- Merchants` House

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


The city`s Merchants` House formed an influential body which played a pivotal role in helping Glasgow become `The Second City`.

Founded in the seventeenth century, it campaigned for the deepening of the River Clyde and helped recruit troops to quell the `rebellion` in America (to safeguard the important tobacco trade). It also had an important role in local government as the organisation was entitled to a great number of seats on the city`s council. Although most of these privileges were swept away in 1832, the last vestiges of their tenure in the City Chambers ended only in 1975.

The Merchants` House Buildings (1874, John Burnet) stand at the corner of George Square but the main entrance is at 7 West George Street. One storey above this entrance is a sculpture featuring a pair of female figures on either side of a sailing ship which is atop a globe. The engraved phrase Toties redeuntes eodem (`So often returning to the same place`) is the Merchants` House motto. A series of faces decorate the ground floor windows` keystones, and the first floor oriel windows are supported by pairs of straining figures, looking very much like ships` figureheads. The top two storeys, added in 1907-9 by J. J. Burnet, are topped by a domed tower on which is perched a ship on a globe, symbolizing the worldwide trade in which the merchants were involved; this is similar to the sculpture on the Merchants` Steeple. With a pair of binoculars, it is possible to see the rather alarming angle at which the Earth`s axis is placed! As befits the gathering-place of the city`s merchants, the interior decoration is very fine, especially in the tall and elegant Merchants` Hall.

The Merchants` House founded the Glasgow Necropolis, the city`s most famous graveyard, and their emblem appears on its elaborate entrance gates.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

The Merchants` House Buildings (1874, John Burnet) stand at the corner of George Square.

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