Sunday, 26 January 2014

Arden.Darnley.Carnwadric.Kennishead. National Savings Bank.

For the last post in the South Glasgow/Greater Pollok area I thought I'd include the rest of the working class estates and adjoining housing schemes. This is the main road through Arden. Although none of these areas are in Pollok they were all within walking distance and as a lot of folk from Pollok, myself included, either had friends or relatives living in them I thought I'd end with them.
Arden from Carnwadric Road.

One of the reasons for knowing people here is that all these districts on the outskirts of Glasgow grew up to accommodate the citizens displaced by the slum clearances from Govan, Kinning Park, The Gorbals, and other south side ancient tenement clusters many of which were crumbling relics of the Victorian era. With large families and marriage between folk who didn't travel much then it was normal to know people in adjoining estates as cousins, aunts, uncles or workmates who all seemed to live closer together in the days without cars, and factories employing hundreds or even thousands of people from the local area still existed and helped cement bonds. This was the real 'Big Society' a community spirit which came about from people having a lot in common and all being, more or less, at the same level. Nowadays, with a fractured and increasingly multi-cultured and economically diverse UK where people are forced to move around frequently to find work or can start relationships online countrywide there is no way on earth you can get that community feeling back despite all the rhetoric from politicians. This is not being racist as the same close knit communities that bonded over generations existed in Indian cities, Irish, Polish, Russian, American and most parts of the world.
Ironically, as the opportunities to travel increase we seem to be getting further away from each other individually, and not just in a physical sense but in a mental one as well. Given the choice we no longer want to live in each other pockets and usually the first thing folk do if they buy their own council house is throw a large fence up to separate themselves from any neighbours.
I had relatives in Arden so I visited it often and knew it fairly well. Compared to the layout of most estates it's a strange scheme as you can drive through it in a very short space of time ( a couple of minutes on the main twisting road) but like legs on a centipede, long rows of four story tenements, like the one above, branch off at right angles all the way along this central thoroughfare with the result that it packs in a large amount of residents in a relatively small area.( Faifley above Clydebank is very similar in design and size) It's also built over a peculiar egg box shaped landscape and every street seems to be either climbing up a slope or sits down in a dip. Some of the ground floor flats ( see photo above) are under street level due to the nature of the terrain.  Compared to the wide flat streets, open spaces and dual carriageways of Pollok, Arden, built in the 1950s by SSHA (Scottish Special Housing Association) always felt slightly claustrophobic and surreal to me for some reason, like parts of Castlemilk and Drumchapel where narrow streets and tightly packed 4 story buildings either side, facing each other, made it feel dark and oppressive even on sunny days. But if you live there you probably get accustomed  to it as my relatives all thought it was normal growing up. Almost every street there also seemed to finish in a dead end. Some of the houses must get great views though, like these ones below, as they have a panorama over large areas of rolling farmland and deciduous mature woods.
Compared to other, high density, tenement districts in the G53 area Arden always seemed to be reasonably maintained by this housing association and was one of the last schemes to start going downhill during the 1980s recession when the closure of heavy industry and mass unemployment hit Scotland and the North of England hard with large groups of young folk everywhere looking forward to a future on the dole as it took a full generation to generate the same number of jobs lost by the closure of large factories, shipyards, and engineering works.
This pub 'Cuillins', privately built in the heart of the scheme in the mid 1960s may well have been the first one of its kind in Glasgow, as housing estates often took decades to get their own pub. The folk in the schemes obviously couldn't be trusted with alcohol, or any other form of entertainment for that matter, close at hand, as none were included in the original blueprints. Fortunately, for the residents, it's shut down now, so they are safe from themselves at last. With cheap supermarket drink house parties are the new pubs which must please the neighbours next door even less.
Arden from Carnwadric. When you think of it many of the big schemes were just rabbit hutches built on top of each other as most had few facilities to begin with. One small row of shops to serve 30,000  people spread over a huge area in Pollok's case at the start yet nearly everyone had large churches and chapels right from the off. The planners must have thought the residents were desperately in need of saving from the very first day. I wonder how busy they were over the life of the scheme? If you were really cynical you could look at it that these districts were really just convenient boxes to keep the population in. A place where you ate and slept when you weren't working or worshiping so no wonder they used to call them 'dormitory suburbs'. The problem with many of the large estates at that time was that they were built by planners and architects from a different background who didn't really understand the collective nature of people. They always started out with grand ideas and visions of a Utopian metropolis where people would behave perfectly yet any ordinary folk from the streets shown the plans would have had real concerns. Building vulnerable or old folks houses directly above  local shops similar to these in Carnwadric, below, became a staple of almost every scheme. It may have seemed a great idea to have the weakest in the community near the shops but it made life hell for most of them as that's where the local kids hung out every night as many had sheltered stairwells safe from the winter rains and it was one of the few places outdoors where they could stay dry and not get moved on. Shops were also a frequent target for burglars meaning alarms ringing below you on a regular basis most of the night. Within a decade a lot of these flats were boarded up and hard to let. They only survived in the best areas.
Carnwadric shops. Carnwadric grew up in the 1930's on land that had belonged to the Royal Stuart line, descendants of Robert the Bruce and the Kings and Queens of Scotland, then the Maxwell family who owned most of the Greater Pollok District. Carnwadric shops above. King George V Playing fields and Kennishead flats behind in the Photo below. These flats were built next to Carnwadric in the mid 1960s around the same time as the National Savings and Investments bank was built in nearby Pollok.


