Kelvin Hall history

Old black and white photograph of the outside of the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. There are trams pictured in the front of the building. The building has three towers to the front.

Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall is a well known and loved building with a rich and varied history. It has been home to some of the city’s most exciting events, concerts and exhibitions.

Original Opening in 1901 to Fire in 1925

There have been two Kelvin Hall buildings, the first, opened in 1918. It continued the tradition of exhibitions and entertainments on the Bunhouse Grounds. These included the Machinery Exhibition Hall for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. Sadly, the first Kelvin Hall building was destroyed by fire in 1925.


Kelvin Hall was re-built in 1926-1927. The new building was designed by Thomas Gilchrist Gilmour and Thomas P. M Somers. Gilmour worked for the Glasgow Office of Public Works Architectural Department and helped to design many public buildings within the city, including Pollokshields Library, Shettleston Hall and Public Library and Govan Baths and Washhouses.

Somners was the Glasgow Master of Works and Engineer from 1925-1941 and oversaw the works. He was also involved in civic building projects around the city, including working on the King George V Bridge.
The original use for the new building was to house large scale national and international exhibitions. These included the Glasgow Civic and Empire Exhibition in 1931 and the Century of Progress Exhibition in 1935. 
During the Second World War, Kelvin Hall was converted into a factory for barrage and convoy balloons.

1950s - 1970s

Kelvin Hall hosted the 1951 Festival of Britain, motor shows, modern homes exhibitions, world championship boxing, rock and classical concerts including Jerry Lee Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, The Kinks and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.  In 1955, American Evangelist Billy Graham preached to over 180,000 people over a six week period. For many people Kelvin Hall is best remembered as the home of the circus.

International Sports Arena and Museum of Transport

The whole building underwent a further redevelopment in the 1980’s. This included the creation of an International Sports Arena to host major international sporting events. Then Museum of Transport moved to Kelvin Hall from its original home in Pollokshields in 1987. International sporting events now take place at the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. The city's transport collection moved to Riverside Museum in 2012.

2014 Commonwealth Games

In 2014, Kelvin Hall was the official uniform and accreditation centre for the XX Commonwealth Games.

The building closed in August 2014 for its current refurbishment programme and reopened to the public in 2016.

Present Day

The Kelvin was relaunched in its current format. Today it is a unique partnership between Glasgow Life, the University of Glasgow and the National Library of Scotland. The partnership sees this historic and much loved venue transformed into an exciting new centre of cultural excellence. Kelvin Hall now offers access to collections, temporary displays, teaching and research, alongside a state-of-the-art Glasgow Club health and fitness centre.

National Library of Scotland Collections

The National Library of Scotland's collections contain a number of items relating to the history of Kelvin Hall, including: