The Jacobean Corsetry: New Town

All Roads lead to Rome

When The Virginia Mansion was built it was ‘perfectly out of town’. By the time George Oswald of Scotstoun was it’s latest custodian the city fathers were at an advanced stage of laying the groundwork to create a new town befitting their city’s new found wealth. The foundation of ‘the second city of empire’ was just being laid.

Axial Approaches

In Architecture of Glasgow (2nd ed. 1987) by ‘Gomme & Walker’ p54 states, “A feature particularly notable… of this period is the series of axial approaches to important buildings, which thus gain some formal dignity.” They then go on to list the following buildings (dates of both building and Street are added by myself.)

Table 1

In addition to the streets Gomme & Walker list you have the following mentioned in other text:

Table 2

The only street I do not come across in the literature as being ‘capped’ axially is Wilson Street. Which is strange as The Glasgow Story website talk about it being central to the new town design.

Table 3

“The ethos of that first New Town was that it felt wholly enclosed, its streets being terminated by civic buildings axially facing down them with a broader, weather-protected space (Wilson Street) at its heart”.

Why would you need to ‘enclose’ something that was already enclosed? Was the narrowing of Wilson Street at its eastern & western extremities an attempt to bring symmetry & harmony to how it was enclosed? A use of forced perspective to ‘lengthen’ the street seems to suggest a degree of thought did go in to its construction. A device already employed in garden design. And not just any garden but that of André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), gardner to The Sun King.

However, that was in the future. When Wilson St was originally projected(circa1790) it had a destination. It must have done because Virginia Street & the Shawfield Mansion garden already blocked it’s progress west. The narrowing of Wilson Street on the western flank did not happen until 1801 some 11 years later. Therefore, Wilson Street would have needed to terminate at an appropriate destination as every other street in the New Town. What could be better than the home of the future Rector of Glasgow University, soon to be the home of the future Lord Provost? But that was not the original intent.

The unbuilt land east of Hutcheson Street was bought from the council by Robert Smith Jnr on condition,  dated April 1790, that  ‘A public street between Ingram  Street and Trongate to be called Brunswick Street and another public street from Hutcheson Street  to Candleriggs Street to be called Wilson Street’  Renwick p663 1913.

It would appear the original intent was for Wilson Street to terminate at Hutcheson Street.  Blocked by the Shawfield garden. (Fleming’s map of 1808 reflects Wilson Street terminating at Glassford Street) But with Glassford Street projected 1793 it facilitated the expansion of Wilson Street into Virginia Street.  Was it chance that it terminated at The Jacobean?  Did the then owners of The Jacobean influence the projection through to Virginia Street to maintain their open vista east along the newly projected Wilson Street? Or did our civic leaders recognise the potential for extending Wilson Street through the gardens of the Shawfield mansion at some later date?

Early Plans

Given the duration between McArthur’s map of 1778 & Fleming’s of 1807 I decided to explore if any plans in the intervening period captured anything I’d missed. These were:

  • 1782: James Barrie Plan of the city.  It clearly shows a larger property on Spiers plot than the neighbour to the south & captures the distinct profile to the rear that we now associate with The Jacobean.
  • 1783: James Lumsden plan confirms the scale and obvious difference with its southern neighbour on Bowman’s plot.
  • 1797: James Denholm plan of the city p52 “Scott’s talent can be seen in his clearer line work and and better definition.”  However, there are anomalies.  Wilson St terminates on the west side of Glassford St., its path blocked. There are properties detailed on Spiers garden plot when there shouldn’t be until 1801 as per feu detail.  In addition no effort is made to capture building profiles. Also, if we recall, Senex, JB et al talked about Wilson Street being projected through ‘Bowman’s’ garden. There is no evidence of that on Denholm’s plan. As such whilst the draughtsmanship might be improved the execution has flaws that in the context of Virginia Street I need to dismiss in the absence of other corroborating evidence. That is unless Denholm is trying to capture a proposed future state as Fleming’s later map of 1808 did.

