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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914


By Irene Maver

The Govan Ferry Glasgow was fundamentally reshaped in 1846 when the municipality was extended to 2,344 hectares (just over 9 square miles), more than double the territory of the old burgh. Natural boundaries, such as the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin, as well as the Forth and Clyde Canal, were used as far as possible to mark the new city limits. The village of Partick, with a population of around 3,000 by the 1830s, lay to the far side of the Kelvin, and was consequently not included in the extension plans. Nor was Govan, a fishing and weaving village on the opposite banks of the Clyde from Partick, with just over 2,000 inhabitants.

Industrial Suburbs

Govan in 1845 Glasgow's civic leaders had not foreseen how soon industry would change the rural character of these neighbourhoods. The arrival of major shipyards, such as Tod & MacGregor in Partick and Napier's in Govan, was the catalyst for population growth during the 1840s and 1850s. Similar developments were taking place north of the Forth and Clyde Canal, in the area variously known as the Dry Dock, Kelvin Dock or Maryhill. Originally a graving (or dry) dock for shipping, by the mid-19th century Maryhill was expanding rapidly due to railway construction and industrial development.

Queen's Park gates Within a decade after 1846, efforts were being made to absorb the urbanising communities beyond the city's jurisdiction. Following the successful acquisition of the west-end's Kelvingrove Park in 1852, the substantial south-side lands of Pathhead were purchased in 1857, for development as Queen's Park. Lying three kilometres (1.8 miles) from the city, the new park greatly enhanced the amenity value of middle-class suburbs such as Crosshill and Langside. These were precisely the kinds of prestigious districts that it was hoped would seek policing and other environmental protection from Glasgow and add to the city's taxation revenue.

Partick Burgh Hall Yet while the residential suburbs accommodated increasing numbers of city commuters, thanks to road and transport improvements, their inhabitants did not necessarily identify more closely with Glasgow. This was especially true of industrialising communities, which were relatively self-contained because of their employment base. Rather than pay city taxes, leading residents took advantage of parliamentary legislation unique to Scotland to transform their districts into police burghs with their own local elections and civic administration. In 1852 Partick became the first area immediately adjoining Glasgow to become a "police burgh"; Maryhill followed suit in 1856 and Govan in 1864.

Police Burghs

Dixon Halls During the 1860s and 1870s a cluster of police burghs emerged on the fringes of the city, all with a distinctive character. Thus, Hillhead (1869) was a douce west-end district of superior tenements and terraces, while Crosshill (1871) and Govanhill (1877) were neighbouring south-side suburbs, sharing the same burgh hall. However, Govanhill was by far the larger of the two, partly because it provided housing for employees from the railway workshops in Polmadie. Also in the south, Pollokshields West (1876) was exclusive villa terrain, while Pollokshields East (1880) had a more mixed residential profile. The growth of Kinning Park (1871), east of Govan, was encouraged by harbour extension along the Clyde.


Alexandra Park While police burgh status protected communities from Glasgow encroachment, in 1872 there was a minor boundary extension of 393 hectares (about 1.5 square miles). The newly added districts included most of Springburn, a centre for locomotive building situated in the north-east. Also annexed was Alexandra Park, next to the residential suburb of Dennistoun: the new municipal park was intended to provide "breathing space" amidst the atmospheric pollution of east-end industry. Another salubrious site, the Gilmorehill grounds of the University of Glasgow, represented an essential addition in the west end. The new college buildings had originally been located in the police burgh of Partick.

Saracen Foundry Grand territorial claims had been made for the extended city in 1872, but concerted police burgh resistance had prevented the creation of a "Greater Glasgow." Yet not all suburbs opted for local self-government. For example, Kelvinside was an exclusive west-end estate developed to meticulous standards from the 1840s by the Fleming family. When the extension debate intensified during the 1880s, Kelvinsiders inclined towards the Glasgow connection. Another very different example was Possilpark, to the north of the city. A centre of iron production from the 1860s, amalgamation with Glasgow was welcomed in order to benefit from the city's public services.

"Greater Glasgow"

Langside By the 1880s, with over half a million Glasgow inhabitants and only marginal boundary increases since 1846, civic leaders were forced to take decisive action. Their high-profile campaign resulted in the setting up of the parliamentary boundary commission of 1888, which broadly favoured their claims for expansion. In 1891 the city's territory doubled to 4,800 hectares (18.5 square miles). All the police burghs were included, with the exception of Govan, Kinning Park and Partick. Glasgow also absorbed the northern districts of Balornock, Possilpark, Ruchill and part of Springburn. Added south-side territories were Bellahouston, Crossmyloof, Langside, Mount Florida, Polmadie, Shawlands and Strathbungo, as well as Kelvinside, in the west.

Pinkston Power Station During the 1890s and 1900s Glasgow Corporation consolidated its international reputation for the provision of wide-ranging public services, including the newly acquired utilities of electricity and tramways. There was more sympathy from Westminster politicians towards the extended city because of the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the larger administrative unit. In consequence, Glasgow continued to expand, absorbing areas such as Craigton (1896) and Blackhill, Provanmill and Riddrie (1899). Kinning Park became part of the city in 1905, while the addition of Mosspark, south of Bellahouston Park, enlarged the municipal territory to 5,251 hectares (nearly 20.3 square miles) in 1909.

Shettleston Cross Although Govan and Partick had previously rejected Glasgow's advances, the two burghs were eventually persuaded into joining with the city in 1912. The argument succeeded partly because of financial and other inducements and partly because taxation levels would benefit lower-income families. The massive 1912 extension was symbolically significant because the number of Glasgow's inhabitants rose to over a million. Extending over 7,763 hectares (nearly 30 square miles), the city also included the historic burgh of Pollokshaws, plus the southern districts of Newlands and Cathcart. Among areas added in the west were Anniesland, Dawsholm, Jordanhill and Scotstoun, while the acquisition of Shettleston and Tollcross represented Glasgow's first major movement eastwards since 1846.

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