-the nineteenth-century expansion

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


The old tenements, especially those in the East End, were grossly overcrowded and an 1863 report by the city`s Medical Officer of Health reported that 64 Havannah Street is not surpassed by any close in the city for filth, misery, crime and disease; it contains 59 houses, all inhabited by a most wretched class of individuals; several of these houses do not exceed 15 feet square, yet they are forced to contain a family of sometimes six persons. Disgusting conditions like these could only be tackled by wholescale rehousing and a few years later the City Improvement Trust was given the task of dealing with the worst areas (see picture). In many ways they were very successful in their work and numerous tenements which they erected are still standing, such as in the High Street and Saltmarket.

As well as taking on the daunting task of improving the city`s housing stock, the `city fathers` set about establishing what has sometimes been called `municipal socialism` (although many of the most-influential councillors were highly-successful capitalists!). As well as being responsible for such matters as education, housing, parks and all the other local government services we have today, at various times the council operated the public transport system (including the trams and the Underground), the Municipal Telephone System and they even controlled the production and distribution of gas and electricity. Perhaps the most lauded example of how the council worked to improve the lot of the people was the provision of a clean water supply. This large project lasted from 1856 to 1859 and involved building a pipeline which brought water from Loch Katrine to Glasgow; the city`s gratitude was marked by the erection of the Stewart Memorial Fountain in Kelvingrove Park.

In 1905 Frederic Clemson Howe, an American professor of Civic Administration, visited the city and was quite astounded by all the municipal enterprises. He reported that the council runs several farms upon which it uses the street refuse as fertilizer. It has brought them to a high state of fertility, and produces provisions for its departments. Even from this source it has a net income of $3,000 a year. It has a wonderful system of sewage disposal which is nearing completion. The River Clyde has always been a foul-smelling stream, but the city is expending millions to purify it through the destruction of its sewage and the use of the sludge as fertilizer. The city fire department has a big workshop at the central station where it builds all of its own apparatus, just as the tramway department erects its own cars… Thus Glasgow looks after her people. She is as frugal as a Scotch parent.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

These tenements stand on either side of the High Street where it meets Duke Street. They were built by the City Improvement Trust in 1900-01 as high-quality tenement buildings to replace the slums in this old part of the city.
As the city grew in importance, the council began the process of annexing the surrounding suburbs. The early seventeenth-century boundary had remained unchanged for two hundred years but in the mid-nineteenth century various burghs, such as Anderston, Calton and Gorbals were taken over. At the end of the century the city swallowed even larger burghs such as Govan, Partick, Hillhead and Pollokshields and this process continued well into the twentieth century though some areas (such as Rutherglen which was annexed in 1975) are no longer within Glasgow. But local traditions still remain, particularly in the older parts of the city, even though the huge housing developments of the 1960s and 1970s led to large numbers of people leaving the traditional tenement areas for the peripheral housing schemes such as Drumchapel, Easterhouse and Castlemilk.
Next history article:
The late Victorian period
Previous history article:
The early nineteenth century
List of history articles:
History of Glasgow

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