I have long been aware of a story that Strathbungo was threatened by a motorway in the 1960s, and this was a crucial event in the formation of the Strathbungo Society, but I have never understood how this could be. The M77 perhaps? But that was always going to be further west. So what was the story?
There were occasional hints. A neighbour gave me an old article from Scottish Field dated 1977 in which Mike Stanger, then chair of the Society, described how properties were blighted by the planned South Link motorway, with no one able to get a mortgage, not even on 1-10 Moray Place.
A Society booklet of 1984 recounts the same story.
But what was the South Link? And why did it threaten the very existence of Strathbungo? With thanks to Stuart Baird, of the Glasgow Motorway Archive, we now know. Read on…
It is remarkable that the Victorian vision for Strathbungo has survived almost untouched. Barely a single building has been lost, but that may be about to change. The house at 47 Nithsdale Street is disintegrating before our eyes, and may not be with us much longer. Sadly it appears this may be deliberate on the part of the building’s owner. So what is the story of this building?
Wandering around Strathbungo, I often wondered why the houses on the south side of Carswell Gardens were different from all the others – a different design, and painted white rather than built in sandstone. Investigating further, with the help of documents from a couple of residents, I have found the answer:
They aren’t actually part of Strathbungo at all.
Before I cause any political upset down that end of the Bungo, I had better explain.
The Queen’s Park United Presbyterians
One of Alexander “Greek” Thomson’s great masterpieces was the Queen’s Park United Presbyterian Church on Langside Road, built in 1868 (though sadly destroyed by incendiary bombing in 1943).
Queen’s Park UP Church
The Queen’s Park U.P. congregation subsequently arranged the construction of another beautiful church, Camphill Church on Balvicar Drive, completed in 1876; although this church subsequently passed to the Church of Scotland, and then to its current occupants, the Baptists.
The U.P. Mission Hall
Not satisfied with two churches, they then constructed the much smaller Nithdale Mission Hall in 1887-8. It was designed by architect Alexander Skirving (c.1849-1919) who worked under Alexander Thomson in the 1860s. Skirving was also known for Langside Hill Free Church (the “Church on the Hill”) and the adjacent Battlefield monument, and Skirving Street in Shawlands is named in his honour.
This is the story of the first church to be built in the village, which served the community until the late 20th Century. In the 21st Century it was saved from destruction by conversion into flats, but the grand facade still looks down on Pollokshaws Road. The article is based largely on the account of a former minister, Rev John M Munro, who wrote his history of the church and the village on the occasion of the congregation’s 100th anniversary in 1933. The book is reproduced in its entirety here, for those who wish to study it further. I’m grateful to Morris Scott of St Andrews, who acquired the book by accident in his work as a removals man. He sought me out and donated it.
Cover, Strathbungo & its Kirk, 1833-1933
In the early part of the 19th Century Strathbungo was a poor and somewhat remote village of miners and weavers in the south east of Govan Parish, with a long trek to Govan Parish Church for the Sunday service. There was already a second church in the parish established in the Gorbals, and in 1833 Dr Leishman, the new minister of Govan, established a mission in the village of Strathbungo. They probably met in the school house initially, and efforts were begun to raise money for a church.
Ordnance Survey 1:500 Town Plan of Glasgow mosaic, 1892-94 showing Strathbungo developing into the area we are currently familiar with.
This was a piece of research originally undertaken in 2007 (& subsequently updated) to determine the patterns of the original Victorian cast iron railings in Strathbungo, based on old photographs. While I had intended to focus on the railings on the front steps of houses, with a view to restoring my own, the focus became more on the railings at the street edge, which are mostly no more. Even if you’re not interested in the railings, there are plenty of rare historical photographs.
Regent Park Square
Built c.1865 Daniel McNicol
Regent Park Square in 1906
A photograph from 1906 appears in Old Queen’s Park. It clearly shows the design of the railings on the steps, and a different, and much plainer, design on the street boundary. It also shows very ornate double lamp standards which stood in the roadway, and which unsurprisingly are long gone. In the distance one can see four stone gate pillars, the inner posts again in the roadway, and again long gone. Contrary to popular belief, there were no gates, only the posts, and I have been unable to find any evidence to support the existence of gates at the end of the squares. Double lamp standards were placed atop the inner pillars, matching those seen in the foreground. These were reportedly no more by 1933.
Neale Thomson was one of Glasgow’s great philanthropists, who lived at Campbell House in Queens Park, and founded the famous Crossmyloof bakery.
What’s listed in Strathbungo?
Most, but not all, of the Victorian era sandstone buildings of Strathbungo are listed.
Scottish buildings are listed as:
Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic; or fine, little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (About 8% of total listed buildings.)
Buildings of regional or more than local importance; or major examples of some particular period, style or building type, which may have been altered. (About 50% of total listed buildings.)
Buildings of local importance; lesser examples of any period, style or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple, traditional buildings that group well with other listed buildings. (About 42% of total listed buildings.)
The following map shows all listed structures in the Strathbungo area, along with the Conservation Area boundaries. Click on the coloured dots for information on any given structure. Note not all are buildings; there is the footbridge and even lampposts.
Historic Environment Scotland Listing Map
More info on listing can be found at Historic Environment Scotland.
The Darnley Road/Moray Place footbridge at Regents Park Square was built by Hanna, Donald and Wilson in 1877. The manufacturer (who worked from the Abbey Engineering Works, Paisley) were evidently proud of the foot bridge, using it in one of their advertisements. They also built ships, and the recently restored Albert Bridge in Glasgow.
The footbridge is an elliptically arched, cast-iron girder bridge with lattice railings which originally had steps down to the platforms of the station, which opened the same year. The steps down to the platform have been removed and the deck replaced with steel durbar plates.
Curiously, for the first 50 years of its life it never actually reached the other side!
OS Maps show that originally it only provided access from Strathbungo to the platforms of Strathbungo Station; there was no Darnley Road when the station opened, just green fields. Even the OS Map of 1936 shows no extension to Darnley Road at that time.
The bridge was C listed in 1995 after one Moray Place resident asked that it be taken down for security reasons and other residents took a different view! None the less its ownership has been recently disputed as no one wanted to be responsible for its likely future maintenance costs. In 2015 Network Rail accepted that it was responsible for the bridge, and according to Network Rail (communication, Dec 2016), it is slated for renovation in 2018-19.
Strathbungo Station a year after closure. The Strathbungo footbridge is visible in the distance. Clan 72006 “Clan Mackenzie” heads parcels train on 13th June 1963.
Now where do you think the photographer was standing? Photo courtesy John Robin.