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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s


The Gorbals

By Ronald P A Smith

Gorbals Cross 1930 Between the World Wars the Gorbals unfairly acquired a world-famous notoriety for violence, principally founded on the contents of the book No Mean City. This reputation was very much at variance with the warm community spirit recalled by residents. Although there was little new development (apart from 344 new Council flats in Oatlands), the population peaked at around 90,000.

A Links, Fancy Linen Merchant Although hard to believe today, the area was in many ways a southern extension of the city centre with 1,000 shops, 130 public houses, numerous doctors' surgeries and a vast range of small businesses. Sadly, however, behind all that activity, the housing stock was falling into serious decay.

50 Crown Street Once commodious tenement houses were subdivided into tiny flatlets. There was serious overcrowding with many large families squeezed into one and two-roomed dwellings. Thirty years of rent control removed the incentive for the private landlords to improve their housing stock and the factoring system for the care and maintenance of property broke down.

13 Hospital Street The density of human habitation reached fifteen times that of today's suburban housing while it is recorded that only three per cent of the houses in Hutchesontown had a bath. Tenement surroundings were often no better - back courts with bare earth, ruinous walls and scruffy outbuildings, latterly accompanied by disused air-raid shelters. In many cases, back courts also accommodated unpleasant industries such as grease manufacturing and rag sorting.

New Bedford Cinema Not surprisingly, there was a strong desire after the Second World War to tackle such problems through large-scale demolition and comprehensive redevelopment.

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