Thursday, September 15, 2011
Gorbals and Govan, West Glasgow, Scotland
Govan and Gorbals is where my family immigrated from to America. It is now a part of Glasgow but Govan was at one time its own burgh. Many of my ancestors are listed as living on Uries Row which no longer exists but was a row of houses that were rented out to mining families working for Govan collieries and Dixons Iron Works
Recent studies of the archeology of old Govan have revealed the presence of an ancient Christian church. Two associated Christian burials are radiocarbon dated to the 5th or 6th centuries, making Govan the earliest known Christian site in the region. Govan is believed to have then been part of a kingdom ruled from Dumbarton Rock, known as Alt Clut, the rock on the Clyde. During the Viking Age, perhaps following the sack of Dumbarton Rock in 878, Govan is believed to have been one of the major centres of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. According to John of Fordun, Constantine, a 7th-century king of Strathclyde, founded a monastery at Govan, where he died and was buried. In 1855, an elaborately carved sandstone sarcophagus was found during digging in the churchyard.It is now kept inside the church. It may have been used to contain the body or relics of Constantine, although the style of carving indicates an origin in the 10th or 11th centuries. This King Constantine is first mentioned in the 12th-century Life of St. Kentigern by Jocelyn of Furness, where he is said to have been son of Riderch Hael. He is likely a literary invention. The early church in Govan is dedicated to a Saint Constantine, about whom nothing else is known.
Govan's earliest recorded name may be found in the Historia Regnum Anglorum attributed to Symeon of Durham. This is a 12th-century Latin source, but one believed to be based on much earlier materials; it records a place near Dumbarton Rock named Ouania. Based on this, Govan's Cumbric language name has been reconstructed as *(G)uovan. Govan is Bàile Ghobhainn (smith's town) in Scottish Gaelic. Bishop Leslie in his Scotia Descriptio of 1578 says it got its name from the excellence of its ale (God-win), whereas Chalmers in his Caledonia says it is derived from Scottish Gaelic, Gamhan (a ditch).
The earliest references to Govan are found in connection with the Christian church. In 1136, when Glasgow Cathedral was formally consecrated, King David I (1124–53) gave to the See the lands of Partick and also of the church at Govan (on opposite sides of the River Clyde), which became a prebend of Glasgow. The Govan Old Parish Church was rebuilt in 1762, 1826, and again 1884-1888. Within it and its roughly circular churchyard is one of the finest collections of Early Christian stones in the United Kingdom, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries.
By the 16th century, extensive coal mine workings had been developed around Craigton and Drumoyne. As the village grew, new trades and crafts, such as weaving, pottery and agriculture, were established.
A part of Blaeu's 1654 map of Scotland. Modern Govan is at the site labeled Mekle Gouan. The small town of Glasgow is on the north bank of the Clyde, across from Litle Gouan.
There is an oddity whereby part of eighteenth-century parish of Govan (which was in Lanarkshire) is counted as being within Renfrewshire. There existed a hospital in the area, and as quasi-religious foundations were not taxed, it had never been assigned to a sheriffdom. Thus, when Renfrewshire was created out of a sheriffdom of Lanarkshire in the early fifteenth century, the lands associated with the hospital (Polmadie) were not technically in the newly created shire, as they were not part of the sheriffdom. They were, however, very much a part of the physical landscape that became Renfrewshire. A similar uncertainty existed regarding the nearby lands of Pollokshields and Westends. People lived with the inconsistency in the records. When the railroad was to be built in the late nineteenth century, however, the confusion over proper descriptions in the land titles made necessary legal transactions difficult and had to be reconciled. The county added to the description of these lands, the phrase: "but now by annexation in the County of Renfrew."
By the early part of the 19th century, Govan was rapidly losing its rural appearance and assuming the character of a town with the development of new industries and factories, including Reid's Dye Works and Pollok's Silk Mill. Town officials arranged for the deepening of the Clyde in 1759, the reclamation of the channels between the islands (The Whyte Inch, The Black Inch, and The King's Inch), and the construction of quays and docks. This facilitated the development of shipbuilding as a major industry. By the 1860s, the village needed a higher order of administration and it was made a burgh in 1864, under the General Police (Scotland) Act 1862. At the time, it was the fifth largest burgh in Scotland.
