Building Stories – New Glasgow Society at Glasgow Doors Open Days

17 and 18 September, 2022, 12 – 5 p.m.

New Glasgow Society West, 1307 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8TL

The Society presents our Glasgow Doors Open Days Event

2022 event ‘Building Stories’; a storytelling project about Glasgow’s derelict buildings. Untold stories submitted by the public will be exhibited alongside chosen photos or artworks of the buildings.

Event does not require booking

Friends of People’s Palace Winter Gardens & Glasgow Green

friends of peoples palace image

Building Story for NGS

The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens – Derelict Building With A Difference

“Our story is about a derelict building with a difference: the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. It’s different, because Glasgow City Council have spent a lot of money in making it derelict, since the closure of the Winter Gardens on 31 December 2018. It’s also different, as Glasgow Museums have been trying to shed the building since about 1949 and Glasgow Parks Department and their successors have been trying to demolish the Winter Gardens half since 1966.”

winter gardens then and now

Winter Gardens 1898 opening and November, 2021

Alexander Beith McDonald – Architect

“I should say that the PP has many similarities with Zamard’s Govanhill Baths, not least of which is that they by the same architect, Alexander Beith McDonald (1847- 1915). A B McDonald ran the city architect’s department from 1890-1914; before that, he worked under James Clelland there, and was responsible for a very large number of public buildings, including most of the City Improvement Trust tenements in the city centre, Ruchill and Belvedere Hospitals, Springburn and Maryhill Fire Stations, various libraries and public baths and the lovely red sandstone police office which sits derelict in St Andrew’s Square / Turnbull Street. Many of his buildings have been neglected, found to be surplus to requirements and demolished. Locharbriggs sandstone was his favoured building material. It gives great quality to our cityscape. Neglect or demolish McDonald’s buildings and you tear the heart out of Glasgow. Further along Dumbarton Road, he built the Partick Pumping Station which is semi-derelict, on the other side of the bridge over the Kelvin. Remove that building, and you destroy the sight line of red sandstone, stretching over many bays, to the Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove itself. Past Kelvingrove, he built the bridge on Kelvin Way, and employed Paul Mountford on the sculpture. Mountford couldn’t get work here after the Great War. He emigrated to become a major sculptor, delivering many national monuments, in Australia. McDonald was also responsible for the Botanic Gardens gates, and the two charming gatehouses”

McDonald was an architect –engineer who delivered quality public buildings in this city, yet his name is virtually unknown. It was he who engaged James Boyd of Paisley, the glass house specialists whose best-known surviving structures are now the Palm House of the Dublin Botanical Gardens, the Pearson Conservatory (1882) for Port Elizabeth, South Africa and the Fernery at Ascog. Their works are world-wide, and it was Boyd’s firm who was entrusted to move the Kibble Palace to its present site at Botanic Gardens in 1873.

The Kibble Palace in The Botanic Gardens

The Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

“In summary, both parts of the People’s Palace are quality and aesthetically pleasing constructions. When I went to work at the People’s Palace in 1974, I was told that it was an inadequate building in an undesirable area, and that museums wanted to move out of it asap. I spent the first few years looking at other derelict buildings in Glasgow and found that none could match what the People’s Palace had to offer. The Winter Gardens remained closed between 1966 and 1978, as the then- director of Parks, Arthur Oldham (1921-2002) had planned to demolish many Glasgow glass houses on the grounds that they were old-fashioned and that nobody visited them. On the Green, the issue apparently arose from the wrong kind of people sitting on the benches in the Winter Gardens, so they removed the benches, and with nowhere to sit, visits were indeed, brief and short. Arthur Oldham was rewarded for his services to Glasgow with the St Mungo Prize and an OBE.”

“I worked at the PP for 16 years when the threat of demolition and redevelopment were never far away, from the Glasgow Eastern Area Renewal Scheme to the east flank of the inner ring road, designed to cut through the Green between the PP and Nelson’s Monument, the Garden Festival, proposed for Glasgow Green with the PP as its administrative headquarters and various other privatisation schemes. Not until the fire escape was added in 1989 was the PP free from the threat of closure and demolition.

