£300,000 refurbishment for historic Glover House

Historic Glover House – the family home of the man dubbed ‘The Scottish Samurai’ - is to undergo a £300,000 refurbishment after a decision made by Aberdeen City Council’s Finance, Policy and Resources committee today (7 December 2016).

A report on the feasibility of additional grant funding from external sources will be considered at the next meeting of the committee.

The £300,000 refurbishment will concentrate on repairing, redecorating and enhancing the former family home of Thomas Blake Glover, in order to create a flexible resource capable of meeting the potential requirement of corporate uses.

It will also provide ad-hoc access to visitors seeking a Glover experience, as part of the wider trail and associated exhibition at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.

The work will include creating a flexible business/education venture in existing building premises. Possible uses include office, small research including accommodation on site, and events hiring.

Aberdeen City Council Finance, Policy and Resources convener Councillor Willie Young said: “It’s fantastic that a refurbishment is to take place at Glover House as it’s such an important part of the history of Thomas Blake Glover who helped shape the industrial history of Japan.

“The story of Thomas Blake Glover is one which is hugely significant for Japan and we want to showcase the part our city plays in that - the decision today for ACC to pay for the refurbishment moves this story along.

“We look forward to the work starting.”

The minimum cost of the repair and refurbishment works contained within the Condition Survey Cost report is estimated at £140,000. The additional structural and fit-out improvement work is estimated at about £150,000, which is a total cost of approximately £300,000.

Thomas Blake Glover, dubbed the “Scottish Samurai”, was instrumental in the development of Japan as an industrial nation in the late 1800s.

He was born in Fraserburgh in 1838 to a local coastguard, Thomas Berry Glover, and as a young child moved to the Bridge of Don on the northern edge of Aberdeen. He was educated at the Chanonry House School in Old Aberdeen until the age of 16.

The Glover family later lived in Braehead House, in the Bridge of Don area of Aberdeen, which is now called Glover House. It is thought Glover probably stayed there with his parents when he was back in Aberdeen negotiating a contract for one of the Japanese warships built in the city.

Working for the Scottish trading company Jardine, Matheson and Co, Glover travelled to Nagasaki in 1859 and spent the rest of his adult life in Japan, helping it industrialise and playing a role in the changes in its government and way of life. A friend and advisor to the Japanese government and the industrial company Mitsubishi, Glover died in Tokyo in 1911 aged 73.

Thomas Blake Glover is today revered in Japan as being one of the founders of modern Japan. He had a crucial role in the industrialisation of the country and in the introduction of Western developments in manufacturing.

He established himself as an import/export merchant, quickly building up a successful business. Through his ship-broker brothers in Aberdeen, he supplied the first three ships for the Japanese navy. He also went on to supply the first railway, the first mint and started the first industrialised mines. Most significantly, he established a patent slip dock at Kosgue which would later be taken over by his close friend Yataro Iwasaki – the founder of the then fledgling Mitsubishi Company.

In 1908, Glover received the Order of the Rising Sun, Japan’s highest honour-never before awarded to a foreigner. He died, aged 73 in 1911 and is buried in Nagasaki.