You’ve probably passed this Art Deco corner a hundred times and never given it much thought. Perhaps its location, right next to the Georgian grandeur of Carlton Place, means that it’s often overlooked.
It was built in 1937 to designs by Launcelot H. Ross for Cowden’s Ideal Trading Stamp Company. It’s of steel construction and comprises 3 stories plus a recessed attic. The concrete details are by Considere Construction who, along with city City Engineer Thomas Somers, were responsible for the King George V bridge. Although it appears to be a masonry bridge, it’s actually constructed of reinforced box girders faced with Dalbeattie granite.
The facade is a contrast of black and cream tiles with steel-framed windows united vertically by pale blue metal curtain walls. It’s a typical Deco composition evocative of grander city centre locations such as Bothwell Street’s Scottish Legal Life Assurance building (E.G. Wylie, 1931).
I couldn’t find out much about Cowden’s but trading stamp companies are worth mentioning. Trading stamps were printed stamps given as a premium by retailers to customers and redeemable for cash or merchandise from the trading stamp company when accumulated in specified amounts. Retailers sponsor trading stamp programs as a means of building customer loyalty. The retailer purchases the stamps from the trading stamp company at a cost based on a small percentage of total sales. Trading stamps gave rise to the modern day phenomena of loyalty and reward schemes, such as air miles.
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives
The familiar golden figure of Paisley Road West’s angel soars heavenwards in this circa 1900 shot of Paisley Road Toll. The identity of the sculptor is uncertain but it’s thought to have been the work of Alexander Ewing. The sculpture itself eluded all efforts at identification until 2004 when Gary Nisbet of http://www.glasgowsculpture.com uncovered her name in a long forgotten article in the Govan Press newspaper. “Commerce and Industry” is her Sunday name, but you’ll find few locals who know her as such.
The substantial gushet block that now houses an Italian restaurant was built in 1889 as Ogg Brothers’ Drapery Warehouse, an outfitters known for supplying uniforms to merchant seamen. It was designed by Bruce and Hay and occupies the site of the former barhouse toll-bars of Three Mile House, Paisley Road and the old Govan/Renfrew Road. Three Mile House was a hamlet on the Paisley Road that would also come to be known as Halfwayhouse or Halfway. The fabric of the building isn’t much changed, although we’ve lost a few decorative roof ornaments, including a weather vane. The modern day signage of long-established restaurant “La Fiorentina” is sadly typical, and tends to dominate the ground floor.
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives
The second image shows the Old Toll Bar which has thankfully survived the upheaval and destruction of the surrounding area. It opened in 1874 and its lavish interior was added in 1893. It remains the best preserved example of a “palace pub” in the city, featuring rich dark woodwork, fine classical style painted glass, large engraved advertising mirrors, and an elaborate carved gantry. All of this was almost lost in January 2014 when a load-bearing wall was accidentally dismantled in the basement, rendering the entire block unsafe. With remedial structural work completed, and a sympathetic makeover from new owner Mido Soliman, the Old Toll Bar re-opened in October 2016.
The area to the west of the toll is known as Plantation, a name given by Glasgow merchant John Robertson after he acquired the Craigiehall Estate in 1783. It has long been supposed that this name derives from Robertson’s own overseas interests, but a 1741 estate map produced by Robert Ogilvy for Sir John Maxwell of Blawarthill shows a patch of woodland here marked as “Plantation”, a common enough practice that simply denotes an area of newly planted trees. When John Robertson purchased the estate in 1783 there stood a small house in green fields at what would be the top end of modern day Mair Street. It was then acquired by John Mair (after whom the street is named) in 1793 who set about upgrading and expanding the building into the fine house you see above. The area was feued for tenement development throughout the 1870s and by 1878 Plantation House was in disrepair. It was finally demolished in 1900.
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.
Leaving the toll behind we arrive at Kingston Halls and Library. Designed by Robert William Horn of the City Engineer’s Department, it was opened on 8th September 1904 by Lord Provost Sir John Ure Primrose who declared that “We are citizens of no mean city”. Kingston was the first Carnegie-funded library in the city. The building suffered a major fire in 1948 but was rebuilt and reopened in 1957. It finally closed in 1981 following years of depopulation in the area resulting from the development of the Kingston Bridge and associated motorway infrastructure. Ibrox library opened nearby that same year and Kingston served for many years as a homeless night shelter before homeless charity the Talbot Association took up residence.
