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Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Legend has it that St Mungo came to what is now the High Street in the East End of Glasgow in the 6th century to bury a monk at a cemetery dedicated a century earlier to St Ninian, on the banks of the Molendinar Burn, a tributary of the River Clyde. A church associated with St Mungo was established by the cemetery, around which the city of Glasgow began to grow. Little is known about the initial structures. A stone building was built on the spot in 1136 and after a fire the present cathedral began to take shape in 1197. Over the following centuries the building was extended with the Lower Church, the Quire, the Nave and by the 14th century the cathedral was completed. The Blackadder Aisle (also spelled Blacader) was added in the 15th century. The timber roof dates from the 14th century.

Due to the location of the cathedral on a steep slope on the banks of the former Molendinar Burn ravine, the (285 feet) long building has a weird floorplan, with the nave and the choir on one floor, and the crypt, chapterhouse and the Blackadder Aisle on a lower level. The spire of the cathedral rises to 67m (220 feet) above floor level. Originally the spire was made out of wood, which burned down after being struck by lightning in the 15th century, and its stone replacement was likewise damaged by lightning in the 18th century. The cathedral used to have two tower in addition to the spire, which were demolished in 1846 and 1848.

The cathedral was the seat of the Bishop and later the Archbishop of Glasgow, and is a fantastic example of Scottish Gothic architecture. It’s the only medieval cathedral left in Scotland, having survived the Reformation unroofed. During the Reformation, many ecclesiastical buildings were destroyed in Scotland but Glasgow Cathedral survived, probably due to the fact that three congregations shared the cathedral during the time. Currently the building, within which over 800 years of worship has been carried out, is property of the Crown and is cared for by Historic Scotland, while still being an active place of Christian worship. Technically, the building is no longer a cathedral, since it has not been the seat of a bishop since 1690.

The “Bridge of Sighs”, just to the left of this photo, which connects Cathedral Square to the Necropolis, was built in 1833. The name is said to derive from that of the Ponte dei Sospiri in Venice, or more likely it refers to the funeral processions crossing from the Cathedral to the Necropolis. The bridge crosses Wishart Street, which was built in 1877 over the Molendinar Burn. If you’ve ever crossed the bridge and though to yourself that the street below looked a bit like a river, you weren’t wrong. The street follows the course of the former ravine. The name Molendinar is probably derived from the Latin molendinarius, meaning “belonging to a mill”, as it once provided the water power for a couple mills along its course.

Glasgow Cathedral is also where the University of Glasgow spent its first years, from 1451 to 1460 when the University moved down the street to its Old College campus on High Street. William Turnbull, who founded the University, was Bishop of Glasgow at the time. The Bishops of Glasgow subsequently served as Chancellors of the University for around two hundred years, until the Civil War.

Glasgow Trivia #26: Close to the Cathedral, at the corner of High Street and Castle Street, is the third “TARDIS” in Glasgow. Quite close to this is a bronze statue of King William III (Prince of Orange) on horseback, sword drawn, erected in 1735. Legend says that when the statue was moved up from Trongate to its current location in the last years of the 19th century, the movers knocked off a part of the horse’s tail. Instead of fixing it like it was before, they affixed the tail back on a ball and socket joint. So, on a really windy day the tail may actually swing in the wind. Another version of this story says that the tail was originally built this way. I prefer to think that the story went like this: “Whoops, we broke it. Oh well, let’s fix it so it’ll swing in the wind and say that that’s the way it’s always been. Genious.”

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Fireworks at Glasgow Green

Fireworks at Glasgow Green

The heart of Glasgow’s East End is the 55 hectare (136 acre) Glasgow Green, the city’s oldest park. Its history can be traced back to 1450 when the lands were gifted by King James II to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow, just one year before the same people founded the University of Glasgow. Initially the Green was used for grazing cattle, washing and bleaching clothes, drying fishing nets and for swimming.

In the 1820s the common land was laid out as a public park with statues, drinking fountains, children’s playgrounds and other features added. Over the years the public park has been a popular location for army and militia parades and exercises, political and religious meetings and demonstrations, the Glasgow Fair until 1871, pop concerts, funfairs, and an annual fireworks display held on November 5th. The above photo is from the 2009 fireworks display. Public executions took place on the Green up until 1865, when the last person to be executed was hanged (see post on Sauchiehall Street).

Although practically devoid of trees, the Green has several landmark structures, such as the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, a museum and glasshouse which opened in 1898. Since the 1940s, it has been the museum of social history for the city of Glasgow, and tells the story of the people and the city from 1750 to present. Outside the People’s Palace sits the Doulton Fountain, donated to the city in 1890 when it was moved from Kelvingrove Park after the 1888 Internation Exhibition. At 46 feet high and 70 feet across at its base, it is the largest terracotta fountain in the world and features a slightly larger than life figure of Queen Victoria and groups of waterbearers from Canada, Australia, India and South Africa representing Britain’s Empire.

