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The United Kingdom: Glasgow Periphery picture 1

Hard to sort things out. We're standing at the edge of the city's famous necropolis, a cemetery of 50,000 burials. It's traditionally reached over the so-called Bridge of Sighs, a name that rests uneasily between self-mockery and sentimentality. Under the bridge runs High Street, heading left and reaching the Clyde in a bit less than a mile. Squeezing the cathedral on its left is the Royal Infirmary, whose construction early in the twentieth century was bitterly resisted by those who thought, correctly, that it would diminish the cathedral.

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Sorry for the morning light, but whatever. The crossing spire is from the early 15th century, but the facade is completely 19th century. Gomme writes, "Until 1846 two towers flanked the west front, of very different size and character.... It had evidently long been felt that the west front of the cathedral was not all it should be..." and so "in the early nineteenth century schemes were prepared for regularizing the design." The towers were removed, plans drawn up for their replacement. "A large fund was raised, a government grant secured..." Then there was a change of architects, followed by "the utter disappearance of the feature it was their main object to preserve."

Gomme writes, in sum, that it "is difficult to speak sympathetically of the west end in its present shape." Even "the great west window, which dates from the restoration in the middle of the nineteenth century, is a feeble affair..., [and] its general effect is distinctly emasculated...."

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Perhaps the interior is more satisfying.

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I'm a sucker for those timber roof. The window is the one Gomme calls emasculated. From this side, it looks merely pallid.

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The Royal Infirmary was designed by no less than James Miller, the same architect I assailed in the previous file for his American vulgarity. Williamson calls the building "a great grey cliff."

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The back, shown here, she calls "bleak enough for a prison." The sunshine does help, though.

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Williamson writes that Miller's design was "strongly opposed by those who deplored the way the design threatened to intimidate the Cathedral." Still, the building provided 660 beds, and perhaps no better location could be found. In any case, the building is modern, with steel framing and stone facing. See Victoria in bronze?

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She's in a Buddhist phase.

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"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Figuring out where to install Victorian heroes becomes harder every day. The good doctor was moved here in 1990 from George Square in front of the City Chambers. The bronze is by Mossman, who of course did Robert Peel's statue that still stands back in the square.

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Any question what the book is?

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You win, it might be a notebook for survey calculations, but I doubt it.

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On the other hand, it does seem to have grown a bit if it's the Bible.

Do we know what Africans actually thought of him?

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For the Victorians, his great role was fighting to abolish the slave trade, an inflammatory topic even now.

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We're behind the cathedral and on the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the church to the huge Glasgow Necropolis. Down below, High Street is here on its way north to the M8 and, behind us, down to the river. The stack on the left belongs to the sprawling Royal Infirmary. The gentleman standing on the column at the top of the hill is John Knox, founder of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and, yes, he's not buried here.

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We're going to go easy on the Necropolis and just look at two stones. Don't you love the designator "Engineer"?

Here's Elder's mini-vita. Born 1795. Apprenticed as a wheelwright under his father. By 23 designed factory buildings. Got first contract for a marine steam engine when he was 27 and six years later contracted with the East India Company to build the engines for its first paddle steamer, the Berenice. At the ripe old age of 43, contracts to build engines for the Admiralty and, a year later, for Cunard. We'll bump into Elder again.

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Here's Walter Macfarlane. Heard of him?

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MacFarlane established the Saracen Foundry on the Possil estate. From 10 workers in 1872, McFarlane grew to employ 10,000 by century's end. The firm passed to his nephew, who had the same name, and over the years it developed a huge catalog of decorative ironwork. We'll see a good deal of MacFarlane's work up ahead.

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We've whipped half a kilometer down High Street to the corner of George. The highway engineers at the end of World War II had high hopes for running a motorway through here, but it never happened, which is why we still have these Trust Tenements, built close to 1900. The word "tenement," you recall, in Scotland means only residential accommodation, and these accommodations were built by the Glasgow Trust during several decades of its work replacing the city's "winds," well and truly slums. Red sandstone, so important in the city's commercial center, was typically used in these tenements, too.

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Another half click down High Street and we circumambulate the Merchant City or Tollboth Steeple Clock Tower, from 1626. This is Glasgow Cross, seen from the south side. The High Street here crosses the London Road, which of course goes to Edinburgh.

