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Glasgow City Chambers

The City Chambers in Glasgow, Scotland has functioned as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since 1996, and of preceding forms of municipal government in the city since 1889, located on the eastern side of the city's George Square. An eminent example of Victorian civic architecture, the building was constructed between 1882 and 1888 to a competition winning design by Scottish architect William Young a native of Paisley. Inaugurated in August 1888 by Queen Victoria, the first council meeting was held within the chambers in October 1889. The building originally had an area of 5,016 square metres. In 1923, an extension to the east side of the building in John Street was opened and in 1984 Exchange House in George Street was completed, increasing the size of the City Chambers complex to some 14,000 square metres.

The need for a new city chambers had been apparent since the 18th century, with the old Tolbooth at Glasgow Cross becoming insufficient for the purposes of civic government in an increasing town with greater political responsibilities. In 1814, the Tolbooth was sold – with the exception of the steeple, which still remains – and the council chambers moved to Jail Square in the Saltmarket, near Glasgow Green. Subsequent moves were made to Wilson Street and Ingram Street. In the early 1880s, City Architect John Carrick was asked to identify a suitable site for a purpose built City Council Chambers. Carrick identified the east side of George Square, which was then bought. The new City Chambers initially housed Glasgow Town Council from 1888 to 1895, when it was replaced by Glasgow Corporation. It remained the Corporation's headquarters until it was replaced by Glasgow District Council under the wider Strathclyde Regional Council in May 1975. The City Chambers has been the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since April 1996, when it replaced the District Council with the abolition of the Strathclyde Region.

The building is in the Beaux arts style, an interpretation of Renaissance Classicism incorporating Italianate styles with a vast range of ornate decoration, used to express the wealth and industrial export-led economic prosperity of the Second City of the Empire. The exterior sculpture, by James Alexander Ewing, included the central Jubilee Pediment as its centrepiece. Although originally intended to feature a figure symbolising Glasgow 'with the Clyde at her feet sending her manufactures to all the world', the Pediment was redesigned to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It depicts Victoria enthroned, surrounded by emblematic figures of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, alongside the colonies of the British Empire. Ewing also designed the apex sculptures of Truth, Riches, and Honour, and the statues of The Four Seasons on the Chamber's tower. The central apex figure of Truth is popularly known as Glasgow's Statue of Liberty, because of its close resemblance to the similarly posed, but very much larger, statue in New York harbour.

The entrance hall of the Chambers displays a mosaic of the city's coat of arms on the floor. The arms reflect legends about Glasgow's patron saint, Saint Mungo, and include four emblems – the bird, tree, bell, and fish – as remembered in the following verse:

Here's the Bird that never flew

Here's the Tree that never grew

Here's the Bell that never rang

Here's the Fish that never swam

An abstract tapestry hanging in the hall is intended to represent Glasgow's past and present.


Ref: DP362

Gallery: Buildings

Glasgow City Chambers

Glasgow.

Scotland.

United Kingdom.

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