Monday, 25 March 2013

Glasgow’s oldest pub faces demolition

There is some debate over which is the oldest pub in Glasgow. The Scotia Bar in Stockwell Street proclaims itself as such. The Curlers’ Rest in Byres Road is pretty old, but when it was established Glasgow only extended about as far west as Buchanan Street. John Gorevan of Old Glasgow Pubs knows more about this argument than anyone, and he says the oldest pub in Glasgow is the Old College Bar, which is good enough for me.

There are a still quite a few pubs around the area the city’s marketing department calls the Merchant City which have appeared immune to the process of gentrification (this gentrification is, of course, the same process which we can thank for establishments such as Babbity Bowster and Café Gandolfi). The Old College Bar is one of them. When it first opened, it tempted the students of Glasgow University across the road. When the University moved to the West End, a huge goods station took its place until that too disappeared due to the shift of freight off the rails.

Now the pub is surrounded by student accommodation and seemingly interminable construction work on startup incubators. It appears the block on which the Old College Bar stands is to be wiped out to make room for more such.

The corner of High St and George St in 1930. On the far left is the British Linen Bank building and the Old College Bar
is on the ground floor of the tenement next to it.
Photo showing the proposed phases of demolition. Bizarrely, the two shops outlined in magenta
are to be retained. Picture from planning application.
The bar has been down on its luck for some time. The last time I was in with a friend, we tried to order Macallan and Bowmore. These drinks were apparently too out-there for the barmaid to have heard of them, and we nearly got served Magners and Bulmers instead. I popped in again more recently and the drunks arguing loudly at the bar had by the looks of them been there since opening time.

But still, it’s the oldest pub in the city. Is that worth nothing? I know Glasgow specialises it demolishing itself, and yet: would any other city just rip such a pub down without a second thought?

More on the subject from Bar Biographer here.


  1. Carling and Bulmer's, if I remember correctly.

    My other memory of the place was that the clientele appeared more well-heeled that I'd expected, though it was immediately before Christmas and prime time for amateur pub-goers.

  2. Amended planning permission from Dec shows the whole of that block in phase 2 being removed then the bar in a phase 3.

  3. Wow we can look what building is before the bar before and the old building was great. I love it look glorious.

  4. I wonder how they’re planning to retain those two shops when they’re demolishing the whole building and the ones beside it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just demo the whole thing and provide them with slots when the new building goes up?

    That part done, it’s sad that they’re removing a landmark just to add more condos to the place. Although it might be beneficial in the long run, it still feels like they’re removing a part of the place’s history.

  5. re.: would any other city just rip such a pub down without a second thought?

    Belfast : the bulldozers would roll in overnight and in the morning it would be gone.

  6. Not quite sure when " Barm " was actually in the College but I worked there up until 2 years ago and the bar was stocked with every whisky you could name and quite a few I couldn't even pronounce..... also various gins and vodkas to suit any discerning palate....!