Of course without the ability to georeference Barrie’s & Lumsden’s maps I cannot be certain to the same degree as with Fleming’s map of 1807.

It was about this time I started to consider the fact that The Jacobean still stands, it hasn’t fallen down nor become distressed beyond repair. Why? For three reasons:

  1. The building has been in constant use. ‘Use it or lose it’ as the saying goes. With that constant use there would have been the necessity to maintain, as the current owner(JM) has. But that alone is not enough.
  2. The build quality must have been there from the outset. It must have been built to a high standard. Which one suspects its early owners would have demanded.
  3. Luck: With the rapid expansion west of Glasgow to Blytheswood & beyond, this area as a commercial hub fell out of favour. It relegated Virginia Street to no more than a delivery entrance for Marks & Spencer. People would be staggered today if they saw buildings modelled on Rome’s ‘Temple of Jupiter Stator’ still sitting at the foot of the street. Therefore The Jacobean was not under the same pressures to modernise, expand & fit in with surrounding improvements. Thankfully it got left behind. (The Jacobean signage that most Glaswegians & visitors admire is a relatively new addition dating from 1946.)

Build Window

Based on circumstantial evidence alone we now have two possible build windows circa 1782 or 1795. (The 4th floor extension excluded.)

Potential Architects

As stated earlier, I’d ruled out Spiers as being responsible. But what architects do we know these gentlemen instructed. We must remember at this time to make the distinction between ‘builder’ (developer) & ‘mason’ (architect) or ‘mason’ (builder/wright) & whether the architect merely supplied drawings (fee: 1% of build cost) versus being actively engaged on site (fee: 5% of build cost.)

In considering who Spiers, Oswald or Dunlop would instruct they would not appoint an unknown. As men of means & status they would appoint someone ‘proven’ and potentially ‘a name’. Frustratingly very little documented evidence remains of who was active in Glasgow around this time with respect to particular buildings. We read in ‘Glasgow Past & Present’ reference made to certain buildings and an attribution may be made as to the ‘builder’ (developer) as we know it today. But little is made of the actual architect / mason except for the grandest public buildings. In fact the role of ‘architect’ was not something that was recognised during this period in the same way it is today. Their country estates are better served in terms of the detail that has passed down. Listed below is what we know about Spiers, Oswald, Dunlop & siblings.

Table 4

Late 1700s Robert Adam(b1728) features with the ‘father of Glasgow architecture’, David Hamilton(b1768) only making an appearance post 1820. It’s no surprise that these merchant elite would seek to engage the best architects. Given a build date of circa1794 would appear to place the Adam practice in the frame.

Using The Trades Hall as a rough guide given its build date 1791-4, we know 3 architects were engaged to produce drawings. They were, Robert Adam(b1728) (50 guineas), James Jaffray(b circa 1746 confirm with OPS) & John Craig. Both paid 30 guineas. It was thought that the difference was due to Adam’s more established reputation. However, a recent review of the Trades Hall minute books revealed that after Robert Adam’s death in 1792, his brother James returned the extra 20 guineas which had been given to Robert to oversee the building of the Trades Hall which, due to his death, he was unable to do.

Certainly if you look at the central motif of The Jacobean with the tri-partite window with fine relieving arch if Adam is associated with any exterior trope it would be this. However, even in his lifetime he was frustrated with other architects and builders copying his style. Something he would write to James Paterson (his clerk of works) about circa 1791 when working on the Edinburgh University buildings.

Looking at the known work of John Craig, two of his works were captured in early photography. Both were well received locally. A third, 42 Miller Street “The Tobacco Lords House’ still stands. As can be seen from the below Craig uses all the same elements as Adam, tri-partite window, the relieving arch, pilasters and external ornamentation. Typical architecture for the period 1750-early 1800s:

The Hall of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons Grammar School b1788 George St St Enoch’s Square b1791

His namesake James Craig(b1739) designed The Sugar Sample Rooms (b1789) off King Street. Apart from street plans there is no other documented evidence of further Glasgow elevations.

