Memorial to Dr William Chrystal in Glasgow Cathedral

M037 Memorial to Dr William Chrystal in Glasgow Cathedral

Address: Cathedral Square, Glasgow G4 OQZ
Date: 1890–1
Client: Former pupils and friends
Authorship: Authorship category 3 (Office with Mackintosh) (Office with Mackintosh)

William Chrystal LLD (1776–1830), rector of Glasgow Grammar School, drowned in tragic circumstances in the Firth of Clyde. A memorial in Glasgow Cathedral was commissioned by Grammar School alumni in June 1830, a 'bust surmounted by a Gothic canopy, said to have been of beautiful design', located in the Cathedral's N. transept. Following the installation of stained-glass and painted windows in the Cathedral in 1859–64, the Gothic canopy was removed as it was thought to interfere with the view of the new windows. The bust and pedestal remained in situ but were apparently hidden by barricades for up to 30 years during the mid-century Cathedral restoration work. 1

In 1890 John Honeyman & Keppie designed a new canopy and pedestal in stone and polychromatic marble. A brass plaque with Chrystal's initials was added to the bust and the face of the pedestal was carved with a memorial inscription. The memorial was dismantled in 1953 and a simple brass plaque in the Cathedral records its former location. The bust and pedestal were given to the High School of Glasgow, successor to the Grammar School, and are now displayed in the High School's newest buildings at Anniesland. 2

Authorship: The Renaissance style of the monument suggests the work of John Keppie; its canopy recalls his 1886 drawing of the S. door of S. Alessandro in Lucca, which was published in the British Architect two years later. 3 The style of the drawing, however, particularly the lettering and the memorial inscription, suggest Mackintosh may have been the draughtsman. Similar lettering can be found on later drawings by Mackintosh for Craigie Hall, Glasgow Art Club and the Inn at Lennoxtown.

Cost from office job book: £330 0s 0d

Status: Monument partly extant in new location

RCAHMS Site Number: NS66NW 17.00 (Glasgow Cathedral; original location) ; NS56NW 432 (The High School of Glasgow; 2012 location)

Grid Reference: NS 60248 65577 (Glasgow Cathedral; original location); NS 54551 68455 (The High School of Glasgow; 2012 location)

GPS coordinates: lat = 55.863019, lng = -4.234886   (Map)


1: George Eyre-Todd, ed., The Book of Glasgow Cathedral: A History and Description, Glasgow: Morison Brothers, 1898, pp. 435–6; Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 111.

2: See RCAHMS' site-record page for the High School of Glasgow Anniesland buildings: RCAHMS, site number NS56NW 432. The monument was photographed there by RCAHMS in 2004. Biographical information on William Chrystal: The University of Glasgow Story, [accessed 20 July 2012]; National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh: RHP6503/1; George Eyre-Todd, ed., The Book of Glasgow Cathedral: A History and Description, Glasgow: Morison Brothers, 1898, p. 436. The description of the momument in Eyre-Todd suggests the 1890 work consisted only of a new canopy, but the style of the pedestal suggests it was designed at the same time.

3: British Architect, 30, 19 October 1888, p. 283.