Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Shawlands. Shawbridge Street. Then And Now. Ch- Ch-Changes. Glasgow. 1800s to 2019.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
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.)
Link Here.

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.
The B listed mansion of Camphill House would have been an early arrival, built within what is now Queen's Park, constructed in the first two decades of the 1800s within the Maxwell owned Camphill Estate. Still occupied today, converted to upscale apartments.
Then Langside Halls, seen above, an A listed building originally situated in the city centre in the 1840s in Glasgow's Queen Street before it was moved to its current location in 1902 on the edge of Queen's Park at Shawlands Cross. A mere stones throw from Camphill House. Note the recent addition of a newly constructed plaza with public seating in an otherwise busy traffic and building heavy location.
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.)
Other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle soon land in sequence. The elegant red sandstone Camphill Gate, seen above, constructed by 1906. Somewhat earlier, around the 1890s, the beautiful Camphill Estate is transformed into Glasgow's third city park by renowned prolific UK public park designer and landscape architect Sir Joseph Paxton. By the 1930s the Shawlands, Battlefield, Langside, Cathcart, and Crosshill tenement districts are all well established, much as we find them today, and the rural open countryside of 50 years earlier is a distant memory for old timers.
Remarkably, several Shawlands pubs from my own younger years still remain. Finlay's seen here on Kilmarnock Road.
The Georgic pub. As a teenager attending what was then Langside College we had a choice of three places to obtain a hopeful pint and right of passage. The Bay Horse, The Mulberry Hotel, in Camphill Avenue and The Georgic. The Mulberry was the closest but being more upmarket it sussed us out as underage drinkers the quickest, even when we pushed a fellow student sporting a thick beard in front of us to be our spokesmen. When that ploy failed we had to walk the extra distance to the Georgic, near Shawlands Cross, more of an old man's pub back then but usually busier inside so we could sneak in unnoticed behind our bearded Trojan horse, sometimes pretending to read the sports pages of a cunningly raised newspaper purchased as a further disguise. If we reached an empty table in what was a very small cramped interior the packed bar area of standing thirsty adult males usually hid us for one or two rounds before we were ejected. It only worked two or three times though then we had to find a new establishment once we got clocked and recognized. With so many pubs from 45 years ago shut down and no longer there it was great to find these still open but memories were enough so I didn't go in.
Instead I was on a mission... to document the different stages of building development in Shawlands and Shawbridge Street districts and when they occurred. It boiled down to three stages of building activity.
Shawlands Arcade interior. Built Late 1960s, early 1971 during another mini, lesser wave of energetic construction.
The flats at the back entrance to the same 1971 arcade. This arcade, one of the first of its kind in Glasgow's outlying shopping districts may be getting a major redevelopment soon.
Further up and further out from the 1900s constructed, four floors high tenement land of Shawlands Cross we arrive at Shawbridge Street, in Pollokshaws, another area I remember fondly.... as an urban mountain vastness. This early 2012ish photo shows some but not all of the hi rise flats that once dominated this area. As a teenage traveller through space and time from the 1960s to the late 1980s both sides of Shawbridge Street had a mixture of  deck access flats and soaring hi rise blocks, several more than the buildings left standing in this photo. Walking down Shawbridge Street then was an impressive experience... like an ant entering a maze of horizontal and vertical dominoes with the white 22 floor hi rise blocks packed in at the other faraway end, rising on a hill as the mountain head-wall/crowing glory.
I loved the place. It was the nearest district of sheer verticality to where I lived then and as a keen urban explorer all my life this was my first Manhattan.. my very own New York City... my mountain paradise. Always an exciting place to delve into... in a well behaved polite manner of course, inconspicuously wandering down every open corridor I could find, experiencing the views from every highest level possible. In those halcyon innocent early days you could do that. Without door entry systems you had that freedom. Especially if you had relatives that lived there and you were trying to locate them. My teenage companion living in the highest tower in the land. Lucky me. My incredible cloud city... my floating sweet Columbia of dreams....
Even with half of the mountain stronghold pulled down, just these white flats remaining, it's still very impressive today and I still enjoyed it, exploring around all these years later, but it's missing the long line of hi rise mid 1960s blocks that formed a deep twisting gorge gateway to reach this point on foot.
This lone last remaining tower block rising from the surrounding autumnal forest captured in early 2000s, now also demolished and gone to join its handful of tall friends, gives you some idea of its full majesty - imagine a line of these stone monoliths stretching ahead of you on both sides of Shawbridge Street with the white hi rise towers glimpsed ahead, soaring above in the distance and you get some idea of the impact of this place pre 2016 when the last standing leviathan crumbled into dust. On one memorable occasion, a misty autumn day of bright sunshine long, long ago we stood on the edge, high above the surrounding deciduous forests, (the great woodlands of Pollok, some trees dating right back to Medieval Britain) with  half of the city under the mist blanket and the spires of churches, hilltop castles, and other tower blocks sticking up in sharp relief, splashed with golden rays. Gods on Mount Olympus have lesser views to gaze at.
Even today, from certain high vantage points in 2019, it's not so shabby a view. Pollokshaws Burgh Hall here, (built 1890s) the detached mansions and castles of Pollokshields running along a low ridge, and the distant Campsie Fells in this photo.
