Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Saved Olympia at Bridgeton Cross

It’s quite a while since I made it past Bridgeton Cross and the former Olympia, which had been closed and derelict for the best part of 20 years, and threatened by vandalism and possible demolition.

Originally known as the Olympia Theatre of Varieties, the venue opened on 18 September, 1911, designed by the architectural practice of George Arthur & Son, specifically John Arthur, who continued the practice following his father’s death in 1899. The interior was designed by Frank Matcham (1854-1920), describes as the most prolific theatre architect of all time. The theatre originally sat around 2,000 in the stalls and dress circle, and was equipped to show films from its opening. In 1924, acquired by Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres (later ABC – Associated British Cinemas), after which the ‘variety’ aspect was dropped, and it became a full-time cinema. By 1938,  new Art Deco interior by McNair & Elder (Charles J McNair and Henry F Elder) incorporating concealed lighting, decorative grilles and other architectural elements of the 1930s replaced the original lavish plaster scrollwork of French Renaissance style, resulting in a vastly changed auditorium with seating for 1,689 which reopened on 21 November, 1938.

Like many cinemas, the Olympia eventually succumbed to falling numbers, and closed it doors on 9 March 1974, having had its name changed to the ABC in 1963. The building came back into use for a time, after being converted into a bingo club in 1978, operated by County Bingo. It ended its working days as a furniture store, although that only survived until 2000, after which the building became vacant and derelict.

It came to the notice of the media in 30 November, 2004, when a serious fire took place within the building, which resulted in the death of which a man who had been sleeping rough within, and who died of smoke inhalation.

Period views of the building and its interior can be seen on the excellent Scottish Cinema web site page: Olympia, Bridgeton


Work began on the £10 million project by Clyde Gateway – the regeneration agency responsible for the East End – to bring the historic B-listed Olympia Theatre back into use exactly 100 years after its first opening in 1911.

Probably the most impressive part of this work was the removal of the building’s 5 ton wooden cupola  for restoration, and its return some eight months later, when the restored dome was lifted back into place by a 60 foot crane.

The building has been transformed externally, using areas of glazing to open up the existing façade with a new glazed frontage onto Orr Street, which allows activities on the ground floor and in the first floor sports training areas and the upper floor offices to be seen from the street. A new granite plinth runs along the ground floor on Olympia Street before wrapping up and over the large curtain wall opening on Orr Street. Primary access to the building is from the corner of Orr Street and Olympia Street, via the original theatre entrance, covered by a new canopy which recreating the original (lost over time) of the Olympia Theatre. More glazing on the ground floor library allows the interior to be viewed from Olympia Street. The foyer now allows access to all levels via a new spiralling timber clad stair.

The regenerated building opened on 3 December, 2012, when the public library and a café opened on the ground floor, with the sports area on the floor above operated by Amateur Boxing Scotland. Office spaces are to follow in the remainder of the building.

You can read a more extended description of the building, its past, and its regeneration here: Bridgeton Olympia : January 2013 : Features & Reports : Architecture in profile the building environment in Scotland – Urban Realm

When I stopped to take a photograph, I was reminded that this was one of the most irritating places where one may try to take what is arguably the ‘best’ picture of the building, showing the entrance in the centre, and the two wall leading away and to either side. Without a ladder, or perhaps access to one of the upper flats on the facing building, you can’t avoid a set of traffic lights planting themselves right in the middle of the pic, in front of the door. The only way to avoid it is to offset the view, and that just wastes the symmetry.

Still, it’s better than no pic at all, and looking at nothing more than a gap site, which I really thought was more likely than not a few years ago.

Seriously though… somebody needs to do something about that damned traffic light!

Bridgeton Olympia Theatre

Bridgeton Olympia Theatre in 2013


February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Parkhead Cross wins £1 million grant for historic improvement

Parkhead Cross has been granted funding of £1 million through Historic Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme, which has just awarded more than £10 million to 12 historic towns and areas throughout Scotland, towards the cost of improvements:

  • £1.6m Falkirk
  • £1.2m Kirkwall
  • £1m Cupar
  • £1m Parkhead Cross
  • £970,000 Inveraray
  • £750,000 Elgin
  • £750,000 Galston
  • £750,000 Selkirk
  • £645,000 Kirriemuir
  • £548,500 Gorebridge
  • £500,000 Banff
  • £500,000 Kilbirnie

The funds are designed to encourage local authorities to “invest in their historic environment, whilst helping to stimulate economic regeneration”. Allocated to local authorities by Historic Scotland, the grants are made available to provide financial assistance for regeneration and conservation initiatives.

