Glasgow City Chambers

Glasgow City Chambers

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The City Chambers in Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 has functioned as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since 1996, and of preceding forms of civic government in the city since 1889, located on the eastern side of the city's George Square
George Square
George Square is the principal civic square in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. It is named after King George III.-Historical development:George Square was laid out in 1781, part of the innovative Georgian central grid plan that initially spanned from Stockwell Street east to Buchanan Street—which...

. An eminent example of Victorian
Victorian architecture
The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and...

 civic architecture, the building was constructed between 1882 and 1888 to a competition winning design by Glaswegian architect William Young (originally from the nearby town of Paisley).

Inaugurated in August 1888 by Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

, 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
Tolbooth or tollbooth may refer to:* Tolbooth, a traditional Scottish 'town hall' for the administration of burghs, usually providing a council meeting chamber, a court house and a jail.* Toll house, a place where road usage tolls are collected...

 at Glasgow Cross
Glasgow Cross
Glasgow Cross is a major junction in the city centre of Glasgow, which has, at its centre, five streets running from it: the High Street, Gallowgate, London Road, the Saltmarket and the Trongate ....

 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
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green is a park situated in the east end of Glasgow on the north bank of the River Clyde. It is the oldest park in the city dating back to the 15th century.In 1450, King James II granted the land to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow...

. 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
right|thumb|the former Strathclyde regionStrathclyde was one of nine former local government regions of Scotland created by the Local Government Act 1973 and abolished in 1996 by the Local Government etc Act 1994...

 Regional Council in 1975. The City Chambers has been the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since 1996, when it replaced the District Council with the abolition of the Strathclyde Region.


The building is an interpretation of Renaissance Classicism
Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for classical antiquity, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint...

 incorporating Italianate styles
Italianate architecture
The Italianate style of architecture was a distinct 19th-century phase in the history of Classical architecture. In the Italianate style, the models and architectural vocabulary of 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, which had served as inspiration for both Palladianism and...

 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
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, by James Alexander Ewing, included the central Jubilee Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

 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
Golden Jubilee
A Golden Jubilee is a celebration held to mark a 50th anniversary.- In Thailand :King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, celebrated his Golden Jubilee on 9 June 1996.- In the Commonwealth Realms :...

. It depicts Victoria enthroned, surrounded by emblematic figures of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, alongside the colonies of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. 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
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886...

, 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
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 on the floor. The arms reflect legends about Glasgow's patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

, Saint Mungo
Saint Mungo
Saint Mungo is the commonly used name for Saint Kentigern . He was the late 6th century apostle of the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde in modern Scotland, and patron saint and founder of the city of Glasgow.-Name:In Wales and England, this saint is known by his birth and baptismal name Kentigern...

, 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.

Pillars of marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 and granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 give way to staircases of Carrera
Carrera, de la Carrera or Karrera is a surname originated in Venice, Italy. Later, also a Basque surname from Alegría de Oria and Amezketa, in Guipúzcoa . Other references show that is a Castilian surname...

 marble, freestone
A freestone is a stone used in masonry for molding, tracery and other replication work required to be worked with the chisel. The freestone must be fine-grained, uniform and soft enough to be cut easily without shattering or splitting. Some sources say that the stone has no grain, but this is...

, and alabaster
Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals, when used as a material: gypsum and calcite . The former is the alabaster of the present day; generally, the latter is the alabaster of the ancients...

, and a ceiling decorated in gold leaf
Gold leaf
right|thumb|250px|[[Burnishing]] gold leaf with an [[agate]] stone tool, during the water gilding processGold leaf is gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets and is often used for gilding. Gold leaf is available in a wide variety of karats and shades...

 is topped by a stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...


The Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

's Corridor, containing councillors' mailboxes and decorated in Italian faience
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated with Faenza in northern Italy. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip...

, leads to the Committee Rooms, where formal business committees meet, and an impressive library.

