Scotland’s first purpose built public park, Kelvingrove Park provides a fantastic Victorian backdrop to the University of Glasgow and the West End of the city. Glasgow’s city planners in the 19th century had the wisdom to create green areas around the city to contrast the rapid urbanization of the city and in 1852 the City purchased land for £99,569 (around £8million today) to create this green jewel in the West End. One of several such public parks, Kelvingrove was the first and was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace in London).
There are a number of events which take place within the Park, most notably parts of the biggest event in this part of the city, the West End Festival. The Park plays host to the opening parade and the Glasgow Mela during the last two weeks in June. The above photo is from this summer’s opening events of the Festival on June 13th. The Park has seen several quite a bit larger events in the past, which I’ll get to in the end.
34 ha (85 acres) in size, the Park holds within it a large number of features, the most notable of which is the grand building at the south-west corner of the Park, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and worthy of its own post. In addition, there are five bowling greens, a croquet green, four tennis courts, a children’s play area, a skateboard park, a duck pond, the Stewart Memorial Fountain (erected in 1872), a garden, various statues and monuments, and a bandstand. The bandstand and the adjoining amphitheatre was built in 1924 and was a popular location for outdoor music until it became neglected and vandalised around 1995. Numerous local bands have expressed support for the restoration of the bandstand and there are some proposals for its renovation.
A charitable society, Friends of Kelvingrove Park, looks after the wellbeing of the Park. There are several heritage trails planned out for visitors, one by the society and another by the City Council.
Glasgow Trivia #8: Kelvingrove Park has played host to two International Exhibitions (in 1888 and 1901) and the Scottish National Exhibition (in 1911). Far from merely decorating the Park’s existing facilities, large, impressive buildings were constructed in the Park for the Exhibitions, which have unfortunately since been demolished. Some relics of this part of Glasgow’s history still remain scattered around. The large terracotta Doulton Fountain at Glasgow Green was originally situated in the park for the 1888 Exhibition but was later relocated to its current location. The idealised Elizabethan Port Sunlight Cottages, donated to the city after the 1901 Exhibition, and now used as park workers’ housing, sit south of the University. A small stone circle close to the Gibson Street entrance to the Park roots back to the 1911 Exhibition, when a Highland Village, with some genuine Highlanders, was recreated at the spot. One of the stones is marked with the words “An Clachan 1911”. The most astonishing and famous relic of the Exhibitions is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which I will feature tomorrow.
TheGlasgowStory.com has a plethora of images from the International Exhibitions available for you to visualize what the Kelvingrove Park used to look like.
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