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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Everyday Life

Parks and Commons

By Irene Maver

Design for Kelvingrove Park The growth period in the development of Glasgow's public open spaces commenced with Kelvingrove Park in 1852. Yet, ironically, Kelvingrove was first promoted as a private speculation by a group of city builders who thought that a West End park would enhance their plans for superior middle-class housing. The builders could not raise sufficient funds and so, in 1852, the town council stepped in to rescue the scheme and purchase the parkland. Designed according to plans by Sir Joseph Paxton (1801-1865), Kelvingrove immediately became one of Glasgow's greatest civic showpieces.

Camphill Park Kelvingrove's success encouraged councillors in 1857 to acquire the lands of Pathhead for a south-side park. Named Queen's Park, in tribute to Mary, Queen of Scots, the landscaping was also by Paxton. Municipal attention was next directed to the east where, in 1866, the City Improvement Trust initiated plans for Alexandra Park (named after the Princess of Wales). Increasingly, public health considerations were influencing civic strategy and the new park was intended to provide "breathing space" amidst the smoke and pollution of the industrial East End.

Victoria Park The town council created other parks, such as Ruchill (1888), Springburn (1892) and Richmond (1898), to improve the industrial environment. From the 1880s wealthy benefactors gifted land to the city resulting in Cathkin Braes Park (1886), Bellahouston Park (1895) and Rouken Glen Park (1906). Glasgow's boundary extensions also brought in established open spaces, such as Maxwell Park and the Botanic Gardens (1891), and Elder Park and Victoria Park (1912). Competition from these new parks meant that supporters of Glasgow Green were fiercely protective of its importance as the city's oldest public space. To draw attention to its history and amenity value, the People's Palace was opened on the Green in 1898 as a cultural and recreational centre.

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