Looking across Pollok woodlands to Tarfside Oval Hi Rise flats in red/brown ( now demolished as well, sniff sniff. Wah!) Moss Heights Flats ( still standing and refurbished. Hooray! A flat world is no fun.) and the distinctive bump of Dumgoyne. Who needs Eden when you have the vastness of Pollok to behold. These woodlands in October, decked out in a myriad of hues and different colours are truly exceptional seen in all their glory from a high vantage point.
It was with these thoughts and images in mind that I surveyed the modern reincarnation taking place around Shawbridge Street today. A very different, transformed area, still getting updated. An empty and almost abandoned shopping precinct. Soon to be pulled down.
New housing rising up phoenix like to replace the tower blocks. As in other areas of 'affordable housing' development districts throughout Glasgow, and other cities, thousands of homes are being replaced by a mere few hundred at most as far as I can see. As well as a shrinking population in the post industrial UK cities I am also noticing distinct signs of intentional or unintentional social cleansing going on- as in ... are the working class districts of old an endangered species today? It's not a joke. Just looking around over the past decade by bike and on foot I see various upmarket bought estates constantly expanding in size yet any traditional working class areas (council estates) I happen to visit have usually halved or more in population terms or been replaced with upscale private developments. Obviously private companies building houses will go for the ones with the largest profit margins but you would think that would leave many thousands of citizens without a roof over their heads. So it's a genuine mystery to me, during a supposed national housing shortage, where the traditional working class base, that I knew, are living these days within the city. What I would call the ordinary citizens- like myself- who could never afford a £200,000 to £400,000 house/flat mortgage in a million years... or pay it off.  Either it's A- a Tardis effect in modern housing with dozens packed in to much smaller boxes, B- everyone is rich in the zero hours and gig economy and can buy a posh house..., or C-we are hemorrhaging base of the pyramid citizens into a black hole somewhere. Do we even require a working class anymore in modern Britain? Are they future proof..... or merely expendable.. like newspapers, real shops, real money and living voices actually answering questions when you make a phone call to a business company? And where are all these past citizens going???? Heading abroad....? moon colonies...? Snuffed it? or living outside the city limits?
The properties built today are good looking homes but just less of them compared to what I remember, population wise, in this district 30 years ago... and in every visited district, not just this example but over dozens of different Glasgow estates, city wide. And even in outlying towns like Greenock and Port Glasgow, when they pull down large council estates a mere handful of houses replace them.
This area is better than most per number of new houses built and more still to come presumably but still a visual reduction from the missing tower blocks and deck access buildings of old and it still looks a half empty, and half constructed district somehow. So...if more people did live or were attracted to Glasgow and other post industrial UK cities, presumably the majority would have to come in nowadays at a certain level, able to afford to buy a house here, pay it off on a good annual dependable salary or from substantial savings from a previous house sale as the council housing stock of old is no longer available to accommodate many below that high bar. Renting from private landlords being the other option. As a result of this ongoing process you would think Glasgow would gradually elevate itself into a prosperous, largely middle class city, with fewer crime and social problems, given a much smaller lower rungs population base in the various outlying suburbs but I'm not convinced that is happening. According to latest published reports violent crime, murder, and other offences are on the up again after a downward trend in recent years so we may yet reclaim the murder capital of Europe title once more... if indeed we ever lost it.....which is surprising given we have far less citizens now than 50 years ago.
( 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.) 
Some low level housing from the 1960s period of building remaining intact however, like here.
New and old tenements on Pollokshaws Road. The Old Swan Inn pub was a feature bar sitting under the older red sandstone tenements on the right in this photo.
Wellgreen Court. Pollokshaws. Like the missing high rise flats, built during the 1960s presumably, but still here today.
As are these examples.
The new look Shawbridge Street where the eight hi rise blocks and several deck access buildings stood. Taken quite a while to replace them and still plenty of gap sites left empty.
One sight that has not changed since the late 1960s. These two buildings stand at the entrance of Shawbridge Street beside the Round Toll on Pollokshaws Road. My old secondary school lies a mile down through the woods on the right of this photo. Getting buses into the city for work or play I must have passed this district hundreds of times but not visited it properly on foot for decades now. Something old, something new and a pleasant walk down memory avenue for ch- changes....a South Side nostalgia tour.




Carol said...

Hmmm - I don't mind the long row of low-level white flats but I think all the other latter-day housing look terrible. The block of flats on stilts looks hilarious. But the old mansions in the paintings look gorgeous! I don't know why they don't make modern yuppie housing (which the Yorks Dales are being filled with) aren't made more like the old mansions instead of the monstrosities they churn out for the rich nowadays!

We had 2 underage drinking pubs in Skipton (I think one still might be). They got raided frequently but still let us all in at 14 or 15 to drink. Like your 'bearded Trojan Horse'!

Anabel Marsh said...

I don’t know this area so can’t comment on before and after, but wandering round the west of the city I just see more and more student flats going up. Not sure, like you, where everyone else can go for affordable housing.