Historical Research

29 Aug 2011 | Justin Carter - Glasgow, Scotland

I recently carried out some historical research on my site at 193-195 Pitt Street and 24 Bath Street. The entire footprint of this wasteland (2,535 square yards) used to be covered by a single building - Elgin Place Congregational Church, built in 1856 by architect John Burnet at a cost of £10,400. The Church was sold in 1962, and after this time it had various different uses, among them a nightclub known variously as Follies Discoteque and Cardinal Follies Nightclub. In 2004 a fire broke out and the building then had to be demolished. There are various rumours still circulating today regarding the cause of the fire, with a strong suspicion that this was an 'insurance job'.

It appears that the site was actually a vacant site before 1856, so the church was the first formal and permanent building that we know of. However there is evidence that the space was far from empty, or unused as we can see from reading the church records:

'Finally the present site was fixed upon, though many shook their heads at the idea of going so far West. The city had not quite started on it's course of rapid expansion in that direction, and it was considered that Pitt Street was on the very verge or prudence. From Sauchiehall Lane to St. Vincent Street, and from Pitt Street west to Elmbank Street, was then almost wholly an open space. Bath Street, West Regent Street and Jane Street were laid on forced soil, and between their lines were great hollows which were the recreation ground of the youths of the neighbourhood'. Many a rousing game of Rounders was played on the side of Bath Street opposite the Church for years after it was built'. (by R.W. Henry. Chapter taken from ' The Rev. Alex Raleigh and Elgin Place'. 'Memorials of Elgin Place Church'. p55)

You can see from the image below that the building also had a very distinctly black coating, the result of nearly 200 years air pollution. It was in fact one of the few buildings of this period in the city centre never to have been cleaned - an archaeology of city grime!

The first minister of the Church, a Rev. Henry Batchelor was supposed to have been a great orator:

'No superficial spade work for him! His sermons were at times clothed in choice language, rich metaphor and fertile in similie, illuminated by radiance of a dominant passion for the beauties of Nature in Earth and Sea and Sky. Animated by distinctly Wordsworthian emotions, for a primrose by a rivers brim was something more than just a yellow primrose to him, Mr Batchelor seemed to fairly revel in interpreting the word of God through Nature'. (by James Caldwell p110 from the same publication)

It's strange to think that this Nature that Batchelor so admired is now taking over the site again. Stranger still that the Primrose which gave him so much pleasure, can actually be found on the site today!

In 'The Buildings of Scotland' (Williamson, Riches & Higgs) The Building was described as; 'A handsome, blackened Greek revival Temple of impressive simplicity, with a rectangular auditorium fronted by a hexastyle Greek Ionic portico'. (p. 204, Penguin)


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