It was rumoured then that they were built in part to house the flood of workers needed to staff this massive bank and it kept the current Queen busy as she opened it and also this Park/ Playing fields.
 The Kennishead flats from Nitshill. At the time the papers carried stories that experienced bank workers from the south of England seconded to work here dug their heels in and refused to move due to Glasgow's reputation as 'No mean City' A legacy of a popular book written about the Gorbal's Razor gangs of the 1930s. A very enjoyable read but it cast a long shadow just like Colin and Justin's TV programme in 2007 about Arden 'On the estate' which although it might have been well intentioned picked two half empty streets in the scheme scheduled for demolition and gave the impression that's what the whole district was like. To anyone who knew it however Arden was actually one of the better estates with many nice streets, even then at its worst. Even today if you look on the internet you will see articles  like 'How rough is Glasgow?' and inquiries or comments from folk living in Manchester, Birmingham or London telling people how bad it is here. I can tell you now I've always felt safer in the worst parts of Glasgow than any of those three cities just mentioned and I'd hate to live there so maybe like midges a violent reputation can be a positive asset in keeping people away.
A night view of the Darnley, Arden and Kennishead.
The National Savings and Investments bank. At its peak, according to reports roughly 10,000 workers were employed here but dwindled to half that number over the years as it was subdivided to other businesses. Now it lies empty and up for sale.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Savings_and_Investments
Another view of it surrounded by trees. Pollok is a very green area. One of its many virtues. The majority of these high flats must have world class views over Glasgow, Paisley and Renfrewshire, all the way to the west coast and the mountains around Cowal and Arran, or in the other direction as far as Tinto and the Southern Uplands. During and shortly after the war the whole district was dotted with POW camps with Italian and German prisoners, many of whom helped to build the scheme before they were released. At Cowglen there was also a large American Army Hospital and injured soldiers from all nationalities were treated here. Unlikely as it seems, as part of the war effort I believe various big name film stars like Clark Gable, Jimmy Cagney and many others visited here and selected movie stars could be found jogging past the Bundy to queue for fish suppers beside Pollok roundabout. I'm not making this up!


