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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Culture and Leisure


By Frank Arneil Walker

Woodside Crescent 19th century Glasgow is fundamentally a city of tenemented gridded streets, four-storey, shared-access housing varying from the flat-fronted, abstemiously classical ranges of mid century to a final bay-windowed exuberance rich in cornicing, aedicules and bow-cornered accents. Elegant terraces and crescents, too, are characteristic, especially in Park on Woodlands Hill and in the development of the West End estates.

Glasgow City Chambers But the greatest legacy is the endlessly fertile eclecticism of the city centre. Warehouses are conceived as austere pedimented palaces near the Broomielaw (c.1850), iron-framed and full of light on Jamaica Street (1855-56), or as a monumental Graeco-Egyptian range on Union Street (1871-73). Within a hundred yards of each other on Bath Street, churches are the Gothic-spired St Stephen's Renfield (1849-52), or, at the temple-fronted Elgin Place (1865). Proliferating banks are caparisoned like Roman or Venetian palazzi along St Vincent Place and Gordon Street. Even a carpet factory on Glasgow Green (1889) can be a polychromatic evocation of Venice, having changing colours. Everywhere commercial offices rising higher and higher are more and more fertile in stylistic derivation and invention. Civic architecture evolves from the cool elevated grandeur of the City & County Buildings on Wilson Street (1844), to the overblown richness of the City Chambers on George Square (1883-88), at once majestic and bombastic.

Glasgow School of Art This Victorian achievement is shared by a succession of talented architects, among them Charles Wilson, John Burnet, John Honeyman, John James Burnet, James Sellars and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is Mackintosh who, in his provocative School of Art (1897-1909), finally breaks free from reviving existing styles and creates something quite new.

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