View Full Version : Archived: The Briggait - Glasgow

11-03-2010, 07:27 PM
The Briggait is an area in central Glasgow, so called because it contained the first bridge to cross the Clyde, ie. Bridgegate. The Merchant's Hall was built in the 1660's, with its 164 ft high steeple being added in 1665. When the Hall was demolished in 1817, the steeple was retained and incorporated into the Fish Market, built in 1872. Due to extensions and rebuilding, the steeple had become totally enclosed within the fish market buildings by 1886.
The fish market moved to new premises in 1977, and the building fell into disuse until the mid 1980's when it had a very brief life as a shopping arcade - The Briggait Centre.
After that closed, the building remained largely derelict, except for the occasional one-off event now and again. When I visited, a small part was being used as studio space by artists, so I couldn't get near the main atrium or anterooms. However, it is now undergoing a dramatic refurbishment as a permanent workspace for visual artists and cultural organisations.

Now... the history bit over, I would also like to speak to you all about Peter Prowler. Peter Prowler may well have been the first "urban explorer" to use a pseudonym and document his exploits for the masses. He had a regular column in the Glasgow Evening Citizen newspaper throughout the 1930's, in which he printed "reports" of his explorations, or "wanderings", to forgotten or off-limits places in Glasgow. A typical extract:

I looked in, and saw a small iron ladder leading down to somewhere beneath the street, and as there seemed to be nobody about I decided to go down and investigate.

Which brings me neatly back to the Briggait. Peter Prowler wrote of his climb of the steeple in July 1932:

Peter Prowler
Evening Citizen - July 1932

...Many a time as I passed the old steeple I had experienced a strong desire to climb it. The opportunity came at last, when, talking one day to the superintendent of the Fishmarket - which now encircles the base of the steeple - he good-naturedly indulged my notion, and promised me the key of the steeple door when it suited me to carry out my intention.
Acting on his advice, I provided myself with a suit of overalls and an electric torch. I did not use the latter for a minute or two after I closed the door and stood at last inside the venerable steeple. I have read of darkness that could be felt; but this struck me as darkness which could be smelt. The dank dust of centuries that had passed in this rayless interior had an odour peculiarly its own.
Switching on my torch I was surprised to see a stair leading downward as well as upward. Going down, I found two small dungeon-like chambers - empty, except for dust.
Retracing my steps, I started the ascent of the main stair...

...and on he rattles. Much like I'm doing. Aaaaanyway, when I had the chance to follow in his footsteps and climb the steeple 75 years later, I thought It'd be a nice opportunity to see how much, or little, had changed inside this Glasgow landmark since his early "report".

The exterior (newly stripped back to its original sandstone):

Queen Victoria and two winged sea horses:

The main atrium, which served as a fish market and 80's shopping arcade:

A window which hasn't seen the light of day for 135 years:

Original 1665 door:


One of the two "dungeon" rooms as described by Peter Prowler:

Beginning the ascent:

And upwards:

View over Glasgow:

The bell is still there:

The highest point of the steeple:

Also found a cafe/bistro which had been lying derelict since the demise of the shopping centre in the 1980's:


12-03-2010, 07:21 PM
Thanks for the comments folks!

Did you manage provide yourself with a suit of overalls too?

Haha! Actually I didn't, funnily enough.

is the old fish market still pretty intact?

Just as you see it in the second photo. Everything seems to have been stripped back and is looking very stylish. I went in this week as the door was open, but I didn't see a single person.

I see none of the clock mechanism and I do like my clocks.

Just for you, KE:


Though I was disappointed that the pendulum, described by Mr Prowler as "swinging forlornly to and fro", was now absent.