 Carnwadric is still a decent scheme of low rise cottage type houses, Like most of Mosspark, Carntyne and Knightswood these older schemes are still desirable places to live with upstairs/ downstairs two level houses and back and front gardens. This design is popular as it's the way most people want to live. Arden is one of the few estates left in the area that still has most of its original tenements standing but that might be because it's still a housing association and, I think, is funded by rents that require a large population base in order to carry out repairs and maintenance. I was up there recently and a lot of renovation work and small new building projects are going on with the result that it looks a well kept area again after a dip in the 1980s to the 2000s.
Unfortunately, with Glasgow, at that time, in the mid 1940s to the 1960s  having to find accommodation for upwards of  roughly half a million displaced people at a guess, and spare suitable  land hard to come by the low level estates mentioned above like Mosspark, took up far too much room. After Pollok was finally completed the next big project for Glasgow Corporation next door to South Nitshill on the south side of the city was this....The Darnley, above.
Billed as high amenity area, with a local library, shops, bowling green and other facilities it seemed like lessons had been learned. Sadly the architects and planners were still out of touch with human nature and built a deck access estate on what used to be green fields. This remaining long wall of multi story houses has been extensively upgraded and the open corridors closed in but it's enough to get a feel of what the old estate looked like. I was a young teenager in the late 1960s early 1970s and watched with interest as long rows of uniform grey buildings appeared at the bottom of my hill. Interest changed to disbelieving excitement as I realized this new estate had an unusual layout which meant that you could walk practically unhindered from one end of it to the other without coming down to street level. Open corridors ran all the way through the two, three, four, and seven story blocks and many of these had high level pedestrian bridges connecting several block together. As a thirteen year old this was the biggest ,most mind-boggling, most complex, adventure playground I'd ever seen and I couldn't wait to explore it. Well.. you would, wouldn't you.
This time the town planners had got it wrong on a spectacular scale! Ya beauty! It wasn't our job to tell them they'd just messed up big time but anyone that lived in a scheme and knew teenage children could have told them the original Darnley was a disaster waiting to happen. Luckily I had a best mate the same age that lived in the Darnley so when we were bored with the fields and woods or anytime it was poring with rain, which was often, we wandered the endless corridors, stairwells and bridges of these 'streets in the sky'. They were right...it was a high amenity area... for playing in.
What they had forgotten was the golden rule of house building that has been in existence from the stone age onwards. Mark your personal boundaries out first- Then build your house inside those lines.
Like most of these deck access estates the Darnley didn't have any boundaries as it was all open plan then with no door entry systems and the tenants couldn't say "this is my private property- your trespassing in my space- go away". All they had was a front door in a communal corridor that anyone could wander up and down in. The entire scheme was like that and almost from the minute it was built it started to go downhill like most of the other notorious deck access estates in the UK and abroad.(South Gate in Runcorn springs to mind.)
http://hughpearman.com/the-naked-and-the-demolished-the-scandalous-tale-of-james-stirlings-lost-utopia/ This estate is actually far more attractive looking than the original Darnley but it failed to save it as the design concept was a failure from the start as soon as you put people into the equation.
 If you read this link and look at the photos inside you'll get some idea of what it was like as I don't have any photos of the original blocks anymore apart from this one. On reflection it takes a bold person to be an architect or town planner and this link highlights that: commissioned to design mass housing for large groups of people within various constraints of budget, size of land available, speed of erection and always at the whim of the people holding the purse strings who can change whatever they submit to suit their own remit at the last minute. As they work in a visual and tactile medium ordinary folk always have a strong opinion on the finished product, but when they get it wrong bad architecture can have a profound psychological effect on the people living there for decades to come. I loved the Darnley- but only as an adventure playground.
After a few years the gangs discovered what a great place this was too. When we explored it all at first the kids wandering about were well behaved and inconspicuous and didn't cause any trouble but soon the numerous stairwells had smashed lighting; corridors and walkways became covered in spray-paint and graffiti and exploring the place at night in winter became a really bad idea as you never knew who you were going to bump into round a dark corner.
Even before the Darnley was built the three established gangs in the area from Priesthill, Arden and South Nitshill used to have occasional battles in the fields during summer if they met one another, team handed. Now that they had the Darnley to fight in undercover ( a purpose built all weather  concrete battleground) things escalated rapidly and it became notorious for gangs rampaging up and down the corridors or charging across the walkways at night. Metal gates in the corridors were erected at intervals to try and stop this but the damage was already done and few wanted to live in an area with teenagers fighting and stamping above their heads as they lay in bed trying to sleep due to the strange construction of the buildings, where if I remember correctly, you went down interior stairs into the living rooms in some of the flats.
Original Park Hill residents in Sheffield would also find this outcome depressingly familiar.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Hill,_Sheffield Good photos of 'Streets in the Sky' architecture here particularly the ones right at the very bottom of the page in this link. .'Brutalism' at its finest. The kids soon showed the architects the human face of 'Brutalism' and like the building themselves, it wasn't pretty. 'Psychogeography' in a very real sense as if the negative and inhuman scale of the urban landscape around them was feeding directly into teenage minds.
Anyone from a council housing estate background could have predicted this would happen. Flat roofs in a country like Scotland were not the brightest idea either and many homes soon suffered from dampness. The Darnley estate was intended to be even larger in size than it ended up and I remember them knocking down a few streets before any residents had a chance to occupy the just completed buildings. Maybe they suddenly realized, with horror, the full magnitude of what they had constructed. Most of these concrete jungles went the same way and the old style Darnley was gradually demolished after only 15 to 20 years as it lay half empty by then and was a favourite for squatters. I wish I'd been into photography in those days as it was something else at the end.

