Why so many building windows across Glasgow are bricked up – and what’s behind them

Why are some of Glasgow’s windows bricked up? And no, the answer is not “window tax”.

Have you ever noticed all the blocked windows in buildings in Glasgow? Have you ever wondered what it is? Well, wonder no more as GlasgowWorld returns to answer your pressing questions from across the city.

You’ll notice it in rental properties all over the city – but you’ll most often notice it in the blond sandstone buildings of the West End. At first glance, you might think nothing of it – a vertical row of fully bricked windows.

But on second inspection you wonder why anyone would want less sunshine in Glasgow? Therein lies the mystery – and ask any old punter on the street and they’ll probably tell you it was to avoid an old council ‘window tax’.

While the window tax was indeed a thing in the 18th century – it did not lead to most people collectively deciding to wall up the same window in their homes. In fact, the tax really only affected the wealthiest in society – who could afford the few extra pounds it would cost to have countless windows.

For poorer residents residing in rental properties, it wouldn’t be worth blocking a window in your property to save just a few shillings a year. The legislation was repealed in 1851, so many of Glasgow’s new properties with blocked windows were never charged.

In reality, brickworked “false windows” were a common practice for Georgian and Victorian architecture – and were used to maintain the symmetrical facades of buildings. Nor was it exclusive to Glasgow – as many vertical flights of bricked-up windows can also be seen in Edinburgh.

Many of these vertical faux windows actually house chimney flues – which allow smoke from residential fires to rise through the building and out of the roof.

An example of the vertical bricked windows above Tennent’s pub on Byres Road.

Perhaps not quite as interesting a story as DIY tax avoidance – the question nevertheless remains: the bricked-up windows across buildings in Glasgow were never windows to begin with, but are nothing more than features architectural elements to give the building a symmetrical appearance.

A Clarkston-based firm specializing in traditional building consultancy, HiSurv, posted an image of a partially damaged ‘hidden window’ on Twitter – showing what is hidden behind the fake windows of buildings in Glasgow.

About Sally E. Bartley

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