Eye Spy Glasgow: the motorway 'destroyed' much of Charing Cross except its mansion

Many people still find it a mystery that, when cities throughout the UK were benefiting from ring roads, planners decided to bulldoze a motorway network through the heart of Glasgow.

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The result was the destruction of some beautiful old buildings and, in some cases, the sweeping away of whole communities.

Charing Cross was a prime example, many of its finest and most historic buildings became victims of the wrecking ball in the name of progress.

Thankfully some survived - but in the case of the magnificent Charing Cross Mansions, only just.

The curved red sandstone building once had a commanding position on Sauchiehall Street overlooking the cross.

Now it overlooks the busy M8 motorway with the best view to be had from the equally impressive Mitchell Library.

The Glasgow History website describes the mansion as "having been placed into virtual obscurity, situated at a motorway interchange facing the brutally awful Tay House".

Charing Cross Mansions was one of the finest works of the Glasgow designer Sir John J Burnet.

He trained in Paris and he designed the building in the French Renaissance style with a Beaux-Arts frontage.

It was designed in 1889 for one of Glasgow's leading businessman of the time, Robert Simpson, who owned a warehouse store at the corner of Jamaica Street and Argyle Street.

A review of the city's architecture in the early 20th century described the Mansions as an "extrovert design full of incident".

The building's facade contains many sculptures, the work of Edinburgh sculptor William Birnie


The clock face is bordered by signs of the zodiac, with a male mask representing Old Father Time.

Also included are the Glasgow coat of arms and monograms carved with the entwined letters R and S, representing Robert Simpson.

It is a shame that the west end of the Sauchiehall Street shopping section - and the Charing Cross area in general - was destroyed to such an extent.

But is is a blessing that Charing Cross Mansions, possibly the finest red sandstone building in Glasgow, survived.

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