Glasgow is an interesting mosaic of cultural heritage. From former boroughs and merchant mansions to roaring industry, there are plenty of museums and blogs dedicated to its kaleidoscopic past.
Although the city’s skyline has had a dramatic makeover in the past two decades, which has seen old factories make way for a regenerated image of cosmopolitan coffee shops and community hubs, many features of old Glasgow still remain in the strangest of places.
Sit back and let us take you through a virtual tour of the hottest of Glasgow’s hidden relics; from the more obvious trendy, reclaimed shop fronts and venues to hidden dilapidated gems still intact from days gone by.
Opened in 1912, Govanhill Baths is the oldest surviving Edwardian bathhouse in Glasgow. This B listed building provided vital amenities for the community in the early 20th century, providing water and wash rooms in days where overcrowding caused many problems in the city’s industrial areas.
Closed in 2001 after discussions the swimming pool had lost its necessity, the community rallied together to save the baths. It is now thriving as a main player on Glasgow’s theatre and arts scene, with regular performances and events happening throughout the year. The best part is that old and new go hand in hand, with old signs and decor lingering within the venue.
It’s been running since 1938, was rebuilt after a fire in the late 50s, and the bouncy floors and bright stars lining the ceiling continue to charm the pants off everyone who enters. Designed to be one of Glasgow’s pivotal dancehalls, it was the scene of many Saturday night socials, and is still one of the best known gig venues and markets in Scotland. Many music fans argue that it has the best acoustics and atmosphere for gigs, and its iconic, star spangled sign is deeply ingrained in the hearts of Glaswegians. Artists’ collectives have moved in alongside traders by day, and by night it’s (almost literally) bouncing.
If you’re interested in finding out who’s played here, Jim Lambie’s 2014 art installation just down the road at Glasgow Cross is a pretty eye-catching timeline.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Arguably Glasgow’s best known architect, Rennie Mack is everywhere, from the breathtaking Glasgow School of Art to House For an Art Lover.
Each experience in a Rennie Mackintosh building is like a decadent step out of time. Scotland St School Museum is free to enter, has a school uniform dress up box, and these windows. They’re something else.
Alexander “Greek” Thomson
Not as appreciated in his time as he has been in his legacy, Alexander Thomson’s Greek, Egyptian and Classical style can be seen on the facades of tenements, warehouses and one of his remaining churches on the Gorbals.
There are always statues staring down at you
It’s worth looking up – Glasgow is an architectural feast for yer eyes. A saint here, a medical pioneer there, the faces of scientists and scholars etched into buildings from Govan to Kelvingrove. They’re always watching.
The trolley buses were a firm feature of Glasgow’s transport in the first half of the 20th century. Although Glasgow hasn’t followed in Edinburgh’s footsteps by reintroducing the tram service, you can still see hooks on old tenements where the electric cables ran, and some of the remaining vehicles are kept in the Riverside Museum.
Stripped down, old fashioned shop signage has become the benchmark of cool, with many new pubs and cafes across the city leaving their frontage alone after renovation has revealed an old sign. This is basically what Argyle St in Finnieston looks like, circa 2015:
Some shops are like stepping out of time altogether:
Street signs and corporation throwbacks
Faded gold fonts on the sides of mansions, flaking paint, and a rain battered Coat of Arms on the sides of old street lamps. Remnants of what the city used to look like are everywhere, in its grandiose Georgian corners and brutalist features long overlooked.
Cigarette vending machines
It used to be a familiar sight – cigarette vending boxes on the street and Benson and Hedges billboards looming prominently from the roadside. Cigarette sales and their advertising have undergone massive changes over the years, but the boxes remain on the sides of many newsagents across the city.
The first signs of global advertising are still visible on the sides of old Glasgow gable ends and buildings today. We’re open to suggestions to what the faded ‘red’ font may be from – Red Stripe, perhaps?
There are thousands of people living in tenements in Glasgow, so visiting one isn’t exactly big news if you’re a resident. So to give you the full time machine experience, Tenement House have decked their flat out in decor from the early 20th century. To be fair, a lot of this stuff now turns up in charity shops and bars across the city, but this place is run by The National Trust and well worth a visit.
In the old days, tenements were put in leagues of how “posh” they were based on how clean the hallway (close) was, what type of stone they were built with, a quality cornice and – the icing on the cake – if the close was tiled. If it was, you were high society. Bonus points for art nouveau floral designs.
The byres of Byres Road
Formerly known as Victoria Road (before Glasgow got so big it had four Victoria Road’s), the “Bishop’s Byres” of Byres Road were sheds and stables for horses. Now best known for being a fashionable area of Glasgow’s west end, the Byres – particularly in Ruthven Lane – are threatened by potential developers, but stand their ground and continue to operate as popular shops and restaurants.
