People and Places

Mossman Heads, community and landscape

The large pieces of stonework in the park are remnants of Townhead church (1866-1997)





Townhead-Blochairn Parish Church, which stood on this site, featured a series of sculptures by John Mossman above the pillars that supported the gallery arches of the church. Mossman was a talented and prolific craftsman, the eldest brother in a family of sculptors who produced many monuments and statues in Glasgow and the west of Scotland. Some examples of his work can be seen in Glasgow Necropolis.
The 10 stone heads in Townhead Church included Erasmus, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin and Knox – however not all the heads were identified, and Mossman’s records prior to 1905 have been lost. Some of the Mossman heads were saved, although their condition was very poor. They can now be seen in the south side of the Spire Park, next to sections of the original stone finial from the top of the spire.

The landmark spire on the hill made Townhead the most prominent place of worship in the area. The building and its ministers served the congregation, and the Church of Scotland well, for over 120 years – becoming part of people’s lives as children were baptised, couples married and funerals held for loved-ones. In 1864 an order of French nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, came to Garngadhill. The nuns ministered to the aged and sick of all denominations at St. Joseph’s House until 1993 when they moved to a new building in Robroyston.
A former minister of Townhead Church, the Rev.Freddie Houston spoke of the kind, generous people in the parish, and the good relationship they had with the convent next door. When the Rev. Houston died in 1987, the church was full for his funeral and a mass was held for him at the neighbouring convent too.

In 2001 the artist Paul Carter worked with young people in Royston, and noted how important the building was to them – one said “Royston wouldn’t be Royston” without the spire.
Carter’s ‘Signal Hut’ project aimed to use the spire as a transmitter to send signals into space – changing the colour of the lights if a response was received. You didn’t need to be religious – the spire could be a conduit for prayers to reach the heavens, or for residents of Roystonhill to send messages to outer space.
Sculptor George Wyllie made a Saltire of daffodils to celebrate the Spire being saved. He described Roystonhill Spire as much more than just a church spire – a powerful monument, a symbol of the area and a focus of the spiritual energy of the place, “re-energising this community and the city itself.”

Garngad Hill was originally occupied by crofters, and in the 1800s wealthy citizens built large houses, to take advantage of the fresher air and outstanding views afforded by the Hill. Millburn House and Hill House were built on the crown, which at 252 ft above sea level is one of Glasgow’s highest.
To the north was an industrial landscape with the chemical works at St.Rollox and the Caledonian Railway Works, and to the south was the Wills Cigarette factory on Alexandra Parade across the Monkland Canal.
In 1970 the M8 motorway covered the route of the canal although one canal bridge can still be seen near the motorway, where Castle Street meets Royston Road.
The high flats of the 1960s dominated the landscape until the demolition of the 40 Rosemount block in 2016.
From the Spire Park views can still be enjoyed southwards across Glasgow, with the Necropolis in the foreground and Cathkin Braes, and Eaglesham moors, visible in the distance.