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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s



By Irene Maver

Glasgow from Monkland Canal In the 19th century Blackhill was located in Lanarkshire, outside Glasgow's north-east boundary. The lands were used for farming, but Blackhill also had an important function as an access route for the Monkland Canal, bringing coal and iron direct to the city. In 1875 Glasgow Corporation purchased twenty-eight hectares of the farmland with a view to erecting a prison. However, two years later central government took responsibility for all of Britain's prison management. Barlinnie was selected as an alternative site for the building, leaving the municipality with its undeveloped land investment.

Blackhill Housing In 1895 Blackhill was laid out as an eighteen-hole course for Glasgow Golf Club. Four years later the district formally became part of the city and the resulting urban encroachment prompted the Club to move to Killermont in 1904. Local golfing enthusiasts adopted Blackhill and it remained a popular civic-run course until 1933 when a major new Corporation housing scheme was initiated. Blackhill was a controversial site for building because of the proximity of industry, especially the vast Provan Gas Works. Yet the disadvantages had to be counterbalanced with the urgent need for slum clearance in Glasgow's older and more dilapidated communities. The Garngad, in particular, was an acutely overcrowded district to the west of Blackhill, which in 1935 provided thirty-nine per cent of the scheme's original tenants.

In the inter-war phase of development over 1,300 dwellings, predominantly tenements, were erected. The pressure to provide housing with affordable rents meant that Blackhill was built to a higher density than previous municipal schemes. Moreover, constraints in costing meant that there was scant opportunity for aesthetic refinement in architectural design, while amenities such as shops and public transport were lacking. These deficiencies were beyond the control of the residents, but the pervasive notion that they had been slum dwellers and somehow lacking in qualities of responsible citizenship helped to stigmatise the community. Although living standards improved after 1945, the negative image continued to dog Blackhill until the late 20th century.

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