When it comes to Glasgow’s south side, there has really only ever been a few options for self-respecting late-night drinkers, and in its prime, Church on the Hill at Battlefield was at the top of that short list. And now new owners Signature Pubs plan on making it not just a late-night venue but a firm favourite with all ages and families too.
Having invested more than £2m on the former Langside Church which sits facing the Battlefield Monument. It is literally the church at the top of the hill, so you can’t miss it. The building has an imposing façade, with Graeco-Roman style features having been designed by Alexander Skirving, former student of Alexander (Greek) Thomson, in 1896.
A fire turned the church to ruins in 1989, which led to it being purchased and renovated, first reopening as a bar in the 1990s. But at that time the designers didn’t showcase the buildings original features. This time round Signature Pubs were keen to bring the building back to more of its original state and so they have made the ceilings much higher and have re-instated windows which were previously bricked up. I had not visited the venue prior to the refurbishment, so Louise Maclean, marketing manager for signature pubs, filled me in on the main changes they had made. She says, “Structurally, our initial concept was to open the space up and create comfortable eating and drinking spaces that feel roomy while still cosy. To that end, we raised the ceiling by 4 feet to give the venue a height befitting such a vast venue. The entire venue was extensively refurbished from the outdoor spaces to the bathrooms ensuring we achieve an overall look and feel that is clean, fresh and contemporary, but keeping the kind of chilled out atmosphere you’d expect from a neighbourhood haunt – we hope we’ve created the perfect balance between local pub and trendy metropolitan venue.”
The bar and restaurant are split into two distinct areas. There is an area to the left as you come in which is primarily for dining and it boasts an open kitchen directly facing you. There is plenty of booth style seating running along the left wall and more circular booths ready to seat large groups in the centre. It is also on this side that the beautiful overhead foliage falls and the left wall features original stained-glass windows.
On the right, down a couple of stairs, is the area where the sports loving drinkers congregate. It has large screens and you don’t have to go too far to get to the bar which runs the breadth of the room. In front of the bar are two large rectangular pillars with wooden panelling on the bottom, complete with shining white tiles covering the rest of the length. They have a small lip, just about big enough for a glass, but says the bar’s designer Adam Tibbet of Tibbet’s Abel, “When there is sport on this bar is very busy and we didn’t want to encourage people to stand by the pillars. That’s why the lip isn’t bigger!”
Although it is a large spacious bar and restaurant it is made more cosy by the use of delicate foliage. It has a relaxed feel with a mix of fixed seating with soft caramel leather upholstery and chairs. There are great pops of colour with lime green and blue seats and couches. There are plenty of tables varying in size, ready to seat two, or much larger tables you could easily squeeze large groups around. The overhead foliage, partly disguises the exposed industrial like ceiling with its black ducting and black industrial lights attached to what almost looks like scaffolding. The industrial theme seems to continue on the tables which have studs running around the rim resembling large pins or bolts. The back bar unusually has, behind glass panelling, taxidermy birds and a rabbit, creating a focal point for those gathering by the bar. Louise explains, “We made an effort to avoid a stark juxtaposition between a very contemporary design and an historic iconic property, so the design is scattered with elements of both the old and the new to create a harmonious balance between the venue’s past and present. The (artificial) taxidermist was included to create a tactile complement to the traditional woodland scenes represented in the artwork elsewhere in the venue.”
If you visit during the day you can enjoy plenty of natural light shining through the front doors and its stained-glass windows. And, of course, dogs are welcome, there are various water bowls in the foyer area at the front of the church and look out for the doggy hall of fame with polaroids of regular doggie guests. Or if you need to stop and grab a quick coffee during the day, down at the far end of the bar stands a classic wooden take-away coffee stand, beautifully painted and complete with a chalk board detailing the coffee and cakes available.
The true charm of the place lies in the details, the eclectic mix of partially exposed brick walls, old paintings, angle poise wall lights and a multitude of plants sitting on shelves and hanging from the walls all complement each other so wonderfully and help fill the humongous space.
Church on the Hill is a laid-back, warm place which caters to drinkers and families alike, where the sheer size of both the inside and the outdoor drinking area will be warmly welcomed by Glasgow’s southsiders. It’s at
16 Algie Street, Shawlands.