaudi is intrinsically linked with Barcelona, Frank Lloyd Wright is linked with Chicago, visitors from around the world will visit Glasgow to see and experience Mackintosh. Visitors to the city can learn more about the architect and designer at the same time as being able to relax and enjoy high quality hospitality within the unique surrounds of an iconic Mackintosh building."

Alastair Davis, CEO of Social Investment Scotland, which was an investor in the acquisition of the Willow Tea Rooms by the Willow Tea Rooms Trust in 2015 said these investments will help create jobs, support tourism and open up the world of Scottish artistry and architecture to a wider social demographic. “Importantly, the Trust’s ability to generate revenue from the retail outlet and rented commercial space next door will help to make it financially sustainable,” he said. “This is an excellent example of how taking on investment and a social enterprise business model can secure the long term future of charities like the Willow Tea Room Trust.”

The Willow Tea Rooms Trust’s mission to conserve and restore the Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willow Tea Rooms Building will see the achievements of Glasgow businesswoman, Miss Cranston, the original owner who commissioned the tea rooms designed by Mackintosh in 1903 celebrated within the visitor centre. Miss Cranston’s entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, as well as her enlightened views on the role of women, social enterprise and philanthropy, will provide a fascinating reflection of Glasgow at the turn of the 20th Century.

Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, had total control over both the architecture and decorative elements, from the interior and the design of the cutlery to the waitress’s uniforms. Celia Sinclair, Founder and Chair of The Willow Tea Room Trust said: “Works to the exterior of the building are almost complete. The Heritage Lottery Fund award means that our vision for restoring the interior, commissioning furniture, crockery, cutlery and building the interactive visitor centre along with an education and learning suite, conference facilities and shop can now forge ahead.”

All the works are scheduled to be completed for the City of Glasgow’s celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth on June 7, 2018.

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