The history of the famous road crosses from Glasgow to Shawlands
IF ASKED TO name Glasgow’s crosses, it is likely most people could confidently come up with four or five.
However, these spots in the city where two or more roads or streets meet in a junction, at the heart of their communities, are actually more common than you might think, with FORTY named across Glasgow.
Glasgow Cross is perhaps the most well-known and it is certainly one of the oldest.
Situated in the heart of the original medieval burgh, it joins together five major streets: Trongate, Gallowgate, Saltmarket, High Street and London Road. It was one of two such crossroads in the burgh, with the other located on the High Street near the cathedral.
As a burgh, Glasgow had the legal right to hold a market and it displayed a market cross as a visible reminder of this.
This market cross is known now as the Mercat Cross and the current incarnation is a replica of the original. The architect Edith Burnet Hughes designed it for its opening in April 1930.
We hold Hughes’ original architectural plans for the Mercat Cross as well as the papers relating to its opening. Despite the name, it is actually an octagonal tower supporting a small stone column upon which a unicorn sits.
As the city grew and expanded, it acquired more crosses. Sometimes, this was by the creation of new streets and junctions but others already existed in places like Gorbals, Partick and Bridgeton, all of which Glasgow annexed.
In these areas, crosses were both common meeting places and an area through which most local residents would pass.
There was usually a turret clock by which passers-by would tell the time in the days before watches and mobile phones. Bridgeton Cross boasts an iconic feature: the Bridgeton Umbrella, a cast-iron shelter which has stood sentinel since 1875.
There are several interesting references to Partick Cross among our collections.
This cross connects the major thoroughfares of Dumbarton Road and Byres Road to the smaller Benalder and Partick Bridge streets.
Back in 1890, several inhabitants petitioned Partick Burgh about the poor condition of the road surface at the cross. And no wonder: two years earlier, the burgh had to deal with a claim by a Mr Colquhoun for injuries he sustained after falling into a hole there….
The names of the crosses also appeared in other places. Until 1977 Partick Cross gave its name to what is now Kelvinhall subway station.
Govan Cross Shopping Centre keeps the name going in the former burgh annexed to Glasgow in 1912.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several builders or property owners had the name of the Cross they were located in inscribed on the topmost piece of masonry. For example, a blond sandstone building at Bridgeton Cross still bears that name.
The magnificent Charing Cross Mansions, its name in stone relief, looms over the city centre interchange through which the M8, Sauchiehall Street, North Street and Woodlands Road all run.
Of course, visitors to the city are often surprised Glasgow has a Charing Cross given its association with London. Ours took its name from the mid-nineteenth century Charing Cross Place nearby although it is likely that this itself was named for the one in London.
Although not quite as large as Charing Cross, Anniesland Cross in the west of the city still sprawls out over a large area.
It is where several major roads meet including Great Western Road, Anniesland Road, Crow Road and Bearsden Road. This photograph of the Cross from around 1935 shows that this meeting of the roads has always been a complex network to navigate. Anniesland Cross was re-designed later in the twentieth century to become the junction we know today.
Due to its shape, Eglinton Toll in the south of the city is also known as St Andrew’s Cross as this is the saltire shape it forms when Eglinton Street, Victoria Road and Pollokshaws Road meet.
Further south, Pollokshaws Road also forms part of Shawlands Cross, this time with Kilmarnock Road. This is the spot where Samuel Dow’s pub once stood (pictured), now the site of The Granary.