Glasgow Panopticon Building, Britannia Music Hall Photos, Historic Trongate Location

Glasgow’s Panopticon – The Entertainment of Eras Long Past

The Britannia, Trongate, Strathclyde, old music hall in west of Scotland

22 July 2019

Glasgow’s Panopticon Building

Glasgow’s Panopticon – The Entertainment of Eras Long Past

Walking through Trongate, you would have no idea that you are incredibly close to one of the oldest surviving music halls in the UK. Take a turn off Argyll Street and up New Wynd to find the door up into the Britannia Panopticon!

Glasgow’s Panopticon Building
photo courtesy of article provider

A Place for the People

Glasgow boomed during the Industrial Revolution. The city opened many new mills and factories where men, women, and children all worked in poor conditions for not much money. When the long shift was eventually over, they had to have somewhere to go to entertain themselves and unwind.

Such a place would be the music halls and other establishments. Just as we sit down to watch some TV or play a game or two at a bingo site nowadays, people back in the 1850s then would head to these music halls for a dance and the chance to laugh until their sides ached. The Britannia music hall would be such a place, and the Glaswegian crowd was a tough one; please them and you would receive thunderous applause but anger them and you could be pelted with manure, urine, and other unpleasant things.


Technology and the audience’s tastes were moving on by the end of the 19th century, so in 1896 the amazing phenomenon of moving pictures was added to the program so everyday working Glaswegians could come in and see this new and amazing spectacle. The shows continued and many famous acts graced the stage; including Stan Laurel at the tender age of 16, and Archie Leach who would become classic Hollywood’s famed Cary Grant.

In 1906, the venue gained a new manager in the form of A.E. Pickard. He was the one to rename the building to “Panopticon” and added a carnival, waxworks, freak show, and even a zoo to ensnare audiences. However, the venue just could not keep up with the demands for new cinema and it closed in 1938.

The Panopticon Today

The building lay quiet for over 60 years until Judith Bowers convinced the current owners to let her have a look around in 1997. She was so enthralled with the building that she set up a group of volunteers to help bring this once much-loved piece of Glaswegian history back to life.

They now host many different events there including pantos, music hall shows, fairs, and more. One of the best acts is one of their classic cinema nights, where a live orchestra provides the musical accompaniment to an old film just like they would have done back in the day.

If you are on the hunt for a unique experience which you are always going to remember from your visit to Glasgow, you should definitely duck into the Panopticon. The building is open for visitors to have a look around most afternoons. You can see the original 1920s-era stage and marvel at this tiny auditorium which brought so much joy to its patrons over the years. If you love history and want to see a place where the real people of Glasgow came together to love and laugh, you cannot miss this place out! Come visit the Britannia Panopticon today!

Previously on Glasgow Architecture:

Britannia Panopticon Glasgow

Historic Music Hall Glasgow
Architects: Thomas Gildard & H.M.McFarlane
Status: Grade A-listed
Address: The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, 113-117 Trongate, Glasgow, G1 5HD
Contact: 0141 553 0840
Location: Argyle Street, south side of Merchant City

Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Britannia Glasgow Britannia Panopticon Britannia Music Hall
Panopticon photos © Adrian Welch
Glasgow Panopticon – Britannia Music Hall

Famous Britannia Music Hall performers include comedian Stan Laurel and actor Cary Grant

Architecture in Strathclyde

Buildings/Areas adjacent to the Panoptican Music Hall:


Merchant City

Tron Theatre

Glasgow Cross

Candleriggs Market

Glasgow Architecture

Major Strathclyde Building Designs – selection:

Glasgow Armadillo

Kelvingrove Gallery

Commonwealth Arena Glasgow

A Prospect Debate on Iconic Buildings once took place here: speakers included the world-famous British architecture critic, theorist and writer Charles Jencks.
Venue: Britannia Panopticon Music Hall

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