The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale

The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale
31 Aug 21 Blog Comments Off on The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale

The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale

Nowadays, we say that “People Make Glasgow”– but, in the nineteenth century, it was shipbuilding and heavy industry that made the city. Glasgow grew rapidly during that period. But with the shipbuilding and heavy industry came a connection to slavery.  In the city centre, streets and buildings are named after the tobacco lords and industrialists who traded in the city. In recent years, the local authority has properly acknowledged Glasgow’s links to the slave trade. And many of these industrialists actually lived across Partick East and Kelvindale during the 19th Century. We caught up with local Community Councillor, Lionel Most, to learn more about the history behind the houses in Partick East and Kelvindale and this area’s ties to world-renowned industries as well as the American Civil War.



Located at 4 Sydenham Road, this house was formerly owned by James Smith. James Smith came from very small beginnings.  He started off as a tinsmith from an ordinary family, and he worked in a factory. Then, he went to New York and was inspired to make his fortune. After living there for a while, he came back to Glasgow and started up an iron works. The interesting thing about him – and this was not uncommon of other Glaswegians at the time – was that he became friendly with the Confederates during the American Civil War. The American Civil War was mainly about slavery: the Confederates wanted to retain slavery, and the Yankees in the north wanted to abolish it. The American Civil War started when the Confederates tried to secede (illegally) from the Union. Queen Victoria had stated that the UK was not getting involved in that war but secretly, the Scots were supplying ships, iron and so on to the Confederates. In fact, there was a shipyard on the Clyde that designed a special kind of boat which would have been used by the gun runners, the people in the South who acquired weapons from Third countries. These ships that the Scots built were able to move incredibly fast and could escape the Yankees chasing them. Through being able to do this, the Scots were able to charge a very high price! And James Smith of Benvue, although he wasn’t a ship builder, owned two iron works: one in Glasgow and one in Kentucky. Although he was supplying raw materials; he was neither supplying weapons nor ships. 

James Smith became friendly with the Confederate government.  Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States and went to prison after the American Civil War.  After this he visited Scotland, and, in fact, there is a famous picture of Jefferson Davis sitting outside Benview with James Smith and his family. Smith and men like him made their money on the back of slavery. Apparently the average life expectancy of female slave was around 37, and 35 for a male. While these lovely houses in Dowanhill were perhaps built from indirect slave profits, we should not be destroying them but I do think we should be telling people where the money came from. 

Ayton House

Ayton House built in 1859, was owned by William Tod, who was a ship builder. In the 1850s his workers would have been very poor. At the turn of the twentieth century and onwards many of these shipworkers would have lived in the flats in Partick and many of these were small single ends or rooms and kitchens. Ayton House was bombed during the Second World War, severely damaging the roof. At that time there was a lack of building materials.  They had to ‘make do and mend’ and replace the original tiled sloping roof with a flat roof. Then, in the 1980s, a developer converted the house into flats. It is a tasteful and modern style now. There is a penthouse roof with balconies. 

Richmond House

Richmond House in Linfern Road was demolished about 50 years ago.  It is now a telephone exchange. The whole street on the left-hand side is taken up with a telephone exchange. That area used to accommodate one house, with stables and grounds and outhouses. It was built, in the early 19th century by an iron founder called David Laidlaw. He lived there with his family. Given the rate of housing development in the west end, I would wager that it will be pulled down and be replaced by housing in the not too distant future

Hyndland Tenements

Hyndland was a tenanted farm before it was developed. Around 200 years ago, nearby Kelvinside and Dowanhill were landed estates with farmlands attached to them before they were developed. Hyndland wasn’t a particularly big area. Building started there in the late nineteenth century with Kingsborough Gardens, a substantial row of houses just behind the shops at Hyndland Road. Then, there was a recession and property prices fell and nothing really happened until the early 1900s, when the railway came. Once the railway came, Hyndland was developed.  Some of the flats there were small but others were fantastic, with five or six rooms. You used to be able to get a direct train to King’s Cross Station in London from the Station in Hyndland. You can imagine the people who lived in the big mansions leaving their houses, walking to this station to catch the train, doing their business in London over the following days, and then getting the train back to Hyndland a few days later. 