There’s already been work carried out on some of the buildings which oversee the cross, and many of the tenement building are of a fine red sandstone with original detail in the carving, unlike the plain stone of building further away from the cross itself. It’s not so long which scaffolding that seemed to have become a permanent feature on Westmuir Street and Tollcross Road eventually disappeared, and we could see the building behind it once more.

Just across the road, another tenement with a fine feature topping the corner which overlooked the cross developed some sort of potentially hazardous defect, and a band of scaffolding was added around its perimeter, presumably to avoid it falling apart and dumping lumps of sandstone onto unwitting pedestrians passing below, which would probably not have been popular.

Hopefully, this addition – shown below – will be something that the grant will help to make disappear:

Parkhead scaffold

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish towns – and Parkhead Cross – secure significant restoration grants

I know I don’t claim to have the sharpest memory around, but I thought it had taken a turn for the worse after I had read about some grants awarded during the past week, as the story seemed to be changing as I read more about it from various different sources.

Fortunately, when I finally decided to sit down and make some notes, I found that more than one award had actually been reported, and some of the lucky towns concerned were due to benefit from more than one successful application, which is quite an achievement these days, largely thanks to their original applications having been made years ago.

It clearly pays to plan ahead.

Historic Scotland – Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme

First noted was a series of grants awarded under the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme run by Historic Scotland.

This will see six Scottish towns receive a share of some £3 million in funding to be used for building preservation, shop front repairs, and the maintenance of town centre landmarks:

Anstruther, Fife: £500,000
Ayr, South Ayrshire: £498,244
Dingwall, Highlands: £420,000
Irvine, North Ayrshire: £500,000
Portsoy, Aberdeenshire: £500,000
Rothesay, Argyll and Bute: £499,933

(Apart from Dingwall, I know them all – unfortunately, Dingwall gets bypassed as it’s just off the road to Ullapool.)

Since 2005, this scheme is reported to have benefited conservation areas with some £16 million, and the grants come with back-up and advice from Historic Scotland for the local authorities and building owners involved.

BBC News – Scottish towns awarded £3m for revamp work

Heritage Lottery Fund

The second is even larger (per project), and comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and amounts to £1.5 million for Rothesay, and £1.76 million of Parkhead Cross in the east end of Glasgow.

The award for Rothesay is easy to understand, as the town’s fans have watched it decay ever since the arrival of the package holiday during the 1970s, which sucked all the patrons away from the town (and all the Clyde resorts of course) and off to the guaranteed sun of places such as Spain, leaving the former bustling local resorts deserted, and starved of income.

Although there have been efforts to regenerate Rothesay, and there is no criticism of the owners of many buildings which are now decaying along the front, the cost of merely keeping aged buildings weathertight can be crippling, especially if they no longer generated income. They can swallow cash just to keep them safe. leaving none for development or restoration to make them more attractive. In recent years, the most decayed examples have had to be demolished and removed.

This dereliction and demolition has taken place in some prominent areas, leaving obvious and unattractive gap sites, raw gable ends and frontages in poor repair. The money will be used to restore the heart of the town – Guildford Square – which lies beside Rothesay’s medieval royal castle, and is one of the first features seen by visitors arriving on the ferry. Project will include the refurbishment of Duncan’s Hall on East Princes Street, buildings in Montague Street, and the former Guildford Court Hotel in Guildford Square itself.

In comparison with Rothesay, the award of £1.76 million to Parkhead Cross is something of a surprise. Often rolled in with adjacent areas such as Shettleston and Tollcross when the media wants to make references to “the most deprived areas of Scotland”, and show images of vandalism, decay, and bad behaviour, the area does not immediately jump to into one’s mind when grants from sources such as the Lottery Heritage Fund are mentioned – and I live in the same area!

However, I am also aware of the wonderful Edwardian building in the area, often neglected, and in recent years, beginning to sprout odd sculptures created in scaffolding, added in order to hold them together for a few more years.

