Thursday, 12 September 2019

Hillpark. New-Lands.Cathcart. Govanhill. Ch- Ch- Changes Part Two.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
Part two of my marathon all day walk across districts of south west Glasgow that I used to be very familiar with but haven't visited on foot for 20 or more years. As you can see from the above photo taken in Queen's Park it was back in the winter time, temperature around minus 5 degrees early on in the morning but dry and sunny.
Looking down Victoria Road towards the snow draped wall of the Campsie Fells. Apparently, the Cine-World building was the world's tallest multi screen cinema when it was built- maybe still is... a city, and a country, with a surprising number of firsts. ( Apparently also, New York's famous grid, straight line, street network may have been inspired by the earlier Glasgow layout- its city centre being much the same in its construction design. Makes for good photography in this instance.
What attracted my attention this time though was not the familiar view of the city centre district, above, but rather the views across in the other direction from Queen's Park, the landscape not drastically altered from when Mary, Queen of Scots surveyed her 6000 strong forces in battle in the spring of 1568 from a nearby hilltop lookout then realized her downfall when they failed tactically to capitalize on their superior numbers by being outsmarted. It was not a large battle or a particularly vicious one, lasting less than a hour with 100 to 400 men killed, (some account sources vary), but its conclusion as a win sealed her fate. I mention this only because so many districts here are named after her or linked to her army in some way, even though it was fought in mostly open countryside then. ( Success hinged at a Langside village bottle neck and a crossing of the nearby White Cart Water, both armies opposed on the banks of the river to start with.)
Battlefield Rest, Originally built as a shelter/ waiting room for tram travellers in the early 1900s at this busy Langside street junction it's now a small but popular award winning Italian restaurant/ bistro. The nearby Langside College, which I attended decades ago, was where I first got to know this area well and was close to the site of the Battle of Langside. Behind this building is the new Victoria Hospital with the old one still standing but partly demolished.
Old Victoria Hospital.
New Victoria Hospital. Both named after a different Queen.  Queen Vicky.
I however was more taken with this view, a misty one over the tenement rooftops of Langside to the aptly named Hill- Park. This was another district I immediately gravitated towards in my youth, always a sucker for any tower blocks or interesting buildings.
I found out very early in my childhood wanderings that flat areas of urban development could be pretty boring to explore but towers on a hillside never were. The Rapunzel element always kicked in.
So after my wander through a much changed Shawbridge Street, captured in the previous blog post, I set off once more up several sets of stairs to this new summit, a somewhat dubious intentioned lone knight on my eternal grail quest.
Hillpark, building wise, has not changed much since its construction. It was always a strange interloper to my mind... a walled hill top castle of ordinary serfs surrounded by well heeled suburbia below (Knights) with an invisible moat between them.
Perfectly illustrated in this view. 1930s suburban living design (Art Deco-ish) co-existing uneasily with 1960s Le Corbusier inspired doctrine, responsible for many a long gone deck access estate and brutalist tower blocks throughout the UK. I know what my money is on for being demolished first in this photo :o)
Having said that Hillpark does have outstanding views over Glasgow and the mountains to the north. University of Glasgow here. I did meet a free spirited Rapunzel in this lattice work tower once, long, long ago, in a different age and era of chivalry but we were as mis- matched as Hillpark and surrounding Merrylee districts- a gulf in class and future aspirations/ambitions... so it soon fizzled out. The hunt or quest is often better than the capture and aftermath- but maybe that's just me. I like a good quest.
Even got a distant view of what might be Ben Lomond over the new super-hospital at Govan, scene of recent sectarian disturbance in the streets (The West of Scotland has more Sectarian marches per year than Belfast apparently- never knew that.) Brexit and the Irish backstop question has opened up all sorts of largely subdued divisions in UK society. Like poking a sleeping dragon. Referendums only seem to highlight the vast range of different opinions folk have... about anything... and shine a spotlight on them.
The remaining hi rise towers in Pollokshaws seen from Hillpark. The main reason I climbed up here of course was for the views. 20 years at least since the last time.
This brought back some painful memories. In my hasty elastic youth I remember attempting to jump these railings, trying to impress a friend with my gymnastic skills by leaping casually from the top set and landing both feet on the bottom set. I was far too casual about it though, trying to look cool like Nadia Comaneci with little visible effort but maximum grace and missed completely, hitting the bottom rail with my bum instead then face planting down ten feet away on the grass slope. "if you can't impress them at least make them laugh." I countered, pride and bum severely dented.
Hillpark sits on the edge of the great wood of Pollok,seen here, only a mile from my old secondary school, so easily within walking and exploration distance back then.
It was while I was walking in this area that I was approached by several locals as I'd climbed the slope on the right to reach a large secondary school, hoping for better views higher up as the trees here were obscuring the city for good camera work and distance shots. Luckily, it was a weekend so no pupils around or I would not have bothered.
"What are you doing?" I was asked by three twenty something guys, spotting a new unknown face in their district and zooming in like heat seeking missiles out of boredom/curiosity. Having working class roots however I know how to handle myself in these tricky situations.
" I'm lurking around in a suspicious manner in a school playground." I informed them, smiling slightly at my predicament. " What's it got to do with you?"
Telling the truth often works I usually find.
Escorted out of Hillpark at gunshot I found myself hanging out with Jesus instead, attended by two adoring companions who only had eyes for the man on the cross. Mary J, Big J and Mary Magdalene presumably? Another unlikely threesome I encountered on my marathon walk across the city. It was turning out to be an eventful trip. Who says city walks are boring!
The church of St Mary Immaculate in Pollokshaws and yet another hill climb for the views.
Pollokshaws East Station and the railways that transformed open countryside into early 1900s city districts.
A view over towards Mount Florida district, Hampden Park, and the red brick cube of Cathcart House, the old Scottish Power building, on the right. I had noticed on another city visit that it was getting restored into luxury apartments, a current trend with any old property.

