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Visiting the Main Building of Glasgow University, Glasgow, Scotland: 1886 Gothic Revival by Sir George Gilbert Scott

Updated on February 11, 2014
Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland | Source
The University of Glasgow, main building and tower, Scotland
The University of Glasgow, main building and tower, Scotland | Source
University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove
University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove | Source
Glasgow University tower
Glasgow University tower | Source

Pinnacled splendour recalling a huge, Medieval monastery

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the oldest of the city's four universities. Its most well-known feature is its Main Building, and tower, overlooking lush Kelvingrove Park. Glasgow University began its move to its current Kelvingrove site in 1870; the Main Building was completed in 1886.

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878)(1), the Main Building strongly evidences the influence of Gothic Revival style. As may expected in an interpretation of this popular style in the 19th century, there is a profusion of features such as pinnacles, flying buttresses and pointed arched windows.

I have supplied a close-up photo of the building, where its Gothic features are clearly seen, although its angle it does not quite do justice to the elevated situation of the building in relation to nearby Kelvingrove Park; I have also thus supplied a view from a distance.

The Main Building's tower is 85 metres tall, and looks even higher because of the structure's elevated position. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott died prior to the completion of the building, and the conspicuous tower and spire are the work of his son John Oldrid Scott (2).

I think the totality of the Main Building's design is reminiscent of a huge, Medieval monastery. Given the University's late Medieval origins, this is perhaps stylistically in some ways not inappropriate. Interestingly, women were first admitted to Glasgow University in 1892 (3), thus several years into the Main Building's existence. However, the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women, led by Jessie Campbell, LLD (Glasgow), 1901, and others, had been active from 1868 in the provision of university-level lectures.

Other, distinguished, scholarly figures associated with Glasgow University have included surgeon Lord Lister, physicist Lord Kelvin, economist Adam Smith and engineer James Watt, among many others.

February 11, 2014


(1) Other works by the prolific Sir George Gilbert Scott include the Albert Memorial and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, the Old Schools, Cambridge University, St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, and many others. He was strongly associated with Gothic Revival style.

See also:

(2) See also:

Architect John Oldrid Scott (1841-1913) was also responsible for the designs of many church buildings, including considerable restoration work on Hereford and St Albans Cathedrals.

(3) See also:

Map location of Glasgow, Scotland
Map location of Glasgow, Scotland | Source

Also worth seeing

The other outstanding historical and cultural sites worth visiting in Glasgow are too many to mention here, but a few of these include St Mungo's Cathedral , dating from the 13th century; the opulent City Chambers building, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which is a popular visitor attraction housed in an impressive Spanish Baroque building, opened in 1901.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Glasgow Airport, where car rental is available. However, travellers may prefer to use bus services or rail links into Glasgow City Centre. You are advised that facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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