The tower was once attached to assembly rooms and a hotel, but they're gone. A 1914 plan called for matching office buildings to flank the tower, but only this one was built. The result, per Williamson: "a chaotic traffic junction with nothing except the isolated Tolbooth Steeple to recall the Cross's historic role as the hub of the city from the Middle Ages until the C 18. Round the steeple, an ill-coordinated mixture of buildings."

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A hundred meters farther along High Street and we can peek down to St. Andrews Parish Church, completed in 1756 and seen here from the block-long St. Andrews Street.

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Reminiscent of London's St-Martin's-in-the-Fields, the church displays, in Williamson's words, "the taste and affluence of her [that is, Glasgow's] 'Tobacco Lords.'" No longer a church, the building houses Glasgow's Center for Scottish Culture. The surrounding square came 30 years after the church and, while originally residential, is now commercial.

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Two minutes farther we arrive at the Glasgow Green, actually the New Green, assembled by purchase during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. That's the People's Palace on the left and Nelson's Monument on the right.

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Simple as simple can be.

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Nelson had died at Trafalgar a year earlier.

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Not so simple. We bumped into Doulton Ware long ago at the Cameron Fountain, Charing Cross, but here's a much bigger piece next to the People's Palace. The work was designed by A.E. Pearce of Doulton for Glasgow's International Exhibition, held in 1888. Somehow, workmen picked it up and moved it here two years later.

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It's all in recently restored working order. The soldiers are Scottish, Welsh, and English, plus a sailor.

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Which part of the Empire? Africa, of course. Presumably South.

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If Africa had an African, why don't we see an Aborigine here? Good question. The two men appear to be twins, though Australia was apparently perceived as safer for white folks.

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No sahibs need apply, presumably on the grounds that the humid tropics, and India in particular, was never a destination for British emigrants.

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Cheek by jowl with the green, this used to be the Templeton Carpet Mill, conventional inside but flamboyant out, thanks to a frontage by William Leiper. Gomme writes: "This is a great spreading facade of gaudy Paduan Gothic, in red terra-cotta with multi-coloured glazed brickwork and faience on the upper storeys (below a parade of Guelfic battlement). The occasion of this weird tour de force was a decision of the firm who 'as patrons of the arts, resolved not alone in the interests of the works, but also of the citizens, to erect instead of the ordinary and common factory something of permanent architectural interest and beauty'. Gomme adds that the building "brings a puckish but innocent glee to the art of decoration."

A farmer's son, James Templeton made some money in Mexico and returned to Scotland to make make chenille shawls. Carpets came later, especially picture carpets--e.g., a Twelve Apostles Carpet. Templeton died in 1885, just before this building was undertaken. He is, of course, buried in the Glasgow Necropolis.

For whatever reason, the mill closed in 1979. In 1984 the Scottish Development Agency oversaw the building's redevelopment as the Templeton Business Centre. Then, in 2005, the building was renovated once again, this time into a "lifestyle village," with apartments, offices, and more.

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Another side of the building. Williamson is uncharacteristically objective: the building, she writes, was "created with crimson Ruabon brick, red terracotta (for the twisted mullions) and red sandstone; by vitreous enamel mosaic of deep blue, gold, and white within the tympana; and, in the topmost storey, by red and green glazed bricks zigzagged against a bright yellow ground--an ideal High Victorian marriage of medieval forms and modern materials."

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Off to one side of the green is this, the James Martin Memorial Fountain, produced in 1894 by our friends at MacFarlane's Saracen Foundry and recently partially restored by Heritage Engineering. (It's been dry since the 1960s.) Elegant, maybe; original, hardly. It came straight from Saracen Foundry's massive pattern books. In fact, it's Pattern 21.

Martin was a member of the Clyde Navigation Trust.

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Across the river from the Green, and about half a mile further south, we've come to the ruin of Alexander "Greek" Thomson's Caledonia Road Church, built just a couple of years before Thomson's St. Vincent Street church but almost totally destroyed by fire in 1965. Soon after the fire, Gomme wrote that this was "one of Glasgow's greatest buildings--indeed one of the greatest nineteenth-century buildings anywhere; yet, in a way only too characteristic of Glasgow, the church, after years of ill-treatment amounting to dereliction, has in 1965 been, almost casually, gutted by fire and the superbly detailed roof and interior destroyed. For some time ominous rumours were about that the ruins (including the undamaged tower) were to be demolished, and the site used for a roundabout. But the corporation has lately voted ?37,000 for immediate repairs to the tower, portico and outside walls. Partial survival therefore seems assured; but we need the whole church: in almost any other country than our own, so great a work of art would call out enthusiastic and complete restoration as a matter of course."