Glasgow Trivia #25: The centrepiece of Glasgow Green is the 43.5m (144ft) Nelson’s Monument, a stone obelisk commemorating the naval victories of Admiral Horatio Nelson. It was erected in 1806, a year after the Admiral’s death in the Battle of Trafalgar, and was the first monument in the world dedicated to the decorated war hero. In 1810, four years after it was built, the monument was hit by lightning and 6 meters (20ft) of masonry was knocked off from the top. Instead of replacing the fallen section, a lightning conductor was placed in its place. There’s a painting in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum by John Knox (1778-1845) portraying Nelson’s Monument being struck by lightning.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

The Barras

The Barras

For a sliver of “true” Glasgow and the Glaswegian accent, also known as Glasgow Patter, head on down to the Barras Marketplace in the East End of Glasgow on a Saturday or Sunday between 10am and 5pm. The Barras is a massive outdoor and indoor flea market, where you can find such items as antiques, electronic appliances, collector’s vinyls, cigarettes, flowers, books, clothes, bags and of course, bootleg DVDs.

The name comes from, “barra”, another Glaswegian nickname, meaning “barrow”. It roots back to the 19th century when street traders could be found working all over Glasgow from hired-out barrows. Although being spread out around the city, there were place where these traders would congregate. After the turn of the century a young woman by the name of Margaret Russell (later McIver) bought a plot of open land and began renting out stationary carts and space on the land, creating her own marketplace which she called “Glasgow Barrowland” and which we now known as “the Barras”. Some of the buildings housing various wares date from the interwar period when the marketplace really took off and still carry the name “McIver”.

Glasgow Trivia #24: The Barras, officially Barrowland, also lends its name to a Glasgow institution, The Barrowland Ballroom, commonly known as The Barrowlands. Originally opened in 1934, the Barrowlands was the leading dancehall in Scotland until the decline of dancing, when it became a major concert venue. Although the capacity of the hall is quite modest (around 1,900 people) compared to other big-name venues in Gklasgow like the SECC, many world-renowned bands have called it one of their favourite venues to play at, and it has hosted such international names such as Oasis, The Cure, Iron Maiden, Green Day, U2, Blur, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Metallica, Justin Timberlake, Garbage, Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Elvis Costello, Megadeth, as well as numerous famous acts from Glasgow itself. The front of the building is decorated with a distinctive animated neon sign, which is hard to miss at night.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

George Square

George Square

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.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Glasgow City Chambers

Glasgow City Chambers

One of the most striking buildings in Glasgow is the Victorian-era City Chambers at George Square, completed in 1889, which reflects the city’s importance and wealth at the end of the 19th century. Today they are home to the Glasgow City Council. The foundation stone was laid in October 1883 by the Lord Provost Ure and the building was inaugurated by Queen Victoria in August 1888. If you look carefully at  the top of the western facade of the building, you can spot a statue of Queen Victoria sitting on her throne. Around her are figures of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, as well as the colonies of the British Empire. Above her is Truth, popularly known as Glasgow’s Statue of Liberty (due to the similar pose), flanked by Riches and Honour. At the very top of the tower are statues of The Four Seasons. (You can see the original size of the photo here, and find the mentioned statues on it.)

As impressive as the City Chambers are from the outside, they’re even more ornate and awe-inspiring within. The expansive entrance hall displays a mosaic of the city’s coat of arms on the floor, and large murals decorate the walls. That’s about as much I can tell you about the inside of the building from personal experience, but from photos and writings I can tell you that the interior keeps to the venetian style, with rich marble staircases and pillars, a ceiling of gold leaf, fine paintings on the walls, to mention a few exuberances.

The cost of the building was nearly four times over budget, which would probably explain why the interior is so lavishly decorated. Interestingly, when it opened, the City Chambers was one of the first buildings in the country to be lit by electricity. There are free daily tours of the Chambers, lasting 45-60 minutes, and I plan on taking a tour next term. maybe I’ll post some photos of the interior the next time I feature the City of Glasgow on this blog.

