In 1770 Camlachie was a small weaving village to the east of Glasgow with a small mansion house, which then served as a woollen factory. With the opening of coal mines in the neighbourhood, chiefly by the Dunlops of Tollcross and Carntyne, the village was transformed. By 1820 it was reported that the inhabitants were mostly colliers who mined over 250,000 wagon-loads of coal each year. Foundries and engine shops were set up beside the Camlachie burn to take advantage of these supplies, including the works of Francis Smith and later of Duncan McArthur, who was the leading builder of marine engines in the 1810s. The young David Napier opened his engine works in 1814 and quickly overtook McArthur as the best engine builder in the west of Scotland.
Although convenient for raw material, Camlachie was not well situated for the transport of finished products and in 1821 Napier removed to Lancefield on the north bank of the Clyde. Nevertheless Camlachie continued to be a centre of manufacturing, including chemicals and whisky distilling as well as metal working. In 1836 the Reoch brothers set up a forge at nearby Parkhead, which was to become the celebrated works of William Beardmore & Co. The pollution from the concentration of industry in this part of the east end made life there unpleasant and the factory owners moved away to more salubrious areas. Even as early as the 1830s Francis Smith lived across the river in Rutherglen.
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