“Work at the PP in those years of comprehensive redevelopment involved a lot of architectural retrieval, and we built up superb collections of Glasgow tile work from shops and closes, Glasgow stained glass from houses, public buildings and churches and material, ranging in social scale from a model lodging house booth from Calton to a state of the art bathroom from a mansion in Blythswood Square. None of this has been seen in the last 30 years and if you were thinking of taking the ‘twilight tour’ of the tiles collection which is being offered by Glasgow Life in the Kelvin Hall, don’t bother: it’s already fully subscribed or sold out.”

framptons st mungo

“But I’ve not come here to moan. The People’s Palace, when functioning at its best was a wonderful operation, showing Glasgow to the world and the world to Glasgow. The Winter Gardens is ideal for displaying sculpture. After Kelvingrove was built, the full-sized maquette for the George Frampton statue of St Mungo was shown in the Winter Gardens. There’s a historic postcard to prove it, and in 1988 we found the sawn-off heads of the three figures in the Parks Department depot on the Green.”

George Wylie


“The late George Wyllie had a very successful exhibition in the Gardens, and the Friends bought his legendary Great British Slap and Tickle Machine for the entertainment of visitors. Shortly afterwards a Kelvingrove copy of the 12 feet high classical statue of Antinous, lover of the Emperor Hadrian as an Egyptian Pharaoh was shown. He not only fitted wonderfully well among the palm trees, but he gave the message to the Glasgow Gay community that Gay history would not be ignored in Glasgow.”

winter gardens cc

“Originally, the Winter Gardens was built as a hall for music and in the last 120 years, music of all kinds has been played there. It was the base of the Glasgow International Folk Festival during the 1980s, and groups came from many countries to perform inside, and also on the Green. You might be wondering what happened to that. Well it was run by volunteers, and so successful that Glasgow Council saw there was money to be made. So in 1994, the Celtic Connections Festival, based in the new concert hall took over.”

Part of the great unwritten history of Glasgow Folk music and wonderful past performances in the Winter Gardens

Whistlebinkies winter gardens peoples palace

(Mayfest 1984. The Whistlebinkies L-R: Peter Anderson, Eddie McGuire, Rab Wallace, Mark Hayward, Stuart Eydmann, Mick Broderick. Photo courtesy Anthony Brannan Photography, Eddie McGuire and Ruth Gillett.)

“You may be wondering what the difference is between the Winter Gardens and other Glasgow glass houses. The presentation was that of a temperate climate, and the minute you walked through the door, regardless of the temperature outside, you had the warm embrace of the atmosphere combined with the uplifting, health-giving viridity of the living plants. But you also had the opportunity of encountering what it means and what it meant to be Glaswegian through various aspects of the museum collection being displayed there, and co-curated by museums and parks. For example, one long term display was of the stained glass, designed by Stephen Adam and rescued from St Ninian’s Wynd Church in Gorbals. It showed the fruits and flowers of the Bible, and parks staff provided detailed botanical descriptions of each panel. Glasgow-made cast iron was also frequently on display. New Glaswegians from the Indian continent felt at home here, as did Afrowegians and all others, as it was the Palace for the people. The People’s Palace is in Glasgow, of Glasgow and about Glasgow.”

“Our plea is not just for bricks, mortar, red sandstone and glass-filled cast iron, though it should be noted that these things are not as bad as the Council would have you believe. It’s about the history of the city and Glasgow’s material culture which has been underfunded and neglected for decades. Commitment to Glasgow history needs to be restored.”

Katrina and Gordon wedding Winter Garden

Katrina and Gordon’s Wedding Winter Garden. Photo: Imagine Images

“So let Glasgow flourish with the restoration of the People’s Palace and a fresh look at Glasgow history.”

Elspeth King, September, 2022

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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