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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s


Roystonhill (Garngad)

By Irene Maver

The Garngad, in the north-east of Glasgow, was originally part of the town's medieval common lands. However from the 1770s the construction of the Monkland Canal allowed coal and iron to be brought direct to the city from Lanarkshire and determined the district's future as a centre of heavy industry. Enterprises were developed on a large scale. The St Rollox Chemical Works, founded in 1799 by Charles Tennant (1768-1838), employed over 1,000 people by the 1840s. The Garngad was often called "Little Ireland" because of the ethnic identity of many inhabitants, but locals wryly referred to their community as "The Good and Bad".

The "bad" qualities related overwhelmingly to the industrial environment. Extensive 19th century concerns such as the Millburn Chemical Works and the Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Works corroded the Garngad's atmosphere with incessant smoke and fumes. While there was mounting municipal concern about the menace of the "smoke fiend", the Provan Gas Works, opened by Glasgow Corporation in 1904, did nothing to help the cause of environmental improvement. Industry provided employment for Garngad residents, but pollution undermined health standards, contributing to extraordinarily high levels of respiratory and pulmonary diseases. Moreover, the scale of industry seriously constrained the community's expansion, leading to housing shortages and gross overcrowding.

Garngad Square was a pioneering housing scheme commissioned by the Corporation as early as 1916, but there was no more significant development in the area until 1933 when a major slum clearance and rebuilding programme commenced. By 1939 over 800 Corporation dwellings had been erected, many on derelict land previously occupied by the Tharsis Company. The notorious levels of congestion were further reduced by clearance of displaced families to the newly-built Blackhill housing scheme. Despite these changes, the Second World War accelerated the process of structural decay in old Garngad, which intensified the clearance programme after 1945. Designation as a "Housing Development Area" under post-war planning strategy virtually obliterated the Garngad's former identity, and even its name was altered to Royston.

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