Bone, Muirhead 1901. Old Sugar Sample Room off Trongate (southside). Originally associated with Tontine. Architect 1789 James Craig who was passed over for William Hamilton on Tontine. source: Regalty Club p77 1898. John Brown & Matthew Cleland builders. Muireheads later print of its demolition confirms position as southside of Trongate.
House 71 Queens St (First Glasgow Linen Bank, north of Kirkman Finlay House built on his plot by Frances Wallace (nee Ritchie) commissioned for her son Hugh Ritchie Wallace 1805. Sold 1817 to British Linen Bank. Regality vI p90) copyright TheMitchell Library. Architect unknown.

Tenements in Hutcheson, Wilson & Brunswick Streets in the style of The Jacobean:

Tenement on Trongate in the style of The Jacobean. Located south east Candleriggs. (NOTE: Find reference to it)

Pictures copyright of Mitchell Library

Other architects are a possibility as part of the Glasgow Building Company scheme of Dugald Bannatyne, Robert Smith & John Thomson who underwrote most of the New Town and George Square. It was Robert Smith jnr who projected both Wilson & Brunswick Streets. We do know that Robert Adam produced plans (Soane) for Ingram Street, George Square & Stirling Square.

In addition we know that Robert Adam’s relations John Adam & John Robertson conducted work in Glasgow on his behalf. This would make sense as its been estimated that across their projects the Adams practice could require upwards of 2,000 tradesmen. We know from contemporary writing that the vast majority of these were ‘scotch’ much to the chagrin of the English benefactors. A popular London ditty of the time concerning the Adelphi project reveals the general prejudice against the brothers Adam.

Four Scotsmen by the name of Adams
Who keep their coaches and their madams,
Quoth John in sulky mood to Thomas
Have stole the very river from us.
O Scotland, long has it been said
Their teeth are sharp for English bread
What seize our bread and water too….
Take all to gratify your pride
But dip your oatmeal in the Clyde.

The Adams practice would have needed a talent pipeline to feed their more prestigious output. These craftsmen would have had to been blooded first on his more ‘bread & butter’ work that is now lost to history. Possibly on ‘1% work’ where his only obligation was to supply drawings or have a clerk of works oversee. It’s well documented that a John Robertson built a fine tenement at the south west corner of Virginia Street b1761 which William Cunnighame of Lainshaw (GoMA) used as his business premises as did other merchants of the elite class like Richard & Archibald Henderson who resided there . [p520 The Old Virginia Mansion, Glasgow Past & Present vI]

Soane curator Arthur Bolton writing in 1922, Page 196

At Glasgow such fragments of Adam architecture as remain after the clearing away of the Infirmary, the alteration of the Trades Hall, etc., are mainly testimonies to the efforts made by James, and, perhaps, by William Adam, to continue the Adelphi practice. Wilson Street and College Street and the block in Stirling Street, are ghosts of what Robert would have made of them, had he survived to preside over their erection.

These Adamitic buildings are not, of course, in scale with the great buildings of modern Glasgow, and have thus been left far behind in the development of the city. Only the curious student would now seek for such traces of the style at the close of the eighteenth century in the decayed streets that abut upon the old High Street of Glasgow. Turning to other examples in remoter parts of Scotland, a great list of designs exists, but, in the main, they are for unrealised projects. Culzean Castle in Ayrshire is, perhaps, the most extensive and interesting example actually built, and maybe taken as a type of the “ Castle Style ” of Robert Adam.  Newliston, near Edinburgh, on the other hand, is a specimen of the smaller classic house which Robert had been building all his life. 

This reference to Newliston(b1789) is tantalising. When placed side by side with The Jacobean(b1794) the similarity is plain to see. It certainly looks like whomever built The Jacobean had access to Adam drawings. Given a build date of 1794 for The Jacobean (fits with timeline for the Adams’ Trades Hall ) I think it’s unlikely a local architect would ‘knock-off’ an Adam design right under their noses. In addition the incised ornament on the facade was ground breaking in the context of Glasgow(UK) design. It would take a courageous and confident architect to suggest and an even more experienced one to convince a client to employ it on such a prestigious axial building.

