Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
James Allan Snr & Son
(fl. 1836-1969)

Established by James Allan at 138 Argyle Street, he originally worked as a tinsmith and furnishing ironmonger, and later advertized himself as a furnishing iron monger, tinsmith, blacksmith, gassfitter and brass founderbrass and iron founder.

Occupying various addresses around Glasgow throughout subsequent decades, the firm opened a new foundry in North Street and a showroom at Blytheswood Buildings, 85-9 Bothwell Street by 1865. Taking his son into the business, the foundry was also known as James Allan Senior & Son.

Like its competitors, such as the Saracen, Sun and Lion foundries, they produced prodigious amounts of decorative architectural ironwork, bandstands and drinking fountains.

The foundry's trade catalogue published in 1920, illustrates their full range of castings and identify their pattern numbers. Their free-standing drinking fountains, for example, were designated pattern no. 25, whilst their War Memorial Drinking Fountain (World War I) (18ft high) was designated no. 31.

Their architectural work included the cast iron fronts and steel sashes on the Ministry of Pensions Building, London; the verandas and balconies at the Tivoli Theatre, New Brighton.

In Glasgow, they produced the new entrance and canopy at the New Savoy Picture House in Hope Street, for architect George A Bothwell (1916. Dem. 1972), and the stairs and balconies at Oakbank Hospital (1902-4. Dem.).

The foundry's most important contribution to Glasgow's architecture, however, were the staircase lamps and exterior railings on Alexander 'Greek' Thomson's Great Western Terrace (1866-77). Classical in style, the lamps are stamped with the foundry's name and were restored as part of the realinement of the staircases in 1973.

By 1920, the firm had expanded with a new foundry, the Lambhill Works, and had opened an office in London, and received orders for an astonishing number of products which sustained it through two world wars and into the late 20th Century as one of the last of the great Glasgow foundries.

As well as their fountains, bandstands and architectural castings, their main output consisted of entrance gates, airship sheds, seaplane sheds, altars and grave railings, railway stations and bridges, engineering workshops, fire escapes and sanitary items in iron (e.g., the Urinal on the dockside of the SS Great Britain exhibition site in Bristol), to name but a few of their many products.

In 1937, the foundry is listed in the PODs at 37 Farnell Street, where it remained until the business folded in 1969.

James Allan senior lived at 40 Abbotsford Street in 1840, and later moved to 1 Grosvenor Terrace, Great Western Road, in 1870. His portrait was used as the fronticepiece of the eighth edition of the foundry's Ornamental and Structural work catalogue, c. 1899.

Sources:

  • PODs : 1836-196;
  • Williamson et al. ;
  • GCA: T-ARD 17/50: Elmbank Foundry:
    Ornamental and Structural Work
    (trade catalogue), Vol 1., c. 1899;
  • GCA: LE3/564: Water Drain & Soil Catalogue, c. 1920.

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