Chamber History | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

Chamber History

30 George Square

Founded in 1783, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is the oldest Chamber in the English speaking world with continuous records.

The city of Glasgow prospered during the 18th century, largely due to trade with tobacco plantations in Virginia. By the 1770s, three-quarters of all tobacco consumed in Europe was dealt with by the Virginia merchants in Glasgow. American independence ended this and Glasgow's merchants decided to pool their resources and promote their interests.

Patrick Colquhoun, Glasgow's Lord Provost, drafted a constitution and rules and - at a meeting in The Town House on 1 January 1783 - the Chamber was established. Later that year a Royal Charter was granted by King George III - a document still displayed in the Chamber's Board Room.

The Chamber's early priorities were to raise the quality of goods produced and to lobby the Government to lower taxes, reduce tariffs and abolish smuggling. The Chamber also fiercely opposed the East India Company's trade monopoly with India and all territories beyond the Cape.

The Building
Early meetings were held in a pub - specifically at the Tontine Tavern. In 1877, moving from premises in Virginia Street, the Chamber took offices in the Merchants House on George Square, its present home. During a six month refurbishment in 1994, business was conducted from Classic House in Renfield Street.

The Presidential Chair
A bequest of £500 in 1922 from the widow of Montagu Baird, a past President, commissioned this chair of office. It is splendidly carved with the Chamber's coat of arms.

The Board Room Table
Made from a walnut tree grown by Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States, on his estate in Nashville. The wood was acquired by a Glasgow firm at the British Industries Fair, 1935.

Petition from the Chamber
The names on this document are Glasgow merchants and manufacturers who, in 1779, petitioned Parliament against certain Bills. Four years later, these same men founded the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

The Coat of Arms
The founders of the Chamber adopted a flying stork with a piece of flax in its beak as their crest, a stork being a symbol of commerce in China. This crest was used for the next 130 years until in 1914, the Chamber raised an infantry battalion - the 17th Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Battalion). The Battalion wanted their regimental colours to show their origins but heraldry does not permit informal crests, only coats of arms. In 1917, the grant of arms was made but by that time, the Battalion had seen severe war action. At the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, more than half of its men had been killed or wounded. The Battalion was disbanded in 1918 and its colours were laid in Glasgow Cathedral.

The coat of arms includes the original Chamber crest, the rest of the shield being the arms of the city of Glasgow. The motto above the crest reads Negotiis et Navibus (By Commerce and Shipping).

The Royal Charter
Ten months after foundation, George III granted a Royal Charter. This set out the Chamber's powers and privileges. Supplementary Charters were granted by Victoria, Edward VII and Elizabeth II.

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