West Boathouse


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club/Glasgow City Council

Architect or lead designer:

Rebecca Cadie (ARPL Architects)

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club

Project Description

The West Boathouse is on the north bank of the River Clyde at Glasgow Green. It has been home to two of the oldest rowing clubs in the city (Clydesdale and Clyde Amateur Rowing Clubs) since it was built in 1905. By the mid-2010s, the building was in very poor condition – the below-ground timber foundations were deteriorating rapidly, the exterior cladding was in danger of collapse, and the roof leaked like a sieve. Club activities, particularly their schools and community rowing programmes, were increasingly constrained by the cramped conditions, outdated facilities and lack of accessibility. There were also no suitable facilities for adaptive and accessible rowing at other rowing club venues on the Clyde.

In 2015, the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust began working with the rowing clubs and Glasgow City Council to explore options to save the building. Our project was developed in collaboration with the clubs and a wide range of community stakeholders from the outset. In addition to a sensitive restoration of the building, the focus was on increasing the accessibility of the building in support of widening participation and facilitating safe, managed access to the river for other potential users, especially for groups and organisations engaged in the conservation and monitoring of the river.

Following two years of capital works the building was saved through a programme of sensitive restoration and repair works, and adaptations to improve accessibility and flexibility for a wider range of users. Works included:

  • Removal of the party wall to open up spaces, consolidate circulation and create shared accommodation and facilities.
  • Making the building accessible for all users, with a central protected stair and lift enclosure providing access to the upper floor with accessible facilities.
  • Enhancing the environmental performance of the building with an efficient service installation and an insulated envelope.
  • Provision of a pontoon to enable improved access to the river.

While sporting heritage lay at the core of the project, the story of the river upstream of the weir –the ‘rowing reach’ – provided the most compelling and accessible vehicle for wider audience engagement. This project was about the river as much as a building restoration project. The city’s east end has suffered some of the worst deprivations of rapid de-industrialisation and, historically, has received scant attention from traditional heritage projects. Narratives around the history of the Clyde invariably focus on shipbuilding downstream and the ‘death of the river’ as a utility and economic entity. Taking a more holistic approach allowed us to engage with new audiences and promote re-engagement with the river as a living, recovering waterway to be cherished and celebrated.

Running alongside the capital works was a four-year engagement and outreach programme. During the development phase, we worked with key project partners in the east end of the city to develop a holistic activity programme, blending cultural and natural heritage. Our core partners included the rowing clubs, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Clyde River Foundation, The Conservation Volunteers, Scottish Council for Archives, Glasgow Museums and local primary schools.

Supporting Statement

For the rowing community on Glasgow Green, the project has been transformational. Working in partnership with GBPT, the clubs developed a project and mechanism to provide them with long-term security of tenure and create a rejuvenated asset for future generations of people to access rowing and the river. As part of the process, the clubs have developed their skills in fundraising, planning, and partnership working; have undertaken a major overhaul of their systems and policies in relation to safeguarding and inclusion; and developed an Environmental Policy. Since their return to the building in March 2023, the new shared facilities have allowed the clubs to expand their activities and grow memberships in line with the goals set in their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies.

In addition to renovating and upgrading the building, the project also aimed to change how the boathouse is used, and who it is used by – embracing new audiences and encouraging people to re-engage with the River Clyde.

Like many projects, we faced delivery challenges as a result of Covid. Fortunately, the original emphasis on exploration and outdoor learning meant the programme could be tweaked to accommodate changes in guidance, while other activities, such as the Wikipedia editing classes, were developed in response to the pandemic. From 2019-2023, over 1000 volunteers and project participants contributed over 4000 hours on a wide range of activities - from trout restocking to biodiversity mapping and celebrating women’s sporting heritage.

Key Outcomes included:

  • Increased links and local partnerships, in particular with Glasgow Disability Alliance who worked on the boat-building project, flag-making and citizen science workshops. GDA volunteers built two rowing skiffs, now gifted to the Glasgow Humane Society as rescue and recovery boats.

  • Awareness raising of river ecology and conservation through citizen science projects (e.g. biodiversity mapping along the riverbanks), engagement with young people (outdoor learning CPD for local teachers, family wildlife trail and Mon The Fish primary school project) and the co-creation of an Environmental Policy for the West Boathouse rowing clubs, the first of its kind in the UK.

  • Raising awareness of the history and heritage of the east end of the city - our ‘This Is Your Dalmarnock’ archive film has now received almost 10,000 views on YouTube

  • Using sporting heritage as a vehicle to explore other aspects of social history, especially women in sport - Play Like A Lassie Wikipedia editing project has created 10 new women’s bios, numerous edits and amendments and 15 newly trained editors.

  • Greater connectivity between Glasgow Green and the Cuningar Loop Park through events and activities promoting the NC75 route along the north bank of the river.

  • Created a range of freely available, accessible resources, including wildlife spotters guides, ‘how-to’ local heritage research guides, and Creative Commons licensed images of the east end of the city, available to share and reuse via Wikimedia.