- history
- the late Victorian period

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


The city`s heyday was in the late Victorian period. By that time, Glasgow had built up an enormously powerful industrial and commercial base and was able to sell `high-tech` manufactured goods all over the world; in addition, these exports (from steel nails to massive railway locomotives) were transported abroad in Clyde-built ships and the financial and insurance arrangements were often made by Glasgow banks and insurance companies. Glasgow was now `The Second City of the Empire` and since Britain was at that time the greatest imperialist power the world had ever seen, many Glaswegians saw themselves as citizens of the second most important city in the world.

The Victorians were brimful with confidence. They had found success in manufacturing and trading, they had conquered much of the world and they celebrated their achievements by erecting often ostentatious buildings in which to work, live and meet. The glories of ancient empires were recalled through the prominent statuary on the bigger buildings. The City Chambers in George Square, the Clyde Navigation Trust at Broomielaw (see picture) and the St Andrew`s Halls near Charing Cross are all well-known buildings which are decorated with large statues depicting Greek gods as well as other Classical statues representing the Arts, Sciences and the achievements of Glasgow and the British Empire. The leading citizens saw Glasgow as a city with a very international perspective and this was reflected in two major events: the 1888 International Exhibition and the 1901 International Exhibition, both of which were held in Kelvingrove Park.

In the late-Victorian period the city`s middle class had never had it so good; they lived in substantial stone houses, they had leisure time to enjoy and well-stocked `warehouses` (department stores) in which to buy the luxuries that others could only dream about. Some of these large shops, such as Wylie & Lochhead in Buchanan Street, stocked high-quality goods from all around the world but many of their expensive household goods, such as furniture and carpets were made either by themselves or by other Scottish manufacturers. These firms were involved in making furnishings for the luxury ships which were built on the Clyde and they used this expertise to be able to supply customers with the contents of complete dining rooms or parlours, no matter whether the purchaser lived in Glasgow or wanted to have everything shipped abroad to some far-flung corner of the Empire.

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

The Clyde Navigation Trust Buildings were built beside the Clyde and dominated the quays and the many ships that tied up alongside. The Trust was one of the most influential bodies in the city and these headquarters emphasised their importance.
Next history article:
The twentieth century
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The nineteenth-century expansion
List of history articles:
History of Glasgow

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