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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Trade and Communications


By Guthrie Hutton

Glasgow from Monkland Canal Three canals served Glasgow in 1830, but in the years to follow it was the Monkland Canal that made the biggest impact. It was in the right place when the development of hot-blast iron smelting coincided with the discovery of blackband ironstone near Coatbridge in Lanarkshire. Huge blast furnaces and numerous malleable ironworks turned Coatbridge into "hell with the lid off" - darkened by smoke during the day and lit by fire at night. But the furnaces made iron and it filled the holds of the canal barges that came into Glasgow in huge numbers. The city's growing industries also needed fuel, and coal from the Monklands' mines filled even more barges and generated so much traffic that the locks at Blackhill could not cope. To supplement them an inclined plane was installed in 1850 to take empty boats returning to the Monklands up the hill in caissons (watertight tanks) - a word corrupted by Glasgwegians to "gazoon". But the railways were growing and by the 1880s the canal was struggling and the gazoon disused.

Port Dundas The Forth and Clyde did manage to resist the railways because its size allowed bulk cargoes to be moved under their own power in screw-propelled steam lighters (barges) and did not need to be horse-drawn. The first such vessel was launched in 1857 at Maryhill's Kelvin Dockyard. South of the Clyde, sophisticated, light, iron passenger boats, amongst the fastest on any British canal, were developed on the level, lock-free Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal, but they could not compete with the railways. The canal closed in 1881 and a railway was laid along its route.

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