Kelvingrove Park Heritage Walk

by Gordon Urquhart

The Friends of Kelvingrove Park would like to express our thanks to Gordon Urquhart and Awards for All for making possible the Heritage Walk leaflet & map. Please or join the Friends if you would like a paper copy, including A4-sized map, sent out to you.

(The numbers below correspond to the map shown above-right - also see our Interactive Map of Kelvingrove Park)


1. Park Gardens Staircase

Architect Charles Wilson's grand entrance to his Park Circus development was originally planned for the westerly Park Gate entrance to Kelvingrove, as part of an axial route leading down to a proposed new bridge over the river. For some unknown reason, in Wilson's revised scheme of 1855 the staircase was relocated to a less prominent site at Park Gardens. Constructed of grey Bonawe granite from Argyll, Wilson's imposing staircase and balustrades are reputed to have cost a staggering £10,000. Unfortunately, this exorbitant sum forced the omission of planned statues on the main piers.

2. Port Sunlight Cottages

The so-called Port Sunlight Cottages are rare surviving relics from the series of Great Exhibitions held in Kelvingrove Park in 1888, 1901 and 1911. These rambling, asymmetrical cottages were constructed in 1901 as replicas of the model housing constructed on Merseyside for the Lever Brothers' Sunlight Soap workers. Designed in an idealised Elizabethan half-timbered style by Exhibition Architect James Miller, the houses are picturesquely sited high above the Kelvin. Donated to the city of Glasgow by Lord Leverhulme after the close of the Exhibition, the cottages have been used as park workers' housing ever since.

3. Kelvingrove Bandstand

Once a common feature, traditional bandstands are now increasingly scarce in Glasgow's Victorian parks. Kelvingrove's bandstand dates from 1924-5, and was the third built in the park (its predecessors having been built for the 1901 and 1911 Exhibitions). Designed in-house by the City Parks Department, the bandstand is unusual for its amphitheatre seating and its picturesque riverside setting. Although exceedingly popular for band concerts through the 1950s and ‘60s, the bandstand fell into disuse in recent years and consent was given to demolish and redevelop the site in the 1990s. Now recognised as a rare example of its type, the Kelvingrove Bandstand was listed as Category B in 2000 and is now the subject of an ambitious community-based scheme to restore and revitalise the facility as a venue for a wide range of open-air performances and events.

More on this page about the Bandstand


4. Snow Bridge

The Snow Bridge, built around 1800 as part of the new turnpike from Glasgow to Yoker, is probably the oldest surviving river crossing downstream from the Kelvin Aqueduct at Maryhill. Constructed in local cream sandstone (now ivy-clad), this simple structure has three arches over the river and another, smaller arch over the old Bunhouse Mill lade. It has long been known as the Snow Bridge due to its central gates in the parapet railings that enabled cleansing carts to dump snow into the river after heavy storms. Due to the tight curves of the approaches off Dumbarton Road, the bridge was deemed unsuitable for the new tram network implemented in the 1870s. Thus it was soon superseded by Partick Bridge (built in 1878) and relegated to pedestrian use within the new Kelvingrove Park.

5. Prince of Wales Bridge

In 1868, a timber bridge — painted to resemble stone — was constructed on this site by City Architect James Carrick to carry the future King Edward VIII and his Royal Procession over the Kelvin on the way to lay the foundation stone of the new University buildings on Gilmorehill. This original “temporary” bridge survived for a quarter century until it was replaced by the splendid red sandstone and granite crossing of 1894-95. Designed by City Engineer Alex B McDonald, the new “Prince of Wales Bridge” has a single elliptical arch spanning 12 metres over the Kelvin flanked by the city's coat of arms carved in the spandrels. Atop the Peterhead granite balustrades are the remnants of elaborate cast iron lamp brackets.

6. Kelvin Way Bridge

Of all the many crossings of the Kelvin, this bridge has the most chequered history. City Engineer A B McDonald's single-arch red sandstone bridge was completed in 1914, the same year in which sculptor Paul Raphael Montford won a competition to produce allegorical figures for the four corners of the parapet. The outbreak of war, however, not only led to delays in the production of the bronze sculptures, but also increased the cost of the works. Over the next seven years, the artist and the City Corporation — which had harboured doubts about the cost of ornamental statuary long before the bridge was built — bickered over the overall budget, the many delays and the release of fees. Ultimately, the figures — representing Peace and War (NE), Philosophy and Inspiration (NW), Navigation and Shipbuilding (SE) and Commerce and Industry (SW) — were unveiled in the summer of 1926 to much critical acclaim. In March 1941, however, the bridge was badly damaged by a landmine during the Clydebank Blitz, with two figure groups (including “Peace and War”!) falling into the river. There they remained until 1949, when the City salvaged them and had them restored by the famed sculptor Benno Schotz. Curiously, fragments remained undiscovered in the Kelvin until a dry summer in 1991 when low water levels allowed two broken arms (including one from “War”) to be spotted and “rescued” by passers-by.


