Why are the tenement buildings in Glasgow two different colours?

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It’s hard not to notice the discrepancy between the lighter and darker coloured stone in certain parts of the city, but why is this the case?

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Glasgow you’ll have noticed our resplendent Victorian-era architecture - but why is the stone two different colours?

Well, the colour of a building in Glasgow depends entirely on when it was built.

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Glasgow is a sandstone city. It was built almost entirely out of stone mined from quarries across Scotland.

Throughout the 18th and 19th century, blonde sandstone was quarried in and around Glasgow, with the majority of the local sandstone used coming from Bishopbriggs and Giffnock quarries pre-1890.

Blonde sandstone is the name given to the lighter coloured stone used in the construction of most of the historic buildings in Glasgow - the interior of Kelvingrove art museum for example, and reaching as far as the Calder fountain in Belfast’s Albert Square.

The blonde stone gives Glasgow a very distinctive look. It has a lower iron content than most sandstone making it almost glow on a sunny day in town.

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After the railway network had been established in Glasgow and across Scotland in 1890 it suddenly became a lot easier (and cheaper) to bring in sandstone from outside the city.

The red sandstone you can see around Glasgow was quarried from Dumfries and Ayrshire and was used in construction of new buildings around the city from the beginning of the 20th century.

The newer sandstone gets its more traditional colour from its higher iron content, as it was formed during a different time period in further regions of Scotland.

Red sandstone’s higher iron content makes it more resistant to the pollution and weather in Glasgow than its predecessor. Whereas the blonde sandstone requires more frequent maintenance. Work carried out from blonde sandstone mined in the north of England and colour matched to the Glasgow stone.

This unique two-tone design is striking to see up close - with some tenement streets in Glasgow transitioning from blonde to red, as buildings were finished or completed after the stone switch.

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