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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914


The Gorbals

By Ronald P A Smith

Crown Street, 1912 Despite the high aspirations of the Hutchesons' Trustees and James Laurie, circumstances conspired to bring the new Gorbals residential developments downmarket as the 19th century progressed. The sites were downwind of industrialised Tradeston and became subject to the night-time glare of Govan Ironworks, better known as Dixon's Blazes. Elevated railway lines were superimposed upon the area's grid-iron layout of four-storey tenements. The old village became notorious for beggars and vagrants. Several street blocks were therefore devoted to industrial rather than residential use and housing development with more working-class tenants in mind accelerated.

Gorbals Cross In 1846, the Gorbals' administrative independence ended - Glasgow's boundaries were extended to include the area and the local police force merged with that of the city. The old Gorbals village, including all traces of both squalor and antiquity, was swept away in the 1870s by the Glasgow City Improvement Trust which later proceeded with the development of Oatlands, the Gorbals' third main present-day constituent. The warren of narrow closes which characterised the old village was replaced by a new focal point, Gorbals Cross, which featured the architecture of Alexander "Greek" Thomson.

Rabbi Shyne The Gorbals accommodated a wide variety of people attracted by the expanding city's employment opportunities and who were also, in some cases, fleeing persecution - initially from the Scottish Highlands and Ireland, but later joined by significant Jewish, Lithuanian and Asian communities. Laurieston was the site of Glasgow's Great Synagogue, opened in 1901 while, much more recently, the Glasgow Central Mosque was established close to the River Clyde.

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