Margaret Sanderson writes in ‘Portrait of an Architect'(source pp123-124) that Robert spent about a week in the West March 1791. Then the week of 13 September 1791 was spent in and around Glasgow staying at the Tontine Hotel. (He also apparently bought a plan of the city.) On Wednesday 14th September after business with the Assembly Room Committee he drove out to Carmyle with John Dunlop stopping in the way at Cambuslang to see Rosebank. One can imagine them discussing new ideas and Adam selling his vision to John Dunlop on that drive out to the country. Did Adam find in John Dunlop someone who caused him to reassess Scotland as that ‘narrow place’ where change was impossible? Later on that year 8-13 November he made his last recorded visit to Glasgow.

‘Gomme & Walker’ note The Jacobean as ‘an early example of incised ornament, owing something to the influence of Soane.’ But we mustn’t forget they were writing this in the belief that The Jacobean was built circa1817 not almost twenty five years earlier in 1794.

The location at a prime junction capping the main arcaded precinct of Wilson Street in Glasgow’s New Town fits with Adam’s keen eye for self promotion. As would the client, the future Lord Provost of Glasgow.

In his lifetime Adam was criticised for not evolving stylistically after his initial successes. Is The Jacobean a reply to those critics? Or is it simply case of his untimely death restricting artistic expression. The fine incised ornamentation would seem to hint at the former. The Lord Provost was well known for his refined tastes and artistic sensibilities ‘a collector of songs’ and one can imagine him as a receptive client open to new ideas.

In his late Scottish work you can see Adam making the shift away from the ornate ‘busy’ exteriors of earlier work; as evidenced by Newliston(b1789) and also Dalquharran Castle(b1785-90).

If considering Soane(b1753), he himself is most associated with incised ornament. As with most pushing of boundaries his was not initially received well as per the infamous ‘The Modern Goth’ (May 1796) where Soane’s incised ornament is compared unflatteringly to a chef’s knife scores on a pig skin.

'... To see pilasters scored like loins of pork, 
To see the Order in confusion move,
Scroles fixed below and Pedestals above,
To see defiance hurled at Greece and Rome ...'

Whilst there is a record of Soane visiting Glasgow as early as 1780 (Soane day book) staying at the Black Bull Inn at the foot of Virginia Street no less, there is no record of him producing work in Glasgow until the commissions in Buchanan St(1799) and Miller Street(1802).

He was also involved in Cairness House, Aberdeenshire (b1794.) Designed by James Playfair(b1755) Here, on each wing, window surrounds of the ground floor have fine vertical blank relief ornament. But crucially not incised.

(See G. Stamp, ‘Soane in Glasgow’, Georgian Group Journal, LXIII, 2003, p.196, 

Soane was a methodical record keeper, notorious collector as evidenced by the excellent Soane Museum and one suspects if he had a hand in The Jacobean some evidence would survive.

James Playfair (b1755). He mainly practised in central belt and east of Scotland. He too employed tri-partite windows as a repeating theme which he utilised on the horizontal rather than Adam’s vertical plane. As evidenced by ‘Baldovie’ and ‘London House’: Clapham for David Webster.

David Hamilton(b1768), it is thought he may have worked for the Adam practice in Glasgow possibly on Miller Street immediately to the west of Virginia Street. [I suspect he might have had a hand in The Virginia Buildings(b1808) to the south as evidenced by the finely squared window ‘orders’. At Dalquharran Castle(b1785) Adam used a stylised ‘order’ round the south facade windows to great effect. Looks contemporary even today. I can’t help make comparisons to the fluted square pilaster of Hamilton’s Hutcheson Hopital(b1804) and wonder if the squared ‘orders’ of The Virginia Building(circa b1808) are a progression in his style. If not by Hamilton then by whom?] If looking at his actual documented early work:

