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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s



By Irene Maver

Barrowfield House Bridgeton was one of the industrial villages that emerged in the late 18th century just outside Glasgow's boundaries. Originally part of the Barrowfield estate, the lands became "Bridgetown" after the Rutherglen Bridge was built across the Clyde in 1775 and 1776. Main Street was also constructed at this time, leading to today's Bridgeton Cross, and soon houses were appearing along the route. In contrast, the old mansion-house of Barrowfield survived into the 19th century as a reminder of Bridgeton's pre-industrial past. Its most celebrated inhabitants had been the Walkinshaw family whose fortunes were lost as a result of their Jacobite allegiance in the 1715 rebellion.

Bridgeton's growth was inextricably associated with the rise of the Scottish textile industry from the 1770s. While Glasgow's east-end communities already had a strong handloom-weaving base, technological advances in cotton spinning created a range of new employment opportunities. In 1785 David Dale (1739-1806) established the Barrowfield Dyeworks. Henry Monteith (1765-1848) acquired the business in 1805, specialising in dye for bright red Bandanna handkerchiefs. By this time the advent of steam power allowed for cotton spinning to be concentrated in Bridgeton and over the next three decades numerous large-scale factories appeared.

The search for work brought a diverse range of incomers to Bridgeton. The corner of Ann Street and Main Street was known as "Wee Belfast" because Irish weavers lived there. Greenhead was "The Highlands" because local cotton-spinners Dugald Macphail (1778-1855) and Duncan Macphail (1782-1853) preferred to employ workers from their native Argyllshire. Bridgeton's boom years in the early 19th century created a self-contained community with a penchant for radical politics. Yet, with the introduction of steam power fuelled by coal, the industrial environment was increasingly unhealthy. To secure more efficient local government, Bridgeton was annexed to Glasgow in 1846.

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