James Miller

Architect of the International Exhibition of 1901

By Fred Peskett


            The International Exhibition held in Glasgow in 1901 was remarkable for the styles of architecture of the various buildings and pavilions. Foreign countries were well represented despite there having been a huge International Exhibition during 1900 in Paris. Holland, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Canada, India, Spain, Norway, Denmark, France, Japan, Austria, Morocco, Persia, Mexico and Italy all had pavilions designed by their leading architects. The United States reproduced the same pavilion in Glasgow that they erected in Paris for the 1900 exhibition. Germany declined to be represented from the architectural, the artistic and the commercial aspects on the basis that the exhibition was far to close to the 1900 exhibition.

            The principle architect employed by the Scottish Exhibition Committee was Mr James Miller, I.A. He was thirty-nine years old in 1900 from Perthshire, he had served his apprenticeship with the well known and respected architect Andrew Heiton from Perth. In 1888 he started work with the Caledonian Railway where he remained until 1892, when he formed his own business and was the architect responsible for Belmont Church, Hillhead. Prince's Pier Station, Greenock. Gonrock Station. The Railway Station at the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, and the Kelvinbridge Station on the Glasgow Central Railway.



The Concert Hall by James Miller, the Industrial Building can be seen on the left.


            He also designed the Glasgow Subway Station at St. Enoch Square. Kelvinbridge Mansions, and the Clydebank Municipal Buildings and Town Hall. With such a pedigree James Miller was the ideal person to become the principle architect for the 1901 exhibition. Mr Miller made use of many architectural styles for the various pavilions he designed, the Oriental style being the dominant, with a sprinkling of the Spanish Moorish and the Byzantine styles being prevalent. Some of his buildings were influenced by the Venetian and Spanish Renaissance styles as well as a touch of the classic Indian.

            One of the dominant buildings for the exhibition was the Industrial Building, the black and white photographs reproduced for this article give a good idea of the size of this building. According to the specification it was a very colourful pavilion.

            The architectural style of James Miller's Industrial Building was in the Spanish Renaissance.

It was 700 feet long and 380 feet wide covering an area of 23,000 square feet. The building had a central dome surrounded by four huge towers rising to a height of 160 feet.



Front entrance of the Industrial Building by James Miller



View from the Courtyard of the Industrial Building


            he central dome was 135 feet high from the ground level to the apex, this was topped with an ornate flèche some 32 feet high, mounted on the flèche was a large winged female figure of “Light” by Albert H. Hodge, of London, it was 12 feet high with the outstretched wings at 12 feet, the right arm extended upwards with the hand holding an electrically lighted torch, in the left hand she held a branch of palm leaves.

            The dome and the cupolas of the four towers were covered in gold, the walls were in pure white and the roofs of the towers were finished in pale green. The eight corner towers had the roofs covered in red Spanish tiles with the roof running between the towers being painted in bright orange. All the timber work, such as the eaves were painted green. The whole of the building including all of the decorative work was formed of fibrous plaster composed of stucco, canvas and wood. A half million yards of canvas was used, the cost of the building came in on budget at £25,000.

            Another of James Miller's buildings was the Grand Concert Hall, described by him as being likened to a gigantic steel umbrella. It was in the Venetian Gothic style, circular in shape with a wide gallery supported by cantilevers. The roof formed a huge dome, coloured blue. The acoustics of the Concert Hall were found to be very poor, a constant troublesome echo produced problems which were never resolved.

            While the name of James Miller is predominant as the architect for the Scottish Pavilions of the exhibition there was another young up and coming Scottish architect by the name of Charles R. Mackintosh who was busy designing a couple of houses on the exhibition site including, Gilmoor Cottage Homes, Dawyck House Gates and Dundas House.

            The finance for the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition was partly funded from the previous 1888 International Exhibition at Kelvingrove, this exhibition generated very healthy profits, some of which enabled the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery to be founded. The Foundation Stone of the Museum was laid in 1897, with the opening of the museum scheduled to take place in 1901 and coincide with the 1901 International Exhibition.



The Indian Theatre also designed by James Miller


            The Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901 attracted some 11,497,000 visitors, making it one of the most successful exhibitions ever to be staged in Great Britain.


© Exhibition Study Group 2011