Kelvin Hall History
Information about Kelvin Hall's rich history from 1901 to the present day.
Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall is a well known and loved building with a rich and varied lifetime, having been home to some of the city’s most exciting events, concerts and exhibitions. For more information visit the Kelvin Hall blog.
Original Opening in 1901 to Fire in 1925
There have been two Kelvin Hall buildings. The first, opened in 1918 and continued the tradition of exhibitions and entertainments on the Bunhouse Grounds including the Machinery Exhibition Hall for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. Sadly, the first Kelvin Hall building was destroyed by fire in 1925.
Kelvin Hall was re-built in 1926-1927 and was designed by Thomas Gilchrist Gilmour and Thomas P. M Somers. Gilmour worked for the Glasgow Office of Public Works Architectural Department and helped to design public buildings within the city, including Pollokshields Library, Shettleston Hall and Public Library and Govan Baths and Washhouses. Somners was the Glasgow Master of Works and Engineer from 1925-1941 and oversaw the works. He was also involved in civic building projects around the city, including working on the King George V Bridge.
Once opened the original use for the new building was to house large scale national and international exhibitions including the Glasgow Civic and Empire Exhibition in 1931 and the Century of Progress Exhibition in 1935.
During the Second World War, Kelvin Hall was converted into a factory for barrage and convoy balloons.
Kelvin Hall subsequently hosted the 1951 Festival of Britain, motor shows, modern homes exhibitions, world championship boxing, rock and classical concerts including Jerry Lee Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, The Kinks and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In 1955, Billy Graham preached to over 180,000 people over a six week period and many people fondly remember the Kelvin Hall circus.
International Sports Arena and Museums of Transport
The whole building underwent a further redevelopment in the 1980’s. This included the creation of an International Sports Arena which hosted major international sporting events the the Museum of Transport moved to Kelvin Hall from its original home in Pollokshields in 1987. International sporting events now take place at the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the city's transport collection moved to Riverside Museum in 2012.
2014 Commonwealth Games
Lastly, in 2014, Kelvin Hall was the official uniform and accreditation centre for the XX Commonwealth Games.
The building closed in August 2014 for its current refurbishment programme and reopened to the public in 2016.
The Kelvin was relaunched in it's current format, a unique partnership between Glasgow Life, the University of Glasgow and the National Library of Scotland which has seen this historic and much loved venue transformed into an exciting new centre of cultural excellence providing access to collections, temporary displays, teaching and research, alongside a state-of-the-art Glasgow Club health and fitness centre.
National Library of Scotland Collections
The National Library of Scotland's collections contain a number of items relating to the history of Kelvin Hall, including:
- A map of Glasgow, 1912, on the Library's maps site
- Film of acrobats in the circus at Kelvin Hall, 1969, in the Moving Image Archive catalogue
- Footage from Kelvin Hall exhibitions and events throughout the 20th century, in the Moving Image Archive catalogue
- Details of books about the building's past, searchable with the keywords 'kelvin hall' on the Library's main catalogue.