Stunning Glasgow building is a reminder of city's famous financial past

Glasgow Stock Exchange in 1959 <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Glasgow Stock Exchange in 1959 (Image: Newsquest)

AS GLASGOW’S status grew in the 1870s, buildings that showed off its increasing power sprung up on new streets in the city centre.

One of the most important was the Stock Exchange – the city’s very own financial hub.

The City Archives holds records which help tell the story of Glasgow as it grew from a small cathedral town into a great merchant city and industrial powerhouse which exported its goods across the world.

Glasgow Times: Glasgow Stock Exchange, 1914
Glasgow Times: Glasgow Stock Exchange, 1914

Glasgow Stock Exchange, 1914 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

From the 1820s, Glasgow was at its most confident, with a greater population than Edinburgh, and it began to describe itself as the Second City of the Empire.  A sign of the city’s financial and commercial status was the establishment of the Glasgow Stock Exchange.

Founded in 1844 with 28 members, in its early years, it acted largely on behalf of wealthy private investors. However, by 1918 this had changed, with most of its business being undertaken for banks and insurance companies. By 1930, the Glasgow Stock Exchange had 277 members.

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Between 1875 and 1877, the Stock Exchange erected a new building on the corner of St George’s Place (known as Nelson Mandela Place since 1986) and Buchanan Street.

It was one of many amazing classical buildings appearing in the 1870s and 1880s, along beautiful new streets created by the city’s civic, professional and commercial institutions.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

The many tall offices, shops and warehouses which, replacing the original residential heart of the city, turned Glasgow into a thriving commercial centre, were expressions of its increased power, wealth and confidence.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, upon the completion of the Merchants House (1874) and the City Chambers (1883), George Square became the centre of the city.

Major banks settled near the new Stock Exchange, including the Commercial Bank in Gordon Street, the Bank of Scotland (1867), Clydesdale Bank (1870) and the National (now Co-operative) Bank of 1899, all located in St Vincent Place.

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Several important firms constructed monumental premises in St Vincent Place (the site of the city's horse-tram terminus) including the Evening Citizen newspaper (1885) and the Anchor Line (1905).

The Stock Exchange was completed in 1877.  Now A-listed, it was a four-storey building of Italian and Venetian Gothic style, designed by John Burnet.

The architect was apparently inspired by the themes from the competition design for the London Law Courts in the Strand. It was extended in 1894-1898 and again in 1904 by his son, John James Burnet.

The first ornament you see from a quick look at the Glasgow Stock Exchange is the five roundels with statues that depict various industries the Stock Exchange dealt with, such as mining, science and engineering.  There are also three statues representing industry, commerce, and agriculture.

The Glasgow Stock Exchange was one of five such facilities in Scotland,  the others being in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and Greenock.

For a short time, Glasgow’s exchange became the Scottish Stock Exchange when the others merged with it in 1964 (the exchanges in Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen operated as local branches.) In 1971, the local exchanges closed completely, and the Glasgow building was remodelled. During the construction of the new building, the exchange was housed in a converted warehouse on Ingram Street. The new building was opened after two years of work on April 13, 1971. Our newspaper, the then Evening Times, ran with the headline “Stock Exchange Latest – It’s Luxury!” and noted a new viewing gallery had been included “with a press-button tape recording of the BBC’s Mary Marquis explaining the procedure.”

Two years later the Scottish Stock Exchange ceased to exist when local exchanges from across the UK merged into what became known as the London Stock Exchange.

The final bell was sounded for selling stocks in Glasgow in 1973, but the iconic building still stands, a reminder of the city’s central role in the financial sector when it claimed the title of Second City of the Empire.