Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The Old College (Glasgow) - Past and Present

Built in the 17th century 'The Old College' was the predecessor of the present Glasgow University. It was situated in High Street midway between The Cross and Glasgow Cathedral. It was a handsome complex with two quadrangles, a clock tower and a fine frontage.

Old College past
The Old College c1860 - main entrance on High Street.
Note the coat of arms of Charles II above gate and the balconies either side supported by ornate corbels.

By the 19th century, this part of Glasgow had become industrialised and the College was chronically short of funds. When the Union Railway Company offered £100,000 for the site, the professors seized the chance and moved to the fashionable west end of Glasgow where a new university was built.

What followed has been dubbed ‘the greatest single act of vandalism’. The College, widely regarded as a triumph of Scottish architecture, was removed to make way for a goods yard and warehousing.

The professors did not afford it a backward glance – indeed it has been suggested that they had ‘other interests’… which goes to show that nothing changes!

However, part of the Old College does remain. In 1887 Sir William Pearce, shipbuilder and philanthropist, personally financed the salvage and transport of stones 2.5 miles to the new site. Here they were incorporated into the university gatehouse named ‘Pearce Lodge’ in his honour.

Without the determination of William Pearce nothing would remain of The Old College today.

pearce lodge present
Pearce Lodge 2017 - partly salvaged entrance with with one of the balconies. The round tower came from an internal court.

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 29 Aug 2017 Updated: 01 Sep 2017
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