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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Buildings and Cityscape

By Charles McKean

Map of Glasgow, 1783 The date generally suggested for Glasgow's break from its medieval confines is 1751, with the demolition of its West Port and the opening of the city westwards along Argyle Street. At that time Glasgow remained as two cities: the upper town, largely decaying, surrounding the Cathedral, and the lower town focused upon Glasgow Cross. Four streets - High Street, Saltmarket, Gallowgate and Trongate - radiated from the Cross, embellished by stone fronted arcaded tenements erected largely after the 1651 fire. They attracted the admiration of all visitors.


Shawfield Mansion The city had been modernising up to a point: Tobacco Lord villas emerged westwards and along the Clyde shore beside the Town's Hospital. The view up Stockwell Street was capped by the Shawfield Mansion, designed in 1711 by the architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729 - he later became the most fashionable Palladian architect in London); and with the erection in 1739 of an excellent classical town house in the Trongate by Allan Dreghorn (1706 - 1764), who then with Mungo Nasmith designed the imposing baroque church of St Andrew's in the flat lands just to the east of the Saltmarket. Nonetheless, there was no overarching strategy and the Tobacco Lords had the tendency to build in grandiose isolation from each other.

Planned Development

David Dale's House The first urban development was the appointment by the town council of Peter May to draw up a plan for new streets to the west of the High Street to which future developers would be expected to conform. May's plan incorporated the existing streets, the sporadic villa development and the former Back Cow Loan, which became Ingram Street. Building work began in earnest in the 1780s. First there was the strange semi-urban development of detached villas down Charlotte Street in the then-salubrious location of Glasgow Green. They were miniature Tobacco Lord houses, five-bay, with a three-bay pedimented frontispiece adorned with urns, a high roof and flanking coach houses. 52 Queen Street, and 42 Miller Street by John Craig (fl1770-90s) are the best surviving examples of these urban/suburban villas. No evidence has emerged that Robert Adam designed them, as is part of Glasgow legend. Craig himself was no mean designer, being responsible for the elegant Grammar School (1788) in George Street and the flashy Surgeon's Hall in St Enoch's Square in 1791.

St Andrew's Church In 1783, William Hamilton surrounded St Andrew's Church with a square of unpretentious and plain houses, with the church as a magnificent centrepiece. James Jaffrey (fl1780s) proposed a total reformatting of College Street opposite the University, and also designed the diminutive church at the centre of St Enoch's Square; but the most distinctive work came from the Adam brothers.

The Adams

Glasgow Royal Infirmary Like any improving town, the city was acquiring new Institutions, and cities as ambitious as Glasgow sought out the best. In 1792, Robert Adam (1728-1792) and James Adam (1732-1794) designed a new Infirmary beside the Cathedral, and in 1791-1794 relocated the Trades' Hall from the upper town down to Glassford Street in the first new town where it faced axially up Garth Street. Their particularly imposing Atheneum/Assembly Rooms in the newly-opened Ingram Street was completed in 1796. James also designed a magnificent Corn Market in 1793, axially facing east to the Old College along Shuttle Street, of which only the two corner pavilion buildings of Shuttle Street were built as Professors' Lodgings (the Hunterian Museum was founded in the southern one). Robert also designed a factory on Ingram Street and an abortive block on George Square while James designed a plain church behind the steeple to replace the 16th century Tron Kirk, destroyed by fire; and, perhaps most extraordinary, a private residential square just west of the High Street in 1793. Stirling's Square comprised flats and commercial premises, of which Babbity Bowster's hotel and café bar in Blackfriars Street is a lone survivor. However, the dispersal of the Adam schemes throughout the city had the result that their designs for Glasgow never achieved the visual impact that they had had in Edinburgh.

Their Successors

Hutchesons' Hospital On their deaths in 1792 and 1794, the Adams' mantle was taken over by David Hamilton (1768-1843) who was later to be known as "the founder of the architectural profession in the west of Scotland". Hamilton had probably trained in the Adam office, but appears to have been equally influenced by the work of Sir John Soane (1753-1837) who had designed a new house for Robert Dennistoun in Buchanan Street in 1798 and another for Alexander "Picture" Gordon in 1804. Although other architects produced some fine schemes in Glasgow, it is due to Hamilton and his friend and business partner James Cleland (1770-1840) that the city expanded into its handsome neo-classical form.