The corridor also leads into the Council Chamber. This is where the Council meets formally, and is one of the most impressive rooms in the City Chambers, featuring rich Spanish mahogany
The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany....

 panelling. There are seats for each of the 79 councillors, situated in a Hemicycle, all facing the Lord Provost
Lord Provost
A Lord Provost is the figurative and ceremonial head of one of the principal cities of Scotland. Four cities, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, have the right to appoint a Lord Provost instead of a provost...

 (the Scottish equivalent of the lord mayor
Mayors in the United Kingdom
In England, the office of mayor or lord mayor had long been ceremonial posts, with few or no duties attached to it. A mayor's term of office denotes the municipal year. The most famous example is that of the Lord Mayor of the City of London....

 found in London and other cities), his Depute, and the Chief Executive, who are seated behind the mace
Ceremonial mace
The ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer, intended to represent the official's authority. The mace, as used today, derives from the original mace used as a weapon...

. A public gallery looks down on the proceedings, and a small press gallery is located at the side.

The Lord Provost's main office is decorated in the same Venetian
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 style as the rest of the building. Famous visitors, including the British Royal family
British Royal Family
The British Royal Family is the group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The term is also commonly applied to the same group of people as the relations of the monarch in her or his role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms, thus sometimes at variance with...

 have signed the visitor book here.

The municipal mace is kept in an ante-room leading to the Lord Provost's office. Part of the ritual of the Council's proceedings is that the mace is carried by the Council Officer when leading the Lord Provost into the Council Chamber to chair full council meetings. The mace is made from gold-plated silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, and was presented to the council in 1912.

Adjacent to the Council Chamber, there are three rooms used for civic functions and large meetings: the Satinwood
Satinwood can mean the following:*A name for a wood that can be polished to a high gloss derived from certain species of the flowering plant family Rutaceae:**Chloroxylon swietenia, Ceylon satinwood or East Indian satinwood...

 Salon, Octagonal Room, and Mahogany
The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany....

 Salon. These rooms are decorated in fine woods as their names imply, and also house a selection of fine paintings.

The grandest room in the Chambers is the Banqueting Hall. Its magnificence has impressed heads of state, and it has witnessed many different types of events, from formal civil ones to record launches, fashion shows, children's Christmas parties and private functions. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 received his Freedom of the City
Freedom of the City
Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by some municipalities in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, Gibraltar and Rhodesia to esteemed members of its community and to organisations to be honoured, often for service to the community;...

 here in 1993.

The hall is 33.5 m long by 14.6 m wide and 15.8 m high. The carpet comes in three sections which are rotated regularly to prevent wear. The carpet design reflects the ornate pattern of the roof. Huge Glasgow School
Glasgow School
The Glasgow School was a circle of influential modern artists and designers who began to coalesce in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1870s, and flourished from the 1890s to sometime around 1910. Representative groups were: The Four , the Glasgow Girls and the Glasgow Boys...

 murals decorate the walls, depicting the granting of the city's charter, its history and culture, and the four main Scottish rivers. The hall's electric chandeliers, or "electrolier
Electrolier was the name for a fixture, usually pendent from the ceiling, for holding electric lamps. The word is analogous to chandelier, from which it was formed....

s", were designed in 1885.

The daily tours of the Chambers conclude on the Upper Gallery on the third floor, which lets one see the detail on the beautiful dome visible from the other floors, as well as portraits of former Lord Provosts.

Popular culture

The Chambers were used as part of the location for The House of Mirth
The House of Mirth (2000 film)
The House of Mirth is a 2000 film version of Edith Wharton's 1905 novel The House of Mirth. The film was written and directed by Terence Davies and stars Gillian Anderson.-Plot:...

an adaptation of the novel by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton , was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer.- Early life and marriage:...

 by Terence Davies starring Gillian Anderson
Gillian Anderson
Gillian Leigh Anderson is an American actress.After beginning her career in theatre, Anderson achieved international recognition for her role as Special Agent Dana Scully on the American television series The X-Files. During the show's nine seasons, Anderson won Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen...

 and Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd
Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, CM is a Canadian comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, winemaker and ufologist. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, an originator of The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters and has had a long career as a film actor and screenwriter.-Early...