Charing Cross

by Chris Jones on March 12, 2010

This view of Charing Cross, taken no later than 1910, shows the Grand Hotel on the left and part of the magnificent Charing Cross Mansions in the centre, designed in the French style by Sir. John J. Burnet who trained in Paris. The curving Mansion frontage connects St. George’s Road on the left with the eastern section of Sauchiehall Street on the right. Parts of the Grand Hotel are let out to the Post Office and to businesses fronting on Sauchiehall Street and on St. George’s Road (unseen). There are two women wearing straw boaters, suggesting the Edwardian era, and an open top tramcar heading for Queen’s Park is passing the hotel entrance. In the right foreground are R. Campbell, Boot Maker, and E. Niven, Domestic Servants Registry. I wonder if there are boot makers and domestic servant registries in Glasgow today. ( This postcard has an E. A. Schwerdtfeger code but does not carry the name so this example was probably reissued after 1914. The printing on the back is in blue. )

It’s another bright sunny day at Charing Cross in this scene photographed at least 10 years later from the other side of Sauchiehall Street. The ornate water fountain on the corner of Woodside Crescent is now visible and the merchant’s signs are proliferating along the front of the Grand Hotel. The tramcar is headed for Kirklee and although most of the upper deck is enclosed, the motorman is still exposed to the elements. ( I believe this is another E. A. Schwerdtfeger successor, printed the same way on the back with no name but labelled in upper and lower case on the front. )

Charing Cross

In this scene, taken from the pavement outside the Grand Hotel and looking east up Sauchiehall Street, the tramcars are still the dominant mode of transport but motor cars are becoming more evident and there is also Leyland Titan Corporation bus in the distance, the first of which entered service on Glasgow streets in February 1928. The entrance to the Grand Hotel is just visible on the left, flanked by pillars, and Harris the tobacconist, R. S. McColl and the Royal Bank occupy premises along the front. Hemlines are going up, as illustrated by the two ladies chatting beside one of the hotel lamps.

This Valentine’s 1928 view shows traffic in St.George’s Road just before it merges with Sauchiehall Street. The Grand Hotel is on the left and there is a good view of the statuary on Charing Cross Mansions on the right. Prominent in the traffic is a Glasgow Corporation Leyland Titan bus which had been introduced that year and marketed by Leyland as the way for local authorities to dispense with their trams. Leyland’s revolutionary new chassis enabled the bus to have an overall height of 12 feet 10 inches, at least two feet lower than conventional double-deck trams and buses, thus giving it an advantage in stability and in negotiating low bridges. Although an extremely successful bus, it would be another 34 years before Glasgow completely dispensed with its trams. This scene also features a white tram on its way to Kirklee, passing the shops along the east side of the Grand Hotel. These include Helena Watson, the exclusive ladies outfitter, Royal Drooko, the Glasgow umbrella manufacturer, Maypole Dairies and Lipton’s, the grocer, both of which later became part of the same organization. Thomas Lipton was another example of a successful Glasgow entrepreneur. His family came over from Ireland in the 1840’s and started a butter and ham shop near Dixon’s Blazes in the Gorbals where young Tommy gained experience. In 1871, when he was 21, he opened his first shop in Stobcross Street and that was the beginning of an empire.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon December 10, 2010 at 1:24 am

My great grandparents were married in the Grand Hotel in 1905. These pictures are great to put that into context.

They were proprietors of another hotel, The Star Hotel in Port Glasgow, so clearly had some local status at the time. Their names were James Cramb and Ann Cramb (nee Boyd). It was James Cramb’s second marriage after his first wife (Agnes) died the previous year. My grandmother was born in the Star Hotel 9 months later.

Do you know of any sites where I might find out more about places such as the Star Hotel?

Jon

Chris Jones December 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Hello Jon,

Thank you for sharing this information. The Star Hotel in Port Glasgow was situated next to the town’s railway station and then it was taken down and a new one constructed a little further away when John Wood Street was built. You can see photographs of both Star Hotels on the excellent Port Glasgow website.

http://www.portglasgow4u.co.uk/Old_Photographs/Old_Port_Glasgow.html

If you contact the author of the website, she may be able to provide further information, including the dates of the photographs.

