Mackintosh-designed tea rooms to depart original home

As a place to rest weary legs and enjoy a restorative cup of tea amidst the splendour of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs, it has been a Glasgow institution for more than a century.

The famous eatery, designed by Mackintosh in 1903 for Catherine Cranston, is to leave its premises in Sauchiehall Street in a fortnight’s time.

The extravagant art deco building in which the tea room is housed is to close its doors for a two-year-long refurbishment, a decision that prompted the Willow’s owner to seek out a new home.

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Anne Mulhern, who has run the establishment since 1983, said she will recreate the tourist attraction on an upper floor of the nearby Watt Brothers department store.

In news that will cheer Mackintosh admirers, Ms Mulhern has pledged to use the “same staff, same menu and same interiors” in the new address, a short walk away.

Ms Mulhern transformed the tea rooms back to their original use in 1983 after the building had been used as a retail unit. She does not own the building, however, which was acquired by the Willow Tea Rooms Trust two years ago.

The trust intends to close the building on 22 June so as to restore it to its former glory. Ms Mulhern said the prospect of remaining closed for two years was “devastating,” but said she was hopeful the relocated tea rooms will be ready for its first customers come July.

Willie Watt, the managing director of Watt Brothers, “We are a company proud of its history and we’re particularly pleased to be working with Anne and her team in including a high-quality, prestige tea room which will complement both our business and the Willow Team Rooms’ business which pays tribute to one of our city’s great architects.”