Hunterian Museum The Edinburgh architect William Stark (1770-1813) had earlier designed the austerely neo-classical Justiciary Courts (1809-1814) after winning a competition. Five years earlier he had designed the domed Hunterian Museum for the University and his design for St George's Church held great promise, but he died young. Equally unusual was the work of Peter Nicholson (1765-1844), Alexander "Greek" Thomson's father-in-law, before he left for London. He designed a handsomely austere block of lodgings for the University, and Laurieston Place on the south bank of the Clyde - the frontispiece of the proposed suburb of Laurieston, in which the French-inspired Laurieston House, 1802, was perhaps the finest town house in Glasgow of that epoch. Generally, the city favoured the slightly richer urban diet of Hamilton's architecture, beginning with the decoratively francophile Hutcheson's Hall (1802) in the first New Town.

A New Town

Theatre Royal, Queen Street The ethos of that first New Town was that it felt wholly enclosed, its streets being terminated by civic buildings axially facing down them with a broader, weather-protected space (Wilson Street) at its heart. Apart from its grander monuments, the buildings were mostly large flats above arcaded urban premises. It was, thus, a modern version of the Scottish Renaissance town centre. So Thomas Rickman's (1776 - 1841) Ramshorn Kirk faced down Candleriggs, Hutcheson's Hall down Hutcheson Street, the Star Inn down Glassford Street, the Trades Hall up Garth Street; and, once Hamilton had straightened out the new Ingram Street, his grandiose Corinthian Royal Exchange (now the Gallery of Modern Art - GOMA) faced along it. In 1803-5, Hamilton completed his very florid Theatre Royal in Queen Street followed some twenty years later by the transformation of the Tobacco Lord Buchanan mansion into a Royal Exchange. Around it, he created the most accomplished example of Glasgow's unique urban squares - a square occupied by a civic building rather than a garden, paralleled only in towns of the eastern states of America. The first had been St Andrew's Square, followed by St Enoch's Square - whose principal building, St Enoch's church, was given a powerful new portico by Hamilton to glower uphill at Buchanan Street, and then by St George's Church in the centre of St George's Square. Exchange Square, with its framed triumphal arch entrances from the west, flanking Archibald Elliot II's (d 1843) powerfully classical Royal Bank, achieved the necessary heights of neo-classical urban control.

Buchanan Street c 1873 The town was modernising, and had little time for sentimentality. In 1813, Cleland and Hamilton had torn down the noble 1626 Tolbooth, retaining only the tower. They replaced it with neo-Jacobean business chambers. In the streets to the west - Argyle Street, Queen and Virginia Streets and Buchanan Street - the flamboyant Tobacco Lords' villas were already redundant with the streets' commercialisation. In 1827, John Baird pressed one of them into service as the Buchanan Street entrance to his extraordinary covered Argyll Arcade that ran through to Argyle Street.

A Second New Town

St George's Tron The second New Town had been laid out to the north west of the first one from about 1782, possibly by George Smith It used George Street and George Square as its axes, the grid extending uphill to the north. William Stark's St George's Tron Church (1807) closed its western axis. Yet despite Adam's earlier grandiose proposals for George Square, it never achieved the grandeur of Edinburgh's new town squares. It was simply too large, and was not adorned by any significant civil buildings. Hamilton was almost certainly involved in the development of the third new town that expanded westward, up and over the heights of Blythswood Hill. Its street-grid was laid out in 1796 possibly to a plan by Edinburgh's James Craig (1744-1795), focused upon Blythswood Square designed by John Brash (d 1848) at the top. Hamilton's house, office and marble works lay at the head of Buchanan Street. In 1820, James Gillespie Graham (1766-1855) laid out the lower slopes of the Blythswood estate, known as Blythswood Holm.

And a Third...

St Vincent Street It was the open grid-iron streets of the third new town that characterised early 19th century Glasgow. Buchanan, St Vincent, West George, West Nile, Renfield, Hope and Bath Streets comprised, for the most part, very decent small terraced houses in excellent ashlar with good decorative plasterwork. Their value lay in their collective character although the occasional individualist, like 196 West George Street, probably by Brash, shone like a star. The architects for these houses - like Brash and John Baird (1798 - 1859) - have largely gone unsung, but it was this lovely, gracious bourgeois suburb that was to provide the consistent, neo-classical backdrop for some of the most striking monumental architecture of the next generation.

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