Lanark: A Life in Four Books

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The Municipal Buildings,
page 4 of 8

Street and Ingram Street, including the Merchants’ House and Hall. On a vote being taken this restricted scheme was carried, and the courts commissioners accordingly, as has already been stated above, in connection with the Merchants’ House, proceeded to carry out the further purposes of the Act of 1868.

The new Council Chambers were taken possession of by the magistrates and town council, the town clerk, city chamberlain, and master of works, with their several staffs, in 1874. The section of the large block which was first built was, after it had undergone some structural improvements, taken over and occupied by the sheriffs and the various officials of the law. Ere long, however, on account of the enormous development of the city in every branch of trade and commerce, and the vast increase of population, it became again evident that even the largely extended buildings were too small, and that, at best, this latest change could, after all, only be regarded as a temporary make-shift. There was, moreover, now a persistent and strongly expressed public desire for the concentration in one sufficiently adequate building of the many departments in connection with the city’s civic, fiscal and penal affairs. Accordingly, the George Square scheme, which had been proposed by Lord Provost Rae Arthur’s party in 1870, was again revived in 1877 by Lord Provost Sir James Bain. On this occasion the proposal was adopted by acclamation, and found universal favour throughout the city. In 1878 an unopposed Act was obtained, conferring compulsory powers over the area extending to John Street, and also over an area extending from John Street to Montrose Street.

Having now obtained statutory powers for the construction of the new buildings, the Town Council proceeded to work at once in a business-like manner. In a brief space of time all the properties lying within the area in question were purchased, with comparatively few legal disputations, for the round sum of £173,000, including law and conveyancing expenses.

As illustrating the “increment” in the value of land in our city, it may be stated that the whole of this block, 4,838 yards, on which the Municipal Buildings now stand, was feued by the town to Robert Smith (supposed to have been acting for Hamilton Garden) for £645, or 2s. 8d. per square yard. In less than a century it was bought back at about £35 15s. per square yard — an advance of 260-fold. This took place within a single lifetime. Robert Smith’s daughter Jean, wife of John Gardner of Springboig, was born in 1787 and died at Ardrossan in 1885.

The Town Council instructed Mr. Carrick, the city architect, to prepare a sketch of plans which should exhibit the internal accommodation required by each department in connection with the administration of the city’s affairs, so as to guide the competing architects in preparing their designs. In the advertisements inviting architects to compete for designs in connection with the projected buildings, the limit of the cost of such was restricted to £250,000. From amongst 155 competitors, the committee of the Town Council accepted the designs of Mr. William Young of London, a native of Paisley, who had received his early professional training in a Glasgow architect’s office — Mr. W. N. Tait’s, 22 Hope Street.

It will be seen that the style of the Municipal Buildings is a free and dignified treatment of Italian Renaissance. In the facades, dignity and artistic effect have been attained by a skilful grouping of the masses in the general composition, and a refined sense of proportion and gradation of the features. Another notable feature in the ground design is,


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