Kelvingrove Park is situated on the north side of the River Clyde in the Kelvinside district of Glasgow. It has been laid out around part of the River Kelvin. The setting is entirely residential and urban. The paths and walks at Kelvingrove Park are picturesquely placed to take full advantage of the undulating ground affording views from high ground to low ground. The gardens also feature terraces, a bandstand and a memorial fountain, as well as the imposing Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Type of Site
A 19th-century public park
Location and Setting
Kelvingrove Park is situated on the north side of the River Clyde in the Kelvinside district of Glasgow. It has been laid out around part of the River Kelvin. The setting is entirely residential and urban. There are views down into the park from Park Terrace in the east, the University to the north, and Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in the south-west. General views east and west are seen when driving or walking along Kelvin Way which bisects the park.
The 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1858, indicates that Kelvingrove Park did not then exist in its present form, but was confined to the ground below Park Terrace and known as West End Park. To the west was private open ground on the north-east side of Dumbarton Road above Clayslap Mills and, west and north of the river, the grounds of Gilmourhill House. These areas were taken into the park by the time of the 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1894. The latter area seems to have been incorporated c.1864. The date of incorporation of the former remains to be confirmed. The park was greatly developed for the Great Exhibitions in 1888, 1901 and 1911, but the extent of the designed landscape has remained the same since 1894.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a large, red sandstone, free classical style building, completed in 1901 to designs by J W Simpson and Milner Allan. The building has rich sculptural decorations. The Gateway to Kelvingrove Street is later 19th-century and consists of six red ashlar gate piers with inner wrought-iron gate piers supporting a pair of wrought iron-gates which feature the City of Glasgow arms. The Park Terrace Balustrade, Railings and Gateway to the park are by Charles Wilson architect, c. 1855. There is an ashlar balustrade with regular stone piers and a section of cast-iron railings. There are nine symmetrically arranged gate piers with cast-iron gates and lamp brackets. The Statue of Lord Roberts is located inside the gateway and was unveiled in 1916. The Stewart Memorial Fountain in West End Park, was designed by James Sellars, architect, and John Mossman, sculptor. It commemorates the introduction of a new water supply to the city from Loch Katrine and is named after the architect of the scheme, Robert Stewart of Murdostoun. The fountain is elaborately carved in pink ashlar with three tiered basins with flying buttresses supported by lions. The central shaft supports a bronze statue of a female figure. There is a wide plain grey granite basin at ground level. The middle basin has ceramic roundel insets of zodiac signs. The Prince of Wales Bridge, c.1894, below Lord Roberts' statue, is a single arch bridge faced with red ashlar. The parapet is polished pink granite. The South African War Memorial by William Birnie Rhind, 1906, depicts a seated figure of a uniformed soldier on a short obelisk. It commemorates the men of the Highland Light Infantry who fell in the South African War, 1899-1902. It is on the east bank of the River Kelvin, opposite the Prince of Wales Bridge. A Monument to Lord Kelvin by Macfarlane Shannan, 1913, is a seated bronze figure with granite base. It lies below the University on the north side of the River Kelvin. The Statue Group of Tigress, Cubs and Peacock by A Cain, sculptor, 1866 is situated to the east of Park Circus. The sculpture was constructed in Paris before being sited in the park, and an exact copy is sited in Central Park, New York.
The Snow Bridge lies at the west end of the park. The cast-iron bridge here today was opened in 1878 and succeeded an earlier masonry bridge of c.1800. The council used to open the gates on the bridge and push the accumulated city snow collected from the roads into the River Kelvin. The 1960s Footbridge below the Prince of Wales Bridge is built of concrete with metal balustrading. The Cameronian Monument beside Dumbarton Road at the west end of the park is a bronze figure group, 1924, by P Lindsay. Lister's Statue is a seated figure on a granite plinth. It stands to the south-west of Lord Kelvin's statue, below the University. Carlyle's Memorial comprises a sculpted bust, seemingly carved from a monolithic rock. It lies on the east side of the Prince of Wales Bridge.
The Bandstand visible today is a 1920s replacement for an earlier bandstand which stood in the area of the present Lord Kelvin's statue. The Pavilions and Tennis Courts on the south edge of the park are 20th-century. Kelvinway Bridge is a single-span masonry bridge with four symmetrically placed allegorical bronze figure sculptures. It was built c.1919. Sunlight Cottages comprise four asymmetrical, two-storey, red brick cottages. They were built for the 1901 Exhibition and presented by the Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight to the City of Glasgow. The cottages are situated on the north bank of the River Kelvin, east of the Snow Bridge.
Paths and Walks
The paths and walks at Kelvingrove Park are picturesquely placed to take full advantage of the undulating ground affording views from high ground to low ground. All paths are now of tarmac. Kelvinway Road, which runs north-south through the park, is planted with Swedish whitebeam.
