EX LIBRIS

Memorial Pillar to the Bishop’s Palace

I don’t know how many times other people may have crossed Cathedral Square on the way to and from the Cathedral, but I know that I would have difficulty counting the number of times I have done so. It was with some incredulity, therefore, that in a book I was given sight of a few days ago, I discovered a monument which, although I have noticed many times, never seemed to be more than just a decorative pillar. There is, however, more to it than meets the eye. Read on, dear reader!
In the centre of Cathedral Square there is a Memorial Pillar to the Bishop’s Palace which in the Middle Ages stood in front of the Cathedral, roughly on the site of St Mungo’s Museum of Comparative Religion. Its designer was James Miller and the sculptor, Robert Gray and it was unveiled in July 1915.
The inscription in relief letters on the bronze plaque on the north face is inscribed:–

PRESENTED TO THE CORPORATION
OF GLASGOW
BY FRANCIS HENDERSON ESQ.
LORD DEAN OF GUILD OF THE CITY
IN THE YEARS 1910-1912
TO MARK THE SITE OF THE BISHOP’S PALACE
WHICH WAS BUILT IN THE THIRTEENTH
CENTURY
AND WAS FINALLY REMOVED IN 1792.

The pillar was commissioned by Francis Henderson, Lord Dean of Guild 1910-12, who desired to ‘leave some visible token behind him of the pleasure he had experienced in being associated with the public work of the city’. His particular interest was the Cathedral ‘and everything connected with it and the older life of Glasgow’, and in October 1911, he sought permission to erect a ‘plain Scottish granite obelisk about four feet in height with a flat top and inscription thereon’ to mark the site of the original Palace, which was duly granted. The committee unanimously accepted his proposal. At the unveiling, which despite the ‘inclement weather’ was well attended, Bailie Ure commended the memorial not only as a ‘link with the historic past’ but also as a ‘proof that the spirit of commercialism had not altogether enslaved the merchant princes’.

When first erected it was placed within the grounds of the Royal Infirmary, a few yards in front of the main entrance. It was moved slightly to the south during the re-modelling
of the Square in 1990, though it is still well within the archaeological area of the Bishop’s Palace.

Iain Macnair
Librarian and Archivist.