7. Bengal Tigress

It is interesting to note that this work, the first statue installed in Kelvingrove Park, is not unique to Glasgow. Auguste-Nicolas Cain's “Bengal Tigress” (also known as “Tigress and Cubs,” “Tigress and Peacock” and the “Kennedy Monument”), which stands atop a red granite pedestal designed by John Mossman, was unveiled in the park in 1867 — the same year in which a copy was donated to Central Park in New York City. Kelvingrove's version was the gift of a son of Glasgow, John Stewart Kennedy, who had immigrated to New York and made his fortune. Whilst on a visit to Paris in 1866, Kennedy visited Cain's studio and was so impressed by this work in progress (for the 1867 Paris Exhibition) that he ordered a copy for his native city and donated it to the Corporation. It is possible that Kennedy was one of the so-called “other citizens” who, along with the lead benefactor, famed telegraph inventor Samuel Morse, jointly sponsored the gift to Central Park. Today it sits, not on a tall pedestal but at ground level, in the Central Park Zoo. There is also a copy — perhaps Cain's original — in Les Jardins Tuileries in Paris.

More on this page about the Bengal Tigress

8. Stewart Memorial Fountain

In 1870, 27-year old architect James Sellars beat off seventy-five submissions to win an international competition to produce a monument to the late Lord Provost Robert Stewart, the man deemed most responsible for establishing Glasgow's first permanent supply of fresh water from Loch Katrine. Built in 1871-2 of granite, sandstone, marble and bronze, this flamboyant French-Scottish Gothic structure commemorates the event with abundant imagery of the Trossachs taken from Sir Walter Scott's narrative poem, “The Lady of the Lake.” The Lady herself, originally gilt, stands atop the central clustered column. Although very much an early masterpiece of the young Sellars, substantial credit for this gloriously ornate structure must also be given to local sculptors John Mossman and James Young. Their combined artistic talents produced what, as The Building News noted at the time, was “the subject of universal admiration.” The years, however, have not been kind to the Stewart Memorial, and after a long period of neglect and disuse, the site was the subject of a major restoration scheme in 1988. After a couple of years of renewed activity, problems with pipework and incessant vandalism led to the closing down of the fountain. At present, its future is sadly unclear.

More on this page about the Fountain

9. Highland Light Infantry Memorial

Leading Scots sculptor William Birnie Rhind was responsible for this 1906 naturalistic memorial to the HLI soldiers who died on various South African campaigns at the start of the 20th century. Rhind was best known for work in his native Edinburgh (in Princes Street Gardens, in St Giles, and on the facades of the Scotsman, Jenners and Portrait Gallery buildings), but also had commissions as far away as Australia and Canada. His interpretation of an infantryman clambering over a rock was the first of several dynamic military monuments in Kelvingrove Park (although it was first proposed to be situated in Glasgow Green).

10. Lord Kelvin Monument

Dedicated to Sir William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, perhaps the most celebrated scientist and academic of his generation, this bronze monument was undertaken by Archibald Macfarlane Shannan shortly after the great man's death in 1908. William Thomson moved from his native Belfast when his father became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow. He himself enrolled in the university at age ten, became Professor of Natural Philosophy (now Physics) at 22, and was knighted for his achievements at 44. In a career lasting more than fifty years, the prolific Lord Kelvin not only developed important thermodynamic and electrodynamic theories, but also applied his inventive mind to practical inventions such as the design of a marine compass and other instruments, the development of the first transatlantic cable and early applications of electricity. Lord Kelvin held more than fifty patents, published widely, and received a raft of awards and honours, though is perhaps best remembered for determining the temperature of Absolute Zero, now known as the Kelvin Scale. He was buried in Westminster Abbey (between Newton and Darwin!).

