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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Buildings and Cityscape

Public Buildings

By Frank Arneil Walker

Guildry Court and Merchants' Steeple Following the Reformation, Glasgow's significance as a centre of ecclesiastical power began to wane. Away from the Cathedral, downhill at Glasgow Cross, the city developed a new secular heart, its civic affairs administered from the Tolbooth (1625-1627), built on the Trongate. Five storeys high, this late medieval building later underwent a gothicising facelift in 1814 only to be demolished in 1921. Its crown-spired steeple does, however, remain. Not far distant on the Saltmarket, the 1625 steeple of the Merchants' House also still stands. Gothic in profile and detail, it survives as a symbol of the city's burgeoning mercantile status.

Guard House, Trongate With wealth accruing from Atlantic trade, Glasgow prospered and grew. New streets were laid down, notably, in 1722-24, the alignment of King Street with Candleriggs on "a well formed plan" which, crossing Trongate at right angles, set the geometrical precedent for future expansion westward. Meat, fish, cheese and vegetable markets were constructed as the city sought to exercise control over commodities exchange.

Trongate, 1770 Markets, detached mansion-houses and gable-to-gable street housing were all executed in the newly fashionable classical style. The Town Hall, too, built beside the Tolbooth in 1737-40 to a design by Allan Dreghorn, was classical: five bays wide, arcaded (or arched) at street level like many of the fine stone houses on Trongate and High Street, its facade boasted giant order Ionic pilasters under a balustraded cornice surmounted by urns. Five more bays were added west in 1758-60 to create the grandest and "most distinguished building in eighteenth century Glasgow". Like the Tolbooth, however, it has gone, leaving only a mahogany model to recall its splendour.

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