With Morris Pollok as its first Provost, the Burgh and its Commissioners ensured that during the next 48 years Govan became a well-equipped, modern town. During the late 19th century, the population of Govan increased more than tenfold: from 9,000 in 1864 to 95,000 by 1907. In 1901 Govan was the 7th largest town in Scotland. In 1912, Glasgow annexed Govan.
A prominent feature of the Govan landscape was the Doomster or Moot Hill, which stood near the river, north of the present Govan Cross. It was removed in the early 19th century and Reid's Dyeworks was [[erected on the site. The origins of the Doomster Hill are a mystery. One hypothesis is that it was a prehistoric burial mound. In 1996, a team from Channel 4's Time Team programme carried out an archeological excavation at the site. They suggested that the hill may have been a 12th-century Norman motte.
A useful reference source for this period is given below.
20th century to the present
Traditionally viewed as a working-class area, Govan has typically supported the Labour Party, but the Scottish National Party (SNP) has also been strong there. In 1973 SNP won a by-election with Margo MacDonald as their candidate. The SNP won another by-election victory in 1988, this time with Jim Sillars as candidate. The latest victory for the SNP was in the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections, when Nicola Sturgeon became the MSP for the constituency.
The area has had a reputation for deprivation and poverty, partly due to the construction of housing estates in the 1930s to relieve the overcrowded slum district of The Gorbals, Glasgow. The most famous of these housing estates is Moorpark, sometimes referred to jocularly as "The Wine Alley". It was parodied by the BBC sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt. Although Govan the stated setting for the show, episodes were seldom filmed there. In the post-war years, many Govanites were relocated from the town, often reluctantly, to outlying areas such as Drumchapel, Pollok, Darnley, Priesthill and Penilee by the Corporation of Glasgow.
Despite these developments, there were numerous older buildings around Govan until quite recently, most notably the terraces and tenements situated around Govan Road. These were not cleared until well into the 1970s.
Due to boundary changes, Govan in the early 1960s incorporated some surrounding more prosperous areas at its boundaries. Although technically part of Govan, residents of these areas have maintained a distinct identity separate from the area.
The Govan Fair is celebrated on the first Friday in June each year.
Govan was at one stage the centre of the world-renowned Clydeside shipbuilding industry, although few yards remain today. One of Govan's original yards remains one of two large shipyards to survive on the Upper River Clyde, the other being Yarrow Shipbuilders Limited based in Scotstoun. Both of these yards form a large part of BAE Systems Surface Ships.
In 1841, Robert Napier first began iron shipbuilding in Govan, and in 1843 produced its first ship, the Vanguard. He also procured a contract with the Royal Navy to produce vessels, notably the Jackal, the Lizard, and the Bloodhound. He also allowed naval officers in training to visit at the shipyard to familiarise themselves with the new vessels. Napier's Shipyard in Govan was later acquired by William Beardmore and Company in 1900 before being sold on to Harland & Wolff in 1912. Napier's shipyard finally closed in 1962 and most of the site redeveloped into housing.
Govan's other major shipbulding firm was founded in the 1860s as Randolph, Elder and Company, later John Elder and Company. In 1885 the yard moved further west to its present site and was reorganised as the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd. This company continued until 1965 when it filed for bankruptcy. In response, the yard was again reorganised in 1966 as Fairfields, which was guaranteed by the government. The following year Fairfields and the other major Clydeside yards (Stephens, Connels, Yarrows and John Browns) were merged to form Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS).
In 1971 the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders went into receivership and the Tory government under Edward Heath refused it a £6m loan. Rather than go on strike, which was the traditional form of industrial action, the union leadership of the yards decided to have a work-in and complete the orders that the shipyards had in place. In this way they dispelled the idea of the workers being 'work-shy' and also wanted to illustrate the long-term viability of the yards. The work-in was successful in the short-term. YSL withdrew from UCS in 1971 and Govan was sold off in 1973 as Govan Shipbuilders.
