Trongate

by Chris Jones on April 9, 2012

The Trongate was originally known as St. Thenew’s Gait because it was the way to St. Thenew’s Chapel, named after the mother of St. Mungo, and situated where St. Enoch Square is today. It should be noted that the term “gait”, also spelled “gate”, does not refer to a gated entry but is instead an old Scottish word meaning “the way to”. In 1491, a trone or balance for weighing goods was set up at Glasgow Cross and St. Thenew’s Gait subsequently became known as the Tronegait or the way to the trone.

We are now approaching the intersection with Glassford Street on the left and Stockwell Street which is off camera to the right. On the right is part of the Granite House building which occupies a prominent position on the corner with Stockwell Street. They are holding a sale of men’s and youth’s clothing and this was probably a regular event. Gow & Son, the Upholsterers, occupy the building next door and beyond is Slater’s, known as the Great London Tailors. ( Postcard published by E. A. Schwerdtfeger & Co., London E. C. and printed in Berlin. )

Scan

It’s just 12.30 by the Tron Steeple clock in this sunny 1920 view and the north side of the street is busy. All of the women in the picture are wearing hats, most of which are in transition from the broad brim to the narrow style that would become popular during the 1920’s. On the south side of the street, the Britannia Panopticon, which served as both a theatre and a cinema, is showing the “The Wilderness Trail”, a 50-minute silent Western in black and white that had been released in the U.S.A. on 6 July, 1919. ( Valentine’s X L Series )

Trongate

This high-resolution printed view depicts a scene in the Trongate looking east to Glasgow Cross, circa 1903/4. The Tolbooth Steeple visible in the distance still attached to the five-storey building modified from the original Tolbooth. In the foreground of the picture, the entrance to King Street is on the immediate right and Candleriggs is on the left. The clock on the Tolbooth Steeple reads a quarter past ten and the one on the Tron Steeple reads a quarter past six, so at least one of them is wrong. The Tron Steeple, built in 1637, is all that remains of the Collegiate Church of St Mary and St. Anne which was burned down by drunken members of the Hellfire Club in 1793. A replacement church built to a design by James Adam was completed in the following year and now houses the Tron Theatre.

In the distance, one of the original “Room and Kitchen” single-deck tramcars is approaching its London Street ( later London Road ) terminus. These trams were not an unqualified success and most did not last long in active service beyond 1905. They were subject to frequent derailments which is why they were latterly placed on the relatively straight London Street to Clydebank route.

We are now approaching the eastern end of the Trongate as we head towards Glasgow Cross in this mid to late 1920’s scene. The Tron Steeple is visible on the right and, in the distance, the now freestanding Tolbooth Steeple is coming into view. King Street is on the immediate right and the Scottish Clothing Company is advertising merchandise costing 21 and 30 shillings each, possibly coats or suits. Further along is a vendor of prams and Jack’s Doll Hospital. In the days before plastic became popular, dolls were made of ceramic material and they would often be subject to cracking and breakage. Because such dolls could be expensive to replace, there was clearly a business for Jack in repairing them. Six tramcars are in view and Car 128 nearest the camera is on the long run out to Dalmuir West. ( Anonymous publisher )

Trongate Rain Coat Prices

In this later photograph, the items on sale in the foreground are Ladies Rain Coats, 30/- ( or possibly 36/- ) and Ladies Waterproof Coats, 24/-. We cannot be certain that these are the same items as advertised in the previous photograph ( subject to price inflation ). What could be the difference between the Rain Coats and the cheaper Waterproof Coats? Perhaps the Rain Coats were made of more expensive fabric but were not guaranteed to be waterproof. The Waterproof Coats were certainly not “plastic macs” as they were not available in the 1920’s. The term “mac” is derived from Charles Macintosh, a Glasgow industrial chemist, who applied a solution of rubber dissolved in naphtha to fabric and found that the resulting material was waterproof once the naphtha had evaporated. Coats manufactured in this way with a layer of rubber sandwiched between two layers of fabric became known as Mackintoshes ( with a k ) and the first one was sold in 1824.

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Nicola Bieg February 15, 2013 at 5:09 am

Dear Chris,

My name is Nicola and I am studying for an M.Sc. in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. We are currently working on a podcast on the life of Glaswegian writer Catherine Carswell and I came across the magnificent collection of early 20th century photographs of the city on your blog. I was wondering if you are interested in collaborating with us on the project or if there is a way for us to use some of your images. I am more than willing to further explain what we are doing. Please send me an e-mail if you are interested. This website is truly a treasure trove.

Thank you and all the best,

Nicola Bieg

Chris Jones February 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hello Nicola,

Thank you for your message and I will be happy to help. Except where otherwise stated, the images are from my own collection and you are welcome to use them for your project. Thank you for your interest in Glasgow history and I wish you success in your venture.

Chris

Nicola Bieg February 27, 2013 at 3:51 am

Dear Chris,

Thank you very much. I really appreciate your help! We will come through to Glasgow on a day in March or April to film some contemporary scene, so if you would want to give us your opinion on how Glasgow life was like in the early 20th century, we’d be delighted!

Otherwise, thank you for your willingness to let us use your images, I’d be happy to send you the final podcast if you are interested.

All the best,
Nicola

Jean O'Reilly May 25, 2016 at 7:47 am

Hi Chris,

This is a wonderful site, a great resource full of interesting entries. The Trongate is one of my favourite parts of the city, so it was nice to read about the history. I’m writing a blog post linking to your Broomielaw entry. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to follow you. The subscribe button doesn’s work (at least not in a way I’m familiar with!). I look forward to reading more of your work.

Jean

Martin Cairns November 14, 2016 at 4:22 am

Hi Chris,

Love the pictures.

Would you mind if I print off a couple to do a then and now series on a website that I am a member of? I would obviously credit your name as the source.

Thanks,

Martin.

Chris Jones November 18, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Hi Martin,

Thank you for your comment and you are welcome to use some of the photographs for your “then and now” series.

Best wishes,

Chris

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