Jamaica Street

by Chris Jones on February 27, 2010

A long line of tramcars has just crossed over the Clyde at Glasgow Bridge, also known as Jamaica Bridge, and is headed up Jamaica Street into town. The tram at the rear is bound for Springburn and is just about to pass Paisley’s. The traffic policeman on the corner is now equipped with large white gauntlets and motorized vehicles are in evidence, including a Cooperative Society lorry on the Broomielaw. Note the very ornate lamp standard outside the off-licence on the Clyde Street corner. ( J. & M. Caledonia Series )

In this photograph, taken between 1911 and 1914, a policeman on point duty has temporarily halted car 584 en route to Halfway while he waves traffic across from the Broomielaw to Great Clyde Street. Paisley’s General Outfitters is established on the Broomielaw Corner and next door is the Grand Colosseum Warehouse which had formerly been Walter Wilson & Co’s department store. On the Clyde Street corner, James Brown advertises chairs, cabinets, piano stools, blinds and sunshades made at the Newfield factory in Dalmarnock. ( E. A. Schwerdtfeger & Co., London E.C. )

Jamaica Street Horses and Carts, Glasgow 1

The horse-drawn carts are tail-gating and even running two-abreast in this early 20th Century scene at the foot of Jamaica Street. Traffic is light so there is plenty of room to give the horses their head. The Broomielaw and Paisley’s outfitters are on the left. Car number 914 coming towards the camera and bound for Langside is one of 80 Gloucester-built tramcars in service with the fleet that had been ordered in order to ensure that enough vehicles would be available to service the city in time for the International Exhibition. ( Postcard published by Raphael Tuck & Sons in their “Town & City” series. )

Horse-drawn trams of the Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company were in service when George Washington Wilson took this photo of Jamaica Street. The Company cars, as they were termed, first entered service on August 19, 1872 on track owned by Glasgow Corporation. In 1875, route colour coding was introduced and is present on the trams seen in the photo. The Company’s lease ended on June 30, 1894 whereupon horse-drawn trams owned and operated by Glasgow Corporation entered service. The property on the left of the photo is undergoing extensive renovation and multiple signs are posted advertising Paisley’s sale, so they may already have moved into part of the premises that they were to occupy for over 80 years. Next door is the Glasgow Colosseum founded by Walter Wilson who was the sole partner for eighteen years and established branches in London and Edinburgh. Born in the Gorbals, he had started out in business making ladies hats and selling them at wholesale prices. There are several signs drawing attention to the Colosseum including a very large awning outside the main entrance. It should be noted that virtually all of the people in the scene are male. The frequency of gas lights would provide very little illumination after dark.

Unless otherwise stated, the photographs are from the author’s collection.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret Campbell February 11, 2011 at 3:10 am

Is it possible to find any history of the Paisley company? We understand an ancestor was connected with the company in the 1800s.

Chris Jones February 12, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Paisley’s, the Glasgow tailor and outfitter, was a fixture at the corner of Jamaica Street and the Broomielaw from around 1880 until 1979 and was well known for supplying uniforms, particularly school uniforms. After the store closed, it lay empty for a while until it was acquired by Sir Hugh Fraser and converted into the headquarters of his short-lived Sir Hugh store chain. Then in 1989, it was announced that a new company, Clydebank Merchant Developers Ltd, was to redevelop the building and turn it into an office complex. The plan was to restore the façade and provide about 72,000 sq.ft. of office space. However, with the ensuing recession, things did not go according to plan and in 1993 the buildings were demolished in their entirety.

David Grant January 7, 2016 at 5:44 am

A 2016 calendar of Old Glasgow ( Flame Tree Publishing ) shows this corner with horse trams having just turned into Jamaica St. from the Broomielaw. The tracks leading on to Jamaica Bridge have been severed, presumably for the widening of the Bridge in the late 1890’s. The trams for the south side were temporarily diverted until the newly widened bridge was completed. Am I correct in this assumption? Great photos, thank you.


