88-96, Castle Street, Townhead

Facing onto Castle Street, wedged between the northern flanks of the older buildings of the Royal Infirmary and its brand new multi-storey car park, is a highly ornate Victorian building which is all that remains of the old Asylum for the Blind.

The structure is a rather curious mixture of architectural styles and has been described as “excruciatingly Franco-Flemish with a spire bristling with gargoyles,” and “Free Revivalist style combining Franco-Scots, northern European and Gothic.”  It was designed by William Landless and built from 1879.  The Royal Asylum for the Blind had been founded in 1804 and built its premises in Castle Street in 1828-29.  The present building replaced this earlier structure when it fell into disrepair; the current fate of the replacement.

Its predominant features include the hexagonal corner clock tower with spire, crowstepped gables and a large statue which was placed in its canopied niche in 1881. This reflects the Victorian religious based philanthropy of the age and represents Christ dressed in Medieval garb, restoring sight to a blind child.  It is by Charles Benham Grassby, whose work can also been seen in the statue of James Watt in McPhun Park on Glasgow Green and the George & the Dragon group at St. George’s Cross.

Historically, the Asylum provided accommodation for poor children and aged women, and provided  a variety of education and training, as well as employment, to other blind persons.  The institution moved to more modern premises in Saracen Street in 1935, the Royal Infirmary having acquired the property the previous year.  Among other things, the hospital used it to accommodate a new Out-Patient Department.  It continued to be used by the hospital until 1989 since which time it has been allowed to grow more and more dilapidated.  The bulk of the original building has been taken down, with only the ornate Castle Street portion remaining. 

Williamson, E., Riches, A., & Higgs, M., (1990); “The Buildings of Scotland - Glasgow.” Penguin Books in association with The National Trust for Scotland.


© 2005 Gordon Adams



NOTES: Updated for 1st March, 2010.

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