Photos reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives
Architecturally Horn modeled the hall after J.J. Burnet’s athenaeum, giving it a three bay Edwardian Baroque front rendered in red sandstone. The library entrance is set to the right hand side and features a figure of learning in the aedicule above the door. In 2010 it survived another brush with fire when the neighbouring tenement burnt down. The hall and library now sit orphaned on Paisley Road in front of the Springfield Quay entertainment complex, an ugly advertising hording pitched in the space vacated by the its former tenement neighbour.
Two sunny days separated by 150 years. The three towers of Charles Wilson’s striking mid-Victorian former Free Church College peek out from behind the now orphaned tower of Park Church in our first image. Wilson is best known for his design of the Park development on Woodlands Hill, rising out of what is now Kelvingrove Park. Despite it being a separate commission, he designed the college to be the dominant feature of the Park district. The college incorporated a church in its eastern wing where the two smaller towers can be seen. The church was destroyed by fire in 1903 and its shell was subsequently acquired by the college to accommodate an extension. The extension, designed by Colin Menzies and rebuilt as a concrete vault, opened in 1911. It made possible a Library Hall at the level of the former gallery of the church and an Assembly Hall and two classrooms at ground level.
Park Parish Church, pictured here shortly after completion and while the rest of the area was still under construction, was designed by John Thomas Rochead and built between 1856 and 1858 at a cost of £8,000. It was a striking adaptation of West of England Perpendicular featuring a soaring pointed Gothic tower. The Ecclesiologist of February 1859 noted that it was “a remarkable structure, as marking the progress of ecclesiastical architecture in the Scottish Presbyterian establishment”. By the early 1960s the church’s congregation was on the wane and the Glasgow Presbytery drew up plans to flatten it and build a 12 storey £350,000 office development on the site. This was rejected as inappropriate and a marginally more sympathetic plan for a 6 storey block gathered around the retained church tower was approved instead. In a letter to the Glasgow Herald, New Glasgow Society founder and secretary Geoffrey Jarvis wrote that he “welcomes the retention of the tower as an essential element of the skyline and realises that a valiant attempt has been made to match this unique building with a modern economic solution”. It perhaps gives an indication of how low expectations were that one of the fathers of modern Glasgow architectural conservation was prepared to concede the destruction of the church in order to preserve the skyline.
In 1968, despite much protest both from the public and the Glasgow Institute of Architects, the church was carefully demolished by hand in order to preserve the tower. In its place rose a reinforced concrete office block, designed for the Bank of Scotland by Derek Stephenson and Partners. Although now much remodeled, it remains, however, a jarring sore thumb in an otherwise remarkably complete expression of Victorian town planning.
Our other image is looking west at approximately number 13 Park Circus. More on that to come in the autumn when I can get some good comparison shots from the park without dense foliage obstructing the view up to Woodlands Hill.
The fantastical Christian Institute building looms over 1970s Bothwell Street looking like the fever dream of a Bavarian prince. The building was conceived when, in 1873, a committee was formed with the intention of providing an institute for the Young Men’s Christian Association and “other bodies of religious character”. The group raised £28,000 and land was purchased on Bothwell Street. Architect John McLeod designed the original building in the German Renaissance style and it was constructed in 1879. It was opened in October of that year by Lord Shaftsbury. It featured statues of John Knox and William Tyndale above the doors, and above the windows on the second floor were medallion busts of Martin Luther and other reformers.
In 1895 a design was chosen by competition for the addition of two new wings to the building. These were constructed in 1896 for a staggering £115,000, financed largely by Rutherglen chemical magnate and philanthropist John White (Lord Overtoun). Architects Clark and Bell and R.A. Bryden followed the style of the original building but with soaring asymmetrical towers at each corner. The end result was a sprawling Gothic Revival pile that filled an entire city block. The east wing housed a bible training institute with 100 bedrooms for male students and 50 for female students. There were also separate dining, sitting and writing rooms as well as separate libraries. The west wing housed a restaurant, sitting, drawing and smoking rooms as well as 195 beds for the YMCA.