In 1977 the Labour government of James Callaghan passed the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act which nationalised Govan and grouped it with other major British shipyards as British Shipbuilders. In May 1979 Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister and her administration soon began its privatisation programme. British Aerospace, established by the same act, was privatised in 1981. British Shipbuilders' road to privatisation was not as swift, and the group was sold piece by piece throughout the decade.
Kværner of Norway, as part of a planned development of a large international shipbuilding group, took over Govan. British Shipbuilders' sale of Govan to the Norwegian firm was completed in 1988 and the yard was renamed Kvaerner Govan.
In 1999, GEC's Marconi Marine division purchased the yard when Kværner announced its exit from the shipbuilding industry. GEC's Marconi Marine division already owned YSL (purchased in 1985) and VSEL (purchased in 1995). Marconi Electronic Systems and its Marconi Marine unit were sold to British Aerospace in 1999 to form BAE Systems. The shipbuilding operations became BAE Systems Marine, which subsequently became part of BVT Surface Fleet, a naval shipbuilding joint venture between BAE Systems and VT Group, which became BAE Systems Surface Ships in 2009.
Alexander Stephen and Sons also established a Shipyard in nearby Linthouse in 1870. The yard eventually closed in the wake of the collapse of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders consortium in 1971.
The Gorbals (Scottish Gaelic: Na Gorbals) is an area on the south bank of the River Clyde in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. By the late 19th century, it had become over-populated and adversely affected by local industrialisation. It became widely known as a dangerous slum and was subject to efforts at redevelopment, which contributed to more problems. In recent decades, some buildings have been demolished for a mixture of market and social housing; others are being refurbished and restored to a higher standard.
The Caledonia Road Church, one of the finest examples of architecture in Glasgow, is located in the Gorbals. Designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson and built in the 1850s, the former Presbyterian church was gutted by fire in 1965. It is now an impressive ruin.
Meaning of placename
The name is first documented in the 15th and 16th centuries as 'Gorbaldis', and its etymology is unclear. It may be related to the Latin word garbale (sheaf), found in the Scots term garbal teind (tenth sheaf), a tithe of corn given to a parish rector. The taking of garbal teind was a right given to George Elphinstone in 1616 as part of his 19-year tack (lease). The placename would therefore mean "the Sheaves". The name is remarkably similar to a Lowland Scots word gorbal/gorbel/garbal/garbel (unfledged bird), perhaps a reference to lepers who were allowed to beg for alms in public. Any Gaelic form of the name is conjectural, since none survives from medieval times. Gort a' bhaile (garden of the town) conforms with certain suggestions made by A.G. Callant in 1888, but it is possible to produce a list of other interpretations.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the area was home to large numbers of immigrants from Italy and Ireland, attracted by the industrial jobs and leaving social problems and poverty in their homelands. In particular, huge numbers of Irish Catholic immigrants from County Donegal in Ulster poured into the Gorbals from the mid-nineteenth-century onwards. This huge immigration from County Donegal continued for most of the twentieth-century. The area also housed the new wave of Jewish immigrants from eastern and central Europe, and housed the great majority of Scotland's Jewish population. The Jewish population moved out of the area as it rose in educational and social class; although the Irish Catholic population has diminished to an extent, many have remained since the area's redevelopment.
Govan parish was one of the oldest possessions of the church in the region. The merk land of "Brigend and Gorbaldis" is referred to in several sources. The village of Brigend was named after the bridge which Bishop William Rae had built in 1345 over the River Clyde; it lasted until the 19th century. Lady Marjorie Stewart of Lochow was said to have had a hospital built for lepers and dedicated to St Ninian in 1350, although this year is contested by current historians' estimates dating her life and activities. The lands on which the hospital was built were named St Ninian's Croft, and they were later to be incorporated into Hutchesontown.
Gorbals has been redeveloped, and it now has a modern library and learning centre. Some tower blocks remain but the city plans to redevelop some and demolish others.
After the Protestant Reformation, in 1579 the church granted the land for ground rents (feued the land) to Sir George Elphinstone, a merchant who was Provost of Glasgow (1600–1606). The barony and regality of the Gorbals was confirmed in 1606 by a charter of King James VI, which vested Elphinstone and his descendants. These powers descended to Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstone, who in 1650 disponed (legally transferred) the Gorbals to Glasgow's magistrates for the benefit of the city, the Trades' House, and Hutchesons' Hospital. The magistrates from then on collected the rents and duties and divided them: one fourth to the city, one fourth to the Trades' House, and the remaining half to Hutchesons' Hospital.
