What is behind Glasgow’s bricked up tenement windows? Why are so many tenement windows bricked up?

Why is it that some of the windows across Glasgow are bricked up? And no, the answer’s not ‘window tax’.

Ever noticed all the blocked off windows across Glasgow’s tenements? Ever wondered what that’s all about? Well wonder no more as GlasgowWorld returns to answer your pressing questions from around the city.

You’ll notice it in tenement buildings all across the city - but you’ll notice it most often in the blonde sandstone buildings of the West End. At first glance you might think nothing of it - a vertical row of windows bricked up entirely.

But on second inspection you get to thinking, why would anyone want less sunlight in Glasgow? That’s where the mystery lies - and ask any old punter on the street and they’d probably tell you it was to avoid an old council ‘window tax’.

While the window tax was indeed a thing in the 18th century - it didn’t lead to most people collectively deciding to brick up the same window of their house. In fact the tax only really affected the richest in society - who could afford the extra couple of quid it would cost to have umpteen windows.

For poorer residents residing in tenement buildings - it wouldn’t be worth blocking off a window to your property to only save a few shillings a year. The legislation was repealed in 1851, so many of Glasgow’s newer properties that feature blocked windows were never faced with the charge.

In actuality, the bricked up ‘fake windows’ were common practice for Georgian and Victorian architecture - and were used to maintain the buildings’ symmetrical facades. It wasn’t exclusive to Glasgow either - as many vertical flights of bricked up windows can be seen in Edinburgh as well.

Many of these fake vertical windows actually house chimney flues - which allow smoke from residential fires to rise through the building and out of the roof.

An example of the vertical bricked up windows above Tennent’s pub on Byres Road.
An example of the vertical bricked up windows above Tennent’s pub on Byres Road.
An example of the vertical bricked up windows above Tennent’s pub on Byres Road.

Perhaps not as interesting a tale as DIY tax avoidance - the question nonetheless remains answered: the bricked up windows across Glasgow’s tenements were never windows to begin with, but are nothing more than architectural features to make the building appear symmetrical.

One Clarkston-based firm specialising in traditional building consultation, HiSurv, made a post to Twitter featuring an image of a partially damaged ‘blanked off window’ - showing what lies behind the faux-windows on Glasgow tenements.