-Bellahouston Park
-1938 Empire Exhibition

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


Bellahouston Park is big enough to hold very large events, the most important of which was the 1938 Empire Exhibition.

This was held fifty years after the city`s first great exhibition, the 1888 International Exhibition. However, instead of being held when the city`s prospects looked promising, this exhibition took place just after the 1930s Depression and with the real possibility of war uppermost in people`s minds. Although there was great concern about what was happening at home, the exhibition was outward-looking and the British Empire as a body of nations was a recurrent theme. This event covered at least twice the area of the previous exhibitions and was too big for Kelvingrove Park.

There were numerous pavilions, the two largest being the Palaces of Engineering and Industry, and many from the individual countries of the Empire. One of these was the popular South African pavilion which was in Dutch Colonial style, quite out of tune with the very `modernistic` style of all the other buildings. The shadow of rearmament was visible in the pavilions occupied by the armed forces but as a counterbalance there was a Peace Pavilion, although it was tucked away in one of the quieter areas. Other interesting exhibits included the Palace of Art and a Highland village, complete with chief`s castle. The eating facilities included one of the first Indian restaurants in Scotland.

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

At the western end of Bellahouston Hill is the tall granite Exhibition memorial which was unveiled in 1937 by King George VI (1895-1952).

There is a wonderfully wide view from here. In the distance are Glasgow`s western districts and beyond them (and to the north of the River Clyde) are the Kilpatrick Hills.

The exhibition`s architect was Thomas S. Tait and his name is still well-remembered in Glasgow because of the 91m (300 feet) high `Tait`s Tower` (officially, the `Tower of Empire`) which stood on the summit of Bellahouston Hill. Since the hill itself is 52m (170 feet) high, the tower (complete with viewing platform) dominated the whole district and could be seen from 160km (100 miles) away. This was meant to be a permanent structure but in 1939 it was demolished as it would have been an obvious landmark for enemy warplanes; however, its foundations are still extant. The exhibition ran from May to October and attracted over 12½ million visitors, despite the appalling weather that summer.
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