If you walk to the foot of Clarence Drive and Novar Drive, there are smaller one-bedroom flats, but they all have bathrooms unlike some parts of the city where flats were built with outside toilets. At the northern end of these streets the tenements are far grander, bigger and much more expensive. And in some of these grander blocks there was a common telephone. You could have your own telephone (shared with neighbours). It would, I think, have been a payphone, one of those old-fashioned ones you see in the old black and white films, where they put one part to their ear and a mouthpiece by their chin. There are at least three of these boxes in various tenements in the area.  The telephone has been taken away, but the little box remains there. I don’t know what they use it for now.


Kelvinside Estate

Kelvinside is the area just north of Great Western Road. It was originally one of the landed estates. Someone who owned one of the big houses in Kelvinside was James Brown Montgomerie-Fleming. When I was young, I remember there was a law firm called Montgomerie-Fleming and Fyfe. They were connected to the owners of Kelvinside. Their biggest client was the Norwich Union Insurance Company. They had a very successful business, but then they were subsumed into another firm in the nineties. James Brown Montgomerie-Fleming owned the Kelvinside estate, and he sold parts off for the big terraces on Great Western Road, and also for plots for grand houses. He actually was not that successful in selling them off, but he himself lived in a beautiful house called Beaconsfield House, with the Italian tower on it. That became part of Westbourne School. The school has since sold it and it has been, like so many of the other houses in the area, converted to flats.


Summerlee was an ironworks in Coatbridge and is now a museum. The owner of Summerlee lived in Arnewood on Cleveden Road. It is very large and sits on the right-hand side of Cleveden Road walking north from Great Western Road. It has four or five storeys and looks like a castle! It used to be the home of one family, housing their servants also.  Again, it has been converted into flats. 

Lowther Terrace 

In Lowther Terrace there are some beautiful terraced houses which were, I think, built around 100 years ago. The owners in this street have applied to the Local Authority to stop up the road in front of their houses to make the road private.  They have installed bollards at the entrance to the road only to allow residents and visitors’ vehicles.  They have also erected some tasteful Victorian lampposts containing a power point so that they can charge the battery in an electric vehicle.  This installation of charging points, is quite a forward-thinking piece of work!

Thank you to Lionel for this fascinating insight into the history behind the properties within Partick East and Kelvindale. If you would like to continue to learn about this area and the brilliant stories of the community who live here, take part in Round Our Place. Round Our Place is our immersive guided tour of Ward 23, where we have been Creative Communities: Artists in Residence 2021. Simply stop by The Alchemy Experiment on Byres Road to pick up a map (and a coffee!). Then, download the FREE Echoes app to your mobile device, find Round Our Place, plug in your earphones and start walking. More information can be found here.

Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale
27 Jun 21 Blog Comments Off on Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale

Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale

When was the last time you went exploring in your neighbourhood? We caught up with Maeve and her son, Gabriel, who have discovered lots of exciting new places around Kelvindale since lockdown. Keep reading to find out about their adventures and for ideas of some fun and inspiring places to visit with the wee ones.

Have you always lived in Kelvindale?

Maeve: I grew up in Helensburgh and I’ve lived in Glasgow on and off since 1993. I moved to the Kelvindale area in 2009, and then I bought a flat in 2010. When I had Gabriel, I moved to Newton Mearns and then I came back to Kelvindale with Gabriel in 2017.

What is your favourite place to visit in the Kelvindale area?

Maeve: My favourite place to visit on my own is along the canal and around where the gasworks are. I like going up to Dawsholm Park. When I’m with Gabriel, one of our favourite places to visit is “Sneaky Path” or “Atlantis,” which is an area down by the River Kelvin and beside the aqueducts. There used to be houses there and there are also the remains of a railway bridge, which Gabriel calls “The Temple.” It’s quite an interesting spot because you can see remains of the buildings and you can see the view that the people that lived there would’ve had. It’s a beautiful spot, there is a weir where the River Kelvin is. When we were in lockdown, that was the place we went to because nobody else goes there. When you visit there, you get a sense of what was there before. Seeing the aqueducts and looking across the river from there and seeing that there used to be a train station across the river is quite mind-blowing, because now there’s just trees there. I work in arts and heritage, and I think having that background means I’ve got that eye looking for wee stories that come out.