Now it's a totally different estate and apart from this one remaining block which is now residents only restricted entry it's all low level housing with back and front gardens and looks fairly upmarket as a lot of them are bought. It's the way most people want to live- with defined boundaries that plainly state to anyone else: This is mine- you've crossed the fence/line so you are now trespassing on my property. As easy as that yet its taken us decades of mistakes to realize that is the way housing should always be. I see online some of the remaining buildings that are left in other estates UK wide are being done up then marketed towards young professionals or students without children which would be suitable but they were never ideal living areas for families or anyone elderly as they could be pretty isolated places years ago.

To sum up. Council schemes and estates often get a bad press but sometimes the planners need to shoulder some of the blame. From a personal point of view growing up in one, the majority of  folk  around me were just like people anywhere else. Most of them worked hard to raise families, often in   low paid unsatisfying jobs -semi skilled or unskilled mostly then. The majority of people around me  were also honest and  reliable, prepared to graft all their life on the bottom rungs of society with little to show for it at the end. Unless you were extremely talented, determined, lucky, or academically clever it was hard to get out of a scheme once you were in one thanks to the points system and the subtly corrosive way of life there.. The reality of life for most folk at the base of the big pyramid is that they are there to make up the foundation for others to climb on. When I read recent headlines like "most people are better off now than in the last few years." I think   'Good to see Pinocchio's reinvented himself again'. Or another recent cracker. "Together we will built a better Britain! "  For who exactly? 90% per cent of average citizens will always be poor no matter what happens. The gap between rich and poor used to be slowly shirking but now its as wide as the Atlantic Ocean again. Maybe that's the real reason why we have recessions  as it gives the rich an opportunity to gallop ahead while sending the rest of us down a dead end short cut. Call me a cynic but I'm reminded of a line writer Johnny Speight put in the mouth of his character, the elderly working class Alf Garnett. Can't remember the exact wording as it was so long ago but it was pretty close to this.
Stated proudly after an election victory:- "I've served under six different Prime Ministers now, man and boy." He reflects on this fact for a second then it slowly dawns on him... raging now. " And I've been poor under every bloody one of them! "
Ever wondered how the rich get richer during a recession while the rest of us take cuts in our income?
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2118669/George-Osborne-Im-wealthy-pay-50p-tax-rate.html

Such is the fate of the common man,...or woman. I rest my case. Off on a tangent, some of the reasons why we should treasure nature? It's usually free, it regenerates itself at no extra cost, it's always full of unexpected surprises and if you treat it well and give it respect it will rarely let you down throughout your life. Well, unless you live in an area prone to flooding, tornadoes, mudslides etc...

Just to give people a look at what the run down area of Arden and the other schemes looked like back in the day here's a Scottish Eminem with a tongue in cheek gangster parody. I'm not usually a fan of rap and judging by the comments he got a lot of criticism and stick for this but the lyrics are clever and young folk growing up anywhere always draw on their environment for inspiration. (no pun intended) These are probably the same much photographed couple of streets scheduled for demolition that interior decorators Colin and Justin used. Couldn't find an empty building then without a film crew in it :)


Needless to say it doesn't look anything like this now...It's a good estate again. But don't tell anybody as it keeps unwanted visitors and casual tourists away.
And a more theatrical classic by Alex Harvey. A Glaswegian legend who grew up in the Gorbals and Kinning Park..

11 comments:

Carol said...

I think, wherever you come from, you generally feel safer in your own area than a strange one. But Glasgow used to seem rougher to me in the 70s when I used to call through on my way back to Army base in the Outer Hebrides - I got marooned once over a weekend when I was 17 with no money.

Basically, one of the airport strikes had routed me out home via Inverness and, in my innocence, I went back there to catch the flight back to Benbecula. When I arrived I found the flights had been routed back to Glasgow airport so I'd missed the Saturday one by the time I got there. That meant I couldn't travel until Monday and I had nae cash! Pretty frightening weekend ensued!
Carol.

blueskyscotland said...

You might be right there Carol. I used to know a guy from Easterhouse that moved to Pollok and he thought it was really wild at night there until he got used to it and got to know the locals around him.
Yet everyone around him was always saying...You're from Easterhouse? How can you think this is rough?
Glasgow has changed a lot in the last 20 years though and most of the notorious estates have improved dramatically which is good for anyone bringing up kids.

