Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The ageing Winter Gardens of Glasgow’s People’s Palace

To be fair, this post could probably be made about ANY of the winter gardens or glasshouses we have in Scotland today, as they all date from the same era, and are made of the same materials, and are subject to the same lovely weather we enjoy here.

There may be differences in the composition of the cast iron made at individual foundries that made their metalwork, but I missed out on chemistry, so I don’t know if some types/compositions are more resistant to corrosion than others, in a similar way to steel and stainless steel.

However, I am familiar with way our seasonal variations can destroy building materials.

During warm and wet periods, surfaces and surface finishes can expand and crack, allowing moisture to penetrate. Once inside, the moisture does not just ‘go away’, and can become trapped.

Our winters can bring repeated periods of freezing and thawing, when water’s wonderful property of EXPANDING when it freezes (most stuff contracts when it gets colder) means that anything it trapped inside will blow out, or burst, leading to larger gaps and cracks where MORE water can seep in, causing yet more damage when the freeze/thaw process repeats again and again, year after year.

If you think this is trivial…

How much force is ice capable of exerting? In 1784 and 1785, a Major Edward Williams took advantage of weather in Quebec and repeatedly tried (and failed) to find a method of containing ice. At first he tried to seal water inside artillery shells, but cast iron plugs were launched  475 feet at 20 feet per second when the pressure become too great. Williams tried anchoring the plugs in place using hooks, so the shells just split.

In another experiment, an attempt was made to fill cannons made of one inch thick cast iron with water. They just split when frozen. Academics in Florence later tried to fill a ball made of one inch thick brass with water. That also cracked when it was frozen. They later worked out that the force of around 27,720 pounds was needed to do this.

Some of our buildings don’t have a chance against that, depending on what they were made of.

I took some pics of the exterior, where I could see weathering, bearing in mind we are looking at a structure which is over 100 years old.

I haven’t seen any follow-up from a statement made following the publicity given to the structural problems here, where it was announced that ALL glasshouses across Scotland would be inspected.

The statement made sense, as I noted earlier, they’re all of a similar age, and subject to our lovely weather.

Maybe the others are scared after seeing the potential bill for the People’s Palace Winter Gardens remediation – and are going to keep quiet about their findings, until they also hit the point at which closure on grounds of safety/liability is their only option.

Winter Gardens Original Doors

Winter Gardens Original Doors

Not sure if these doors are absolutely original, from the day the place was built, but these west end doors are older than the side doors. Those were replaced some years ago (might have been the 1990 work), when modern powered doors and ramps were installed to provide disabled access to the building.

Winter Gardens Roof Exterior

Winter Gardens Roof Exterior

Fairly standard, and you can see how the curved glass panes have clips supporting one another.

This view caught my eye for the odd skid mark in the middle.

Winter Gardens Exterior Weathering

Winter Gardens Exterior Weathering


Winter Gardens Exterior Weathering

Winter Gardens Exterior Weathering

While the Glasgow Green situation is the one closest to me…

I’m more than aware of other glasshouses that have closed and never opened again, or been able to muster enough support from the local population to be ‘saved’.

Some are ‘saved’, only to fall into ruin when the money runs out a few years later.

(Name drops for Springburn, Tollcross, and Belle Isle for example – look them up if you don’t know them.)


Despite the hue and cry from a few, Glasgow City Council has acted correctly and responsibly.

Am I the only one who is now just a little bit concerned about some of those that are apparently fine?

Are they really?

Or is it a case of ‘If we don’t look, nobody can say we knew there was anything wrong‘?


20/12/2018 - Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , ,

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