Welcome to the History Channel. We have extensive pages showing the history of Healthcare, Shipbuilding, Education, Singer's Sewing Machine Factory, Housing and the Clydebank Blitz.

To view some fantastic Scottish history captured on film from the BBC click here : BBC History (Broadband Only)

In the beginning...
Prior to around 1870, Clydebank (or rather, the area of land around Barns o' Clyde) was mainly comprised of small cottages and rural farm buildings. It's surprising then that such well constructed houses and well organised streets were built and maintained. It was of course all down to the Shipbuilders, with their desire to house their workers.

Building Clydebank

When the Thomson brothers setup their Clydebank Shipyard, they decided that they would build homes for their workers near to the main gate of the yard. It made good economic sense, workers right on their doorstep, no more excuses about not being able to get to work from Glasgow or the Vale because it was snowing!. So, they built tenements - the traditional form of urban multi-storey buildings in the West of Scotland.

The building work was completed in 1872, resulting in housing that accommodate almost 700 people. They were colloquially known as "Thomson's Buildings". In the early 1880's the Thomson's sold some of their land to property developers, allowing them to build over 100 tenements. These were built in what became Union, Cunard and Clyde Streets. Other house builders then decided to build tenements on land across from the shipyard, in what became Hume and Canal Streets.

So, with the growth of housing around this area, it's not really surprising that these tenements quickly became the centre of a new industrial village over the coming months and years.


More houses, we need more houses!

Clyde Navigation Trust built 6 tenements in Dalmuir (in what became Nairn Street). Yet more were built at the west end of Yoker in 1877 by Shanks and Bell Shipbuilders (this is the area between Elgin Street and Hamilton Terrace).

When the Singer Sewing Machine Co. arrived in Clydebank, yet more houses would be required. Yet Singer only built TWO tenements to house the watchmen, firemen and foremen!!! House developers quickly latched onto this and quickly built many more -mainly on Kilbowie Road and the roads leading off if it, as well as in Radnor Park (which was originally just a small village).

The house building boom continued, with 1700 new homes built by 1906. The population grew accordingly to 26,000. Because of the demand for houses, the new houses were quickly occupied and over crowding became a problem. Only the building of yet more houses would solve the problem, so Clydebank boundaries were extended in 1906.

This new land included Radnor Park, Kilbowie Road and adjoining areas.

Robert McAlpine built a series of massive extensions to the Singer factory (starting in 1904), and as demand for houses was high they bought land north of the factory (west of Kilbowie Road) on which to build new homes for the new workers. This land was, at the time, outside the boundary, so the land was cheap, and the average rent was around 9 per year (around 2 less than the average). These houses are what became known as the "Holy City", and were completed in 1906.

Too good to last?

The house building boom came to an abrupt halt when the recession in local trades in 1907. When the local economy started to recover around 1911, nearly one fifth of the nearly 9000 houses lay empty. Confidence in Clydebank's future growth and success forced property developers to look for other ways to get a greater return on their investment in housebuilding.

Robert McAlpine concentrated on building smaller tenements and villas on land to the west of the Holy City, nicknamed "The Better Land".

The exception to all this was William Beardmore & Co. who built nearly 300 homes in the area now lies between Scott and Dunn Streets, and in Agamemnon Street. Castle Square was completed in 1918, providing 50 new tenement buildings for the burgeoning shipyards.

After the Great War...

The First World War brought house building to a virtual standstill, less than a thousand houses were built between 1914 and 1918. The Addison Act of 1919, intended to facilitate a new house building program through generous subsidies, brought with it it's own problems. Completed contracts had to be paid
before the subsidy would be provided, planning approval and tendering for work took so long (partly down to the local council trying to favour local contractors) and objections from landowners over lan prices.

The greatest problem was not those mentioned above, but that of building supplies and skilled manpower. To try and overcome this, new building techniques were experimented with. One such experiment involved construction of over 150 bungalows using re-inforced concrete walls, giving a variety of two, three and four apartments per house at a cost of up to 400.

The construction was particularly unique in that wood was used to create a frame, into which concrete was poured. Once set, the wood was removed and used to form the ceiling of the house - truly ingenious!

Other building methods were looked at, including the now infamous "Steel Hoose" - the Athol steel house. This was designed and supplied by a subsidiary of Beardmore (one of their many diversifications) with a total of over 1,000 eventually erected.

The new housing estates of Whitecrook, Parkhall and Mountblow were extremely generously laid out, a huge change from existing high density Burgh housing. This type of layout made the Burgh much larger than ever before, in particular the area North of Dumbarton Road at Whitecrook covered more than twice the land as required by housing before the First World War.

With the building of these new homes, there was an opportunity to use the latest in home convenience and fittings, in particular gas AND electricity - interestingly the initial flat weekly charge for electricity use was quickly abolished and replaced by meter charging when it was discovered that some folk were using it to replace fires and candles!

Then, Tragedy...

With over 2000 new houses completed by the start of World War Two, tragedy struck. Over TWO nights in 1941 over 35 percent of all burgh houses were destroyed or heavily damaged during the
Clydebank Blitz, and Clydebank was back where it began in 1918, however the devastation and subsequent regeneration were to leave their mark indelibly on Clydebank and its' people forever.