Scott April 23, 2011 at 8:06 am

I wonder if they will ever return it to it’s old state, I hate modern buildings. Glasgow was the greatest Victorian city in the world and it was destroyed in the name of “progress”. Why build a motorway right through the heart of the city, when all other British cities have ring roads?

So sad, I will never see it like this.

Karen Fraser January 30, 2012 at 7:04 am

Thank you so much for building this wonderful website to make so much information and so many good images available.
My father-in-law was brought up in North Street, on the side that was taken away when the M8 came through the city. He can remember sitting on the wall at the Mitchell Library watching the cattle being driven along Berkeley Street from the Irish boat on the way to the slaughterhouse in High Street. It simply boggles my mind that cattle was driven through the city in living memory!
One of his aunts was married in the Grand Hotel in 1930, and I came across your site when looking for information on the Prince of Wales Halls at 350 Sauchiehall Street where another of his aunts was married in 1923.
He has some good stories about the characters around Charing Cross and I can’t wait to tell him about your site.

Chris Jones February 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Hi Karen,
You’re welcome and thank you for your comments about the website. The Prince of Wales Halls were located in the Grecian Buildings, designed by the renowned Glasgow architect, Alexander “Greek” Thomson.
The fact that cattle were driven from the docks up to Berkeley Street and then across town to the High Street is certainly news to me. Boats bringing in cattle from Ireland would usually come into Merklands Quay where the cattle would go into lairage until being dispatched, usually to locations near Dumbarton Road or by rail to places further afield.
Perhaps you could encourage your father–in-law to write down his memories of being raised in Glasgow.

Jim McCallum February 5, 2012 at 2:44 am

Hi Chris,
My late great aunt (whose mother had a little shop in Berkeley Street) told me she remembered the cattle being driven along in the 1920’s – hard to believe! As a child living in Granville Street and going to Kent Road Primary School, I always wanted to visit the Grand Hotel when I “grew up”. Sadly, I never got the chance due to the official vandalism which took place. I’m glad that I can just about remember old Charing Cross, but I wish my memories were clearer. Great site!
Bye, Jim.

Chris Jones February 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hi Jim,
Thanks for your comment and for corroborating Karen‘s account of cattle being driven along Berkeley Street in the 1920’s. I wonder if it was just a few beasts or a herd. The drovers would almost certainly follow a route where traffic was light but they would still encounter tram tracks at key crossing points and certainly along High Street.
I hope the photos managed to jog your memory of Charing Cross. If it’s any consolation, I didn’t get to see the inside of the Grand Hotel either.
Chris

Karen Fraser March 7, 2012 at 8:44 am

Chris, I spoke to my father-in-law about the cattle. His memory is that they could be herds of 50 or more. Seemingly, they drove them up Finnieston Street, on up to Berkeley Street, then down Bath Street on their way to the abbatoir, which he said was past the High Street.
I’ve been trying for years to get my father-in-law to write down his stories, but unfortunately, I think noting them down second-hand is as good as I am likely to get.
Karen

Chris Jones March 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Thank you Karen and please thank your father-in-law for his recollections. I hope that he will share more of them with you.

Spike March 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I was just there today and can assure you that I saw no bootmakers or domestic servant businesses, sadly. I could use a hand made pair of boots. I have, however, seen shoe repair in Glasgow, so there is that.

Spike

Chris Jones March 31, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Thank you Spike. I expected as much.

Chrissy April 18, 2012 at 10:30 pm

I found an old post card of the Grand Hotel dating from 1905 in an antique shop in New Jersey.

Bill Gemmill July 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hello,

I found this site most interesting, having lived in Glasgow since 1926. I found the narratives most accurate. One minor comment on the 1928 photograph of St George’s Road – the white tram would be going to the University. It was the blue trams on that route which went to Kirklee.

Chris Jones July 14, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Thank you Bill for your comment. I must admit to being puzzled myself when I first reported on this photograph. The tram looks very much like a white car en route from Mosspark to the University yet the rear destination board reads Kirklee. I have contacted a friend at the Scottish Tramway and Transport Society for further information and will report back.

You must have many memories of the Great City.

Chris

Matt Lewis January 27, 2014 at 3:41 am

Chris,

Just discovered this awesome website. What a superb archive you have put together.

