By Tracy Mukherjee
To all of us Westenders who have wandered the hallowed halls of Gilmorehill during our university days, there are certain buildings that are simply cemented not only in our memories, but our hearts. Of course, the East and West Quadrangles with the utterly beguiling interconnecting cloisters are the obvious choice; the Thompson Building for me was another. But one building that continues to be as regular a landmark in my daily walks as it was all those years ago is the Wellington Church on University Ave.
The Wellington Church congregation dates back to 1792 and was originally based in Wellington Street in the city centre. It moved to its present dwelling after the new church was built. The build between 1883 and 1884 was for the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. For those who are not familiar with the church, its neoclassical entrance is set with magnificent Corinthian columns, designed by architect Thomas Lennox Watson. Watson also designed Adelaide Place Baptist Church in Charing Cross and the stunning Royal Marine Hotel in Hunters Quay, Dunoon. The church is now a home for both religious and secular university and community events.
Tucked into the undercroft of the church is the Crypt Cafe. This hidden treasure welcomes everyone without exception and without reservation. For more than 45 years, during university term time – September till March – the Crypt Cafe has welcomed the world. Students from around the globe are studying at the University of Glasgow. There are around 30,000 from 140 countries.
Primarily catering for the local student population, since 2004, the Church and Crypt Café have been home to the International Welcome Club. Informal English language tuition is available in the café; it’s a time to learn in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere – and the scones are simply delicious too!!!
The motive of the club is to “extend the hand of Christian friendship to anyone new to the city”. And with good company, good food, and affordable prices it really is a model of how life should be.
The Crypt Cafe is the base for the Church’s International Welcome Club every Thursday. It’s aim – for anyone from any country who wants to practise English. The weekly Conversation Corner started by the club almost 10 years ago. It is flourishing with students, migrant workers, asylum seekers – people who are in Glasgow for a wide variety of reasons. The club helps people make friends, solve problems, or simply have a laugh together.
For the Community
The church is heavily involved in social issues especially homelessness. The accommodation problem in the city is growing ever more concerning. For students and workers, local people and international visitors – there is of course, no simple answers.
The Wellington Church community, the Crypt Cafe staff and the vital volunteers from the local and student communities all do their best to help when help is needed. The café only aims to cover its own costs and operates as a ‘not for profit’ entity.
The Café is a great community hub and has so much more on its menu than the delicious food on offer. Volunteers gain great experience which helps them find jobs. Those using English as another language find people they can chat with. And those in crisis find a friendly face and listening ear when they need it most.
All in all, Wellington Church Crypt Cafe is a well-kept secret resource which nurtures the people around it. Well worth a try… so join the queue when it reopens in September 2023.
Would you like to volunteer at the Wellington Church Crypt Café on University Avenue? Pop in and ask to speak to a member of the team.
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