11. Lord Roberts Monument

Unveiled in 1916 on a prominent site opposite Park Gate, this stirring bronze sculpture by Harry Bates commemorates Field Marshall Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford (to give him his full title), leader of a number of Imperial campaigns. Considered to be the finest equestrian statue of its day, it is an exact replica of a memorial to Roberts unveiled in Calcutta in 1898. The Glasgow version is mounted atop a tall granite plinth that is decorated with Corinthian columns at the corners, representations of “Victory” (poised at the front) and “War” (sitting at the rear), and a bronze frieze around the top that illustrates Roberts' march through Afghanistan. Sitting astride his Arab charger, “Volonel,” Roberts now commands a superb view over the University and beyond.

12. Carlyle Monument

Across the Prince of Wales Bridge from the anonymous soldier of the HLI, stands one of Victorian Scotland's greatest men of letters, Thomas Carlyle. Sculpted out of three massive blocks of grey granite by Glasgow artist William Kellock Brown, this unusual bust has Carlyle's head, shoulders and arms emerging nobly from the coarsely cleft stone. Although the Dumfriesshire-born and Chelsea-based writer died in 1881, it was not until 1911 that the memorial was commissioned (and was not unveiled for another five years). Carlyle was one of 19th-century Britain's most influential writers and commentators, best known for his translations of the German Romantics, his history of the French Revolution, his biographies of Cromwell and Frederick the Great, and his essays on Chartism and the Reform Act. Apparently he had no particular link with Glasgow other than his portrait by Whistler, whose purchase by the City Corporation became a major turning point in the struggling artist's career (and a major factor for the bequest of the bulk of the Whistler estate to the University of Glasgow many years later). Unfortunately, petty vandalism has been a persistent problem for many of Kelvingrove's fine monuments; over the past decade or so, Carlyle's granite nose has been hacked off and repaired on numerous occasions.

13. Lord Lister Monument

Seated alongside Lord Kelvin is a bronze monument to Lord Lister, the Essex-born surgeon and professor whose research into antiseptic systems revolutionised medicine around the world. In his attempts to prevent bacterial infections during surgery, Lister's work showed that carbolic acid (a derivative of benzene) could adequately disinfect tools and instruments. Although ridiculed at first, eventually his ideas caught on and soon mortality rates in hospitals dropped by fifty percent. Lister was primarily based in Edinburgh and London during his long career, but it was during his tenure as Professor of Surgery at the University of Glasgow during the 1860s that he undertook his first experiments with carbolic acid. When the idea of a memorial to Lister was first mooted after his death in 1912, there were suggestions that a museum displaying his old equipment in the Royal Infirmary might be a fitting tribute. The outbreak of war and the subsequent lack of support from the Infirmary managers led to a revised proposal of a simple statue, to be cast in bronze by Scots sculptor George Henry Paulin. The representation of a vibrant Lister, seated atop a grey granite pedestal, was finally unveiled in September 1924.

14. Cameronian Rifles Memorial

The last of the three major war memorials in Kelvingrove Park, this monument to the Cameronians regiment (also known as the Scottish Rifles) is also the most expressive. The use of a vivid and poignant representation of a soldier “advancing over the top,” flanked by a Lewis Gunner and the body of a fallen comrade, is not surprising when one considers that the sculptor, Paul Lindsey Clark, was a decorated captain in the First World War. Field Marshall Earl Haig unveiled the memorial in 1924, and the inscription was amended in 1947 to commemorate the regiment's losses in the Second World War. The Cameronians had been formed as Lanarkshire's county regiment in 1881 and its last Regular unit was finally disbanded in 1968.

15. An Clachan Memorial

Perhaps the simplest and most unusual monument in Kelvingrove Park is the inscribed boulder commemorating “An Clachan,” one of the most popular displays from the 1911 Scottish National Exhibition. The three-acre “Highland Village” alongside the Kelvin was filled with blackhouses and but-and-ben cottages (complete with peat-burning fires) and was populated by Gaelic-speaking pipers and cotton-spinners, all assembled to depict the primitive — yet still extant — traditions of Highland life. Like the rest of the Exhibition, the structures of An Clachan were merely lath and plaster and thus were not intended to survive beyond the end of the season. Today, the memorial boulder is the sole relic of Kelvingrove's last Great Exhibition.

See a photo of An Clachan on this page

Further Reading

Boyce, D., Bridges of the Kelvin , 1996

Kinchin, P. and Kinchin, J., Glasgow's Great Exhibitions , 1988

C. McKean et al, Central Glasgow: An Illustrated Architectural Guide, 1990

McKenzie, R., Public Sculpture of Glasgow , 2002

Sinclair, F. ed., Charles Wilson Architect , 1995

Urquhart, G. R., Along Great Western Road , 2000

Williams, D., The Glasgow Guide , 1999

Williamson et al, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow , 1990