Pat’s Guide to the Buildings, Architecture and History in Glasgow’s West End
Up until the 1840s Glasgow’s West End consisted of open countryside, isolated farmhouses and the country dwellings of Glasgows most wealthy citizens. The completion of the Great Western Road and the re-location of the Botanic Gardens to the Kelvinside Estate in the early 1840s was the catalyst for rapid change to the character of the area.
Terraced and detached houses built by speculative developers began to appear – eager to attract the growing mercantile class away from the overcrowding and polluted city to the ‘fresh air and hilltop views’ of Glasgow’s West End. The re-location of Glasgow University to Gilmorehill in 1870 added the academic elite to the West End’s social mix.
Houses were of the highest quality; designed by talented architects such as Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, Charles Wilson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, James Sellars and J.T. Rochead. Classical villas, attractive terraces and superior tenements are to be found throughout the West End – gardens, trees and cast-iron railings complement the buildings and add further character to the area.
Buildings generally are constructed in cream, red or occasionally pink sandstone – most of which was locally sourced. Some of the best tenemental buildings can be found in Hyndland, Woodlands, and Hillhead. Superior terraces/crescents and villas in Park Circus, Kelvinside, Dowanhill and running parallel to Great Western Road west of Kelvin Bridge.
City of Architecture
It was a great and well deserved honour for Glasgow when it received the award of City of Architecture in the UK in 1999 – the city certainly has its fair share of great buildings. On the Web site we have highlighted some of the most historically interesting buildings in the West End. However, with the construction of the new Homeopathic Hospital next to Hyndland Station in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital there was something new to shout about and at the start of the Millennium there are many further developments got under way.
Glasgow’s Homeopathic Hospital
The hospital opened in 1999 – it was designed by Maclachlan Monaghan Architects, who were selected for the job after winning a national competition. The aim was to create a building in keeping with homeopathic ideology linking harmony with healing.
The architects have achieved a look which is both contemporary and welcoming with lots of light and space. Inside the colours are soft and clear and Jane Kelly the artist has worked closely with the architects to create a very attractive interior with lots of natural materials, comfortable seating and beautiful plants. The final landscaping phase is now underway.
The hospital has been renamed NHS Centre for Integrative Care.
Buildings of Interest
By George Gilbert Scott (1866 ) – built on Gilmorehill and entered from University Avenue – was described by Frank Wordsdall in ‘Victorian City’ as ‘sham mediavalism’. It was intensely disliked by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thompson – as much due perhaps to the fact that no Scottish architect was allowed to bid for the project as for its Gothic style. There is no doubt however that it is an extremely impressive building – the second largest Gothic revival building in Britain and well worth your time and attention.
The University has a Visitor Centre, shop and cafe and there are guided tours to satisfy the more curious visitor. In the shop I recommend you purchase a couple of extremely cheap little booklets which outline walks you can take around the campus. The first is called ‘An Architectural Trail” and needs no explanation other than to say there are some hidden gems for you to find. The second is one who’s title escapes me at the moment but is all about the history and types of stone to be found in the buildings throughout the campus – an unusual but interesting topic to form the basis for a walk.
University of Glasgow also houses The Hunterian Museum
The Hunterian Gallery beside the University Library has many special events, exhibitions and permanent exhibit The Mackintosh Hous.
James McCune Smith Learning Hub
The James McCune Smith Learning Hub is a world-leading learning and teaching facility named after the prominent civil rights activist and first African American to be awarded a medical degree, awarded by the University of Glasgow in 1837.
The £90.6 million facility was opened in April 2021. It provides a state of the art learning and the teaching facility with the capacity for more than 2,500 students and is the first building to be delivered through University of Glasgow Campus Development Programme.
Wellington Church, University Avenue
The Wellington Church was designed by the architect Thomas Lennox Watson. It was built between 1883 and 1884 for the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
The exterior of church is notable for its neoclassical portico with a colonnade of Corinthian columns such as you would find in a Graecian temple. Today the Wellington Church ” is the church in the heart of the University of Glasgow, a church made up of many nationalities, of young and old, of a passion for social justice, and of a commitment to the welcome and inclusion that we believe to be at the heart of our faith.”
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Designed for the 1901 Exhibition by architects John Simpson and E.J. Milner, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum opened in 1902 . Situated on the banks of the Kelvin in the shadow of the University of Glasgow’s Gothic steeples it is an impressive sight set within a glorious background.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is world renowned for the quality of its international art collection which includes Impressionists and Italian and Dutch Renaissance paintings. Without question it houses one of Scotland’s finest civic Art collections.
Between 2003 – 2006 Kelvingrove underwent a major refurbishment
Among many improvement the refurbishment ensured that Kelvingrove met the requirements to host major exhibitions.
These include: John Patrick Byrne – A Big Adventure
The Hunterian and Kelvin Hall
The multi-million pound revamp of the iconic Kelvin Hall in the city’s west end was completed in Summer 2016 and opened to the public that September.
The Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow, with over 1.3 million objects in its collections will benefit from a move to a new state of the art facility at Kelvin Hall.