The Glebe Blog said...

I agree with your comment about communities Bob, it seems like there's no such thing nowadays. It's probably one of the reasons many youngsters get radicalised these days. I have to admit though that the Irish do better than us Scots at keeping social. Down in Scunthorpe there were as many exiled Scots as Irish and guess where the Scots used to meet up (regardless of religion). Spot on, the Irish clubs ! Lincolnshire as a whole has a pipe band and a Scottish society, the Caledonian Society of Lincoln, but they struggle to get members.
Some quite acerbic comments from you here Bob, I agree with most of them. I'd love to see a government minister come up to Patna to tell the unemployed to get a job. He widnae get oot o' the place !
I read No Mean City as a youngster, the copy I have now I bought at Wigtown five years ago.
Didn't you have a comment from an Alex Harvey recently ? No relation I suppose.
A very enjoyable post sir
P.S I think some of these word verifications are deliberate, this one is "are siwalk"

blueskyscotland said...

Bit over the top was it Jim? Sorry. I get carried away at times as I try to write each post straight off in one go and I'd just heard the latest Government ideas to save money. Normally I have no interest in politics but when ever I hear most conservative politicians they seem determined to pick on the lowest people in society at every occasion and that really annoys me.
I've got no envy issues at all with anybody better off as I have everything I need at present in one handy box to have a decent lifestyle that suits me and I know from experience working in large houses they require a lot of maintenance and cleaning which gives other people work. The wealthy also create most of the jobs so good on them. It's just the politicians I don't trust.
Mind you, this current lot are better recruiting agents for Alex Salmond and independence than anyone in his own party. If Scotland does go independent David Cameron and his colleagues will have to take a lot of the credit for it :)

Charlie Media said...

Fist Blog I have found all about where I was brought - up in Kennishead Avenue Masonettes,really great Blog with amazing stuff I have now going to read the other half ...wow...I made a group called Arden,Carnwadric,Kennishead,and Darnley...lived there /live there and on Facebook back 4 years ago it was really good as I ended - up with loads of local familys and friends that made it all really a good nostalgia site. Until one guy because it was an open group thought it would be better gone as a open group 13k people just all gone in no - time so wont be going down that way again I think not . Thanks for this great insight into a place I left 30 years ago and now live in Northumberland Coast ...Thanks

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Charlie M,
That must have been gutting losing that material. I lost a lot of my old photos a few years ago due to my computer crashing and I still miss them because they can never be replaced.
Although they are scattered around, other Glasgow posts you might like on here are Jan 2014 Pollok and surroundings...Govan 2013...and July and Aug 2013 -south side memories etc.
Northumbria is a nice area. I've been down that way a few times over the years. The first three chapters of my comedy book "Autohighography by Bob Law £1:14 pence are free to read on Kindle bookstore. All about growing up in Glasgow then around Scotland.

Steve Williams said...

Hi just to let you know Clark Gable was actually in Cowglen Hospital after he was hit in the foot by ack ack fire. He was sent to Cowglen to be hidden as the powers at the top didnt want people knowing his injurys.

Anonymous said...

Your description of the Darnley area reminds me of the bleak deck access scheme in Dundee named Whitfield, built in the late sixties and demolished in the nineties. All the problems you describe of the Darnley area are like a mirror image of Whitfield. Deck access Skarne property's were never the answer to the housing problem.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anon,
Yes, they built them right across the UK at that time. I remember cycling through Whitfield and Trottick around that time just before they came down and they were pretty bad. I also posted a video from You Tube called Divis Flats. Belfast on this blog 27th Nov 2016.Type in Blueskyscotland. Autumn in Bellahouston Park to get it. That's worth a look as is the film '71' about them at that time. It didn't matter where they were, most went downhill pretty fast as they didn't have any personal/private space or well defined boundaries for residents to say "this is my bit- keep out, so the gangs did what they liked on these estates.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Steve,
thanks for the confirmation about Clark Gable. Decades ago a Pollok man wrote into the Daily Record saying he'd met Clark Gable a few times in Pollok but few of his younger generation pals believed him until Showbiz Sam verified it. That must have been when he was on the mend.

Mark Pickering said...

Just stumbled upon this while taking a trip down memory lane. Very enjoyable.