  • Ardenconnel House, Ayr (b1790),
  • Hutcheson’s Hospital, 158 Ingram St, Glasgow (b1802-5),  The west face on John St. has a nod to Adam with tri-partite windows repeating vertically across two bays.
  • The Theatre Royal, Queen St. Glasgow (b1803-5),
  • Castlehill House, Ayr(b1804),
  • John Knox Parish Kirk, Gorbals, Glasgow (b1804) 
  • Moorepark, Govan, Glasgow (b1805) 
  • Aikenhead House, King’s Park, Glasgow, for John Gordon (b1806 & 1823)
  • Nelson Monument, Glasgow Green (b1806) 
  • Kenmure House, Lanarkshire for Charles Stirling (b1806) 
  • Ayr, New Kirk (b1807) 
  • Airth Castle, Stirlingshire (b1807) 
  • Robert McBriar’s House, Glasgow (b1808) 
  • Justiciary Buildings, Glasgow (b1808) 
  • Trades House, Glassford St., Glasgow, Extention at rear (b1808)
  • Auchinraith, Blantyre (b1809) 
  • Barnton Castle, Midlothian (Porch) (b1810) 
  • Germiston House enlarged for Lawrence Dinwiddie (b1810) 
  • 233-5 Buchanan St., Glasgow – David Hamilton’s own house (b1811)

I’m surprised that Ardenconnel House(b1790) is only B Listed. As already noted by Adam scholars a progression of Adam’s ‘Sunnyside’. It looks like the perfect exercise; variations on a venetian window. Beautifully proportioned, paired back & playful, both on the main wings and the smaller eastern wing. The main wings central relieving arch resolving into a finely executed blank vertical relief. The vertical relief resolves similar to Playfair’s Cairness House(b1794).

One would suspect that if not using incised ornament on his own house by 1811 then Hamilton wasn’t responsible for The Jacobean. Certainly there is no evidence of him having done so. Architects sometimes have no choice but to showcase their most boundary challenging ideas on their own account first. Certainly self builds would exhibit themes central to their core belief at that time. Look at Soane’s house near Lincoln’s Inn Field, Holborn and his country retreat; Pitzhanger Manor.

The design of the Theatre Royal on Queen St intrigues me. Whilst you see Hamilton elongation on the vertical used to maximum effect it’s the roofline that others have commented that has ‘echoes of Soane’ that leaves me curious. The figures of the lion and unicorn couchant on the north and south extremities. It’s a divergence for Glasgow of that time. I see it on no other public building façade being featured so prominently. (The stairs of the University excluded). What links Hamilton to Soane? If I revisit The Jacobean where today I see the chimneys on the main façade. I believe they are a later addition. On that assumption what would have been in their place… my guess is the lion and unicorn couchant. Or something appropriate to ‘crown’ the building given the paired back facade.

Another contender is William Stark(b1770). One of Stark’s older sisters married the Glasgow architect John Craig. It is possible that Stark was a pupil in his office. In 1798 Stark visited St Petersburg presumably in connection with a commission there. There may have been a link to the architect Charles Cameron, then employed in Russia. Noted as an original thinker his talent must have been apparent prior to 1798 to win a Russian commission. However his work in Glasgow only gets recognition on his return from Russia.

  • 1802 Glasgow Cathedral alterations to east end of chancel
  • 1804 Hunterian Museum

Robert Reid(b1774) whose style is recognised as being influenced by Adam but more austere. He was King’s architect but didn’t assume this title until 1824. His main projects began 1801, so like Hamilton too late. Prior to Robert Reid assuming the mantle of King’s architect was James Brodie, but little knowledge of his work remains.

James Jaffray, the son of Alexander Jaffray, burgess and maltman, was a wright and was admitted a burgess of Glasgow in 1777. In the Glasgow directory of 1787 he appears as an ‘architect, cabinet-maker and house wright’ and in the directory for 1790-91 simply as ‘architect’.  Source:

He built the first church in St Enoch’s Square 1780 (remodelled 1827 by David Hamilton) and produced drawings for College Street and Trades Hall between 1790-91. Both unexecuted. He rebuilt Rutherglen Parsh Church Nave in 1794 and produced drawings for a villa 1799.

