George Square

George Square

George Square is the central square in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Named after King George III, George Square was laid out in 1781, part of the nascent innovative Georgian central grid plan that initially spanned from Stockwell Street east to Buchanan Street, which reflected the growing rational influence of the Scottish Enlightenment, along with the similar development of Edinburgh's New Town. This masterplan was largely the work of the notable contemporary architects James and Robert Adam. For the first few years however it was little more than a muddy hollow, filled with dirty water and used for slaughtering horses. Between 1787 and the 1820s, the square was eventually opened up and lined with Georgian townhouses at its east and west ends, as well as hotels. By 1850 the surrounding area had become a centre for mercantile activity, with the Merchants House moving to the square in 1877, and the square itself, which had been developed into a private garden for the surrounding townhouses, became an established public space, after frequent disturbances and pulling down of railings by a disgruntled mob.

The square was named after George III, a statue of whom was originally intended to occupy the centre of the square, but the turmoil and anxiety caused to the city's Tobacco Lords by the American War of Independence in 1776 and eventual British defeat in 1782, coupled with his ever more frequent bouts of madness had created mixed feelings toward the Hanoverian and so it was decided instead to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, which, incidentally, was the first ever memorial dedicated to him.

Today the east side of the square is dominated by the ornate Glasgow City Chambers, headquarters of Glasgow City Council, which opened in 1888. On the South side are a number of buildings, including the former General Post Office, built in 1878 and currently under redevelopment [] , a Chicago-style office building, dating from 1924 and there is also the city's main Tourist Information Centre. The North side consists of Queen Street Station, the North British Railway Hotel (now the Millennium Hotel), which date from the 1840s, and the offices of Ernst & Young, which date from the 1970s. Queen Street, running parallel to the square's West side, features the city's Chambers of Commerce building, which was designed by John Burnet and opened in 1874, two storeys were added by JJ Burnet in 1907 and are topped by a domed tower on which is perched a ship on a globe, a reminder of the importance of sea trade to Glasgow's prosperity. The western side is also the location of the former Bank of Scotland building, which is now offices and a Wetherspoons restaurant and bar.

The eastern side of the square itself is flanked by two lawns and is also the site of the city's Cenotaph, which was originally built to commemorate Glaswegians killed in the First World War when it was erected in 1922 by the Earl Haig Fund. An convert|80|ft|m|sing=on high column in the centre features author Walter Scott, which was erected in 1837. Many of Glasgow's public statues are situated around the square and include the only known equestrian statues of a young Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, poets Robert Burns and Thomas Campbell, inventor James Watt, chemist Thomas Graham, generals Sir John Moore, Lord Clyde and politicians William Gladstone and Robert Peel.

The square has often been the scene of public meetings, political gatherings, riots, protests, celebrations, ceremonies, parades and concerts. Perhaps the most famous was the Black Friday 1919 rally, when campaigners for improved working conditions (particularly protesting a 56 hour working week in many of the city's factories) held an enormous rally, with at least 90,000 protesters filling the square and the surrounding streets. The meeting descended into violence between the protesters and the police, with the riot act being read. The city's radical reputation, and the raising of the red flag by some present, made the Liberal government fear a Bolshevik revolution was afoot. The government responded by deploying fully-armed troops and tanks into the square and the city's streets.The square later provided a home to political hustings and meetings of all sorts, protests against the Poll tax and Iraq War, annual Remembrance Day parades and has lately become the venue for the city's extensive Hogmanay celebrations.

In February 2005, the square was closed to pedestrians for a two-month restoration project, including the replacement of the red asphalt concourse, and the cleaning of stone and the statues in the square, most notably that of Walter Scott.

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