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Glasgow, Bellahouston Park, 1938 Empire Exhibition

Exhibition Site (19th Century) - (20th Century)

Site Name Glasgow, Bellahouston Park, 1938 Empire Exhibition

Classification Exhibition Site (19th Century) - (20th Century)

Canmore ID 44398

Site Number NS56SW 39

NGR NS 54944 63801

NGR Description Centred NS 54944 63801

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Glasgow, City Of
  • Parish Govan (City Of Glasgow)
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District City Of Glasgow
  • Former County Lanarkshire

Recording Your Heritage Online


The Rowan family, old church rentallers, obtained a charter from James VI after the Reformation, granting perpetual rights in their land. James Rowan of Maryland, a descendant, purchased the Bellahouston estate in 1726. When his descendant Thomas died in 1824, the estate passed to Moses Steven (Buchanan Steven & Co.) of Polmadie, a relation by marriage. Two years later Steven bought Wearison from the trustees of Henry Ritchie of Craigton. Steven then bought the adjoining Dumbreck House from Robert Scott of the Thistle Bank and changed its name to Bellahouston. After he died in 1871, his sisters set up a Trust, which feued part of the estate for middle-class houses along the south side of Paisley Road West and sold the remainder of the estate in 1892 to Glasgow Corporation for Bellahouston Park. The 1938 Empire Exhibition was organised in this Park by the Government to help revive the Scottish economy. There were over 100 large temporary buildings and many smaller ones, all dominated by Tait's Tower. Only the permanent Palace of Art remains in situ, while Tait & Ross's Engineering Pavilion was taken to Prestwick, where it is part of the Scottish Aviation Industries works (see Ayrshire & Arran Guide). Much of the Park is now devoted to sports facilities, including a dry ski slope on the site of the drumlin where Tait's Tower once stood.

Taken from "Greater Glasgow: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Sam Small, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Sir Basil Spence

Building Notes

The 1938 Empire Exhibition was the fourth of five Great Exhibitions to be hosted by Glasgow between 1888 and 1988. It was planned as 'the most extravagant exhibition ever held in Britain'. The venue chosen was Bellahouston Park, which at 178 acres was more than 100 acres larger than Kelvingrove Park which had hosted the previous exhibitions.

Spence was given three separate commissions. The first commission was to design the North and South Scottish Pavilions, as assistant to architect-in-chief, Thomas Tait. These were a pair of blue-painted, flat roofed, geometric forms with 120-foot entrance towers. The North Pavilion was dedicated to public services in Scotland and the South to Scotland's past and future. The interiors included the work of artists and sculptors such as Thomas Whalen, Archibald Dawson and William Semple.

Spence's second commission was for Imperial Chemical Industries. ICI were the largest chemical producers in the Empire and Spence's pavilion had to reflect this. The result was a striking modernist building with three triangular, embossed pylons that represented earth, air and water. In the centre was a 200-foot beam of light representing fire and a fountain coloured with light that represented the company's dyestuffs.

The third commission was for the Council of Art and Industry. Spence's remit was to design an ideal Scottish house and to promote contemporary Scottish manufacturing and craftsmanship. The house was harled in a modern vernacular style and filled with contemporary Scottish furnishings and fittings. It was bright, compact and easy to maintain. This commission was undertaken as a 'favour' for which Spence did not receive payment.

Archive Details and Summary

RCAHMS has a large amount of material relating to the Empire Exhibition, primarily photographic. This includes press photographs; photographic copies of souvenir cigarette cards; photographs of the Scottish House model; plans, sections, elevations and details of the Atlantic Restaurant and the Garden Club pavilion. The Spence Glover and Ferguson Collection, also held at RCAHMS, contains three photographs of the ICI pavillion. The Scott Morton Collection, also held at RCAHMS, contains a presscuttings album that contains information on the Exhibition.

The Sir Basil Spence Archive contains four photographs, an axonometric section of the interior the ICI pavilion, and a scrapbook containing photographs and cuttings.

This text was written as one of the outputs of the Sir Basil Spence Archive Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2005-08.

Architecture Notes

NS56SW 39.00 centred 54944 63801

NS56SW 39.01 NS 54957 64019 The Palace of Arts

NS56SW 39.02 NS 5495 6380 The Tower of Empire

NS56SW 39.03 NS 5490 6350 The Palace of Engineering

NS56SW 39.04 NS 5455 6392 Concert Hall

NS56SW 39.05 NS 5500 6370 The Roman Catholic Pavilion

NS56SW 39.06 NS 5463 6385 The United Kingdom Government Pavilion

NS56SW 39.07 NS 5482 6362 The ICI Building

NS56SW 39.08 NS c.5492 6404 The Press Club

NS56SW 39.09 NS c.5480 6390 The Scottish Pavilion

NS56SW 39.10 NS c.5470 6349 The West African Pavilion

NS56SW 39.11 NS c.5467 6350 The South Rhodesian, East African and Empire Tea Pavilion

NS56SW 39.12 NS c.5460 6352 The Colonial Pavilion

NS56SW 39.13 NS c.5465 6345 The Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Pavilion

NS56SW 39.14 NS c.5460 6350 The Industries, Shipping and Travel Pavilion

NS56SW 39.15 NS c.5455 6365 The Palace of Industries, West

NS56SW 39.16 NS c.5464 6368 The South African Pavilion

NS56SW 39.17 NS c.5474 6357 The Australian Pavilion

NS56SW 39.18 NS c.5468 6359 The Canadian Pavilion

NS56SW 39.19 NS c.5465 6373 The Palace of Industries, North

NS56SW 39.20 NS c.5460 6375 The City of Glasgow Pavilion

NS56SW 39.21 NS c.5468 6385 The Women of Empire Pavilion

NS56SW 39.22 NS c.5472 6377 The Burmese Pavilion

NS56SW 39.23 NS c.5485 6375 The Garden Club

NS56SW 39.24 NS c.5473 6342 Entrance

NS56SW 39.25 NS c.5472 6348 The Lake

NS56SE 377 55027 64125 Lodge (995 Paisley Road West)

NS56SE 522 c.5564 6429 Lodge (735 Paisley Road West)

NS56SE 2033 c.5510 6405 An Clachan, The Highland Village

NS56SE 2034 c.5505 6375 The Amusement Park Restaurant and Crazy House


A video tape recording of the Empire Exhibition. Twenty-five minutes long and consisting of different pieces of footage put together in black and white and colour. It shows the construction of the various pavilions, the Exhibition during the day, lit-up at night and also the Royal Visit. There is no footage of the interiors of the pavilions and there is no soundtrack. The video is part of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland Collection.

There is a solander box in 1.12 containing photographs of the exhibition. Box titled 'Empire Exhibition'

These photographs are now entered under the prefix EE (HL, 12.8.1999)

Covered an area of 175 acres and had a total value in the region of £10,000,000. Many Empire Governments participated in the Exhibition and was backed by a guaranteed fund of £750,000. The Exhibition was open between May and Ocotber 1938 and it was expected that between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 people would visit it.

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Build (1938)

Ink Drawing of Plan. Stand for The Clyde Navigation Trust. Empire Exhibition Glasgow 1938.

Build (1938)

Ink Drawing of Side and End Elevations. Stand for The Clyde Navigation Trust. Empire Exhibition Glasgow 1938.

Build (1938)

Ink Drawing of Elevations and Plan. Pylon With Fountain for Clyde Trust. Empire Exhibition Glasgow 1938.


Ink Drawing of Side and End Elevations. Stand for The Clyde Navigation Trust. Empire Exhibition Glasgow 1938.


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