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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Buildings and Cityscape

The Briggait

By Liz Davidson

The Briggait Designed by Clarke and Bell (1873) this grand balconied hall known as the Briggait with its superb cast iron and glass roof formed the trading floor for Glasgow's wholesale fish trade. Indoor lanes ran North and South to allow the horse-drawn carts to enter, load and unload, whilst walls were glazed white brick to best hygienic standards. The more utilitarian extensions of 1886 onwards enveloped the gothic Merchants Steeple (1659) and site of former Merchants Guild Hall.

Two great screen walls front the building. Clyde Street has an elaborate French Renaissance facade with arches flanked by coupled columns and fabulous sculptures of winged sea horses together with medallions of the then Queen - Victoria. Extremely fine ironwork decorates the upper levels. The elevation to the Bridgegate is in plainer Italian style with little of the other's sea-gate grandeur, but it makes a strong contribution to the street scene nonetheless and carries the obligatory Glasgow coat of arms.

By 1977 the entire building had fallen out of use and the fishmarket removed to an out of town site. In 1980 the Council moved to demolish it, resulting in the formation of the Bridgegate (Building Preservation) Trust which raised funds to repair and convert the building into a Covent Garden style atrium with artisan food halls and craft "barrows". Unfortunately the commercial afteruse did not thrive due to its perceived remoteness from traditional shopping streets and after a period of temporary exhibition use it has now been re-created as a foremost studio, production and manufacturing centre for the arts in Scotland.

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