After the War

Once peace was declared, Local and National Government set about the reconstruction of the Blitzed towns and cities - of which Clydebank was but one. The Blitz in Clydebank was truly devastating, leaving the town with little choice but to literally rebuild and renew itself. This renewal process took many years, and had great effects on local Shipbuilding, Singer's Sewing Machine Factory and other local businesses.

Walk before we run

Given the widespread housing damage (only seven houses were undamaged, out of a total of 12,000!) the council had a huge job on its hands. A complete redevelopment plan, covering the whole town, was prepared. The plan called for new houses, schools, shopping facilities and community centres to be built on the outskirts of the town, while the central area was to be rebuilt and restructured.

During the Second World War permission had been granted to build around 500 houses in the Whitecrook area. By 1948 the building work was complete, alongwith around 2,000 temporary homes elsewhere in the Burgh - all part of the process of rehousing the estimated 48,000 local refugees.

A proposed new development near to Faifley farm was given the go-ahead following an extension to the burgh in 1947. An area covering 600 acres was allocated to the Burgh council, and building took place almost immediately.

Over 600 houses in Livingstone street were planned to be built by the SSHA. The council had also started building in the areas of Overtoun Road and Drumry. Without a doubt, the house rebuilding process was off to a great start!

Over the next few years the areas of Whitecrook and Drumry were completed, providing some 2,000 new homes in the Burgh. Focus now turned to other areas needing redeveloped, this time North Mountblow and the Faifley scheme.

"The Faifley
"
The housing built in the Faifley area was of the 3/4 apartment type, three storeys high. By building these homes in a fairly dense layout, the council were able to reduce the waiting lists dramatically - ideal some said, others were not so sure.

By moving people from the centre of Clydebank out to the new estates, the council were then able to demolish the slums and substandard houses that were once the heart of the town.

Rebuilding the heart of the town

Many of the badly damaged tenements along Dumbarton Road were demolished, leaving those still standing with dampness, leaking roofs and many defects that had yet to be repaired.

The council proposed to modernise the remaining tenements, rather than totally rebuild. This proposal was not repeated elsewhere in Scotland, Clydebank again leading the way.

We're comin' home!

From the end of the Second World War until the mid 950's Clydebank a steady stream of wartime refugees returned to the town. Over the next twenty years, the population started to spread sharply outwards towards Dalmuir, Parkhall, Mountblow and Kilbowie. The greatest growth in population expansion was to the Hardgate area, which witnessed over 100% growth from 1960 until 1970.

So, is everyone leaving then?

In short no, while the population in Central Clydebank fell, the population in the outer parts of the Burgh actually increased significantly. Large scale re-development of the Central are meant that many families were displaced to Whitecrook, Linnvale and Drumry while the work was underway.

Re-building a town

The dramatic building programmes in Hardgate and Duntocher by Wimpey in the late 1960's and early 1970's saw huge swathes of former greenbelt land given over to the building of 1,000 private houses. Known affectionately as "spam valley", the Wimpey estate brought many new people to the area, and also provided essential housing to second generation families in the Clydebank area.

Let's cut corners and save money

The Housing Acts of the 1950's and 1960's increased the subsidies available to local authorities to build houses in blocks of flats more than six storeys hugh. The Scottish Office in turn encouraged the adoption of new building techniques such as pre-fabrication. Local authorities leapt at the chance to build housing faster and cheaper, or so they thought....

A general lack of funding also necessitated cutting corners, which has been regretted ever since. A large number of multi-storey flats were built in Dalmuir in the late 1960's using just such techniques and cutting of corners. These flats encountered various problems such as malfunctioning of lifts, claustrophobia experienced by many tennents and often congestion of properties.

Only after thinking about the strategy many years later did local town planners opt to build lower height, lower density housing in preference to the "high flats" seen in the 1960's.

Rebuilding the heart of Clydebank

In 1970 nearly 20 million was earmarked to redevelop the area between Livingstone Street, Miller Street, Dumbarton Road and Kilbowie Road - known as the Kilbowie CDA. The plan called for 800 new homes, thousands of square feet of retail space, along with public and community buildings. The idea was to have the central business district contained within this area, linked between the train stations of Singer and Clydebank Central.

What about Transport in the town?

One of the key parts to the successful rebuilding programme was improving the transport system in the town. The last Tram ran in 1962, and the Clyde & Forth Canal shut to shipping in 1963. This left large gaps in what transport infrastructure was left after the war.

A plan was formulated in 1969 to assist the congestion in the centre of town (around the Kilbowie Road/Dumbarton Road junction). There were also plans to improve connections to the rest of the outlying areas.

The changes were proposed to take place in three phases :

Phase 1 was to include the Erskine Bridge, the Great Western Road Expressway and Clydeside Expressway as far as the town boundaries.

Phase 2 was to extend the Clydeside Expressway go up Kilbowie Road to a proposed Lomond Motorway - never completed.

Phase 3 was for the Great Western Expressway to be extended from the top of Kilbowie road east along the top of the town, running just south of the Goodyear Tyre Factory.

Phases 1 and 3 were the only ones' to go ahead in full, with little major change since. Who knows what the future holds.....