Video: First steps taken in battle to save ‘Greek’ Thomson’s West End ‘wonderwall’

By Ian Marland at

It is an architectural gem hidden away in a leafy corner of Glasgow’s West End.

The Sixty Steps was designed by the renowned Glasgow architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson in 1870.

But the structure – a giant retaining wall and cascading stairwell – has slowly succumbed to the wear of feet, time and the weather.


Watch: Resident and preservation trust member Pennie Taylor outlines plans for the Sixty Steps.

Now work is about to begin to reverse the decline – and hopefully restore the feature to its former glory.

Engineers will begin work next month to protect the wall from the ravages of running water.

At the same time, a preservation trust set up by neighbouring residents who look after the Steps will begin the first phase of restoration work.

Cracks: Water running behind the huge retaining wall is causing evident damage.

Cracks: Water running behind the huge retaining wall is causing evident damage.

But before that a meeting will be held to get the community involved in subsequent phases of the restoration.

It takes place on Tuesday January 24 at Kelvin Stevenson Memorial Church, Belmont Street, starting at 7.30pm.

Pennie Taylor is with The Greek Thomson Sixty Steps Preservation Trust.

She told Glasgow West End Today: “The wall has been deteriorating over the last hundred years or so, and the council has come in to brace it – to stop it falling down.

Marvel: Alexander 'Greek' Thomson was commissioned to build the steps and wall in 1870.

Marvel: Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson was commissioned to build the steps and wall in 1870.

“And there is other extensive work that needs to be done.

“The land around here used to be farmland, and evidently waterfalls used to cascade down.

“There’s still an awful of water that falls down behind this wall – so the council is putting in drainage to divert that water.

“At the same time, the Sixty Steps Preservation Trust wants to come in and fix the stonework and railings in the central part of the wall and reinstate the old pleasure garden that was here with a belle-vue looking out across the River Kelvin.”

Garden: The trust wants to restore the open ground that runs along the top of the wall.

Garden: The trust wants to restore the open ground that runs along the top of the wall.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s birth.

The Sixty Steps was built just five years before his death at 57 from lung disease.

Thomson was commissioned by a local businessman to link the newly-developed lands of North Kelvinside with the original Queen Margaret Bridge over the Kelvin.

Tragically, many of Thomson’s buildings have disappeared from Glasgow with notable exceptions such as the St Vincent Free Church and the Egyptian Halls on Union Street.

Now that the first phase of the restoration plan is about to start, donations are being sought by the Trust to sustain the work in the long term.

Views: More than 40 properties overlook the wall and steps.

Views: More than 40 properties overlook the wall and steps.

The plan is also to replace the elegant dolphin-shaped lamp standards that graced the original wall and ran the length of the Steps.

Pennie said of the meeting: “We are inviting the community to come along and hear about the plans for restoring the first section of the wall – and to get their ideas for what we ought to be doing with the garden.

“It’s going to be really brilliant to hear anybody that really cares about this structure, and there’s an awful lot of people – who’ve played around this structure as children, who still use the steps for access of exercise – who have an interest in the wall and we want to hear from them.”

* More details about the Trust can be found at http://www.sixtysteps.org.uk.