Author: Andrew Downie (page 3 of 4)

Odd ones out – the white houses of Carswell Gardens

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.

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Nithsdale Mission Hall

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

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 .

Alexander Skirving

Alexander Skirving

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Strathbungo Parish Church

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

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.

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The Railway Boundary at Moray Place


The line of the boundary between the railway line (Network Rail’s property) and Moray Place has been an issue of debate for some time, most notably when Network Rail began clearing vegetation from the line in 2004-05.

18-25 Moray Place 2004

18-25 Moray Place 2004

Same view, 2005 after vegetation management

Same view, 2005 after vegetation management. The one remaining tree was removed shortly after.

More recently they proposed further vegetation clearance to renew the boundary fence in January 2015. They planned to remove the metal hooped fence and replace it with a 1.8m high weldmesh fence in the same location. However residents suspected the hooped fence was not on Network Rail’s land.


Railings after fence and concrete repair and painting, circa 1990

Negotiations led by the Strathbungo Society centered on two points; firstly the need for a more appropriate fence design, and secondly that it needed to be on their land, further back than the existing fence. Eventually Network Rail conceded, leading to the new fence design erected in February 2017. The following is the historical research that led to their concession regarding the position of the fence. It is recorded here for posterity.

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Strathbungo’s Sharpshooters: Third Lanark

This is the remarkable story of a bunch of army reservists who set up a volunteer rifle corps in Strathbungo, and within a few years had won both Britain’s greatest trophy for marksmanship, The Queen’s Prize at Bisley, and Scotland’s greatest football trophy, the FA Cup. Twice. Oh, and the football league. Sharpshooters indeed!

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The Railings of Strathbungo

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

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 .

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Neale Thomson, Camphill House & the Crossmyloof Bakery

Neale Thomson

Neale Thomson

Neale Thomson was one of Glasgow’s great philanthropists, who lived at Camphill House in Queens Park, and founded the famous Crossmyloof bakery.

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Listed Buildings in Strathbungo

What’s listed in Strathbungo?

Most, but not all, of the Victorian era sandstone buildings of Strathbungo are listed.

Scottish buildings are listed as:

Category A
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.)

Category B
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.)

Category C
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.

Now Pay Attention, 007

Did you know that Q, James Bond’s favourite quartermaster, was actually a former Strathbungo resident? The story comes courtesy of the Herald , and the sharp eyes of local resident David Cook.

Imagine the curtains twitching back in 1956 when the CID called at 17 Regent Park Square. They wanted to question the licence-holder of a revolver matching the gun used by one of Scotland’s most notorious serial killers. Geoffrey Boothroyd, a young technical rep at ICI, told them that his gun was actually down south being illustrated for the cover of Ian Fleming’s next James Bond novel, From Russia with Love.

That old excuse…

Cover of first edition, From Russia With Love.

Cover of first edition, From Russia with Love.

And it was true. Boothroyd, a gun collector, had written to Fleming earlier that year to say that Bond’s .25 Beretta was “really a lady’s gun”. He suggested instead a manly Smith & Wesson .38. Little did he know that it was also the weapon of choice for one Peter Manuel, then on a murderous spree that would claim seven lives, the last three in Burnside.

The detectives eventually got their man and Manuel got justice at the end of a rope. Boothroyd and Fleming continued their friendly correspondence . At the end of From Russia with Love, Rosa Klebb managed to stab Bond with her famous boot, partly because his Beretta got caught in his holster.

In his next novel, Dr No, Fleming included a whole chapter in which Bond was introduced by M to the armourer, Major Boothroyd. He confiscated Bond’s Beretta – “Ladies’ gun, sir” – for a Walther PPK, with the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight .38 revolver as back up. A new holster was also recommended, and all was based closely on Geoffrey Boothroyd’s advice. Daniel Craig still uses the Walther PPK to this day.

Oddly the character Q never appeared in Fleming’s novels; he only referred to Q Branch, suppliers of gadgets. Major Boothroyd appeared just the once, and it wasn’t clear he was from Q Branch either.

Boothroyd himself became firearms consultant for Dr No, the first Bond movie, and also advised on such matters as how to set an ocean on fire – no doubt his work at ICI came in handy. Peter Dawson played Major Boothroyd in the movie version of the above scene from Dr No.

It was only in the second movie, From Russia with Love, that Major Boothroyd also became known as Q, and was played famously by Desmond Llewellyn, in that movie and for the subsequent 36 years.