The award will be used to fund the restoration of 20 shop fronts to improve the appearance of the area, and provide a series short-term lets for artists, traditional crafts people, and start-up businesses. This is an interesting development. Many years ago I was slightly involved in further education in the area, and even then people such as writer Liz Lochhead | (now the second Scots makar) were involved with evening classes being held in local schools.

While the ferry trip might preclude me keeping too close on eye on developments in Rothesay – but I think I will be able to follow them in the ‘Daily Pics’ here: Zak’s Photo Galleries of Bute – I will be able to take the odd walk down to Parkhead Cross, and see what is happening there every now and then, but the cross is just a bit too far away to do this on a daily basis.

BBC News – Rothesay in line for £1.5m revamp to boost tourism

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rothesay buildings to benefit from £500,000

One of the best sights I’ve enjoyed over the years has been the approach to Rothesay aboard the ‘Big’ ferry, as it passes the various mansions and villas along Mount Stuart road on its final approach to the pier, and the town’s unmistakable waterfront.

Rothesay front and esplanade

Rothesay front and esplanade © Zak

You can find many more views of this area of Rothesay in Zak’s Reflections Photo Gallery.

I can’t say exactly when, perhaps a decade or two (maybe even longer as my perception of anything further back than about five years is vague to say the least), the buildings along Argyle Street and behind the esplanade benefited from something of a tidy up, and a splash of paint, and looked all the better for it.

Since then, without criticism, it’s probably fair to say that the pot must have run dry after that, as there was little maintenance carried out afterwards, and the salty sea air took it toll over the years. A number of shops, and some dwellings, were given up, becoming abandoned and derelict, with some having been demolished in recent years due to their dangerous condition, and the start of 2011 being marked by reports of pieces falling into the street, and just missing pedestrians.

Thankfully, there is now news of both funds and help to assist with local efforts to restore the town’s waterfront view, following an announcement by Scotland’s Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop.

Historic Scotland’s Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme will be contributing towards the Townscape Heritage Initiative, and a sum of £499,933 will be available to help with Argyll and Bute Council’s plans for what has been described as ‘Scotland’s largest conservation area’.

Together with the straight funding, the council and building owners gain access to expertise and guidance, and residents within the conservation area regeneration scheme will be able to apply for grants in the summer.

Perhaps I’ll manage to make the trip this year. Ever since I made the mistake of tempting fate by making arrangements to meet some friends on the island a few years ago, I have singularly failed to make what had been something of an annual ‘away day’ ever since, as various mishaps have conspired to thwart ‘best laid plans. White Van Man even managed to ruin my car one year – and he was going backwards when he did it! And that was just after I managed to fix the damage one of Argyll’s deer had done the year before.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rothesay Pavilion redevelopment proves popular

Rothesay pavilion

Rothesay Pavilion

It seems that the most adventurous plan for the redevelopment of Rothesay’s Art Deco pavilion have also proven to be the most popular with the locals.

The exhibition of various options we mentioned recently took place to a good response, and the most adventurous (and expensive) of three possibilities has been reported to be the most popular of the offerings.

This plan would see the main hall being reduced in size, with the side wings utilised for meeting rooms or gallery space, and the construction of a first-floor gallery, said to be a feature that would restore the hall to its present seating capacity, despite the initial size reduction.

This plan also see the top floor of the pavilion being reopened for public use, with the possibility of a partial conversion to hotel accommodation – those responsible for the project claim their research has revealed a lack of top-end bedrooms on the island (I’m not so sure about that one – we’ll see).

Whatever the ultimate outcome, it’s good to see such interest being generated and followed up, together with the financial commitment Argyll and Bute Council has pledged to ensure the project goes forward. Building such as the pavilion can only come under increasing threat in the future, as they become older and in need of maintenance.

We don’t want to see them go the same way as many of the Clyde cost’s picture palace, razed to make way for flats, such as was the case with the Regal a few years ago, and the Winter Gardens, which may be coming under threat again, after enjoying a successful decade after its rescue around the turn of the millennium.

