The Cobden Hotel

The Cobden Hotel, William Forsyth & Co., Proprietors, 87, Argyle Street.—

    No Glasgow hotel enjoys a greater or more general popularity than this, and by none has such popularity been more worthily won and retained. The Cobden Hotel dates its history as a prominent Glasgovian hostelry of the best class from the year 1863, when there came to this city Mr. William Forsyth, who had previously been successful in organizing a large and prosperous hotel in Aberdeen. Encouraged by the good fortune of his enterprise in the “Granite City”, Mr. Forsyth determined upon duplicating it in the “Commercial Metropolis”, and, fixing upon the name of the eminent Radical and advocate of corn law repeal as an appropriate title for a popular hotel, he carried his plans to an issue without delay, and in September, 1863, the Cobden Hotel was un fait accompli.

    The premises taken were the same as those now occupied, and underwent a very careful adaptation to the purposes of their future usefulness. They stand in the very heart of the city, occupying a splendid site in the noble thoroughfare of Argyle Street, and have, it is said, the most extensive street frontage of any similar establishment in Glasgow. The appearance of the building from Argyle Street is handsome, imposing, and pleasantly suggestive of comfort and commodiousness within. The house has admirable bedroom accommodation for between eighty and ninety guests, and possesses thoroughly well-appointed commercial rooms, billiard and smoking rooms, perfectly equipped and remarkable for comfort and convenience, spacious parlours, and a large and handsome coffee-room, where the excellent cuisine for which the house is noted is daily discussed by a numerous contingent of visitors.

    The Cobden has long been a favourite house and popular resort for commercial men. Its situation is especially conducive to the retention of a large and superior patronage of this kind, being in the very midst of the leading mercantile warehouses and establishments of the city ; and its well-known name for comfort and strictly moderate charges, combined with the estimable personality of its proprietors, has been sufficient to maintain its popularity.

    About nine years ago Mr, Forsyth assumed as partner Mr. James McIntosh, who has actively managed the hotel during recent years, and whose happy administrative faculty of doing the right thing at the right moment in the interests of guests has tended to the considerable increase of a business that has always been satisfactorily large.

    Not by any means the least noteworthy characteristic of the Cobden Hotel is its interesting history in connection with public men and events. In the very first week of its existence as an hotel under its present name Mr. Forsyth met the late Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in the house, and invited that eminent divine to breakfast in company with himself and a select party of friends. It came to pass that an imperfect report was taken at the Cobden of the speech there made by the great New York preacher, and this alleged speech calling forth much hostile criticism in the press, Mr. Beecher was led to resolve upon an extended series of public meetings and addresses in the great centres of England and Scotland in order to disabuse the minds of the people of any erroneous impressions they might have received regarding his views on the fierce struggle then pending between the Northern and Southern States of America. And this led to the delivery of a great number of brilliant and impressive orations respecting that terrible and sanguinary civil war. A Union and Emancipation Society was formed in Glasgow, which held its meetings at the Cobden, and maintained an interesting official correspondence with the United States Government of the time.

    During the agitation in favour of an extension of the suffrage, when the entire trades of Glasgow defiled in procession along Argyle Street to a mass meeting on the Green, the spectacle was witnessed, from a balcony erected in front of the Cobden Hotel, by the Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., and the late Robert Daglish, M.P. for Glasgow, together with eight or nine other members of Parliament. On the following morning Mr. Bright was entertained at a breakfast at the Cobden Hotel by a large number of friends and supporters.

    Although frequently importuned by his friends to enter the Town Council, Mr. Forsyth up to a certain point steadily declined to leave the quietude of private life and assume the honours and responsibilities of a public career. He, however, took a deep interest in the circumstances attending the passing of the Franchise Bill ; and being a Radical among Radicals, ardent in that cause, and a great admirer of Mr. Henry George, the American economist (with whom he was and is intimately acquainted), Mr. Forsyth at length resolved to court publicity in a cause which he felt conscientiously bound to advocate. He appeared first as chairman of the organization known as the Scottish Land Restoration League, whose operations he zealously and efficiently directed ; and actuated by a strong sense of duty, and possessing, moreover, the courage of his convictions, he acceded later on to a requisition, signed by 1,964 electors, asking him to stand as a candidate for the Bridgeton Electoral Division. He entered the contest (1885) as an uncompromising advocate of the Land restoration principles, but this plank was foreseen to be too broad a one in Mr. Forsyth’s platform to secure a sufficiently large following, and he was consequently unsuccessful. He had fearlessly published his views and convictions, however, and in the sense of duty performed he doubtless found a measure of consolation for defeat sustained.

    Mr. Forsyth has throughout his life been a keen and enthusiastic angler, a worthy disciple of the estimable Izaak Walton, and quite as devoted to the sport. He has a distinct faculty for versification, having set forth the delights of the “gentle art” in many a stirring and popular lyric strain, and from his pen came the excellent “Lay of Loch Leven”, a poem which was published some time since, and met with general favour and approving comment. Mr. Forsyth, it may readily he understood, is a genial and courteous host, well qualified to imbue his house with a lasting spirit of popularity ; and it is not surprising, therefore, that the Cobden Hotel is a public favourite among the hostelries of Glasgow, and especially well known as a “howff for anglers”, wherein a number of angling clubs hold their occasional meetings, and celebrate their recurring anniversaries by the ever-appropriate function of the annual banquet.

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