Glasgow Trivia #22: The Glasgow we know might be the largest and most important Glasgow in the world, but it’s not the only one. There are some # Glasgows in the world, all of them in the Americas. You can find the smaller Glasgows in Alabama (a few scattered houses), California (nothing, at all), Delaware (pop. ~12,000), Georgia (a cemetery?), Kentucky (pop. ~14,000), Missouri (pop. ~1,200), Montana (pop. ~3,200), Illinois (pop. ~170), Ohio (pop. very few), Oregon (pop. ~275.5), Pennsylvania (pop. ~63), Virginia (pop. ~1,046), West Virginia (pop. ~783), Jamaica (a few houses), Ontario (Canada) (farms and some houses) and Suriname (pop. ~776). There’s also a New Glasgow in Nova Scotia (Canada) (pop. ~9,500) and a mountain range called the Glasgow Range in New Zealand.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Central Station

Central Station

Opened in 1879 and extended in 1905, Glasgow Central is still Scotland’s busiest station and with some 27.5 million users in 2009, it is the busiest railway station in the United Kingdom outside of London, coming in 7th overall. The original 8 platforms have been extended to 17, with 2 on the lower level, and the station serves the southern towns and suburbs of Greater Glasgow, the Ayrshire and Clyde coasts, and is the main terminus for rail services to southern Scotland and to England,

The Central Station is an interesting place to pass an afternoon or evening, especially if people or train watching is a hobby of yours (apparently platform 11a is the best for the latter exercise). The most striking feature of the interior of the Central Station, distinctive curved wooden concourse buildings, were added between 1899 and 1905. Originally housing waiting rooms, a restaurant and ticket offices, it was believed that the curved buildings and rounded corners helped prevent crowding and bottlenecks. They were renovated and redeveloped into shops, eateries and an upstairs bar/restaurant in the 1980s. The golden lettering above Argyle Street was added in the early 2000s.

Glasgow Trivia #21: Continuing with the habit of assigning nicknames to local landmarks, the glass-walled railway bridge above Argyle Street at Glasgow Central Station is referred to as the “Heilanman’s Umbrella” by locals. The name roots from the forced displacement of Scots during the Highland Clearances of the 19th century, when tens of thousands of Highlanders, speaking Gaelic but no English, descended upon Glasgow looking for work. While in Glasgow, these Highlanders kept in touch with each other by often meeting under the bridge, a large shelter them from the rain.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Princes Square

Princes Square

Now one of the most upmarket centres of shopping in Glasgow, Princes Square used to be an open cobbled courtyard with stables. The original buildings on Buchanan Street consisted of a four-storey merchant square, completed in 1841. In 1987 the court was completely refurbished, and further extended in 1999. The modern interior, now covered by a glass dome roof, is surrounded by the preserved original sandstone facades with the eastern wall redone. Art Nouveau finishings decorate the Square, most notably the 10m by 20m wrought iron and steel peacock, which was added in 1990.

Fashion, art, design, gifts, jewellery, lifestyle, the shops and their products are as stylish as the building itself. Above the thirty odd high-end shops is a floor of stylish cafes, bars and restaurants open until midnight and accessible by escalator from Buchanan Street. Even if you can’t afford to shop there, the architecture inside and outside the shopping centre is worth checking out.

The name is not a misspelling. In 1841 the Lord Provost of Glasgow, James Campbell, who owned the building, named it in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.

Glasgow Trivia #19: From the first introduction of movies to Glasgow in the last years of the 1800s, Glasgow has been a cinema mad city. In 1939 the city boasted the title of Cinema City, with more than 110 picture houses seating over 175,000 people, more cinema seats per head than any other city in the world. Today only around 10 cinemas remain in Glasgow, but the city is home to the world’s tallest cinema, the 62m (203ft) Cineworld on Renfrew Street, which opened in 2001. With 18 screens on 12 floors, it’s also one of Britain’s busiest cinemas, achieving that distinction in 2003 with 1.8 million visitors.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Sauchiehall Street

Sauchiehall Street

The northern stretch of the Golden Z, Sauchiehall Street is one of the main shopping and business streets in the centre of Glasgow. The name, unlike Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, does not root from a person. The first part is derived from “saugh”, the Scots word for a willow tree, and the second part, “haugh” is a Scots word for a meadow, or the land at the bottom of a river valley, of which “hall” is an anglicization of. Hence, “Sauchiehall” roughly translates to ‘Way of the Willows’.

Originally, the street was a winding, narrow lane, with villas and large gardens. Presumably with willow trees, so you can see where the name comes from. Today the street runs for about a 2.5km (1.5 miles) from the top of Buchanan Street to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where it meets with Argyle Street to form Dumbarton Road.

Sauchiehall Street was formerly home to many local quality department stores and retailers, of which Watt Brothers at the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street is the only one to survive from those early days. Now its pedestrianized section (east of Blythswood Street) is populated by typical High Street retailers while the western end of the city centre section of the street, by Charing Cross and the M8, is littered with an assortment of restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as Glasgow’s first “skyscraper”, the 10-storey Beresford Hotel, now converted into private flats. Probably the most famous landmark is the Willow Tearooms, originally designed as Miss Cranston’s Willow Tea-Rooms in 1903 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. (Note how the name matches that of the meaning of Sauchiehall Street.)

Quite interestingly, in the Wikipedia article for Sauchiehall Street, someone thought it was worthy to note a notable resident of Sauchiehall Street, one Edward William Pritchard, infamous for murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poisoning, and for that being the last person to be publicly hanged in Glasgow, in 1865.