Fifty years later, "complete restoration" had still not happened, though the "magnificant" tower (Gomme's word) and the temple-fronted entrance remain.

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The temple front echoes the Ionic Erechtheon much more than it does the Doric Parthenon.

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Back to business. That's the M8's bridge over the Clyde on the far right, so we're less than a mile downstream from the Caledonian Road Church, and we're hard up against the river itself. (Say, we're at six on my imaginary clockface.) These two imposing monsters were built as warehouses for the Co-Operative Wholesale Society and functioned as such until 1973. The nearer one is from 1919; the farther was completed in 1895.

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Williamson: "The massive front block (1892-97) was the Society's showpiece. Its design, in French Second Empire-style, inspired by the New Louvre, was recycled (though the architects denied it) from their City Chambers competition design of 1880."

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The central pediment is said to show Justice, Commerce, and the Four Continents, while Cybele and two lions rise above it. A personification of Light and Liberty brandishes an electric torch atop the dome. What's inside? In the 1970s the place became a Co-Op hypermarket, but the Association eventually sold the building, which then became studio and apartment space.

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Williamson again: "The corner pavilions, with their clustered giant Composite columns and square domes, make a stronger accent than the pedimented centre...." We're headed around the corner to the left.

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This is the oldest part of the building, from the 1880s and Franco-Flemish. Williamson says that the top floor contains a meeting hall. You can almost hear an impassioned speech echoing from a time when a co-operative commonwealth seemed within grasp.

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We're back at the snake of the river, seen from the Transport Museum, about a mile and a half downstream from the warehouses. Those are Glasgow Harbour apartment buildings on the right; BAE systems rises on the left, rising behind more apartments. BAE is still building vessels for the British navy on the site of John Elder's old shipyard.

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The Transport Museum has a reminder of the old days.

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A museum at the Fairfield Govan Heritage Centre across the river has another.

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That museum is here, in a surviving bit of the old Elder shipyard. Lots of glass upstairs for better light in the drawing offices. The building, completed in 1891, now houses the Fairfield Govan Heritage Centre and Workspace. L

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A shipwright and an engineer stand on the prows of their handiwork.

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The old boardroom.

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William Pearce was Elder's partner and the surviving manager of the shipyard.

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Where did the shipyard profits go? Partly to this, the Pearce Institute for working men and women. Completed in 1906, Williamson writes that it was "convincingly disguised by the scholarly Sir R. Rowand Anderson as a large C17 Scottish town house."

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The shipyard provided housing, too, in the city's familiar red sandstone (Luath Street).

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Here's the side entrance of the Govan Town Hall, 1901. It led to a concert hall.

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Most of the old shipbuilding landscape itself has been cleared away, but a half mile upstream from the transport museum there are three graving docks built in the 1870s for ship repair. They continued in operation until the late 1980s and have somehow escaped redevelopment. That slithery silver and glass thing on the far left is part of the city's Science Museum.

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Another view of the graving docks. Beyond the gate at the far end there's an arch; it's a bridge over the river.

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One of the docks seen from its gate.

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How did it work, exactly? Wish I knew. Did the gate lower?

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This must be one of the most atmospheric bits of the city. That's characteristic of ruins, no?

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Compare it with this, just downstream. The view is across to Glasgow Harbour, built on the site formerly used for livestock shipments.

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We've traced the clock hand from the cathedral at one to the Glasgow Green at four, the Co-Op warehouse at six, and the Govan docks at seven. Now cross back over the river and arrive at nine o'clock at the Mitchell Library, 1906-12, dismissed by Williamson as "pompous Edwardian Baroque... fussy detail on all the elevations." That would be Literature herself marooned at the top. We're very close to Charing Cross, and this building is visible from the M8 as it traces the western edge of the city center.

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The view from under the dome.

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The library displays this photograph of Andrew Carnegie, who of course helped fund the place. The Glasgow Herald had this to say about the event (September 18, 1907): The constant and variegated demands upon the time of Mr Carnegie, in the capacity of master mason armed with a silver mallet, warder of gold keys which open treasure houses of knowledge, and youngest burgess, limited his opportunities for oratory yesterday... but... Mr Carnegie found time to deliver two brief addresses, each of them hingeing upon the topic which lies nearest his heart, and at the same time very close to his pocket...." Presumably that means he liked libraries and will willing to cough up to build them.