Glad they have retained the decorative interior features of this fine old building. See slideshow gallery in this link above. I would not swap my edge of the city childhood however for one nearer the centre, however affluent, as I just had to fall out the front door every weekend or summer evening to find myself within the glorious rolling landscapes of 'Wonderland'... the Renfrewshire, drumlin infested, countryside of my youth.
I could easily have ended up here though. Govanhill. It's near Queen's Park as a green outlet but a bus ride from any real countryside. I suspect growing up here would have made me very different- in interests, expectations, and in attitude.
Or here. Cathcart.... Quieter, not much traffic noise in this area, but still deep within the city. It would take a determined child and very relaxed parents to reach the outdoors by themselves before the age of sixteen growing up here... and by that time your interests might well be fixed/focused in other directions.
This was also an inner city district walked through that I thought 'Thank **** I  didn't grow up here!' mainly because of the incredible freedom I enjoyed... away from traffic, people, civilization in general... and a chance to grow my imagination in any direction without barriers imposed on it. Even as a visiting adult it felt slightly claustrophobic here and a bugger to park outside your door by the looks of it. Partick in the West End is the same, both districts designed and built before widespread car use occurred.
This view of the White Cart Water had me thinking of escape back into nature. It looked deep enough to kayak down so I started scoping it out even though you would need a plastic or fiberglass model rather than my inflatable, easily punctured, type.
It did look possible though and a cool idea to float right through the city on this partly submerged, below street level, ribbon. Escape routes back out are few and far between though and I think at one point it may even go underground... and not in a good way. (pretty sure it does not go underground now after further visits. Some weirs, mild rapids and waterfalls though- which can be lifted round- the rest looks fine from Clarkston to Paisley... a good long run.)

 Needs further inspection but definitely a cool idea.
This is also 'thinking out the box' in a big way. Worth a watch on You Tube. Aldous Harding. The Barrel. (Official Video.) 
Now and then, searching through the banal dross of modern light entertainment like an old time miner panning in a stream-bed,  a genuine gold nugget will appear. Very different- like a moving art display and cleverly thought out in detail. My gold nugget of the month award.

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.