Wednesday, 4 September 2019
Shawlands. Shawbridge Street. Then And Now. Ch- Ch-Changes. Glasgow. 1800s to 2019.
A few months ago, while researching the size of the Pollok Estate for the Nitshill post I came across a set of snapshots/paintings that really made me think. Although I always knew the area around Pollok and Nitshill, up towards the Barrhead Dams, was originally all part of Renfrewshire and a large estate.... as various crumbling ruins, old works, coal mines, quarries, and mansions, lay scattered across it, I never really appreciated just how vast it was in scale, covering most of south Glasgow, from Kinning Park to Shawlands to Cathcart to Langside to the lands above Barrhead- a substantial area. Most of it owned by the Maxwell family. As children exploring the land surrounding us we dimly understood that something had gone on before we arrived but it was a very vague elastic notion of history and age when we discovered an empty cottage, an abandoned and flooded quarry,World War Two gun emplacements, or a large mansion house buried in the deep woods, complete with half filled curling pond- all of it being rapidly reclaimed by nature. Anything older than the present day was ancient history to young kids, stretching back from 10 years ago to one thousand with not much time difference in-between. These building oddities seemingly out of place in an otherwise rural landscape of fields, woods, and farms we explained away as part of ' The Lost World' , that other realm before present times existed....and didn't really think too deeply beyond that. So it was something of a shock to find out I was doing it yet again- this time with Shawlands. Probably due to the fact that the main street layout of Shawlands dates to Victorian and Edwardian times so appeared ancient already and I never really thought much of what it might have looked like before the 1900s.... so.... these paintings of the various districts in this link came as a real surprise to me... and a pleasure. Four pages of a different time period entirely.
Captured before Glasgow expanded outwards, swallowing up the existing countryside of gently rolling rural Renfrewshire.... there was the Pollok Estate of the 1830s, only a few small hamlets and villages in an otherwise empty land. The various built up Glasgow districts we take for granted today springing from individual farm names mostly ( Arden, Darnley, Kennishead, Carnwadric...) or from produce grown there (Orchard Park) or distinguishing features, (Nuts-hill, Thorn lee- bank, East- Wood, Brock Burn (habitat for badgers?) or from older history... Battlefield, Queen's Park (both Mary, Queen of Scots related names.)
It was only after viewing the above four pages of photo/paintings that the complete idea of a farming land existing before the various districts transformed countryside into city fell into place like jigsaw pieces landing in my lap.
Like other UK cities and worldwide suburbia in general the main spread of outlying districts only occurs after the railways arrive through the area, allowing easier daily access for commuters. Shawlands Railway Station and Cathcart Circular Line opens around the 1880s in Glasgow. Horse drawn carriage, stage coach or lone horse rider before then presumably to reach this far in a few hours outside the inner districts. Journeys undertaken on foot for the poorer citizens. Some of the land would be needed to supply the rapidly growing city with fresh produce,.... eggs, meat, milk, chickens and fresh fruit, flowers and veg. ( I found out fairly recently my grandfather was a carter, driving a horse and cart around the city, delivering fresh goods house to house... with plenty of fresh manure for the garden as a perk of the job.)
( Just checked online out of curiosity... Tallinn, Estonia (another beautiful city) is the new leader with Glasgow dropping down to second ... but still ahead of Moscow, Russia in 4th as most dangerous cities in Europe.)