James Craig (b1739) who laid out Edinburgh’s New Town after winning the competition of 1763. The plan being ratified some 4 years later. It is thought he had no hand in the design of the elevations in the New Town.

Subsequently he was engaged too by Glasgow city elders to lay out Meadowflats after being engaged privately to lay out Blytheswood by the Campbells. Again, there is no evidence of him having a hand in the Glasgow New Town elevations either. Although as noted above he did have a hand in the ‘Sugar Sample Rooms’.

This leads me to a hypothesis that The Jacobean did come from the Adam practice, a posthumous tribute to their brother’s last pushing of architectural boundaries. They were already in the vicinity building the Trades Hall, The Glasgow Royal Infirmary, The Assembly Rooms, Stirling Square & potentially in Miller Street & George Square. It was a ‘free throw’. If it was received favourably it cemented a reputation. If it didn’t then nothing lost; their brother was already ‘free’ from criticism for any blame that may be attributed. That’s not to say that it would have been a decision taken lightly, given their financial predicament.

I also don’t think it’s an interpretation by the brothers. Look at the work of James on the College Buildings and Stirling Street. They do not breath. Little understanding is given to negative space. The ornament larger, more in keeping with their father; stylistically more in keeping with early Robert but not remotely close to Robert’s late Scottish work.

When looking at the width of the incised ornament of The Jacobean it’s too fine to be truly effective on an axial building. It’s lost from any distance rendering the façade plain. I don’t think Robert would have made this mistake. Soane certainly knew how to employ incised ornament to maximum effect as in Tyringham (b1792-1800). Did the brothers lack conviction in execution or were the masons’ instructions not clear. Either way we shall never know.

Like Soane’s experience, the public was possibly not ready for this. It would have looked bare, almost unfinished for a significant ‘axial’ building. Possibly deemed a ‘misfire’ to be quickly left behind with the stampede westward. Within six years to be partially covered up by the narrowing of Wilson Street tells us today how little it was regarded by civic Glasgow. Its reputation never to fully recover. Much like the rest of Glasgow’s first west end, it never reached the heights lauded a century earlier by the likes of Daniel Dafoe and others on Glasgow’s town planning.

This revised date of 1794 also leaves the door open to another question. Did the design of The Jacobean act as a lightening rod for the early ‘style’ of Glasgow’s first ‘new town’? The trope of tri-partite repeated vertically appear all over the New Town: Wilson St., Hutcheson St., Brunswick St., Candleriggs, John Street. Were the other builder’s directed or simply paying homage to The Jacobean? An ‘homage’ would suggest they respected whomever was responsible. At the very least there must have been a concerted attempt to create a unified and harmonious mixed residential precinct, either singularly by The Glasgow Building Company or collectively amongst several contractors. This merits further research.

Take another close look at the famous Glasgow tenement. A recurring theme is the tri-partite window, which then evolves into a bay on later elevations. Is The Jacobite the ‘primus’? One can only speculate, however, what we can say is that it would appear to be the oldest surviving example in that style for Glasgow (along with Wilson Street) and that makes it culturally important for the city. The oldest tenement (b1771) still survives in the Gallowgate.

In Glasgow’s transformative époque it’s incredible to think that one property, The Jacobean, over a fifty year period was not just associated with so many of the institutions that made Glasgow; mercantile, academic, civic & religious but housed some of those institutions’ leaders. All to a man, intimately linked with the slave trade.

There has been a lot of recent talk about Glasgow acknowledging its complicity more transparently. To find a place suitable to gather, reflect & hopefully educate would be welcomed.

Very few buildings leave a legacy for future generations. It has endured this long, hopefully the building will continue to survive, evolve, and be used as a catalyst to educate about what horrors were perpetrated in the name of ‘commerce’ and wilful ignorance. As a legacy there could be none more fitting for The Jacobean Corsetry.

Post Script: Why was The Jacobean forgotten?