I have one question. Do you know why and when the area became known as ‘Charing Cross’? Is there any link to London’s Charing Cross at all?

Just curious as we were having a discussion in the Bon Accord recently and nobody seemed to know.

Kind Regards

Matt Lewis

Steven Lawson March 24, 2014 at 7:09 am

Hi Chris,

I have a photograph of the Olympic torch bearer from the Summer of 2012, taken from almost the identical spot that the “Valentine’s 1928” photo above was taken. If I knew how to, I’d attach the photo here, to give some perspective as to just how much the area has changed. Charing Cross Mansions are still there but the rest has gone. The Charing Cross Post Office on Sauchiehall Street has a fantastic mural on display. It’s essentially the top photo shown above, but is about 10 feet tall. Worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Steven

Chris Jones March 31, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Hi Steven,

Thank you for the information and I will check it out this Summer when I’m in Glasgow.

Best wishes,

Chris

Helen Cameron June 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm

My parents wedding reception took place in the Grand Hotel in 1953. What a shame it is no longer there. Why drive a motorway through the heart of a beautiful city?

Helen

Chris Jones July 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I agree completely Helen.

Thank you for your comment.

Chris

Norman Taylor August 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Like some others here, my mum and dad also had their wedding reception in the Grand in 1951. What beautiful buildings and what a shame so many are now lost to history. Thanks very much for keeping their memory alive here.

Norman

Chris Jones August 31, 2014 at 10:02 pm

You’re welcome Norman and thank you for your comment.

Best wishes,

Chris

Penny Nicoll October 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hi Chris,
Truly love your website. My husband (born 1925) has always been fiercely proud of his birthplace, its people, buildings, parks, culture, education and industry. Being Australian, and living in Australia, your ‘wandering along the streets’ gives me a sense experiencing his love of Glasgow.
Logging onto your site results in reliving many happy memories and lets us show our teenage grandchildren an insight into his and his parents life.
Thank you,
Penny

Chris Jones October 19, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Hi Penny,

Thank you very much for sharing this. I’m happy to know that the website is giving pleasure to you and your family. I’m steadily adding new material.

Best wishes,

Chris

Nicole October 27, 2014 at 8:14 am

Hi everyone,

I am currently a first year student at the Glasgow School of Art and I have been given a project with the theme of ‘Loss’ and the area of Charing Cross.

I was wondering if anyone could give me some additional information about what exactly was lost during the construction of the M8? Also maybe have some first hand accounts of the area, and the emotions surrounding that area? I am intrigued by the Grand Hotel and exactly who went there and what kind of events happened?

Thanks in advance,

Nicole

Samantha-Jane skivington January 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Hi Chris,

I am from Stranraer, and I purchased furniture from a house clearance about a year ago and found a ring box inside. The address was McGowans Jewellers Ltd., 299 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, C2. This is exactly how it appears inside the box and I was curious as to find out what era it came from. Unfortunately, I cannot find anything with this address from any decade. It must have existed at one point for the company to go to the trouble of printing on silk inside the box. I just wondered if you knew of any records or even photographs of this business ever existing as I cannot find a thing anywhere?

Many thanks.

Samantha-Jane

Chris Jones January 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Hello Samantha-Jane,

Thank you for your inquiry. McGowans Jewellers was established in 1895 and they are still in business. They currently have two branches in the Argyll Arcade, at Numbers 4 and 41. Here’s the link to their website http://www.mcgowansjewellers.com You could contact them and ask about the Sauchiehall Street location.

Best wishes,

Chris

Lesley Farrell April 23, 2015 at 7:14 am

Hello Chris,

30 odd years ago, I did my training to be a Post Office Clerk at Charing Cross Post Office. My tutor took me down to the basement where there were several vaults as I remember, complete with heavy metal doors connecting each. The first and second vaults had stone floors but the floor of the third vault was just dirt and rubble. The area they covered would have been as much, if not more, of the P.O. above.
Can you shed any light on this?

Thanks, Lesley

Robert April 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Hi Chris,

It’s tragic that the motorway didn’t stop at Townhead. There were quite a few marvellous buildings at Charing Cross scythed down to make way for the M8.

