Glasgow’s much-loved People’s Palace museum is soon to close in order for a major (and much-needed) refurbishment to take place. It will result in the attraction being out of action for some years. As a result, locals and tourists are being advised that if they want to visit, they should do so before the shutters come down next month.

What is it?

Sited in historic Glasgow Green on the north bank of the Clyde, the People’s Palace opened officially on January 22, 1898 and was intended as a resource for the working people of the city. Surrounding districts had high levels of poverty at the time and the idea was to enable communities to easily access the amenities the new building provided, such as a reading room, gallery and spaces for performances. The towering sandstone edifice was designed by architect Alexander Beith McDonald, who held the post of City Engineer and Surveyor with Glasgow Corporation at the time and who was also responsible for Govanhill Baths and the layout of Bellahouston Park. At the rear of the building is the Winter Gardens, a massive glasshouse which was the only place in Scotland you could find bananas during the Second World War.

The Herald: The People's Palace in Glasgow GreenThe People's Palace in Glasgow Green (Image: free)

What’s happening exactly?

The officiating dignitary at the inauguration in 1898 was Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery. He hailed a “palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections” and declared it “open to the people for ever and ever.” Sadly, significant periods of decline have seen the building closed regularly – ahead of the centenary in 1998, for example, when a lengthy refurbishment took place. Or in 2019, after safety concerns were raised and millions of pounds worth of necessary repairs identified. But even before those closures argument has raged over the fate of the People’s Palace and its important collection of artefacts charting Scotland’s social history. Now the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens will close again for an overhaul estimated to cost £36 million. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life (the charitable organisation which oversees culture in the city) and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

When will it close?

Sunday April 14 is the day earmarked for the shutters to come down meaning there’s only a fortnight left in which to visit. Admission is free and the opening hours are 10am to 5pm (Monday to Thursday, and Saturday) and 11am to 5pm on Fridays and Sundays. “With spring on the horizon and the school holidays only a few weeks away, I would encourage as many people as possible to grab this last chance to see the Palace before we close the doors and continue to work with local communities on this exciting transformation,” said Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life.

The Herald: The People's Palace in Glasgow GreenThe People's Palace in Glasgow Green (Image: free)

What is there to see?

The museum has a rich collection which charts, marks and commemorates many pivotal moments in Scotland’s social history, though a bone of contention over the years has been how much of the collection is held in storage and not on view. But among the most popular exhibits which are still on display currently are Billy Connolly’s infamous ‘banana boots’, Rab C Nesbit’s trademark string vest, a recreation of a single end flat, paintings such as Andrew Hay’s The Steamie and a 19th century depiction of the Glasgow Fair by John Knox (not that one), and a replica of the iconic Barrowland Ballroom sign.

When will it re-open?

The plan is for the museum to re-open in 2027 ahead of its 130th anniversary the following year.