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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Everyday Life

Public Services

By Irene Maver

Old Close in High Street From the 1770s Glasgow's public services were characterised by greater professionalism in administration. A more structured approach was required because of unprecedented population growth. In the sixty years prior to 1830 the number of inhabitants more than quadrupled to over 200,000. Policing, health and environment problems intensified as the city spread outwards to accommodate new building and industrial development. Meanwhile, the quality of housing in older districts, notably around Glasgow Cross, was rapidly deteriorating.

Stockwell Street A fundamental change to the provision of services took place in 1800, with the creation of Glasgow's Police Board. While this innovative body did not assume the magistrates' powers of jurisdiction, it was more democratically elected than the Town Council and raised its revenue through a system of rating, or property tax. The Board had wide responsibilities that went beyond the maintenance of a full-time constabulary. It provided for street lamps (gas-lit from 1818), street cleansing and paving, and refuse collection. The Board also oversaw the city’s fire-fighting establishment.

City Views The Town Council retained its traditional responsibilities as custodian of the burgh's corporate property. An ongoing commitment was the development of the Clyde to allow larger vessels to dock at Glasgow. From 1812 James Cleland (1770-1840), the city's Superintendent of Public Works, embarked on extensive improvements to Glasgow Green, to transform it into a recreational parkland. However, the 1833 reform of Scottish local government was crucial for increasing the scope of public services, by making the Town Council an elected body, and thus directly accountable to the community.

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