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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s



By Irene Maver

Pollokshaws Burgh Hall Pollokshaws was an autonomous burgh in Renfrewshire before it became part of Glasgow in 1912. A century before, in October 1812, burghal status had been granted to the expanding handloom weaving village. The first Provost of Pollokshaws was Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, 7th Baronet (1768-1844), demonstrating the influence wielded by this wealthy landowning family over the neighbourhood. During the 18th century Glasgow tobacco wealth had been behind the first major industrial enterprise, the Pollokshaws Printfield Company and the Maxwells also invested substantially in linen manufacture. By the early 20th century Pollokshaws had acquired an increasingly diverse industrial profile, including important engineering works.

Cogan Street, Pollokshaws The Barrhead writer James Fisher (b. 1818) created the legend of Pollokshaws' distinctiveness from Glasgow in his comic poem, "The Queer Folk in the 'Shaws". Certainly by 1912 the community had developed in a way that seemed quaintly old-fashioned to Glaswegians as tenements did not dominate the urban landscape and many of the early weavers' dwellings still remained. The round toll-house, built around 1800 at the junction of Pollokshaws Road and Barrhead Road, is a surviving example of the old burgh's eclectic architectural style. The village character of Pollokshaws was enhanced by its compact layout, covering only sixty-seven hectares of territory in 1912, with a population of almost 13,000.

Shawbridge Street, 1956 Unlike many areas of Glasgow, Pollokshaws during the inter-war period remained largely unaltered by new building developments. The continuing village quality was evident in its far from palatial cinema of the early 1930s, the Palladium, which was irreverently known as the "Wee Buggy". However, Pollokshaws came to feature prominently in municipal plans to thrust Glasgow into modernity after 1945. Above all, the area had a relatively low residential density which meant that restructuring would allow it to accommodate a surplus population. In consequence almost half of the dwellings built in the 1960s were tower-blocks which provided an incongruous contrast to those elements of the old architecture that were allowed to remain. Fortunately, the unique historical character of Pollokshaws was recognised in 1971, when the rehabilitation of tenements at the site of the Old Swan Inn became one of Glasgow's first major conservation projects.

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