The ‘Hanging Stairs’ in Glasgow

It is due to writers, such as James Denholm, Frank Worsdall, Elizabeth Meldrum and Jack House, alongside artists and illustrators, including Geoffrey Squire, that we can still appreciate what once were must-see features of public and residential buildings in Glasgow. My own recollections are thanks to my parents, and their friends, Rae and Harry Grossman whose wholesale toy business was located in Spreull’s on the Trongate. It was always pointed to me that the staircase was one of the most important features, not only of this particular structure but as part of a wider architectural heritage.

In An Historical Account and Topographical Description of the City of Glasgow and Suburbs, 1797 James Denholm’s tour through Robert and James Adam’s Royal Infirmary, on page 117:

“Leaving these wards on the ground flat, and passing the house-keeper’s room on the left, and another apartment to the right of the lobby, an elegant hanging stair conducts to the second storey. Here, directly opposite, is a handsome apartment, enlightened by the large center [sic] Venetian window, where the committee of management meet to transact the business of the house.”

On page 121, in Robert Adam’s Trades’ Hall on Glassford Street:

“Upon entering the main door and passing the lobby, a hanging stair, which at the end of the first flight divides to the right and left, conducts into the Hall;”

The New Assembly and Concert Rooms, discussed on pages 121-3, and on page 122 Denholm comments:

“Upon entering the main door there is a handsome lobby, supported by Doric pillars; to the right and left of which are situated apartments, or waiting rooms, for the ladies and gentlemen, the house-keeper’s room, store room, and kitchen, &c. At the farther end of the lobby, is a hanging stair, which leads to the first flat above the basement storey.”

On page 126, the Surgeon’s Hall, located on the east side of St. Enoch’s Square:

“At the extremity of the lobby is a hanging stair that conducts into the hall, which is lofty, large, and well finished. Here the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons meet, and transact the business of their society.”

The Tontine Coffee Room and Hotel, after discussing the Coffee Room, Denholm moves on to the Hotel, on pages 109-10:

“The Hotel consists of a suite of apartments handsomely fitted up, immediately adjoining the Coffee Room and Exchange, and to which the main entry leads from the south by a fine hanging stair.”