By the 1960s the Institute was struggling to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and it was in need of internal modernisation. It suffered from an awkward layout that meant windows and floors were often at different levels. The decision was taken in 1974 to retain the east wing containing the Bible Training Institute owned by the Glasgow Evangelistic Association and sell off the rest for redevelopment. This fell through due to the planning authority’s insistence that any new development should match the part being retained; a near-impossibility given the extravagance of the original. Sadly, the decision was taken to demolish the entire building and in 1980 Glasgow’s giant Bavarian cake topper was razed to the ground. It may have been architecturally incoherent and over the top, but it had plenty of charm. In its place is a modern glass and granite office block by Holmes Partnership with Newman Levinson and Partners, a building so bland that you might not even notice it’s there.
Also visible in these photos is the Scottish Legal Life Assurance building at 95 Bothwell Street. That’s a story for another post, but it’s worth pointing out that those massive golden clocks at each corner that look like they’ve always been there, were in fact added as recently as 1995.
It’s debatable whether we’d even recognise the modern photos above as St Enoch Square were it not for James Miller’s quirky 1896 Flemish Renaissance ticket office. This iconic little turreted building originally served as both a booking office and the headquarters of the original Glasgow District Subway Railway Company. Following the subway system’s modernisation between 1977 and 1980 it became a travel information centre run by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. It’s now a branch of Caffe Nero.
The square is named after St Teneu (or Thenew) of which “Enoch” is a corruption. She was a 6th century Britonnic princess of the ancient kingdom of Gododdin (modern day Lothian) and St Enoch Square was the site of a medieval chapel built on or near her final resting place. She is the mother of St Kentigern who you may know better as St Mungo, traditionally regarded as the father of the city of Glasgow.
The area was planned in 1768 by Glasgow Corporation as a select residential square, but by 1775 the only houses built were those adjacent to Argyle Street. In 1780 the Corporation provided a church although there are conflicting sources suggesting two different architects. James Paterson is credited with its design by the late Professor Charles Gourlay, an architect and academic, while multiple sources cite David Jaffray as the architect, going all the way back to 1816’s “Annals of Glasgow” by James Cleland. I’m inclined to believe the earlier source. In 1791 what would become the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow moved into number 49, the Surgeons Hall which would later be demolished to make way for St Enoch station. The church was replaced by a larger one designed by David Hamilton in 1827 which incorporated the steeple of the earlier structure. Sadly, Hamilton’s church would last less than a hundred years before being demolished in 1926 after the congregation moved to St Enoch’s Hogganfield.
On the east side of the square stood the impressive St Enoch Hotel, and behind that, St Enoch Station. The hotel and the architectural aspects of the station were by Thomas Wilson, a church architect from Hampstead, and the works were superintended by Miles S. Gibson. Construction started on the station in 1870, and the hotel in 1875. St Enoch station received its first passenger service on 1st May 1876 which preceded the official opening on 17th October 1876 while the hotel opened to the public on 3rd July 1879. The station was large with 12 platforms and two semi-cylindrical glass and iron train sheds modeled after London’s St Pancras station. In 1966 St Enoch station closed its doors for the final time after it fell victim to the infamous Beeching cuts which were implemented in an attempt to rationalise the rail network. By the time of its closure it was handling 250 trains and 23,000 passengers per day, all of which were subsequently diverted to Glasgow Central.
For the next decade, the old station would serve as nothing more than a car park while the hotel slid into decline before closing in 1974. The article above records the subsequent stripping and dispersal of the hotel’s assets. The station clock is currently housed in the Antonine Centre in Cumbernauld and featured prominently in the film “Gregory’s Girl”. In 1976 the roofs of the old station were removed and by 1977 the site had been sold to the Scottish Development Agency which claimed it was required for a new office development housing Ministry of Defence civil servants. Both buildings were reduced to rubble in 1977 but the civil servants never materialised. The decision not to preserve the hotel was met with anger and protest with one resident writing in a local paper “One wonders when the orgy of destruction of all that is architecturally noble and attractive in Glasgow is going to stop”.
