Glasgow’s status as the second city of empire left it with a wealth of architectural masterpieces. But the passing of time has not been kind to them all, and some remain virtually unknown to outsiders.
GOVAN OLD PARISH CHURCH
To the incurious eye this building looks nothing more than a typical late Victorian era Presbyterian church, one of many found across Scotland.
While it remains a place of worship, it is also a museum full of artefacts from an ancient kingdom that predates Glasgow. Govan is today synonymous with shipbuilding, but its recorded history dates back to the sixth century.
The present church is at least the third to have been built on the site; an important religious centre in the kingdom of Strathclyde, or Alt Clut, which had its capital at Dumbarton Rock.
A variety of elaborately carved memorials, dating from the ninth to the 11th centuries, have been found in the church grounds and are now on public display. The most impressive of these is a sandstone sarcophagus thought to have held the relics of Constantine, a fabled seventh-century monarch.
The decline of the Upper Clyde as a port for commercial shipping caused Glasgow to briefly turn its back on the river that made its fortune. The quaysides that once bustled with stevedores were effectively abandoned.
This process has happily been reversed in the last 20 years as major tourist attractions and office developments have opened alongside the Clyde.
But visual reminders that this was once a working river are not hard to find.
Custom House, a classically styled blonde sandstone building in Clyde Street, opened in 1840, was for more than a century the administrative heart of a great global port.
It now stands empty, slowly crumbling, a testament to vanished industry.
PATRICK BURGH HALL
It’s often said London is less a city and more a series of inter-locking towns and villages. Glasgow is much the same, having grown from the environs of its cathedral before gradually subsuming surrounding settlements.
Partick is now a bustling district in the west end of the city but started life as a small weaving village on the banks of the Kelvin. It had become a town in its own right by the mid-19th century and Partick Burgh Hall reflects the wealth and power shipbuilding and flour milling industries brought to the area.
Tucked behind Dumbarton Road, the municipal chambers were opened in 1872 and look out over the West of Scotland Cricket Club. Designed by William Leiper in a “lively” French renaissance style, three John Mossman-sculpted relief panels decorate its frontage. Partick merged with Glasgow - despite local protests - in 1912 and the halls are now well-used by a variety of community groups.
ST ANDREW’S SUSPENSION BRIDGE
Described as “an elegant but little known structure”, this cast-iron footbridge across the Clyde at Glasgow Green was built to allow workers from the nearby Calton and Bridgeton districts to reach factories in Hutchesontown.
Built from 1853-1855 by engineer Neil Robson, the bridge replaced a ferry service and quickly became a local landmark. Its impressive Corinthian columns ensure this is a cut above the average footbridge.
A Glasgow landmark that is literally hidden. This magnificent edifice in Union Street has been covered by a layer of scaffolding and plastic sheeting for several years to protect its crumbling exterior. The Egyptian Halls was completed in 1872 for iron manufacturer James Robertson, and its frontage of polished ashlar hides a cast iron frame. Despite its name, the building’s design shows Greek influence rather an Egyptian.
Architect Alexander Thomson, who died in 1875, was nicknamed ‘Greek’ for his regular incorporation of ancient Grecian styles into his works. While the shops at ground level remain occupied, the building’s upper floors are vacant as debate continues on how best to restore it.
The Alexander Thomson Society, which campaigns for the conservation of the architect’s work, said there had been a “worrying lack of updates” on long-proposed plans to redevelop the privately-owned building. “It is a very worrying situation as it is Thomson’s finest commercial building but there seems to be this impasse between the building’s owners and the local authorities.