HIGH above Glasgow, almost 40 years before the first aeroplanes took to the skies, Thomas Sulman had a sweeping, panoramic view of the city.

From a hot air balloon in 1864, the architectural illustrator - working for a London magazine - captured every nook and cranny of the city on an incredibly intricate map.

Now, Glasgow City Heritage Trust has turned Sulman’s Bird’s Eye View Map into a fascinating digital project.

Glasgow Times: Detail of the 1864 aerial map of Glasgow . STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..8/9/21.

The Trust’s Heritage Outreach Managers Gemma Wild and Rachel Kacir have spent more than 18 months researching and creating Gallus Glasgow, which encourages Glaswegians to add their stories and take part in a series of online and in-person events.

Rachel explains: “The map was on the wall in our offices for years, and it always fascinated people – as soon as you see it, you just want to get up close to it, to look at the amazing detail.

Glasgow Times: Gallus Glasgow

“We don’t know, really, how Sulman did it but our best guess is that he used a combination of hot air balloon, photography and Ordnance Survey mapping to create it.”

She laughs: “Someone said it’s like an early version of Google Street View, or a Where’s Wally? puzzle.

“You can’t help but be drawn in to it.

“So we decided it would be great to do something with it, to allow people to enjoy and explore the map and to create a resource for the city.”

Glasgow Times: An extract from Bird's Eye View of Glasgow by Thomas Sulman, 1864. Pic: Glasgow City Heritage Trust.

Gemma explains: “There is lots of information on Victorian Glasgow out there, but we wanted to build a one-stop shop where you can come and learn and have a bit of fun.

“Most people’s ideas of Victorian Glasgow history surround the rise of the merchants, the fabulous buildings that were built, and so on, but we wanted to concentrate on the less well-known stories.

“The map is a really beautiful thing, and we’re delighted to be able to make it more accessible to all. The design team has put its heart and soul into the project.”

GCHT teamed up with Suum design studio to create a beautiful animation, based on a day in the life of a typical Glasgow family in 1864.

It is the story of Elizabeth, a domestic servant; her mother Heather, who is a carpet factory worker and father Thomas, who works at the docks; and her brothers, George – who works in a match factory – and Edward, who works alongside his father.

“It’s a huge subject and we worked hard to research the individual stories – in the animation, the places and shops and so on, are all real and did exist,” says Gemma.

“We’re asking people to contribute to the map, to tell their stories too.”

Sulman created maps of several cities for the Illustrated London News, including Edinburgh, London, New York and Liverpool. The Glasgow map ended up at GCHT headquarters by an odd quirk of fate, explains Rachel.

“Gordon Urquhart, who used to work for the Trust, had always loved the Sulman map and had tried to get a copy of it for years,” she says. “The few he did find in Glasgow were incredibly expensive.

“Then, by chance, on a cycling holiday in the Netherlands, he popped in to an antique book shop and there it was – at a considerably cheaper price than the ones he had found in Glasgow. It has been on our wall here ever since.”

The map covers central Glasgow, looking north from the south side of the River Clyde towards the Campsie Fells. Fascinatingly, recognisable landmarks such as the City Chambers and Glasgow School of Art are not on it – because they have not yet been built.

The river is packed with sailboats and steamships, and cranes and warehouses line its banks. The map also details the smokestacks of the thriving chemical industry in the north east, and the foundations for new tenement buildings around Kelvingrove Park are evidence of the city’s burgeoning expansion westward.

It includes many streets and structures which are no longer there and researching the ‘lost’ buildings was a fascinating part of the process for Gemma and Rachel.

“If we had started with churches we would never have finished,” smiles Gemma. “One of the most interesting things I spotted was what looks like a covered market and bazaar, situated beside St Andrew’s Cathedral.

“It’s on the Ordnance Survey map of 1857, but I can’t find anything else about what it might have been. I found that fascinating.”

Rachel adds: “One of the most interesting places for me was the Necropolis, because it is one of the few places which hasn’t changed much at all.”

Gallus Glasgow uses the map as a catalyst for exploring the next 50 years of the city’s development, as it became the ‘Second City of the Empire.’

READ MORE: Glasgow shipyards and steam trains captured in stunning images of the city

Gemma explains: “There are so many well-known stories about Glasgow as a Victorian city. Through this project we plan to tell less well-known stories too, and perhaps even turn a few established narratives on their head.”

The project was funded by GCHT with support from Hugh Fraser Foundation, Norbulk Shipping UK Ltd, and Culture & Business Fund Scotland.

The project runs until the end of March next year.

To explore the map, or to add your own stories, images and memories, visit the project website at gallusglasgow.glasgowheritage.org.uk