St Andrew's in the Square

(St. Andrew's Parish Church)

St Andrew's Church, Glasgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

St Andrew's Church, Glasgow

A centre for the performing arts located in a remarkable A-listed former church in E Central Glasgow, St Andrew's in the Square is located to the north of Glasgow Green, a half-mile (1 km) southeast of George Square. Said to be one of the finest classical churches in Britain, St Andrew's Parish Church was built 1739-57 by master-mason Mungo Naismith to a design by local architect and businessman Allan Dreghorn (1706-64), who took his inspiration from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. In December 1745, the Jacobite army camped around its rising walls after their abortive invasion of England. Representing the third-oldest church in Glasgow and the only completely new one since the Reformation, it projected the affluence of the Tobacco Lords who paid for it and became the official place of worship for the city fathers, evidenced by the Glasgow Coat-of-Arms carved on the tympanum crowning its hexastyle Corinthian portico. This soaring portico was so unusual at the time that Naismith slept below it when the scaffolding was removed to prove his confidence that it would not collapse. The sumptuous Rococo interior also mirrors St Martin's, with magnificent plasterwork by Thomas Clayton and immense Corinthian columns supporting a gallery. The raw material for the fine wood-panelling is said to have been brought on the Tobacco Lords' ships from the USA and the Caribbean.

A remarkable event took place on 23rd November 1785 when Vincenzo Lunardi took off from the churchyard in a hot-air balloon. Thousands of Glasgow's citizens turned out to see the flight, which took Lunardi southeast to Hamilton and Lanark before eventually landing in Hawick.

Last used for worship in 1993 and in danger of falling into disrepair, the church was acquired by the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust who have converted it to a Centre for Traditional Scottish Music, Song and Dance, which was officially opened to the public on the 30th November, 2000. The building was sympathetically restored, stripping out Victorian additions to bring it back to its original style while retaining its acoustic qualities. To avoid damaging the integrity of the interior space, the floor beneath the church was excavated to provide space for rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and a cafe-bar.

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