Bird’s eye view map of Victorian Glasgow captures a city ‘on the cusp of greatness’

14 October 2022
The project is based upon Thomas Sulman’s 1864 bird’s eye view map of Glasgow © Glasgow City Heritage Trust
Gallus Glasgow, a new project from Glasgow City Heritage Trust uses an intricate 19th-century map of Glasgow as a catalyst for exploring the next 50 years of the city’s development, as it became ‘the Second City of the Empire’.

Thomas Sulman’s 1864 bird’s eye view map of Glasgow forms the basis of the project, allowing website visitors to explore the city at the height of the Industrial revolution. 

A bespoke animation has been created by SUUM design studio that tells the story of the city of that time, whilst an interactive microsite featuring a zoomable version of the map enables viewers to explore it in great detail. The project also features a series of events including online evening talks and short lunchtime seminars. 

Gemma Wild, Heritage Outreach Manager, explains ‘The story goes that Thomas Sulman took to a hot air balloon to draw the map for the Illustrated London News, which gives it a unique and highly detailed perspective.  It captures a city on the cusp of greatness: the Victorians have found success in manufacturing and trading; they’ve conquered much of the world. They celebrate these achievements by constructing extravagant buildings in which to work, live and meet. It’s an exciting time, full of opportunity and optimism.’

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The Trust hopes the project will encourage greater understanding of how Glasgow developed as a Victorian city and how this architectural legacy is still relevant today. The project will celebrate Glasgow’s vibrant artistic and industrial history and the achievements of the Victorian period. However, it will also acknowledge that the city was a place of contrasts too. Through themes such as urbanisation, industrialisation and public health, it will show how the spectacularly rich were living side-by-side with some of the poorest in Britain. In the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, it will also explore and acknowledge the role of slavery in the creation of wealth through colonialism and trade during this period.

Gemma explains, “There are so many well-known stories about Glasgow as a Victorian city. Through this project we plan to tell less well-known stories too, and perhaps even turn a few established narratives on their head. We’re keen for people to get involved by adding their own stories, images and memories to our dedicated project website at ‘

GCHT is grateful to funders Hugh Fraser Foundation, Norbulk Shipping UK Ltd, and Culture & Business Fund Scotland for their generous support of this project. 

Images copyright Glasgow City Heritage Trust