Outside the Glasgow City Chambers is Glasgow’s main public square. George Square was laid out in 1781, but for the first few years it was quite unglorious, filled with dirty water and used for slaughtering horses. From 1787 to the 1820s the sides of the square slowly began to be lined with townhouses and hotels. During this time George Square became a private garden for the surrounding residents. The Queen Street Railway Station was opened in 1842 and by 1850 the surrounding area had become a centre for mercantile activity and the square itself was opened for public use.
The square was named after King George III, a statue of whom was originally intended to occupy the centre of the square. The American War of Independence and the American colonies becoming independent had such a profound effect on the business and wealth of Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords that feelings against the King faltered (his bouts of madness didn’t help either). It was decided that the centrepiece of the square would instead commemorate Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), the Scottish novelist and poet. Incidentally, when the statue was erected in 1837 atop the 24m (80ft) tall column in the middle of George Square, it was the first ever memorial dedicated to him.
The most modern memorial at George Square is the Cenotaph, located opposite the entrance to the City Chambers, part of which is featured in the photo above. The Cenotaph was erected in 1921-24 to commemorate the Glaswegian who died in World War I and subsequent conflicts. The 9.7m memorial is flanked by two lions and depicts a sword and St Mungo above the city’s coat of arms. In addition to being a home to a number of statue and memorial, George Square hosts political hustings and meetings of all sorts, protests and demonstations, fairs and parades, as well as the annual Remembrance Day, Hogmanay and St. Andrews’s Day celebrations, as well as being the location of a Christmas fair and an ice rink around Christmas time. You can view what’s going on at George Square right now through two webcams. [Webcam #1] [Webcam #2]
Glasgow Trivia #23: In addition to the Cenotaph and the Scott Monument, George Square boasts a fairly large number of public statues. Statues commemorating the following people were erected at Georgw Square: Sir John Moore (Peninsular War commander) in 1819, James Watt (engineer and inventor) in 1832, Queen Victoria in 1854, MP James Oswald in 1856, PM Robert Peel in 1859, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1866, Lord Clyde (Indian Army commander) in 1868, Thomas Graham (chemist) in 1872, Thomas Campbell (poet) in 1877, Robert Burns (poet) in 1877, and PM William Ewart Gladstone in 1902. The statues of a young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are the only known equestrian statues of them.
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