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Named after King George III, George Square is Glasgow’s biggest and most famous central square. Most celebrations including Christmas, New Year and St Andrews day will be celebrated in George Square in true Glasgow style.
George Square was laid out in 1781, part of James and Robert Adam’s emerging innovative Georgian central grid plan that initially spanned from Stockwell Street east to Buchanan Street. For the first few years it was quite simply a muddy hollow, filled with dirty water and used for slaughtering horses. But between 1787 and the 1820s, the square was gradually encased and lined with Georgian townhouses at its east and west ends, as well as hotels, and the square was a private garden for the surrounding townhouses. By 1850 the surrounding area had become a centre for mercantile activity, with the Merchants House moving to the square in 1877, and after frequent disturbances and pulling down of railings by an angry and discontented mob the square became an established public space.
The square was named after George III, a statue of whom was originally intended to occupy the centre of the square. But the chaos and concern caused to the city’s Tobacco Lords by the American War of Independence in 1776 and eventual British defeat in 1782, coupled with the King’s recurrent fits of madness had created mixed feelings toward him. So the centre of George Square was instead used to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish historical novelist and poet. Notably, this was the first memorial to be dedicated to Sir Walter Scott.
Historically, the square has often been the scene of public meetings, political gatherings, riots, protests, celebrations, ceremonies, parades and concerts. Perhaps the most famous was the Black Friday 1919 rally, when campaigners for improved working conditions (particularly protesting a 56 hour working week in many of the city’s factories) held an enormous rally, with at least 90,000 protesters filling the square and the surrounding streets. But more recently, George Square has also been home to various protests and meetings, including protests against the Poll Tax and Iraq War, and it is also home to the annual Remembrance Day parades.
The square has also become the venue for Glasgow’s massive Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations (see photos below), and is the meeting point for many other events including the annual “Santa Dash”, 10k and half marathon runs.
|Christmas lights at George Square||Glasgow’s Hogmanay at George Square|
Sights within George Square
George Square is centred around a 24 metre high column features the statue of author Sir Walter Scott, erected in 1837. The eastern side of the square is the site of the city’s Cenotaph, designed by JJ Burnet and originally built to commemorate Glaswegians killed in the First World War when it was erected in 1922 by the Earl Haig Fund. Many of Glasgow’s public statues are situated around the square and include memorials to poets Robert Burns and Thomas Campbell, inventor James Watt, chemist Thomas Graham, generals Sir John Moore, Lord Clyde and politicians William Gladstone and Robert Peel, plus the only known equestrian statues of a young Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert.
Sights bordering George Square
You will find Glasgow’s main Tourist Information Centre on the south side of the square, adjacent to the former General Post Office (1878). The east side of the square is dominated by the beautiful and ornamental Glasgow City Chambers building (1888), headquarters of Glasgow City Council. To the North side of George Square you will find Queen Street Station, the Millenium Hotel (formerly the North British Railway Hotel), both of which date from the1840s, and the offices of Ernst & Young, which date from the 1970s. Queen Street borders the square’s West side, and features Glasgow’s Chambers of Commerce building (1874), which was designed by John Burnet. In 1907 two storeys were added by JJ Burnet, and these are topped by a domed tower on which is perched a ship on a globe; a reminder of the significance and importance of sea trade to Glasgow’s prosperity.