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William Gardner Rowan

(1846 ‐ 1924)

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The above illustration of Rowan has been provided
by graphic designer Shirley Lochhead of Tea & Type

‘Art for Arts Sake’


‘Art for Arts Sake’ was the motto of Glasgow architect William Gardner Rowan, who designed Shettleston New Parish Church.


Rowan’s inspiration was medieval Gothic architecture and, after years of what he called ‘shoddy’ tenement work, he began to focus on designing churches.


At the time the arts and crafts movement was at its height, which celebrated traditional craftsmanship
as a reaction to mass produced goods.  Glasgow was at the heart of the movement, with highly influential figures such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


Rowan’s early training as an engineer had developed his skills at producing detailed drawings, which he later put to good use in designing buildings.


He would spend lots of time on the finer decoration
of a church, sometimes pushing the patience of the client and tradesmen.   But this attention to detail was his trademark, and his obituary noted that:


“For a bit of carving…he would cheerfully give time and trouble, while ordinary painter work became decoration by his labouring over quaint lettering or ornamental device that cost little but effected much”.


Rowan designed over 40 churches through his much respected career, but felt it had brought him ‘neither poverty nor riches’.

The extract below, from church records in 1902,
shows Rowan as the choice of architect to design
the new church. 

The late gothic church, Arts & Crafts in style, is constructed of red sandstone and has a solid, square tower and an elegant slender spire.   The stone for the church was taken from the red sandstone quarries at Lacharbriggs and Corncockle in Dumfries. 


The striking sanctuary ceiling is the most notable feature of the interior.   It consists of 90 square panels on which the words of the Te Deum are inscribed.    Standing in the east aisle, it can be read from the left hand corner diagonally across the roof.   


The wood throughout the sanctuary is finest pitch-pine.   There are carvings on the panels behind the pulpit and along all the galleries.   No two carvings are the same. 

When returning to the church in May 2018,
Professor John Hume, former Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings, "appreciated once again the extraordinary virtuosity of its design and construction".

The memorial stone 

Gallery and ceiling.jpg

Gallery showing carving and decorated ceiling

Sanctuary from gallery

The vaulted ceiling with the words of the  Te Deum

The slender spire rises from the solid square tower

Words of the Te Deum

The memorial stone was laid in 1902 by Mr John Adam.   Records show that there was a discussion on how many memorial stones should be laid.  The Building Committee agreed to only one.   

Photograph from 'The Story of the Congregation' by S.G. MacNab, a book telling the story of the church
from 1896 through to 1954.

Ceiling panels 

Arch detail at front of church


The initial estimate for the building of the  church was £3,500.   

In order to raise funds a three day Bazaar was held in the McLellan Galleries in December 1902.   It raised the sum of £2,150 and a memento of it is the multi-signatured curtain which is still in the church today.   The eventual cost of the church was just over £6,000.  

Curtain detail

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©2017 by Shettleston New Heritage Project. Proudly created with

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