The Hunterian is considered to be one of the world’s finest university museums. Its ambitious plans will not only allow greater access to collections but the creation of new research and teaching labs plus state of the art conservation studios, seminar rooms, dedicated postgraduate study space, a conference suite and library.
The building also houses the National Library of Scotland.
Now in Queen Margaret Drive, the Kibble started life as a conservatory at Coulport House near Loch Long in the 1860s. John Kibble a noted eccentric arranged with the Royal Botanic Institution to have it re-built in the Botanic Gardens, where it was used as a dance and concert hall by West End society folks until 1891 when it was converted into the winter gardens.
Eric Curtis has recently published a book about the history of John Kibble and his extraordinary glasshouse called not surprisingly ‘Kibble’s Palace’. In the book you can find out about – among other things – the orchestra chamber which was built under one of the many ponds within the palace – the idea being that music would float up mysteriously for the delight of the visitors and guests.
Glasgow City Council have approved an £8m restoration of Kibble Palace, in order to add an underground lecture theatre and increase visitor numbers by 50% to 600,000 a year. This work commenced in 2003. Over the following 3 years the Kiblle was dismantled and restored off site before being re-erected on its plinth in the Botanic Gardens. The building officially re-opened on Saint Andrew’s Day (30 November) 2006. The underground theatre was not part of refurbishment.
Great Western Terrace
-(1869) built by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, who many say has had more influence on the architecture and look of the city of Glasgow than any other architect.
Area is situated on top of Woodlands Hill and overlooks the area occupied by the University, Kelvingrove Park, the Art Galleries and beyond to Yorkhill, Meadowside and Govan – which constitutes an impressive view. This area has been described as the ‘finest piece of architectural planning of the Mid-Nineteenth century’. Some of the most outstanding buildings were designed by the architect Charles Wilson.
Built in 1845 on Great Western Road this was one of earliest buildings on the Kelvinside Estate although it was not completed until 1864. Built by Charles Wilson in a Florentine Renaissance style, it is a lovely Terrace to have a walk along on a summers day. Set back from Great Western Road – with the trees and garden blocking any view of the road you feel like it is set in the middle of a park rather than 30 yards from a main road.
Arlington Baths Club
The Arlington Baths Club is one of Glasgow’s hidden gems. It is thought to be the first Victorian swimming club in the United Kingdom. When it first opened its doors in August 1871 it caused a sensation, inspiring similar clubs, both in Scotland and further afield.
(1878) in 12 Cranworth Street is built in a style reminiscent of the East – perhaps as a refernce to its use as a Turkish Baths. Built by Clarke and Bell the interiors are noted for their brightly coloured tiles. I took a trip around the inside during Glasgow’s ‘Open Doors’ day and by the time I had seen it all I wanted to join.
(1842-50) another Renaissance style terrace built by John Baird with impressive columns and wrought iron balconies.
(1911). Attractive green and cream tiled building by D.V. Wyllie. One of the earliest garages in the city. I have always liked the look of this building – it doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ but just sits there looking unassumingly attractive and quietly representing a particular age and style.
Built in the Kelvingrove Park for the 1901 International Exhibition as a reproduction of a Cheshire home. The architect of the Sunlight Cottages was James Miller. They are highly unusual and perhaps the most out-of-place buildings in the West End.
(1873) iIn Bellshaugh Road, built as a private school for Hillhead and Kelvinside secondary students and is definitely one of the best looking schools in the city. The Architect was James Sellars a follower of Alexander Thompson who was responsible for many of the West Ends impressive buildings. Another of Sellar’s buildings is the Mitchell Library Extension.
-(1877 – 8) Saltoun Street – another good looking building by James Sellars . Inspired by the 13th century Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
– interesting architecture on the South Bank with lots to do and see.
Some major architectural projects and developments – current and historical
- Work at Kelvingrove – Refurbishment of Kelvingrove Art Galleries and Museum – completed 2006.
- Amazing project in the heart of the west end – Colin Beattie – The Skerryvore Project. Now known as OranMor.
- The Clydeside Glasgow Harbour – major new development on the River Clyde.
- Glasgow’s West End get its picture hall back Grosvenor Cinema re-opens
- Reburbishment Maryhill Burgh Halls
Find out more about Glasgow’s history and architecture
- Glasgow City of Sculpture
- Ian Mitchell – Interesting walks around the Gorbals, Bridgeton, City Centre – features on these (and other areas) with heaps of interesting information about Glasgow’s people, history and architecture.
- Informative site:Glasgow: architects and architecture.
- Friends of Glasgow West End
- A Short History of Glasgow’s West End’ by Glasgow West Conservation Trust’
- Along Great Western Road by Gordon Urquhart of Glasgow West Conservation Trust.
- Hyndland; Edwardian Glasgow Tenement Suburb – Anne Laird.
- ‘Central Glasgow’ – An illustrated Architectural Guide by Charles McKean, David Walker & Frank A Walker.
- ‘Kibble’s Palace’ by Eric Curtis
Information about Glasgow Architects
- Charles Rennie Macintosh Society
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art
- Alexander’Greek’Thomson Greek Thomson Society and Antiquity Rediscovered – Information on the great architect by Gerry Blaikie – enthusiast
- John Campbell McKellar – architect