Living out its origins as a fruit market in the centre of Glasgow, the fruit market moved over to Blochairn in the sixties, and still remains one of Scotland’s biggest indoor markets today. It doesn’t take long to discover attic treasures and much of it has an old school boot sale vibe.
Glasgow was one of many cities in the UK to have police call boxes installed. They’re a more simplified version of the TARDIS – sorry, London’s police boxes – and a few remain after preservation trusts voted to keep a few for heritage purposes in Glasgow in the 20th century. There was a public outcry when one was painted green on Buchanan Street, but the tourists are still all over TARDIS selfies.
Most of Glasgow’s old Victorian public toilets are boarded up, and all you can see from street level are the old ‘Ladies and Gents’ signs. They are, however, prime targets for the next cafe craze, potentially destined to follow in the footsteps of their TARDIS pals, and in a creepy turn of events, part of a zombie chase game was held within a derelict public toilet in 2012. Not a place you’d like to be locked up in.
They were once an example of what people thought the future was going to look like – stacked tall, minimalist, block colours, bold – the architecture of the later half of the 20th century was abundant in Glasgow. Although many of the schemes have been knocked down and replaced with new houses – the circle of life – there are still loads of areas both within the city centre and out where you can will see Brutalist architecture, yet another texture in Glasgow’s timeline.
People were well known for breeding racing pigeons in Glasgow throughout the years. Hidden in plain sight, the coops can be seen along quiet cycle paths, old railway lines and near the canal. Some are still used to breed pigeons today.
Many are now disused, but still remain on the skyline.
Mr Happy was Glasgow’s newly adopted in the city in the late 80s – a symbol of optimism in the face of post industrialism, poverty and of shedding the gritty image Glasgow had previously been famed for. Once seen greeting people from posters on the water towers and from bins, Mr Happy lives on as an emblem on bags and postcards.
The old music hall is lovingly cared for by the Panopticon Trust, and left largely as it was which makes for some seriously eerie time travelling. The world’s oldest surviving music hall hosts markets and fundraisers at the weekend, and events hosted in here have the most amazing backdrop, complete with a decaying stage, haunting surroundings, low lights and Votes for Women banners hanging from mannequins.
Biology dept, Glasgow Uni
The Museum of Anatomy at Glasgow University is like stepping into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – that fevered period of science when people were studying the human body and…pickling parts of it. Yeah. Awesome if that’s your type of thing, but not for the faint of heart.
Old Glasgow buses
A few newsagents in Glasgow still have old signs for bus tokens hanging immaculately outside their door. But Trans Europe Cafe has gone one further and decked out their cafe in old bus seats and maps!
20p glass bottles are at the end of an era
Collecting a few of your mum’s “ginger” bottles and exchanging them for a whole pound or two was pivotal to your early development, a rites of passage. And now they’ve taken it away from us. Recycling plastic bottles isn’t the same, and we all know everything tastes better out a glass bottle…especially when you’re getting money back.
They were all the rage in the 80s.
Old abandoned railway stations
There’s a part in Botanic Gardens where you look down into the abyss to see green moss creeping up the walls and the remnants of an old railway station in the depths. Abandoned underground tunnels run from Kirklee through the Botanics and over towards Yorkhill. Sounds like it’s good for an explore, but it’s impossible to get in, and if you try you will absolutely need a torch and a confident navigator in your group. Be safe!
The South Rotunda used to match with its’ northern counterpart, and it was the site of the original Clyde Tunnel. It has largely been abandoned for the past few years, but with the 21st century bringing the media hub to Clydeside, plans to regenerate are imminent.
Established in 1797, Sloans has a ballroom, a tearoom, film nights, markets at the weekend, a beer garden, and one of the best plates of Mac and Cheese you’ll ever have. It feels like you’re on the first class deck of a ship when you’re upstairs – even the ladies’ toilet is called “the powder room”.
Schools, hospitals, municipal halls – Glasgow is hoaching with abandoned buildings. Urban explorationn is a nice hobby, and many people who do it are careful of glass, rats, mould, asbestos, floors caving in – it’s something you need to do your research in, and can even look into asking permission from the building owner. Nevertheless, urban explorers happily share their pictures with everyone, and there’s something quite humbling about being in a building that has trees sprouting out the windows.
Whether a stroll around the west end or an adventure on the outskirts of the city are your bag, there are no shortage of places in Glasgow to see the many layers of its cultural history.
Main image: Lis Ferla / Flickr / CC