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Turns out, Carnegie gave 100,000 pounds in 1901 for 14 Glasgow Libraries. Half were designed by one architect, James Rhind. This is one of them, the Woodside Library, opened in 1906 just shy of a mile north of the much bigger Mitchell. Andrew Stuart, in North Glasgow, 1998, writes that the Woodside was threatened with closure, but it seems to have beaten the odds.

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Literally a block from the Woodside Library, the Great Western Road begins. It was laid out in the mid-nineteenth century to Loch Lomond. The first couple of miles are dead straight and lined with "terraces," that is, row houses. Most of the terraces have been broken up into apartments. Some, like this one, the imaginatively named Buckingham Terrace, include hotels.

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The Grosvenor Terrace was built in 1858. Parts became a hotel in 1928. The whole place burned down in 1978 but was rebuilt, in its entirely now as the Grosvenor Hotel. Just after the millennium it hoisted the Hilton flag.

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Away from Great Western Road, neighborhoods were less monolithic but not much less boring. Here: Loudon Terrace, with the Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church.

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The most prestigious develoment in the entire city was Woodlands Hill, the brainchild of Charles Wilson (1810-1863). He persuaded the city council in 1851 to spend 100,000 pounds acquiring the Kelvingrove Estate, which flanked the Kelvin River below the river's passage under the Great Western Road. The city would get a large park along the river and would also get its money back by letting Wilson and others develop an affluent neighborhood on the higher portions of the estate. The pinnacle of the property, both topographically and socially, was this: Park Circus.

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Yes, there's a park. Thank goodness it's locked. There's riffraff everywhere.

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Churches were provided, though they've had a hard time as even the affluent turn godless. This was the Free Church College, designed by Wilson and completed in 1857. (Great minds think alike? This one certainly resembles the one at Alexander Thomson's contemporaneous Caledonia Road Church.) The college eventually became a YMCA hostel but has come to its senses and been turned into respectable apartments. The towers behind belonged to the college library and now house an accounting firm.

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Across the street, the White Tower is the only surviving bit of the former Park Church, knocked down in 1968 to make way for an office building..

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We've come back to Park Circus to check out this end property.

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Here's the front door. Not what you were expecting? Darn tootin'.

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Here's that oriel you may have noticed a picture or two back.

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And here's the view from as close to it as a tramp can get. The view is toward a broad flight of stairs. The river's lost in the distance but is less than a mile away. Why the focus on this house, whose interior is reputed to be the most, or among the most opulent in the city? It was designed by Charles Wilson for Walter MacFarlane, who we met in the Necropolis. We'll come back to him again. As for the house, it's had a rough few decades but sold in 2016 for about a million pounds.

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We'll tumble down the stairs.

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Prefer this neighboring one? I'm easy.

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This is what I wanted to see. It's a Hindu temple these days, the Om Hindu Mandir. From 1948 until a few years ago, it was a Christian Science property, but it opened in 1857 as the Queen's Rooms, a public hall designed by Charles Wilson in that busy year of 1857. The frieze was by the equally busy John Mossman, who we last encountered at the statue of David Livingstone. The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, ed. by Francis Groome, 1901, writes that "the frieze is a series of tableaux emblematic of the rise, progress, and culmination of civilization, and over the windows are fine medallions of James Watt, David Hamilton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Flaxman, Handel, Sir Robert Peel, and Burns.... On the frieze of the N front [shown here] Minerva is shown as receiving the homage of figures representing the arts and sciences."

Williamson likes this building a lot. She writes: "It is one of Wilson's most inventive buildings--a classical temple without a portico, freely applied with early Italian Renaissance ideas... bold carving in the deep processional frieze representing the progress of the fine and useful arts. Despite its modest scale, it has enormous presence and its themes are continued on the adjoining tenements."

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We've climbed back up to Park Circus and have headed west to the Kelvingrove Park, those lowlands unsuited to residential development. See that statue? We'll go there, then to the gothic tower in the distance.

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I'm a sucker for these things. This one's the Roberts Memorial, with Victory at the prow of a galley. Is it sly humor to be ennobled as Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford? Perhaps not. Roberts commanded British forces in Ireland in 1895.

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The figure at the other end represents War.

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Behind his back, "Bobs." The same statue, on a simpler base, stands in London's Horse Guards Parade. A third was erected in Calcutta but subsequently moved, reportedly to Nashik.

