IT is one of the oldest organisations in Glasgow, with its origins stretching back more than 350 years, to before 1668. Category A Listed, this Italianate palazzo is passed daily by thousands, few of whom have any idea what lies behind its bright blue door.
With its finely sculpted masks of historical legal figures, a richly decorated interior and access to its main library, it has been described as “one of the most exquisite halls in the West of Scotland.”
The Faculty of Procurators (or lawyers) in Glasgow has been in existence since before 1668. The building in Nelson Mandela Square, into which the Faculty and its library moved in 1857, is a two-storeyed building with three façades designed by the architect Charles Wilson (1810-1863) in the style of a Venetian Palazzo.
The keystones to the arches, depicting the faces of eminent lawyers, were modelled by Alexander Handyside Ritchie and carved by James Shanks.
There are a number of different rooms within the building including –
- the Faculty Hall which has been used for a variety of purposes over the years, including auctions and Royal Faculty lunches.
- the Small Library with its “bicentenary window” commissioned from John K. Clark for the Royal Faculty’s bicentenary in 1996 and mortification boards around the balcony commemorating bequests to the Royal Faculty’s charitable funds.
- The Main Library which was described in the Glasgow Herald of 12 June 1857 as one of the most exquisite halls in the West of Scotland. Nine busts of former members of the Faculty and other notables add character to the library.
The building houses an extremely important collection of legal texts and is still used as a working space by solicitors and advocates. Consequently it is usually only open to members.
Members of the Royal Faculty are entitled to use the largest law library in the West of Scotland for research, quiet study, for the loan of textbooks, law reports and journals
Wilson is also responsible for some of Glasgow’s finest Italianate buildings. In 1851 he prepared a master plan for the Park district of Glasgow, the core of which was taken forward as Park Circus, although other parts of his scheme were not adopted.
He also assisted Sir Joseph Paxton with the layout for the adjacent Kelvingrove Park. Wilson's design for 22 Park Circus was executed after his death. His important mansions include the castellated Lews Castle, Stornoway (1847–1857), for Sir James Matheson.