In 1790 the lands were divided into lots for development; the City acquired the old feus of Gorbals and Bridgend, and also the Kingston portion of the Barony of Gorbals; the Trades' House obtained a western section; and the remaining section lying to the east and south was allocated to Hutchesons' Hospital. The Hutcheson's Trust then sub-feud a portion of their lands to an ambitious builder, James Laurie. (His grave, along with those of many other builders of Gorbals, is marked with well-carved masons' implements, indicating his Master status. The gravestones are visible at the Burial Ground, established in 1715 and now called the Gorbals Rose Garden). Laurie built the first house in St Ninian's Street in 1794.
The districts are now known as the Gorbals, Laurieston, Tradeston, Kingston, and Hutchesontown. What was once known as Little Govan to the east is now known as Polmadie. It was a successful industrial suburb in the late 19th century, and attracted many Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy, as well as Jewish immigrants from Russia and eastern Europe. At one time this area had the great majority of all Jews in Scotland. Industrial decay and over-population overwhelmed the area, which became a center of poverty. The Gorbals railway station opened on 1 September 1877. Changes in the area meant a decrease in business, and it closed to passengers permanently on 1 June 1928.
The Gorbals has long had a reputation as a gritty and rough area of Glasgow. The City Improvement Trust first cleared some slum tenements in 1866. Industrial restructuring meant a loss of jobs, while old factories and support buildings fell into ruin. The Glasgow Corporation's replacement of old, outdated and crowded housing with new high-rise towers in the 1960s did little to improve the area. In the twentieth century, the problems of concentrated poverty and lack of jobs contributed to high levels of crime. Those people who managed to advance in education and economic status left the area for newer housing and work elsewhere.
Throughout the 1980s, the Gorbals was often referred to as the most dangerous place in the UK, as street gangs and casual violence were rife. The poor design and low-quality construction of the concrete, 20-storey flats led to innumerable social and health problems in the area; many of the blocks developed mold and structural problems, and the design prevented residents from visually controlling their internal and external spaces, adding to the social issues. The most infamous of the towers, the Queen Elizabeth Square flats designed by Sir Basil Spence, was demolished in 1993 to make way for a new generation of housing development. In 2004, Glasgow Housing Association announced plans to demolish more of the decaying high-rise blocks, and to comprehensively refurbish and re-clad others.
Much of the area, particularly Hutchesontown, has now been comprehensively redeveloped for the third time, providing a mix of private and social housing. Earlier phases of this recent redevelopment tended toward yellow-brick reinterpretations of traditional tenements, in a post-modern style. More recent phases, masterplanned by Piers Gough, have employed noted modern architects such as Page/Park, Elder & Cannon and CZWG, resulting in more bold and radical designs, accompanied by innovative street plans and high-quality landscaping. They incorporated many pieces of public art. The Gorbals Leisure Centre opened in January 2000 and the number of shopping facilities in the area is on the rise. In 2005, fire destroyed the Catholic church of Blessed John Duns Scotus as a result of a fallen candle. The church was restored and reopened for worship in September 2010.
Since 1945, the well-known Citizens Theatre has been based in the area at the former Royal Princess's Theatre, an historic Victorian building. The area also has a local newspaper Local News for Southsiders. The area is served by Bridge Street and West Street subway stations and numerous bus routes. Plans were unveiled in March 2007 to provide another subway station, in the heart of the redeveloped Hutchesontown.
A famous (and controversial) pub in the district is The Brazen Head, located at the northern end of Cathcart Road. The pub (formerly a railway pub known as The Granite City) is particularly associated with Irish Republicanism. The pub is very near the famous Caledonia Road Church, a now derelict mid-Victorian structure.
Sir Thomas Lipton came from Gorbals (1848 – 1931) He was the famous grocery mogul, perennial America's Cup contender and founder of Lipton's Tea. Also Allan Pinkerton (1819–1884), who achieved fame in the United States by establishing Pinkerton's detective agency was born in the Gorbals.
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