Read more:

Pavilion plans grab Bute public’s attention – Buteman Today

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open day to show proposals for Rothesay Pavilion project

Rothesay pavilion

Rothesay Pavilion

Rothesay Pavilion is one of our favourite buildings, so we keep an eye out for any news regarding the building’s forthcoming regeneration.

The Prince’s Regeneration Trust – leading the development of plans for the building’s future – is hosting a drop-in event at the Pavilion this Sunday, November 7, 2010, along with architects Elder & Cannon, the Bute Community Land Company, and other partners in the team working towards the renewal of the structure.

Members of the public are invited to come along, and have their say on the proposed option for the classic Art Deco building, and Sunday will be the first time the various option will be placed on display.

Argyll and Bute Council – Rothesay Pavilion Project

The event runs from 11 am until 4 pm on the day, with refreshments and home baking being provided.

Read more:

Rothesay Pavilion plans to go on public display – Buteman Today

Comments and feedback from any readers that are able to attend this event would be most appreciated.

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paddy’s Market traders swept aside – maybe

Being fairly uninterested in anything political, I’ve never really bothered about the local stories that suggest you better not try and get in the way of Glasgow Council if it’s set its mind on something, especially if it’s a pie it might happen to have its finger in, and just dismissed them as the grumblings of a few malcontents.

I may be wrong.

Currently, the council is intent on leasing part of Pollok Park, an area gifted to the city (ie not to the council for it to lease for gain), to a private venture and allowing ‘High Wire Forest Adventure’ operator Go Ape to create one of its aerial assault courses and walkway in a secluded area of the country park’s woodland. The council has a clear financial interest, and surprisingly has voted in favour of the development, despite much local opposition and little support.

The council is also intent on sweeping away Paddy’s Market from its home on a site leased from Network Rail, too close to the city’s High Court, and described by the council as a “crime hot spot”. An executive committee has approved a report on the future of Paddy’s Market, by 13 votes to 4 – the report recommended that the council take over the lease of Shipbank Lane with a rent of £100,000 per year, and stated that the council could “positively raise the profile of the area over the next five years” and possibly operate a new market and arts-related development. It means the authority can now go-ahead with plans to regenerate the area around the lane, which the council has described as a “crime hot spot”.

The local SNP councillor voted against the plan, saying “Traders must be given the opportunity to negotiate new sub-lets with the council before their leases with Network Rail are terminated.”

The traders don’t want to be thrown out, those that work there don’t want to be thrown out, those that buy and sell there don’t want to lose the place (and just because the council call it a “crime hot spot” doesn’t mean it is), but some sort of trendy arts-related development near the re-vamped Glasgow Green would bring in bigger wallets, and make it easier to have a swipe at The Barras in a few years, and take that area more up-market too, to take advantage of the tidy-up there, and the re-siting of the Doulton Fountain.


The above was being rattled together in spare moments while I was fighting with our recent server move.

Having had a quick scout around for any new information, I discovered a web site devoted to the whole affair, which I hadn’t seen appear during earlier searches, and which reports that the there may be a U-turn in the plans, and that they may be prepared to incorporate the current and legitimate traders – maybe.

There’s on online petition on the Save Paddy’s Market web site.

And an article and video news item on

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Traders will fight for Paddy’s market

Traders from Glasgow’s Paddy’s Market look set to try and thwart Glasgow City council plan to commandeer their patch, and turn it into yet another manufactured tourist attraction, perhaps modelled after the dreadful Glasgow:Scotland with style enigma, which I find offensive every time I see it – and I live there!

Stallholders at the market, established there for some 200 years in one form or another, have proposed acquiring the lease for the area from Network Rail by setting up a no-for-profit trust to run the market, rather than having it taken over by the council, and having it sterilised under council plans to regenerate the area.

The traders say they would fence off the area, and check the background of those trading there, to help cut crime in the area, which the council describes as “a crime ridden midden”.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Council fails to show consideration

Continuing to show reinforce its local reputation for disregarding locals wishes, Glasgow City Council has come under fire from the families and traders that make up Glasgow’s Paddy’s Market Traders’ Committee.

The council plans to improve the area as part of its regeneration plans.

The proposals came as a shock to the Paddy’s Market Traders’ Committee. As its spokeswomen, Patsy Woodward, explained: “No-one from the council ever bothered to come and talk to us about these plans. All we knew about them was what we read in the local paper.