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Good thing old men die, because this really burned Glasgow's architects, especially Alexander "Greek" Thomson. Did the authorities have to hire a British architect to design the then-new campus of the University of Glasgow? They hired that most prestigious of gothic specialists, George Gilbert Scott,

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The University had formerly been at the city center, not far from the Glasgow Cross. Its campus there was purchased by the North British railroad for 100,000 pounds, which went some distance to creating a new campus on land next to the Kelvingrove Park.

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To add insult to injury, Scott apparently worked from earlier plans by John Baird, the very Scottish architect of Glasgow's Crystal Palace. Who built this thing? English contractors.

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We may as well poke around.

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We're in one of the two courtyards built around the central Bute Hall, behind the tower.

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Do you believe it? A geography department. What a strange concept.

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Scott's building is Victorian; this gatehouse is a fragment of the old campus and dates from the 1600s. Who paid to take it apart and reassemble it as a gatehouse? Sir William Pearce, owner of that shipyard at Govan.

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The gatehouse face the Wellington Church of Scotland, built in 1884 for the United Presbyterian Church. Williamson says that it's dramatic, but facing the gatehouse it looks pretty bland.

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Impressed? Not so much.

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Now this is impressive. It's the Kibble Palace, a "dramatic giant glass mushroom" in Williamson's phrase. It was built in the 1860s for a private owner who couldn't afford to keep it--or more exactly couldn't afford to keep it heated. He offered it to the city , and it was dismantled from its original location at Coulport House, about 25 miles to the west, and reassembled here in 1873. It is a sobering thought that Coulport House is now a storage site for Trident missiles.

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Tree ferns are the specialty. Who did the castings? You know: Walter MacFarlane.

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Almost makes the brutal nineteenth century seem benign.

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Maybe the Glasgow weather helps explain the popularity of these huge greenhouses. This one, about two miles to the east, is the Springburn Winter Garden from 1912. It's been in ruins since at least 1998.

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If we went from the Kibble Palace to the Winter Garden we'd have to cross the lazy Forth and Clyde Canal. It's about 35 miles long and runs from Bowling, on the Clyde, to Grangemouth, on the River Forth. The canal opened in 1790 and died a slow death until the 1960s, when parts of it were taken over for other uses, including the M8. An alternative alignment opened in 2002 and permits recreational boating from coast to coast.

Although the view is bucolic, a little study will suggest that the canal is narrowing here to run across an aqueduct. Indeed it is: this is the top of the River Kelvin Aqueduct.

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Here it is from below.

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Lots of locks.

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A peaceful stretch? Sure, except that the walls hint that the canal is once again crossing something. In this case, it's Possil Road. You can walk down there, but the ground's always damp.

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Industrial Development, circa 1780. It only stands to reason that as the Forth and Clyde Canal passed through Glasgow it should set up an industrial district where canal freight could be processed for local markets; e.g. flour mills, distilleries, textile mills, and foundries. Welcome, Port Dundas, named for the chairman of the canal company, who had already made a boatload of money developing the town (Grangemouth) at the canal's eastern terminus. When the canal died in 1963, so did the lingering mills, which in due course were converted to apartments.

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We're up at noon now and just a mile north of Port Dundas. We're back in Springburn Park, too, where we saw the wrecked greenhouse, but this time we're here for this statue of the manly James Reid of Auchterarder, the boss of one of Glasgow's major locomotive works.

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I really don't think you want to mess with him.

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On the other hand, his locomotive factory is history. So are they all. What's left? Just next to Cosco (the indignity!) there's this.

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Not as grand as it might be or should be, but you take what you get.

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End of the line: we're back at one o'clock, this time about a mile east of the cathedral and at Alexandra Park. The land was barren when purchased in 1866 and was developed as a relief project in the next few years before opening in 1870. The name comes from the wife of the future Edward VII. The park's small but has something interesting. You see it here.

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If I tell you it's the Saracen Fountain, you know who built it, right? We saw his tomb a million pictures ago; it's only a mile away. We also saw one of his little iron kiosks next to the Green.

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Like the Doulton Fountain at the Glasgow Green, this fountain was on display at the city's International Exhibition of 1888 and was later moved here.

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The idea, of course, was to stimulate orders from hither and yon.

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No attempt to internationalize the races on display.

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The maker's calling card was conveniently placed, however.

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Enough leisure poking. Time for a traffic jam on the A 814 approaching the M8 from the west.


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