Chris Jones January 14, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Hi David,

Thank you for your inquiry and I have now seen the calendar photograph to which you refer, showing the break in the tram lines leading to Glasgow/Jamaica Bridge. Between 1895 and 1899, the bridge was widened and the arches expanded to accommodate larger ships. In the calendar photograph, tramcars are shown being hauled up and down Jamaica Street and the lines continue round into Great Clyde Street in the right foreground. However, when I checked the Ordnance Survey map of the area, dated 1896, there are no tram lines showing in Great Clyde Street, so they may have been laid as part of a diversionary route. It would certainly make sense to divert services to and from the south side while Glasgow Bridge was being widened. If I find out any further information, I will certainly let you know.

Best wishes,


Joy Monteath Atteberry May 17, 2016 at 8:30 am

Hi Chris,

My grandfather’s kilt from Paisley has been passed down. I am trying to get information because it is in really good condition but it needs to be cleaned and I want to know if that’s even possible. He came to America in the early 30’s when he was 11…wearing the kilt. It is a kilt, vest, jacket and sash.


arthur sweeney May 23, 2016 at 8:31 am

The site where Paisley’s once stood is now occupied by the Jury’s Inn Hotel.


Chris Jones May 23, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Hi Joy,

Thank you for your inquiry. It is possible that your grandfather’s kilt was made by Houston’s of Paisley, a 4th generation family firm of kilt makers, having been established in 1909. They have a website at http://www.kiltmakers.com and can be contacted by phone from the USA and Canada at 01144 141 889 4879. Hopefully, they can give you the very best information.

Best wishes,


Richard Buddle June 2, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Hi Chris,

I have been researching the life of Walter Wilson, founder of the Grand Colosseum Warehouse which had formerly been Walter Wilson & Co’s department store and would be interested in corresponding with a descendant of the Wilson family. Looking forward to any advice or suggestions. Thanks.


Chris Jones June 5, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Hi Richard,

I’m posting your request in case readers might have some suggestions. I’m not presently in Glasgow but you could also try contacting the staff at the Mitchell Library there to see if they could point you in the right direction with respect to public records. Also, have you tried those ancestry searches?

Best wishes,


Lauren McKenna August 9, 2016 at 8:45 am

Hi Chris,

I have recently acquired a top hat that has ‘PAISLEYS LIMITED’ Jamaica street, and Broomielaw, Glasgow which I have researched to get to this post. I was wondering if you could tell me more about it. It’s in good condition and I wanted to know how much it is worth?

Kind regards and thanks


Chris Jones August 26, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your inquiry. I have done some checking and there are several sales of top hats recorded on the website of McTears Auctioneers and Valuers of Glasgow if you conduct a search of their past auctions. Prices realized depended upon the condition of the hat, the manufacturer, the materials used, and the nature and quality of the carrying case, if one was present with the hat. I hope this helps.

Best wishes,


Alan Runciman August 11, 2017 at 3:45 am

Hi Chris,

I wonder if Margaret Campbell and I share an ancestor or whether it’s two unrelated connections to Paisley’s Store? I was told that our Thomson family had an ownership at one point – like Margaret I’d like to hear the early history of how/who started the business? Or perhaps there was something there before it was Paisley’s? Is there a way to get in touch with Margaret Campbell?


John Clark September 8, 2017 at 12:23 am

Hi Chris,

I seem to remember a furniture shop in the early-mid 1970’s at the corner of Jamaica Street where McDonalds is now located. Granted I was only wee at the time, but I seem to recollect it had a fountain and a waterfall in it. No one else seems to remember this shop, so I’m hoping you can tell me if this shop existed, or if I’m mixing it up with somewhere else.


Chris Jones September 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Hi John,

I am not aware of this shop but I will post your question in case someone recognizes it.

Best wishes,


Patrick Molloy September 23, 2017 at 3:52 am

Hi Chris

Re John Clark’s post, there was a furniture shop which I think was possible called Gardeners where Wetherspoons is now located on the corner of Jamaica Street and Midland street. It certainly had an old fashioned and interesting interior and possibly a fountain.


Chris Jones September 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Hi Patrick,

Thank you for sharing this information.

Best wishes,


John Clark October 4, 2017 at 6:57 am

Hi Chris, and Patrick.

Thank you both for validating my sanity.

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