The destruction of the hotel and station left an ugly gouge in the city centre that would remain for a decade as the St Enoch shopping centre emerged from the rubble, finally opening in 1988 after a 7 year construction. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there’s a Jenny for every Jock, but there can’t be many who see this tented steel and glass monster by Reiach & Hall with Gollins Melvin Ward Partnership, as any sort of improvement. It’s not all bad though. The west side of the square retains many fine buildings, including James Boucher’s magnificent Teacher building at number 14. Built in 1875 it was commissioned by whisky baron William Teacher and right up until 1991 it was the firm’s headquarters. The Institution of Engineering and Technology then moved in and in 1995 it became the Scottish Engineering Centre, receiving a sympathetic makeover that transformed it into a meeting and events venue while retaining original features and tokens of the building’s history. The west side of the square is completed by a row of handsome late c19th and early c20th office buildings.
Like so much of Glasgow’s lost architecture, St Enoch Square is very much a case of what might have been. In 2018 it’s easy to imagine an elegant civic space featuring Hamilton’s church and Wilson’s grand hotel, restored, repurposed and appreciated once again. So next time you walk past that wee castle in the middle of the square, take a good look at it and be grateful for small mercies.
Footnote: There are several photos in this post that I couldn’t conclusively attribute to an individual. If you recognise any of them as your own please get in touch and I’ll be happy to provide a photo credit and link. What I do know is that the series of photos taken in the late 1970s shortly before the station and hotel were demolished is by Stuart Neville. Stuart very kindly gave me permission to reproduce his stunning photos here. There are many other great shots of the derelict hotel and station as well as a treasure trove of other Glasgow photography over on his Flickr page.
Photo (C1202): Sourced from Virtual Mitchell and reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.
The former Royal Exchange looks stunning against a blue winter sky as it rises majestically over the surrounding square. Back in 1906 Baron Carlo Marochetti’s equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington hadn’t yet acquired his familiar headgear. It’s a building on a monumental scale that almost fills Royal Exchange Square. But this wasn’t always the case. It’s now familiar to Glaswegians as the Gallery of Modern Art, but it started off as a tobacco merchant’s mansion when it was built between 1778 and 1780. William Cunninghame of Lainshaw was already a wealthy man before he made an even greater fortune by stockpiling cheap tobacco shortly before the American War of Independence. He speculated that a long war in the colonies would disrupt supply chains, resulting in a tobacco shortage. He was proved right and, having bought at 3 pence per pound, sold his stock for 3 shillings and sixpence per pound. Little comfort for the slaves who picked his crop and gave their lives in the process.
His original house of 1780 is in the middle section of the Royal Exchange, between David Hamilton’s later additions to the front and rear. Once you see that the building is really in three distinct sections you won’t be able to unsee it. Cunninghame died in 1799 and in 1817 the house was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland to become their first branch outside of Edinburgh. In 1827 the Royal Bank sold the building to the city so that it could be converted into a new mercantile exchange. This work was completed in 1829 to plans by David Hamilton. Hamilton encased the original house on both sides, with its two stories and attic articulated by giant pilasters. To the front he added a double depth portico of fluted Corinthian columns topped by a circular tempietto. To the rear he added a newsroom, considered to be Glasgow’s most magnificent early c19th interior. This addition was always lower than the original house, although the pilasters continue. However, the ground floor windows are arched while the first floor is half a storey with square ones. The exterior is completed by a free-standing colonnade of fluted columns on either side. The Royal Bank of Scotland built new premises facing their former home in 1834, a building that now houses Zizzi restaurant at the front, and All Saints facing onto Buchanan Street.
Glasgow’s first telephone exchange opened here in 1880 and, ironically, it was the increasing use of telephones and other long distance communication methods that made a physical exchange increasingly unnecessary. In 1949 the Royal Exchange was acquired by Glasgow Corporation and in 1954 Stirling’s Library was relocated here from Miller Street. The library moved back to Miller Street in 1994 so the building could be converted to house the city’s modern art collection. Stirling’s Library finally returned to the Gallery of Modern Art and is now The Library at GoMA.
