South Rotunda

South Rotunda, Glasgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

South Rotunda, Glasgow

One of a pair of brick-built circular constructions which represent the former entrances to the Clyde Harbour Tunnel, the South Rotunda is located on the south bank of the River Clyde, to the north of Mavisbank Quay, in W Central Glasgow. The Clyde Arc now crosses the river here. The South Rotunda retains its original form, unlike the North Rotunda on the opposite bank. The shuttered vehicle entrance features five cast-iron Corinthian columns which support steel girder lintels, while two arched pedestrian entrances once led down timber stairs to a five-bay timber pilastered ticket office.

The Clyde Harbour Tunnel opened on 15th July 1895 and comprised three parallel tunnels each 219m (720 feet) in length; two 4.9-m (16-foot) diameter tunnels for vehicles with a single pedestrian tunnel between. This was notable as the first shield-driven tunnel in Scotland, whereby hydraulic rams drove a large metal cylinder into the mud beneath the river, protecting the workers as they dug. Water ingress was reduced using compressed air, although the pressure proved dangerous to the tunnellers. The tunnel was designed in 1888 by engineers Simpson and Wilson of Glasgow, while Alexander Findlay and Co. of Motherwell were responsible for building the rotundas. The vehicle tunnels closed in 1943 and the lifts were removed, leaving the pedestrian tunnel accessible only by stairs. This eventually closed on 4th April 1980.

The South Rotunda was B-listed in 1986 and served as the Dome of Discovery housing exhibitions during the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988. It was used again by the National Theatre of Scotland in 2014 as a performance venue forming part of the Cultural Programme associated with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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