The council’s plans describe the transformation of shops in the railway arches into studios for young artists, and of turning the area into something like Camden Market in London.

George Ryan, who chairs Glasgow Council’s Regeneration Committee, describes it as being “..a bit tired“, pointing out shrubs growing wild out of the stonework above the stalls. He also expressed concern about what he calls the “exceptional criminality, those attempted murders, assaults on police and drug dealing, not to mention the counterfeit goods which are sold from the market.” One of his colleagues on the council even went so far as to describe it as a “crime ridden midden“, something that really upset the people who work there.

Patsy Woodward said, “If they wanted to improve the look of this place, why didn’t they ask us? We could paint out the graffiti on the walls. We could put gates at each end of the street to keep the criminals out at night. But no. They just want to get rid of us.

Stallholders and traders at Paddy’s Market say the media has grossly misrepresented crime rates in the market, and the the criminal activities they refer to have nothing to do with legitimate, hard-working people who make their living there.

They all pointed their fingers at the residents of a local hostel, set up next to them by the council. As one of them put it: “these are the folk the council can’t house anywhere else. But they’re druggies and, where they are, that’s where the dealers are. When the dealers come, crime follows.

Although the council has said it will buy out all the properties by August 2008, the traders have queried Network Rail, which own the land the market is situated on, and is actually investing in improving the fabric of the arches and shops beneath, and been told that nothing has been tabled with them.

Paddy’s Market has been part of Glasgow’s folklore for some 200 years, and in many respect hasn’t changed much, but it may be out of luck, located only yards from the city’s High Court, and in the way of plans to tidy up the area, continue the clean up of areas around Glasgow Green, develop flats, and attract fresh money into the city.

This isn’t the ony proposal that’s been raised in the area, as last year saw a similar issue, when proposals were raised regarding the The Barras, also claimed to be a den of crime, and portal for counterfeit goods, and also occupying or bordering land where new flats have been developed in recent years, and could be expanded upon if The Barras were removed.


(I’ve tried reading through this news item, to find the part where it mentions consulting with the existing traders and tennants of Shipbank Lane – Paddy’s Market – but I don’t seem to be able to find it. Must be a problem with my old eyes.)

Council News page, dated 01 April 2008

Thursday 20 March 2008

Council to develop Shipbank Lane as part of ‘cultural quarter’

Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee made a decision today (20 March) that means that Shipbank Lane – commonly known as Paddy’s Market – could become part of Glasgow’s cultural quarter.

The Executive Committee authorised the Executive Director of the Council’s Development and Regeneration Services to enter into negotiation with Network Rail with a view to taking on the leases at Shipbank Lane for a combination of uses, including sub-leasing to appropriate arts and business organisations.

The development of this site is seen as key to the continuing regeneration of the Merchant City, where long-term investment has delivered a significant improvement in the public environment, increased property investment and steady growth in the local investment base.

Despite the positive changes, crime and anti-social behaviour has increasingly become a significant problem in Shipbank Lane, and is seen to have a very detrimental impact on the area and the efforts to improve the Merchant City. The multi-agency costs of tackling these problems totalled £277,000 in 2006/7.

There are plans to develop sites in the immediate vicinity of Shipbank Lane, such as two St Enoch developments and the creation of a cultural quarter stretching from Trongate to the Briggait, and the crime and anti-social behaviour at Shipbank Lane must be tackled to complete the development of the area.

The negotiations between Network Rail and Glasgow City Council should result in the Council securing the lease at a level lower than that currently charged, in recognition of a social responsibility on behalf of the network to help resolve them.

The proposals for the Shipbank Lane site would aim to eliminate the problems of criminality on the site through a range of opportunities, including sub-letting space to artist’s organisations, meet operational and storage requirements for the Council and Glasgow Community Safety Services and the development of a high-quality weekday or weekend market.

Councillor George Ryan, Executive Member for Development and Regeneration at Glasgow City Council, said: “The takeover of the lease by the Council would lift the whole area, fitting in with the regeneration of the Clyde and the Merchant City and eradicating the anti-social element. Shipbank Lane could become a tourist destination, a very high quality arts and crafts market and a cultural venue, with aspiring artists selling their work.”

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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