Online Talk: 19th Century Retail and the Rise of the Department Store

Wednesday 8th December 2021 | 7.30pm GMT | via Zoom

When Wylie & Lochhead opened their new Buchanan Street retail establishment in 1855 (now House of Fraser), the Glasgow Herald declared: ‘For extent and beauty it surpasses, as a place of business, anything of which we have seen or heard’. The building, the newspaper reported, was a ‘commercial Crystal Palace’; with a ‘spacious street floor’, ‘three lofty open galleries’, and a ‘magnificent cupola of ground glass’ that threw down a ‘perfect flood of light’.

Such language emphasises the store’s novelty in a Glaswegian context – but from a broader perspective, too, this was among the first of its kind. In Paris, so often considered the ‘Capital of the Nineteenth Century’, the majestic Bon Marché was not constructed until 1869, though it would serve as inspiration for what is arguably the most famous novel about a department store: Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise (1883).

Drawing on such examples, this talk will explore how retail developments in Victorian Glasgow compared to – and at times anticipated – changes taking place in the French capital. Focusing on architecture, window displays, and internal design, it will examine how Glasgow department stores, like their Parisian counterparts, became spaces not just of spectacle, but also of manipulation and disorientation.

Sophie Maddison is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral project concerns urban narratives in nineteenth-century French and Italian literature, with a particular focus on Paris and Naples in the works of Émile Zola (1840-1902) and Matilde Serao (1856-1927) respectively. As well as department stores, key strands of Sophie’s research include the relationship between dirt, disease, and urban regeneration; the multisensory materiality of food markets; and speculative networks such as stock markets and lottery systems.

Free, booking required, donations welcome. 

Details Price Qty
Suggested donation £5.00 (GBP)  
Buy one, give one £10.00 (GBP)  
Times are tight here £2.00 (GBP)  
I can't afford it this time £0.00 (GBP)  
GCHT Friends Ticket £0.00 (GBP)  

Please note: Payment is taken via PayPal but you do not need to have a PayPal account to pay online. 

We are using Zoom to broadcast our live talks. You can join these events as a participant without creating a Zoom account. You do not need to have a webcam or a microphone to join the event as a participant.

All events are subtitled. We aim to make our events as accessible as possible but if you feel that you might need some additional help, please let us know when you book your ticket or get in touch in advance. We’re open to feedback and would welcome your ideas on how we can improve in this area.

You will receive instructions on joining the event by email. If you haven’t received anything by midday on the day of the event, please check your spam folder and then contact us.

You might also be interested in…

The Map

“I feel like a bird soaring over the city when I gaze upon Sulman’s map, every nook and cranny with every detail so exact.

I can see where I came from and where I’m at.”

Edward’s story

A DIFFERENT DIRECTION Another day at the warehouse done. He’s a clerk, so there’s always lots of paperwork to get through and it requires great attention to detail. He’s a conscientious and well-organised individual though, so he enjoys it and the satisfaction he gets when a job is done well. 

Online Workshop: Basket Weaving with Max Johnson

Friday 12th November 2021 | 2.30pm GMT | via Zoom

It is thought that the advent of hot air ballooning in the 1820s played a major role in the popularisation of panoramas like Sulman’s. With hot air balloon baskets as our inspiration, join us for this workshop to see how Max Johnson creates his beautiful handwoven baskets, using locally foraged dogwood sticks.

Become a Friend of Glasgow City Heritage Trust

Each year, our events help over 2000 people to understand and appreciate Glasgow's irreplaceable built heritage. Can you help us to reach more people?

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends whose subscriptions help cover the costs of these events, thereby ensuring accessible pricing for everyone in Glasgow in these challenging times.

The easiest way to support the Trust’s work is to join our Friends scheme. Our tiered loyalty scheme means you can choose the level that’s right for you.