From 1872 to 2000 and beyond…
Built in 1872 by the architects Douglas and Sellers, the Old Cowcaddens Church terminates in the vista of Hope Street as it rises dramatically from the Clyde to Cowcaddens ridge.
Regarded as an Italianate church with a decidedly Tuscan tower, it also has a mixture of Greek elements with a simple pedimented facade onto what is now Cowcaddens Road. To the sides, the clerestory glazing is referred to as “a la” Alexander Thomson and some think the Church has design echoes of Thomsons work at the Caledonian Road Church built in 1856 and also St Vincent Street Free Church which Thomson built in 1858. This comparison is not so much a matter of scale and vigour, but instead the presence of temple frontage coupled to a side campanile.
The three stained glass windows that can be seen above the main entrance of the building were commissioned by the National Piping Centre from John K. Clark.
In 1843, the main event of the 19th century took place in the form of the disruption of 1843, from which about a third of the Church of Scotland left to form the Free Church, followed in 1847 by the formation of the United Presbyterians by those previously seceded from the Established Church. This brought an era of rapid building as each of the three Churches provided for itself, often in competition with the others.
The Free Church was the most restrained architecturally, by the 1870’s, however, French Gothic had become the popular style in Glasgow and it was Sellers who kept most literally to the French model, particularly in the Belmont “saint chapelle”. His adoption of the quite severe simplicity of McPhater Street with its Florentine Classicism may have been created by the restraints of placing the building in an already developed area. Galleries, as shown on this church on three sides, were favoured by the Free Church and in this building were most elegantly handled. When built, the church had seating for over 1,000. It was designed specifically for its time as accommodating a congregation to whom preaching was the main function. The layout reflects this with its lack of significant form in any chancel and the predominance of the pulpit and the gospel lecturn over any specific provision of an altar. This is a church in which communion was not a significant and as dominant a part of the service as the sermon.
The building is built of a cream sandstone laid in ashlar. It looks refreshingly sharp now cleaned. The campanile is rather squat, it would have had greater impact if a truly Tuscan tower had been built in this location. The main front is delicately handled, its pedemented entablature holds firmly the composition with a strong central door and side doors set in channeled pilastered quoins. Though Greek in proportion, the pedement is supported by Tuscan columns and pilasters, to give the illusion of a classic temple sitting on a strong rusticated base. It is from this design motif that the squatness of the tower is probably derived rather than from any overriding desire to dominate what was then a dense tenemantal inner city. The main roof of the church is slated, the tower has deeply consoled eaves and a Roman styled piend roof.