Geoffrey Boothroyd

Geoffrey Boothroyd

Geoffrey Boothroyd was quite an eccentric who once told Fleming: “I cherish a dream that one day a large tiger or lion will escape from the zoo or a travelling circus and I can bag it in Argyll Street.” That never happened, but he went on to become one of the world’s leading authorities on shotguns and handguns.

Mr Boothroyd himself, in a 1964 short presented by Sean Connery , explains his reasoning behind his choice of weapons. The film appears to have been shot inside his Strathbungo home; although by this time he had moved from 17 to 11 Regent Park Square, where he lived from 1956 to 1971. A recent resident of No 11 recalls his parents purchasing the house from the Boothroyds, and remembers the house being full of weapons, including a Gatling gun in the living room. Does the current resident recognise it?

I am slowly amassing a history of Strathbungo, including stories of former residents of note such as this. If you have any stories to tell, please get in touch.


BBC - Archive - James Bond - Time Out | The Guns of James Bond [Internet]. [cited 2016 Nov 23]. Available from:
May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver? [Internet]. [cited 2016 Nov 23]. Available from:
Glasgow gun fanatic who inspired a Bond character … but was caught up in serial murder probe [Internet]. HeraldScotland. [cited 2016 Nov 23]. Available from:

Horticultural Strathbungo, the Austin & McAslan Nursery and the Hidden Gardens

Horticultural Strathbungo

The villages of Strathbungo and Crossmyloof have a long reputation for their horticultural endeavours. Hugh MacDonald wrote in his “Rambles round Glasgow” (1854) :

“A considerable number of the humble edifices, however, have garden-plots attached to them for the cultivation of kitchen vegetables; and it is well known that both here [Crossmyloof] and at Strathbungo many of the handloom weavers are celebrated growers of tulips, pansies, dahlias, and other floricultural favourites. Florist clubs, also, exist among them, which meet regularly for the examination of choice flowers, and for discussing the best means of rearing them to perfection. We have had the pleasure, at various periods, of conversing with several of these bloom worshippers—for such, in truth, they are—and we must admit that we were fairly astounded at the multifarious charms which they could discover and point out in what seemed to our obtuse visual organs a simple tulip or pansy. We could not help, indeed, comparing ourselves, when in their company, to Wordsworth’s “Peter Bell,” of whom it was said,—

” A primrose by the river’s brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.”

What a different affair was a primrose or a pansy to our Crossmyloof friends! It was indeed “a great deal more” than it seemed to the uninitiated. There are some sharpsighted people who are said to see farther into a millstone than their neighbours. For the truth of the saying we shall not venture to vouch; but most assuredly, for seeing into the mysteries of a tulip or a dahlia, we shall back a Crossmyloof or Strabungo weaver against the united amateurs of Scotland.

After all, however, there is something very creditable to such individuals in their enthusiastic love of flowers. We know not, indeed, how a working man could spend his leisure hours more harmlessly or pleasantly, than in the cultivation of a little flower-plot. In towns such a privilege is beyond the reach of the operative ; but in suburban situations and rural villages, it is exceedingly gratifying to witness the manifestations of such a taste.”

Alexander Scott, speaking to the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1884 , again made reference to the tradition, including “…William Neilson (aged 81), the last survivor resident in the village of the very old inhabitants of Strathbungo, and who in his earlier years was a noted local floriculturist.”

The Austin & McAslan Nursery

This tradition may have been related to the local nursery, Austin & McAslan, although it is hard to determine which came first. The nursery business was started by John McAslan in 1717 , , when he rented ground behind the old Hutcheson Hospital on Trongate, and latterly built a mansion and new nursery at The Hill, south of Dobbies Loan. A street through this area was later named McAslan Street, although it has now disappeared under modern Townhead. He was joined by his brother Duncan, and succeeded by his wife, and then Duncan’s son, another John.

John McAslan, nephew of founder, partner 1759-1815

John McAslan, nephew of founder, partner 1759-1815

The foreman Robert Austin, of Milngavie, who trained in London, became a partner in 1782, and married into the family in 1786. The nursery moved to Little Govan in 1798.

Peter Fleming 1807 Glasgow Map showing Austin & McAslan Little Govan Nursery, opposite Glasgow Green

Peter Fleming 1807 Glasgow Map showing Austin & McAslan Little Govan Nursery, opposite Glasgow Green

In 1803 John McAslan retired, and his son Alexander partnered with Robert Austin, the name changing to Austin & McAslan. Robert’s younger brother James trained at Kew, before joining the firm.

