Glasgow City Hall inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1888

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Glasgow Civic Chambers
By David Jennings*

17 January 2010: Dominating George Square, this impressive edifice has functioned as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, and its preceding forms of City government, since its inauguration by Queen Victoria in 1888. Constructed between 1882 and 1888 to designs by the local Paisley-born architect, William Young, the building was intended to express the wealth, importance and confidence of the ‘Second City of the British Empire’. The building has been extended over the years and now provides some 14,000 square metres of office space and function rooms.

Architecturally, the building is an excellent example of Civic Baroque, incorporating the Italianate styles which Young had seen during time spent in Italy. Externally, the symmetrical main façade comprises a large pediment with wings and flanking towers, with a tall, central bell tower set further back. The exterior is generously decorated with reliefs and statuary by James Alexander Ewing: the central pediment decoration celebrates Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and depicts here seated amidst figures representing the countries of the United Kingdom and the British Empire.

The interior is more than a match for the exterior, and features one of the most opulent civic decorative schemes in Britain. The main central entrance loggia has impressive granite columns, a mosaic floor and an elaborate mosaic ceiling. This leads to the main staircase, one the building’s showpieces, built from white Carrera Marble: it is reputedly the largest marble staircase in the world.

This leads to the Councillor's Corridor, decorated in Italian faience, which provides access to the Committee Rooms, where formal business committees meet, an impressive library, and the Council Chamber. Adjacent to the Council Chamber, there are three rooms used for civic functions and large meetings: the Satinwood Salon, Octagonal Room, and Mahogany Salon. These rooms are decorated in fine woods (as their names suggest), and also house a selection of fine paintings.

The principal room in the Chambers is the Banqueting Hall, 16m in height, 25m long and 12m wide. This can seat up to 300 and is used for State Banquets and other formal events, as well as private functions. The walls are decorated by paintings and murals from the Glasgow School which depict scenes from the city's history and culture, with ornate stained glass windows. The building was one of the first in the UK to be lit throughout by electricity, and the Hall's three huge electric chandeliers designed in 1885.

There are free daily tours during weekdays: Further information on these is available from the City Chambers Duty Manager on 0141 287 4018.

* David Jennings is an independent management consultant working on policy and strategy development and stakeholder engagement, including government and business relationship management. He is an Associate of Indepen and Achill Management

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