For a variety of reasons:

It has been assumed that Findlay Duff & Co built The Jacobean 1817 as a commercial concern from the outset. The truth is more nuanced. I believe John Dunlop of Rosebank was well aware of his term as Lord Provost and like his father Colin Dunlop of Carmyle before him would have wanted to commission a property in a prestigious location, fitting his status as a civic leader and ‘man of refined tastes’. It’s documented that he had engaged Robert Adam for designs for a house. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the location he chose, capping the newly arcaded precinct at the heart of the New Town for everyone to see was any accident.

However, events would conspire against him; Robert died in March of 1792 just after overseeing his first draft of drawings of the same year & his brother James Dunlop ran into financial difficulty. It was this financial difficulty that led to John taking on the responsibility for the Virginia Mansion as his brothers trustee. We are told from other contemporary sources that he was in a sound financial position to assist his older brother. But his economic situation worsened and by 1796 we learn he had to take a salaried position as Collector of Customs in Bo’ness to make ends meet. Quite a fall.

It’s around this time that The Jacobean Corsetry transforms from a residential property to a commercial ‘tenement’. By 1797 John Dunlop is extending Virginia Street to maximise the developmental potential of the Virginia Mansion garden. He also puts his garden on the east side of Virginia Street up for sale and sells Rosebank his country estate to David Dale in 1801. This transition from residential to commercial almost 20 years prior to the sale to Findlay Duff & Co would partly explain the lack of awareness of the building’s history.

John Dunlop died in Greenock in 1820. His only child John Colin Dunlop died without issue or relict not long after in 1842 in Edinburgh. This is crucial as there was no-one left to vouch for The Jacobean‘s provenance. No family history to pass on. As far as everyone else was concerned it was simply a commercial property. It’s scale certainly suggested so.

Findlay Duff & Co sold in 1826, about a quarter century prior to Senex sending articles into The Herald.

By the time Senex , JB et al were writing the Glasgow history in ‘Past and Present’ you can understand why Spiers old plot could be confused with Bowman’s. The passage of time playing tricks on the memory. JB writes with such assuredness that I’m sure no-one would question or have the ability to critique unless they had privileged access to certain legal & civic records.

JB even admits himself in a passage that he could recollect clearly circa 1810. (almost 15 years after The Jacobean transitioned from residential to commercial.) He’d have been about 30 at this stage. Prior to this one would imagine he was enjoying his youth and not taking too much note of what was happening to property around him.

The sale of the mansion garden was also pivotal. It relegated The Jacobean to being ‘kerbside’ and certainly not worthy of consideration as one of the fifteen mansions that were passed down in Glasgow folklore as being stately in their own grounds, certainly not worthy of a word, engraving or print. Well that’s not quite true. The Glasgow artist Robert Eadie (1877–1954) did make a pencil sketch of The Jacobean in 1946. A commission; it is the only early image I have found.

It also fell victim to Glasgow’s rapid expansion west to the new environs of Blytheswood and beyond. With the narrowing of Wilson Street partially blocking its facade it also served to cover up any curiosity there might have been. This was compounded by the legacy of the other tenements remaining in the vicinity (one still exists at 54-64 Wilson Street) where the architecture was unified and cohesive meaning it didn’t stand out amongst its so called ‘peers’, its incised ornament the only thing setting it apart; only visible when looking from a close distance. In the vicinity The County Buildings(b1842-44) dominated, sucking up any oxygen remaining.

Like the County Buildings the victorian architecture got grander and more refined; The Jacobean hardly merited a second glance if at all. Writing of Virginia Street in the early 1800s:

“The street was dull and dreary in these days, and in that respect is not much changed now.”…“The archway to Miller Street now are was then occupied by several dreary-looking two-storey houses, the windows thickly encrusted with dust and well bespattered by many a swirling shower. They seemed never to have been subjected to the inconvenience of a glazier’s wipe, and imparted a peculiarly desolate look.” 

…Not much has changed.

And then there is the fatal statement ‘All their mansions are demolished’… Naw they wurnae.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

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