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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s


By Irene Maver

Glasgow, 1778 Although Glasgow had a fast-rising population by the 1770s, the city remained restricted within the bounds of the medieval burgh. Commonly referred to as the "royalty" and situated entirely to the north of the River Clyde, this traditional heartland extended unevenly over 716 hectares (less than 3 square miles). The magistrates and town council maintained jurisdiction over the royalty, and 210 march stones formally marked its boundaries. The long-standing civic ceremony of "perambulating" the marches was designed to ensure that there would be no outside encroachment on the town's common lands, and the practice survived until 1841.


Map of Glasgow, 1783 Significantly, by the 1840s the geographical entity of Glasgow was in the process of expansion, to accommodate communities on the outskirts of the city. From the 1770s there had been an unprecedented building boom, often on land that had been wholly undeveloped. In their quest for comfort and modernity wealthier Glaswegians began to move away from the urban centre, especially westwards. They had ambitions to create a prestigious "New Town", emulating the classical style of architecture that was transforming Edinburgh. George Square, then just beyond Glasgow's boundaries and laid out in 1782, formed the focal point of the initial street plan.

Glasgow in 1768 Municipal leaders were anxious to incorporate these developing areas to control policing arrangements and from 1772 legal approaches were made to Parliament in London. The aim was to extend jurisdiction over the lands of Ramshorn and Meadowflat, which constituted the core of the New Town, as well as the Gorbals on the south bank of the River Clyde. However, it was not until 1800 that 39 hectares (over 96 acres) were added, as part of the pioneering legislation that created Glasgow's first professional police force. George Square was now part of the city, but the Gorbals remained a separate area of jurisdiction, securing its own policing legislation in 1808.

South Side

Elphinstone Chapel While the Clyde served as the channel that divided the Gorbals administratively from Glasgow, there was still considerable interest in the city in developing the south side. The Gorbals itself was a village, which retained a rustic character until the 1860s. However, from the 1790s adjacent lands belonging to Hutchesons' Hospital were built upon, creating the districts of Hutchesontown and Laurieston. The latter was intended for middle-class housing, notably the striking Regency terrace of Carlton Place overlooking the river. Yet the proximity of industry, above all William Dixon's (1753-1822) extensive coal and ironworks, meant that Laurieston's scope for expansion remained limited.

East End

Dalmarnock Cotton Works The brisk pace of industrialisation had the effect of zoning Glasgow and its environs into neighbourhoods with distinctive class profiles. Thus, although Graham Square in the Gallowgate was built in 1770 with aspirations towards gentility, by the 1830s it reflected the district's working-class character as the site of a power loom factory. The elegant St Andrew's Square near Glasgow Green was completed during the 1790s, but within a decade the buildings were mostly adapted for commercial uses. There were fashionable exceptions in the east end such as Monteith Row, commenced in 1818, but by this time the most desirable residential addresses lay to the west of the city.

Anderston Brewery The arrival of steam power from 1800 made a profound impact on the development of industry in areas to the east of Glasgow. This was partly because of the handloom weaving tradition in communities like Bridgeton, Calton and Parkhead, and partly because the Lanarkshire coalfields were located nearby. Parkhead Forge was founded in 1837, and the village of Parkhead ultimately came to be associated with iron and steel. Bridgeton and Calton, on the other hand, became substantial factory-based textile centres. Indeed, Calton achieved burgh status in 1817 with its own magistrates and council, in order to exert a controlling influence over the rapidly growing community.

West End

Riverside, Anderston Although the east end was identified overwhelmingly with industry, Glasgow's west end was not exclusively gentrified. Anderston, like Calton, had been a weaving village celebrated for the quality of its linen and muslin during the 18th century. The Houldsworth family brought Manchester capital and technology to the district in 1804 and made their fortune from the manufacture of fine yarn. A substantial percentage of their factory workers were of Irish origins, reflecting the growing presence of immigrant labour in the Glasgow area. In 1824 Anderston's population boom prompted the Houldsworths and other community leaders to emulate Calton by securing burgh status.

City Views By the 1830s Anderston, Finnieston and the Broomielaw were flourishing districts close to the river on its northern side. Glasgow was expanding as a major port and in 1836 the establishment of Robert Napier's (1791-1876) shipyard at Finnieston represented an important symbol of future economic directions. Ironically, the continuing westward movement of the middle classes affected areas that were relatively close to these industries. From 1830 assorted west end estates were placed on the market as speculative building ventures, with the claim that they would combine the best qualities of town and country. Among the first to be developed were South Woodside and Claremont, and others soon followed.

By this time Blythswood had become the most exclusive residential district within Glasgow's boundaries. It was originally the substantial estate of the Campbell family, which had shrewdly taken advantage of market opportunities during the 1790s to build on their lands. Considerable pressure was exerted during the 1820s to secure Glasgow's police protection over the expensive Blythswood dwellings, which were set out in a grid-like street formation to the west of the royal burgh. This was eventually achieved in 1830. Along with the grounds of the Necropolis - Glasgow's prestigious new cemetery - Blythswood added 128 hectares (316 acres) to the city.


All this outwards expansion was of course minimal compared with overall population growth. Moreover, policing considerations continued to preoccupy certain politicians, who argued that administrative consolidation of the various authorities surrounding the city would be in the best interests of the wider community. That the Reform Act of 1832 recognised an extensive parliamentary constituency of Glasgow, covering 2,344 hectares (just over 9 square miles), indicated that the annexation of Anderston, Calton, the Gorbals and other districts was actively under consideration. The legal process was slow moving, but in 1846 Parliament eventually sanctioned the extended city and Glasgow's old burgh identity effectively disappeared.

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