The incredible Glasgow mega-chimney that was the tallest in the world

As one of the great engine rooms of Victorian Britain, its fitting that Glasgow was once home to the tallest industrial structure on the planet.

For a period of 30 years, the enormous Townsend chimney at Port Dundas was the tallest chimney stalk in the world.

Built in 1859, the Victorian mega-structure rose 454 feet off the ground and had an outside diameter of 32 feet. It was comprised of more than 1.4 million bricks and weighed as much as the iron-built Eiffel Tower (7,000 tons).

The lofty lum stood at J. Townsend's chemical works on Crawford Street and was part of the thriving industrial economy present in Port Dundas at that time.

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But the Townsend chimney was not alone in the height stakes - there was another monster chimney located just 1,000 metres away.

Nearby St Rollox chemical works boasted the previous world record holder: the Tennant's Stalk.

Constructed in 1842, the St Rollox behemoth reached 435 feet and was 40 feet in diameter at ground level. It was named after St Rollox chemical works founder, Charles Tennant, a Scottish chemist and industrialist, who discovered bleaching powder.

Dominating the North Glasgow landscape, the two chimneys were the skyscrapers of their day and hammered home the point that the city was one of the great industrial powerhouses of the world.

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Have a gander at almost any early photograph of Glasgow and the chimneys stand sentinel over all they survey. Billowing out noxious fumes over the city, they towered over absolutely everything and could be seen for miles around.

In an illustration of 'Notable High Buildings', the 1896 Universal Atlas of The World featured the Port Dundas chimney at 7th place, behind the Eiffel Tower (984ft), the Washington Monument (555ft), Philadelphia City Hall (535ft) and the great cathedrals of Europe.

Not only was the Townsend stalk the world's largest chimney, in height terms it was regarded one of the seven wonders of the modern age.

It was only surpassed in height in 1889, following the construction of the Langer Emil chimney in Mechernich, Germany.

The Port Dundas and St Rollox chimneys continued to cast long shadows over Glasgow well into the 20th century.

The Tennant's Stalk was the first to go. In 1922 it was struck by lightning and subsequently dynamited to the ground.

The Port Dundas chimney was demolished in 1928.

Currently, the tallest free-standing structure in the city is the Glasgow Science Centre Tower.

Rising 417ft in the air, the iconic tower is also the tallest building in Scotland, yet it remains some way behind beating the enormous chimneys that once loomed large on the Glasgow skyline more than a century ago.

Article first published on March 14, 2022.