The Municipal Buildings,
page 2 of 8
In order to keep pace with the expansion of the city, and to provide for the civic requirements of a community so rapidly growing, it became necessary in 1625 to erect a more spacious edifice in place of the old Tolbooth, which had done duty for well-nigh two centuries. This development of the city did not lie so much in the increase of population as in the rapid strides made in commerce, and consequent financial prosperity-for the inflow from the rural districts and villages was discouraged, and jealously controlled under the by no means chivalrous sentiment of the times, to safeguard the crafts, guilds, and commerce of the city. There is one consolation as to this selfish practice — poor though it should be — Glasgow did not stand alone in this respect amongst the cities and burghs of Scotland.
In the year 1625, the Town Council came to the resolution, in replacing the old Tolbooth, to utilise its site, along with contiguous ground, on account of the situation being the most convenient in the city. Here, however, the records are again silent regarding the preparation of the plans. At this period in Glasgow’s history it may be safely assumed that the professional architect and the building contractor, in the modern acceptation of the terms, were still nonexistent. Doubtless, however, the design was the outcome of more than one practical mind, intent on giving a fitting dignity to the civic halls of their native city. The edifice was begun on 15th March, 1626, and finished in September, 1627. During this period the Town Council held their meetings in the Tron Kirk!
In 1736 the Town Council erected a hall immediately to the west of, and communicating with, the Council Chambers, which they designated “The Town Hall.” This hall remained intact till the year 1874, when it was incorporated by the City Improvements Trustees with the Tontine Building. This was long the most picturesque building of the Trongate in its palmy days, when the tobacco lords walked up and down on the plainstanes in front of the piazza. It is still preserved, shorn of the latter romantic-looking feature, however, as the Tontine Drapery Warehouse, occupied by Messrs. Moore, Taggart & Co. This Town Hall lent an additional lustre to the already dignified and spacious Council Chambers. It was of elegant proportions, the ceiling being arched, and the walls decorated with trophies and full-length portraits of our British kings and queens down to George IV. At the hall‘s eastern end stood for many years Flaxman’s statue of Pitt, an exquisite work of art, which is now in the Corporation Galleries. This Town Hall became the place of public meeting of the citizens, and was ever called into requisition whenever a banquet of civic or national importance was held. It was here, on the evening of the day on which the news of Prince Charlie’s defeat at Culloden arrived, that the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and other local magnates, including the Principal and Professors of the University, met to testify in flowing bumpers their loyalty to King and country, and to wish confusion to the Jacobite cause.
With the dawn of the nineteenth century was to come to an end the official relationship of the Tolbooth with the city which it had served for nigh two centuries. Happily, before it lost its old dignity and place, it had attracted the eye of Sir Walter Scott, who threw the glamour of romance around it, and in “Rob Roy” gave it immortality. When it was erected in 1627 the population of the city amounted to only 10,000. In 1807 this had arisen to 100,000, and, in consequence, the old Tolbooth had become utterly