The years after 1837 which saw the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne is known as the Victorian era. Believed to one of the most prosperous eras for the country of Scotland, the latter half of the 19th century saw Scotland getting prosperous day by day. This era in the pages of Scottish history left such an ineffaceable mark on the city of Glasgow and even earned it the tag “the second city of the Empire” (i.e. the British Empire which covered almost a quarter of the world then).
The Victorian era saw Scotland witnessing several developmentalactivities. With the advent of the railways, distances were shortened and the Highlands and Trossachs became popular tourist spots among the
rich. In the whole of Scotland, it was the city of Glasgow whichbenefitted the most. Glasgow was the centre of development and was even designed as a centre of commerce in the likes of famous American
cities like New York. The grid plan of the city centre which took form then still remains the street’s layout today.
The architecture of places like Patrick, sited in the west of Glasgow is proof to how conscious the Victorian society was about class hierarchy. The architecture here saw individual villas nestled at the
top of the hill (this was where bankers, merchants and industrialists resided). The housing below mirrored the social pecking order. Houses with terraces belonged to the professional classes while fine
tenements were meant for skilled workers. No-frills housing blocks were meant for laborers’. The substantially unequal distribution of wealth was reflected in the magnificent mansions in Glasgow’s west end
which stood in contrast to the closes of the Saltmarket, High Street and Gallowgate areas in the East End.
With the Industrial revolution gripping the entire city, themanufacture of chemicals, cotton and textiles, paper glass and soap soared high and the workforce constituted of immigrants from the
Highlands in the 1820s and later from Ireland in the 1840s (of which almost one third was employed by the cotton industry alone). The era also saw a huge rise in the Glaswegian population from a quarter of a
million at the start of Victoria’s reign to 760,000 at the end of hersovereignty.
The year 1859 saw the inauguration of the Loch Katrine Scheme by the Queen which solved the water problem the city was facing. The city which soon became equipped with all the other facilities including gas
supply, slum clearance, tramways, libraries, public lighting, art galleries, museums and parks made Glasgow the city to have the highest number of municipal services (when compared to other cities of the
same size) by the 1890s. The two grand Exhibitions of 1881 and 1901, held in Kelvingrove Park showcased the splendor of the city and proved beyond doubt that Glasgow was indeed the “Second City of the Empire”.
The Kibble Palace which covers an area of 2137 sq m thus making it one of the largest glasshouses in Britain today, dates back to the Victorian era. The glasshouse boasts of a marvellous collection of
tree ferns collected from all over the world. It was in the year 1841 that the Kibble Palace which takes pride of place in the famed Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens moved to its present site from the Sauchiehall Street.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which is home to one of Europe’s great civic art collections also dates back to the Victorian era as it was bought by the city council in 1852 from Provost Patrick
Colquhoun’s Kelvingrove House Estate. The Tenement House, Garnethill and the St Vincent Street Church, built in 1859 are the famous Victorian buildings which speak stories about the bygone era. In fact
the era is credited with the wealth of the Victorian architecture it gifted the city. There were numerous architects who contributed but the foremost among them was Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875)