Glasgow Trivia #18: Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) may be the most famous Glaswegian designer, but one invention which seemingly bares his name was not devised by him: the waterproof raincoat referred to as the “mackintosh“. That distinction belongs to Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), a Glaswegian inventor. The mackintosh first went on the market in 1823 under the name “macintosh”, but has somehow gained the extra “k” to its name, so it’s easy to make that mistake.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Buchanan Street

Buchanan Street

Renowned for its Victorian architecture and modern urban design, Buchanan Street is one of the main shopping streets in Glasgow, the spine of the city’s Golden Z. Originally the street was called Virginia Street, after a house called Virginia House which belonged to a wealthy tobacco lord Andrew Buchanan, whose wealth came from the tobacco fields of Virginia in the American Colonies. Buchanan Street was given its current name sometime between 1778 and 1786, when it was named for Andrew Buchanan, a leading merchant in the city, a proprietor of the grounds where the street grew, and nephew of the aforementioned Glaswegian by the same name.

Over the years the street stretched to connect with Argyle Street and became a major traffic artery in the city. Its ascension to becoming Glasgow’s main shopping street began in 1978, when the entire street was pedestrianized, save for where other streets cross it. Buchanan Street met the new millennium being repaved with high quality granite stonework and boasting blue neon lighting to light up the street at night.

Today many of the stores are high street and upmarket shops, especially considering the high rents in the many Victorian buildings. In addition to Buchanan Galleries, Buchanan Street is home to the House of Fraser, Princes Square, and Argyll Arcade, to name the larger department stores and the like. The first was mentioned on Saturday, the second will be featured in a few days, and the third is one of the UK’s oldest covered shopping arcades, having been built in 1827. Much of the street survived the most recent recession, although some shops packed up, most notably the Borders bookshop by the Royal Exchange Square.

The statue, seen int he photo above, where Buchanan Street meets Sauchiehall Street, was unveiled in 2002 and depicts Scotland’s first First Minister, Donald Dewar (1937-2000), a graduate of Glasgow University. Apparently the statue was placed on a raised plinth after it had been repeatedly vandalized, reportedly because of its ugliness.

Glasgow Trivia #17: Leading from Buchanan Street by St. George’s-Tron Church is one of many examples of Glasgow leading the world. In 1986 the Glasgow City Council renamed St. George’s Place to Nelson Mandela Place while the political prisoner sat in prison and apartheid was still ongoing in South Africa. The city had already given Mandela Freedom of the City five years earlier. There are numerous places around the world named in honor of Nelson Mandela, so what makes this one in Glasgow special? Because this renaming really upset one of the residents there who now had to list its address as being on Nelson Mandela Place. That resident was the South African consulate.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

Argyle Street

Argyle Street

Argyle Street runs west from Trongate, but due to modern development and the M8 highway the street breaks twice in the middle, after which it continues to meet up with Sauchiehall Street by the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to become Dumbarton Road. The eastern end of the street, pedestrianized between Queen Street and Glassford Street/Stockwell Street, makes up the southern stretch of the Golden Z, being one of the principal shopping streets in Glasgow.

Argyle Street has gone through several name changes over the centuries, and the exact history of these name changes seems unclear. It has been called St Thenew’s Gait or St Enoch’s Gate (see Trivia below), Westergait, and Dumbarton Road, all variably its original name, but a name at some point. After these names it became Anderson Walk, and finally in 1751 (or 1760) it was renamed Argyle Street, after Archibald Campbell, the 3rd Duke of Argyll. (If anyone knows the reasoning between this double use of Argyll/Argyle, do tell.)

St Enoch Square, outside the western front of the St Enoch Centre, used to be home to a medieval chapel called St Thenew’s Chapel which was demolished during the Reformation. A new chapel, St Enoch’s Church, was built on the spot in 1780 and rebuilt in 1827. It was demolished for good in 1925. Today the square contains the 1970s subway station entrance, and a Baronial building (or, if you will, a very small castle), which was built in 1896 as the above ground ticket office and entrance to the St Enoch Subway Station. Subsequently it served as a travel centre, and most recently as a cafe. The eastern side of the square, where St Enoch Centre stands today, used to be the St Enoch Hotel and St Enoch Railway Station, from 1876 to 1977.

Glasgow Trivia #16: Who was St Enoch? The name is a corruption of St Thenew (Saintteneu = Saintenoch), also known as Theneu, Teneu, Thaney, Thenaw, Denw, Thanea, or Theneva (whew!). According to legend, this 6th/7th century Scottish saint was St Mungo’s mother. She is said to have been buried underneath the Square named after her, where medieval chapel bearing her name used to stand. Her Saint’s Day is today, July 18th.

[Summer 2010 Poll: Where Are You From?]
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© 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com

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