When Hillhead was first laid out for feuing in the 1820s, it was too remote from Glasgow to become a fashionable suburb. Only after the Great Western Road turnpike was opened in 1840 did Hillhead begin to attract a respectable number of developers and new residents.
By the 1860s, Hillhead's population had grown to over 3,000, but the protracted and haphazard nature of development had precluded the construction of any substantial infrastructure. Residents petitioned to have Hillhead incorporated as a Police Burgh with statutory responsibility for streets, drainage, lighting, cleansing, policing, fire protection and building control. Hillhead was granted burgh status in 1869 (which it vigorously defended until finally annexed by Glasgow in 1891) based on an area of some 130 acres bounded by the River Kelvin, Byres Road and University Avenue.
After Glasgow University relocated to Gilmorehill in 1870, the population of Hillhead grew rapidly. Old rustic villas were soon flanked by grand terraces designed by Glasgow's foremost architects. Handsome churches and schools, leading shops and numerous recreational facilities followed. By 1900, the tenement became the predominant building type with the last major developments built in red sandstone near Byres Road.
Hillhead was never as exclusive as Kelvinside or Dowanhill, though it attracted a sizeable population of middle class professionals such as ministers, academics, merchants and managers. Other prominent residents were members of Glasgow's literary and artistic communities, such as J J Bell, Sir James Guthrie and Fra. (Francis) Newbury, as well as leading architects Sir J J Burnet, James Sellars, James Miller, John Keppie and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
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