Photo (C1761): Sourced from Virtual Mitchell and reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.
This 18th century tobacco merchant’s villa had recently had that ugly mansard roof added when this photograph was taken in 1909. Built by wright John Craig in 1775, it formed one of a row of free-standing villas at the south end of Miller Street. It was sold in 1782 to tobacco importer Robert Findlay of Easterhill. The house is a modest Palladian mansion which echos the much larger homes built by the city’s tobacco lords around the Merchant City. There are hints to Glasgow’s shameful colonial past dotted around the city. Jamaica and Virginia Streets are named after the territories where wealthy men monopolised the tobacco and sugar trades, often with brutal consequences for the slaves pressed into hard labour. Treasured buildings such as the Gallery of Modern Art started life as the private mansions of tobacco lords who were also, by extension, slave owners.
By the early 1990s, 42 Miller Street was in a sorry state: derelict and well on its way to becoming yet another city treasure lost to the bulldozer. It would almost certainly have ended that way had the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust not undertaken a complete restoration in 1994. They spent £500,000 stripping paint from the masonry and removing the late 19th century addition to the roof, and in the process they saved this historically important building from certain ruin.
Photo (C5620): Sourced from Virtual Mitchell and reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.
With something as substantial as a building you’d think there will always be plenty of evidence as to its history. My attempts to pin down the origins of this unfussy deco mash up on Buchanan Street prove that this isn’t always the case. The fantastic BritishListedBuidings.co.uk suggests it’s originally c1830 with significant alterations at street and first floor level being added around 1950. The Royal Institute of British Architects holds a photograph of the building c1920 with the deco frontage already in place. They also list the architect as Percy James Westwood, another fact I can’t corroborate. My best stab would be that the original building was indeed of 1830 with the modern frontage added, perhaps by Westwood, around 1920.
Whatever its history, it at least retains something akin to its original purpose. Rowan & Co. were established around 1846 as a merchant tailor and boys outfitters. They became outfitters to many boarding schools around Scotland, including Clifton Bank, St Andrews; Kelvingrove House, Bridge of Allan; Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh and Morrison’s Academy, Crieff. They also produced sports attire for tennis, golf, cricket and boating and became outfitters to the Glasgow University Athletic Club.
Photo (C1804): Sourced from Virtual Mitchell and reproduced with the kind permission of Glasgow City Archives.
The cobbles are gone and cars now line the streets, but the north side of Blythswood Square is little changed from this c1860 view. Blythswood Square was the hub of Blythswood New Town, one of several planned developments that helped transform the city from its medieval origins. Blythswood New Town was laid out on the former Blythswood Estate of Colin Campbell and stretched from Argyle Street to Garnethill, and from West Nile Street to Pitt Street. It was initiated in 1821 by William Hamilton Garden who bankrupted himself promoting it. The square was laid out between 1823 and 1829 after William Harley took over. John Brash executed the facades, probably from a design by William Burn.
More interesting than the buildings themselves is the scandal that erupted here in 1857. No 7 (closest to us in the photo) was home to Madeleine Smith, a young Glasgow socialite and daughter of wealthy architect James Smith. In 1855, and at odds with Victorian social convention, she entered into an affair with apprentice nurseryman Pierre Emile L’Angelier. When her father found a suitable fiancé for her to marry, she tried to end the relationship only for L’Angelier to attempt blackmail. He threatened to use the letters Madeleine had sent to force her to marry him. She was seen ordering arsenic in the druggist’s office soon after. On the 23rd March 1857 L’Angelier succumbed to arsenic poisoning and is buried in the Ramshorn Cemetery on West Nile Street.
Despite the clear circumstantial evidence, the jury returned a “not proven” verdict. Madeleine fled Scotland soon after, first to England where she married artist George Wardle in 1861. They had a daughter Mary (known as “Kitten” b. 1863) and a son Thomas (b. 1864). Madeleine and George separated in 1889 and she then moved to New York City. In 1916, at the age of 81, she married a second time to William A. Sheehy. This lasted until his death in 1926. Madeleine Smith died in 1928 aged 93 and was buried as Lena Wardle Sheehy.