Robert

Chris Jones April 30, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Hello Lesley,

Thank you for sharing this information. I regret that I cannot shed any light on this but perhaps a reader can. They may have stored sheets of stamps and other valuable items in the vaults. Do you remember if there were safe deposit boxes?

Best wishes,

Chris

Chris Jones April 30, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Hi Robert,

Yes, I agree. It was a total tragedy. Some fine buildings including the Grand Hotel were lost.

Regards,

Chris

Chris Walls July 28, 2015 at 6:11 am

Hello Chris,

I really enjoyed looking at the old images of Charing Cross, such a shame they pulled them all down for the motorway. Do you happen to know where I would be able to get copyright-free images of the West End of Glasgow suitable for printing?

Thanks,

Chris

Chris Jones August 2, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your comment. They certainly pulled down a lot of buildings for the motorway although the fine Charing Cross Mansions survived. You are welcome to use any of my Charing Cross images. Let me know if you need higher resolution scans.

Best wishes,

Chris

Neil McPhee February 2, 2016 at 9:03 am

Hi Chris,

This is a wonderful site of Charing Cross and especially the Grand Hotel. I worked there as a page boy alongside my brother (second head porter) and school friend (porter) in the period just before it closed down. It was owned by UCBS at that time and it’s passing marked the end of an era. Right up to the last day, we would have regulars come in for afternoon tea or a drink at the bar. Mr Howden was the hotel manager until the year before it closed in 1968 and for that final year it was managed by his deputy manager, Mr Konstan, who subsequently went on to manage the Dunblane Hydro Hotel. George Kennedy was the Head Porter and he could take a tip from a guest and pocket it faster than the eye could see.

Weddings there were always welcome and lavish affairs with the Ballroom Suite carpets being rolled up and French chalk being dusted over the floor for the dancing. Tour buses full of Americans or Canadians would pull up regularly and all their luggage would be unloaded. We even had Russians visit. The lift was reserved for guests so we had to carry all the luggage up to each room via the stairs. If the tour was late, we had to stay on duty until it arrived so sometimes we would be on from 7am until 2am the following day. Overtime was not paid.

We had a night porter whom we called “Flash” since he was so slow and doddery at his job. One of these jobs involved going round all the rooms where the guests left their shoes outside to be cleaned and polished as part of the service. He decided one night that it would be much more beneficial if he could bring all the shoes so he went to the laundry room for a laundry basket, the big ones on wheels , and duly gathered them all up and brought them downstairs. He finished cleaning them by early morning but forgot to take a note of which shoes came from where. All the guests had to come down to reception in bare feet that morning to pick out their shoes. Flash was taken off that duty.

A lot of the staff stayed in at the hotel and some of the waitresses had flats belonging to the hotel that were situated just a few yards up on Woodside Crescent.

Working as a page boy was the hardest job I ever had. It was my first job since leaving school and it opened my eyes to every side of life. Even after it closed to the public and I was helping pack up and sell all the furniture etc some past guests would still come in for one last nostalgic look round. Jack House did a full page spread on the Grand for the Evening Times as he was a regular there and full of praise for it.

Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley stayed at The Grand Hotel when his travelling show came to Glasgow in 1892.

Chris Jones February 13, 2016 at 9:16 pm

Hi Neil,

Thank you very much for sharing your experience as a page boy working at the Grand Hotel during the period leading up to its closure. You provide a fascinating insight into life at the hotel and the passing of a great Glasgow landmark. Your report should constitute an article in its own right.

Best wishes,

Chris

Jas June 2, 2016 at 7:23 am

Hi Chris,

What a great site. I’m really fascinated by the old images of Charing Cross.

I don’t suppose you have any old images of the former Christopher Wray lighting shop on Sauchiehall St, across from where the Grand Hotel used to be. It was situated next to Service Point which used to be Hepburn Bros. in 1926, from the image I have seen.

I understand it used to be a men’s & women’s tailors back in the early 1900’s.

Thanks,

Jas

Chris Jones June 5, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Hi James,

Thank you for your comment and question. I will examine the photos I have of the location and will certainly be in touch if I find anything.

Best wishes,

Chris

Vikki Spencer December 10, 2016 at 5:57 am

Hi Chris,

Does anyone know if there was a shoe shop at Charing Cross Mansions and if there was, what was it called?

Vikki

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