JULY 2012
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The Hidden Lane
1103 Argyle Street, Glasgow - the entrance to The Hidden Lane
The largest of these businesses was Laird's Cabinet Works, who had a large red-brick building behind the lane, and which stands to this day. Of those that were interesting, as opposed to just large, then the Flag Maker, D. McNee, must rank fairly high. Slightly later, in 1899, there was also a firm with the grand title, The Ottoman Art Hassock Co. Clearly, Glasgow's Hidden Lane has hidden many wonderful trades over the years.
By far the most interesting is the sculptor James Young. He first appears in the lane around the late 1870s, and remains there into the twentieth century. But who was he?
Well, James Young was a rather famous stone sculptor. Not far from The Hidden Lane is Kelvingrove Park where you will find the Stewart Memorial Fountain, a stunningly beautiful water fountain full of carved stone. James Young carved some of it while under the employ of J & G Mossman. He went on to set up his own company, and you will find examples of his fine stone carving all over Glasgow.
THE HIDDEN LANE. It is a phrase that brings to mind mysteries and secrets and witches and wardrobes. But what is it? Well, from a tourist point of view it's not really very much at all other than a cafe, and an art gallery called The Hidden Lane Gallery which isn't actually in The Hidden Lane. That said, it's a very good cafe, and Glasgow's Hidden Lane is worth checking out for the cafe alone.
But what exactly is it that makes The Hidden Lane so special? For if you pay it a visit you will find vehicles parked haphazardly on an old cobbled surface, and a motley collection of brick buildings and shacks that really don't look all that appealing. Other than the cafe and the art gallery there is nowhere that you can go into and explore. I mean, there's only so long that you can stand watching a man and his van trying to escape the parking melee before a rather awkward atmosphere descends.
What is remarkable about Glasgow's Hidden Lane is the sheer variety of trades and industries that have occupied it since Victorian times. Back in 1879, for example, when 1103 Argyle Street was actually 197 Dumbarton Road, there was a blacksmith, wright,  mahogany merchant, slater, brickbuilder, plasterer, flag maker, laundry, cabinet works, and a sculptor. Now, in anyone's books, that is a fairly comprehensive and impressive range of industries
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Glasgow's Hidden Lane - 1103 Argyle Street
Old painted business signs at the entrance to 1103 Argyle Street, Glasgow - The Hidden Lane
MacSorley's Bar in Glasgow
Stewart Memorial Fountain in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park, with Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the background
The building in Jamaica Street, for example, that houses MacSorley's Bar, contains carved stonework made by Young's company. Carved stone heads thought to be members of the original bar owner's family were probably the work of James Young. His firm carved stone on Mackintosh's Glasgow Herald building in Mitchell Lane, on Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and all over the city. They even carved the stone unicorn that sits on top of the Mercat Cross. James Young's firm has indeed been described as Glasgow's 'most prolific and important firm of sculptors at the end of the 19th century'.
Today, The Hidden Lane continues to be home to a great and wondrous variety of businesses. There are craft workshops and old red-brick buildings housing firms like Finch & Fouracre (Modelmakers & Designers), Spot Specific (who provide a mobile app authoring cloud service), Pete Gillies (stained glass craftsman), and many many more.
And that is what Glasgow's Hidden Lane is really all about. It is, and always has been, a special place where special people make special things happen, a place where the mystical and at times alchemical amalgamation of art and craft ensures continued growth for the city of Glasgow. The Hidden Lane.
For more on sculptor James Young, check the website, 'Glasgow - City of Sculpture,' in particular, THIS PAGE.