The pond attributed to Joseph Paxton's plan lies on the eastern side of the park and is fed from the Stewart Fountain. The island in the shape of Cyprus is planted with Rhododendrons. The edges of the pond are laid with stones.
The Stewart Memorial Fountain is encircled by clipped holly. Other species in the vicinity include Turkey oak (Quercus cerris). Informal shrub borders include Rose of Sharon (Hypericum calycinum), Potentilla, and ash. A herbaceous border on an axis with the Stewart Fountain is backed by a mixed beech, privet and Aucuba hedge. The statue group of tigress, cubs and peacock is planted around with white Rhododendrons.
The terrace below Park Terrace, is planted with Blue cedar and alder. Below the statue to Lord Roberts there is recent planting including larch, Scots pine, birch and Cotoneasters. Along the top terrace there is Swedish whitebeam and red-leaved hybrid sycamore. In the Park Drive area in the north-east corner of the park, trees include Horse chestnut and elm. There are new plantings of oak and beech.
The riverside walk on the east bank is fenced off from the river. The banks are unmanaged and naturalised species include ash, sycamore, and hogweed (Heracleum montegazzianum).
To the north of Kelvinway the statue of Lord Kelvin is surrounded by an area of formal bedding, with rockwork and steps leading up to the Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery.
Below the University, on the south bank of the river, there is a mixture of Rhododendron, laurel, cherry, ash and Laburnum.
This is situated on the eastern side of the River Kelvin near the tennis courts and playground. It is now planted with shrubs such as willow, Berberis, and dogwood (Cornus alba vars.).
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The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
An important public park, created in the mid 19th century in the centre of Glasgow with design contributions by Charles Wilson and Sir Joseph Paxton.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Mid and late 19th century
The development of Kelvingrove Park was started about 1852 after Glasgow Town Council acquired the land.
The first areas to be purchased for the construction of Kelvingrove Park were the grounds of Kelvingrove House from Colin McNaughton's trustees, followed by Woodlands estate from the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company in 1852. The trustees then acquired land from adjoining properties. The land was to be used expressly for a public park and not for building and totalled about 66 acres. The Council, however, retained the right to build upon the south-eastern part of Kelvingrove for a width of 40 metres in front of Royal Terrace and Park Grove Terrace. The crest of the hill, where Park Terrace, Park Gardens, Park Circus and Park Quadrant now stand, was set aside for feuing. Woodlands House stood on the site of Park Circus. What was the West End Park can be clearly seen in the feuing plan of 1855 by Charles Wilson and the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1858. The street arrangement and path layout correspond with what is on the ground today.
Later additions to the park on the north and west and south-west bank of the River Kelvin were made by acquisition of the lands of Gilmourhill, Clayslap and Kelvinbank. The first area had been considered for inclusion as early as 1851.
D. McLellan, in his book Glasgow Public Parks, 1894, notes that: 'The laying out of the grounds was commenced in 1853, and was carried out upon the line of the plan submitted by him.' (Joseph Paxton). It seems to be a generally acknowledged fact that Paxton was involved at Kelvingrove but to what extent is unknown, and there are no known surviving plans. It is established that he was responsible for the small pond with the island shaped like the island of Cyprus. He also suggested the building of a winter garden in 'his original design for the laying out of the park'. The architect Charles Wilson's plan may have incorporated some of Paxton's ideas, but this is not conclusive.
It is known from Notes on Municipal Work, November 1896-November 1899 that; 'Several important leading thoroughfares through the park have been widened, with the result that the congestion, which formerly took place, has been relieved, and the general appearance of the park improved.' Kelvinway is now a main vehicular traffic artery bisecting the park. It evolved from an earlier bridge crossing and more irregular driveway on this general alignment, as depicted on the 1888 International Exhibition Plan. The plan is illustrated in Glasgow Great Exhibitions, Perilla and Juliet Kitchin, 1988. The old Kelvingrove House, on the east bank of the River Kelvin, was retained as a museum in the park until the present combined gallery and museum was built to the west in 1901.
The three Great Exhibitions of 1888, 1901 and 1911 were very important occasions in the history of the park, however very little evidence of these events survives today. Nothing remains from the 1888 exhibition. From 1901 there are the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Sunlight Cottages. The Saracen Fountain from this exhibition was moved to Alexandra Park where it still stands. The An Clachan Memorial marks the site of the Exhibition's 1911 Highland Village.
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Art Gallery (featured building)
- Description: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a large, red sandstone, free classical style building, completed in 1901 to designs by J W Simpson and Milner Allan. The building has rich sculptural decorations.
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- Key Information
Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces
Open to the public