Robert Austin, partner 1782-1830

Robert Austin, partner 1782-1830

Coplawhill site

In 1828 the nursery moved again, to Coplawhill, immediately to the north of Strathbungo village.

OS maps from the 1850s show a large nursery extending almost from Nithsdale Road (opposite the old Strathbungo Parish Church) to Albert Drive, and on the other side of Pollokshaws Road, to Butterbiggins and Langside Roads. The firm grew forest-trees, fruit-trees, shrubs, greenhouse plants and roses from Coplawhill. Robert Austin was noted for his promotion of the double scotch roses, then very popular.

According to Peter Boyd , ‘In about 1805, Robert Austin of Austin and McAslan, Glasgow nurserymen, obtained plants from the Perth nursery [of Messrs. Dickson and Brown] and, by about 1820, had raised about 100 new varieties of double Scots Roses. By the mid 1820s, Robert Austin had raised and offered for sale over 200 varieties. Similarly, London nurserymen (most of whom were Scots at that time) and others had obtained the Perth varieties and by the end of the 1820s it was reported that “some hundreds of new varieties have flowered from seedling plants in the Hammersmith [Lee] nursery, and will soon be found in the sale catalogues”.’

Scots Rose 'Mary Queen of Scots' (Peter Boyd)

Scots Rose ‘Mary Queen of Scots’. Rose images © Peter Boyd, with permission.

The railways began to encroach on the site, and the site to the west of Pollokshaws Road was split by the railway, with a footbridge across it. The nursery left Coplawhill in 1868, moving to Titwood on the Pollok Estate (the site is now Hutcheson’s Grammar School and Fotheringay Road), and then to their Cathcart nursery in 1886. The Titwood Nursery closed in 1889 .

The Tramworks

The Coplawhill Tramworks was built on the larger northerly portion, initially with stables for horses, but later expanding over the entire site to become the hub of Glasgow’s electric tram network. The smaller site south of the railway became the Nursery Brickworks. It is now housing, but the former use lives on in the street name, Nursery Street.

OS Map Coplawhill 1858

The Nursery, c 1858. Albert Road now runs between the Muirhouses (in pink) and the northern end of the nursery.

OS Map Coplawhill 1894

The same site in 1894. The tramworks, brickworks, Victoria Road, Albert Road, and several railway lines, are all new.

OS Map Coplawhill 1934

The tramworks expanded to eventually cover the entire plot. After closure in 1964 they were converted to Glasgow’s Transport Museum until it moved to Kelvinhall in 1987. A much reduced building became Tramway, and the Hidden Gardens opened in the new space behind it in 2003.

Map by John Bartholomew for the PO Directory of 1882

Map by John Bartholomew for the PO Directory of 1882, showing Titwood Nursery

The fate of Austin & McAslan

In 1888 the business was still in family hands in Hugh Austin, partnered since 1860 by James Hunter, who was succeeded by his son Alexander Neilston Hunter. A celebratory dinner was held in Glasgow in 1917 to mark the firm’s bicentennial .

The company continued in business in Glasgow until the 1960s when it moved to Edinburgh, then disappeared. Until it left Glasgow it was considered the oldest continuously trading company in the city. The company records are in the Glasgow University Archives.

The Hidden Gardens

With the redevelopment of the Tram Depot into Tramway and the Scottish Ballet building, it is fitting that the open space has returned to its original horticultural use, as the Hidden Gardens.

Founded by NVA public arts organisation in 2003, The Hidden Gardens is an award-winning unique public green space and community development organisation located in one of Scotland’s most diverse communities. Find out more at their website, or visit (entrance through Tramway on Albert Drive).


Messrs. Austin and McAslan. The Gardeners’ chronicle :a weekly illustrated journal of horticulture and allied subjects [Internet]. 1917;62:147–8. Available from:
Historic Firm. The Gardeners’ chronicle :a weekly illustrated journal of horticulture and allied subjects [Internet]. 1917;62:141–2. Available from:
Boyd PDA. Scots Roses - past and present [Internet]. [cited 2016 Nov 22]. Available from:
Austin & McAslan [Internet]. [cited 2016 Nov 22]. Available from:
Renwick R. History of Glasgow [Internet]. Vol. 3. Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson & Co; 1921. Available from:
MacDonald H. No. VII.-Pollokshaws & It’s Environs. In: Rambles Round Glasgow: Descriptive, Historical, and Traditional [Internet]. 2nd ed. John Cameron; 1860. p. 117–23. Available from:
Scott AM. Notes on the Village of Strathbungo. Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society [Internet]. 1886;1(2):130–43. Available from:
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