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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Culture and Leisure


By Frank Arneil Walker

Royal Bank of Scotland By 1800 Glasgow had become a classical city. Provincial Palladianism, already evident in the mansion-houses of the Virginia merchants and in some churches and civic buildings, now spread through new residential suburbs on both sides of the river. Proposals by Robert and James Adam envisaged a city of elegant squares and terraces. Many remained unexecuted, but their Assembly Rooms (1792-96, demolished 1890), and Trades House (1791), were sophisticated advances on Palladian precedent. More severe were the Grecian Justiciary Courts (1809-14) by William Stark and his City Church facade for St George's Tron (1807). If a delicate touch appears in David Hamilton's steepled Hutchesons' Hospital (1802-05), his Royal Exchange (1827-32) asserts a grander Graeco-Roman presence, its urban setting, enhanced by the contemporary neo-Greek Royal Bank by Archibald Elliot, still "the best piece of unified civic design in Glasgow".

George Square, 1829 Across the expanding city a comparable but less dramatic urban unity prevailed in the consistency of the street grid and the pervasiveness of classical residential architecture. Gable-to-gable and street-to-street terrace housing, occasionally pedimented or pilastered as at George Square from 1786, Wilson Street (c.1790), and Carlton Place (1802-04) set a pattern to be repeated in the hilltop development of Blythswood New Town from 1823. Downtown at Virginia Buildings (1817) the four-storey scale of the soon-to-be-ubiquitous tenement was anticipated.

As fast as Glasgow spread out to house its growing population, so the residential inner city began to succumb to commercial pressure. An early sign of this transformation was the creation of Argyll Arcade (1827), a covered shopping link between Trongate and Buchanan Street.

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