New book celebrates history of the University

Published: 3 June 2013

The development of the University is being marked with the launch of a new book, a partnership between the University and Historic Scotland

The development of the University of Glasgow is being marked with the launch of a new book, a partnership between the University and Historic Scotland. The book, ‘Building Knowledge’ charts for the first time the development of the university from its original High Street location to the current campus at Gilmorehill.

Author, Nick Haynes, discusses 'Building Knowledge'.

The University of Glasgow has been a part of the Glasgow skyline – and its social, political and economic history for over 500 years, yet the story of its architects, craftsmen and engineers remains relatively unexplored.

The book draws on hundreds of drawings, photographs, minute books, accounts, letters and reports, many of which have been previously unpublished. This includes initial plans for the Gilmorehill site – including an elaborate clocktower which was never built and promotional material for an extensive mid nineteenth marketing campaign – including a series of watercolours of the proposed new site – which were used both at home and abroad to help drive the fundraising campaign.

For the first time the mason - architects who built the renaissance campus, and their links to the rulers of the day including Charles I and Cromwell have been revealed, as well as the relatively unknown role played by the prominent architects of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including William Adam and William Stark in the later expansion of the High Street site.

The book will be launched on Tuesday evening at the university by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop. The Cabinet Secretary, a graduate of the university said; “The University of Glasgow has been at the heart of the city for over 500 years.

“Its development helps tell the fascinating story of the city, and Scotland, from medieval times until the present day.

“The very best architects and masons were brought in to build both the High Street and current site, creating buildings which reflected the importance of the University as a centre of learning and excellence to the outside world.”

Research for the book took over a year where further discoveries were made between the old High Street site and the current campus.

Nick Haynes, author of the book said; “The demolition of the High Street site saw the seventeenth century Renaissance buildings lost forever. However some parts of the complex, such as the famous lion and unicorn staircase were saved and transferred to the new site, which is well documented.

“As part of the research for the book, we’ve been able to identify for the first time other aspects of the current university site which originate from the High Street campus.

“This includes a magnificent fireplace of 1745 and wooden panelling in the Melville Room which would have taken pride of place in the old college Forehall at the High Street. It was previously thought that this dated from the 1920’s.

“We’ve also found documentation to the nineteenth century contractors specifying the transfer of a number of decorative items from the High Street site to the exterior of the Pearce Lodge building on the current campus. These elements date from the Cromwellian period and provide a fascinating insight into Scotland at that time.”

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow said; “This has been a tremendously exciting project for us to be involved in; this book has brought the long history of the University to life, revealing fresh information about our campus and charting its development through the ages.

“Not only does the book allow us to see the campus as it stands today, it also gives an unprecedented view of the history of the buildings and the people that have shaped the University of Glasgow over the last 562 years.”

The book is now available from the University campus or online at


To support the launch, a previously unpublished image has been released from the university archives of an early watercolour perspective of plans for the current gothic campus. This was used as part of a marketing campaign, both at home and abroad to help raise funds for building the nineteenth century campus. It is believed that this image is one of the earliest of a series of surviving watercolours and was drawn by Robert Edgar and hand coloured by John Burbridge.

Images are available via the Historic Scotland press office. Copyright of the image is the University of Glasgow.


Notes for editors

Contact:          Iona Matheson                             

Direct line:       0131 668 8703

Mobile:             07827 956 858


Issued:             June 2013      

First published: 3 June 2013

<< June