Gabriel: My favourite places are the tennis court and Dawsholm Park. I like to play in Dawsholm Park. There’s lots of muddy stuff, and you can slide down hills and climb up trees. You can look at the birds and try to identify them. We sometimes see those funny birds called parakeets. They are bright green. We saw a fox last week at the canal. We stood really still and it stared at us. Then we looked another way, and when we looked back it was gone!

If you had a friend visit who doesn’t know the area, where would you take them? 

Gabriel: I would take them to my school.

Maeve:  When my aunt and cousin came over to visit, we took them to the canal and that was it. After that we went elsewhere and went to other places in Glasgow. Now, I would take them down to what we call Atlantis, which I think was called Kelvindale Glen. More recently, one of our friends came over to visit, all the way from Bearsden! He’s got quite a thing for these kinds of places sites with history and character. He came over specifically to go down to the Glen to see what it was. I would definitely take a tourist there and I would also take them to the Gasworks. Some people hate them and want them demolished, but I think they are absolutely stunning. You get great views from Weymouth Drive –you can get great views across the city from around that area. Also, I couldn’t not take them to Dawsholm Park – that would probably be the first place we went to. I’m not sure if it is quite in Kelvindale, but it is only a few minutes away. There is a place that looks onto the Switchback Road with an amazing view, it goes up to Bearsden. There’s a massive field and you get a view of Knightswood, the Kilpatrick Hills and you can almost see the Queen Elizabeth from it as well. It’s stunning. The field used to have crazy golf and you can actually see the remains of the crazy golf on the ground. 

What is your favourite thing to get up to in your spare time? 

Gabriel: I like to see my friends at Foxy Park.

Maeve: Foxy Park is our name for the park on Dorchester Avenue. In our spare time, we like to see Gabriel’s friends. I’m now friends with Gabriel’s friends’ mums, which is nice. I didn’t really know any of the mums until lockdown, and then I got to know them. We tend to go to Dawsholm Park with Gabriel’s friends and their mums most of the time – that is one of the main spots. We tend to find ourselves going to the same areas because of lockdown, slightly less so now that we’re able to move about a wee bit. Gabriel sometimes has a little play with me on the tennis court. I am a member of the local tennis club, but I haven’t played against anyone in about a year.  

In my spare time, I do printmaking and I create my own art. A lot of my art is based around this area. So, in my free time, I do a lot of taking photos and researching different spots. I found that since I moved back here, I have been really inspired by the surroundings. I’ve always done art, it’s part of my job. But, when I came back here in 2017, it’s like I rediscovered the area and I think part of it is seeing Kelvindale through Gabriel’s eyes as well as my own. I’ve started to look a little bit closer at things that I wouldn’t have even noticed before. I have always loved the Gasworks, but the canal is a new love of mine. 

I knew I lived where a paper mill was, but I have found that, since being back here, it has been really interesting trying to place where the buildings used to be where our flat is. Where our flat is, there used to be these massive tanks of water which were part of the paper-making process. It’s quite bizarre looking at photos of the area from the 1920s and 1930s and seeing all this: seeing all these buildings, houses and industry that is no longer here. That sparked something within me. 

There is always something quite 1950s about this area because of the design of the houses – a slightly ‘kitchen sink’ feeling – and I think that is influencing my work. I tend not to use particularly strong colours and something about this area still feels slightly industrial. I work in Clydebank, Dumbarton and Alexandria, and they are all quite post-industrial. Because where I work is post-industrial, I would never have initially thought that this spot where I live, where my flat is, is post industrial. Another connection is that I am a paper maker, and I am living where they used to make paper! I’ve developed a real fondness for where we live. I once spoke with a lady whose father-in-law lived in one of the houses in the paper mill where we are, which was fascinating.

Massive thanks to Maeve and Gabriel for taking the time to chat with us about their favourite local haunts. The next time you drop by Kelvindale in Glasgow’s west end, make sure you add Dawsholm Park and Atlantis to your list of places to visit! These wonderful spots are certainly worth your time. Keep up-to-date with Maeve and her work on Facebook and Instagram.

We have been selected to build on our 2019 residency in Partick East and Kelvindale with the next phase of Creative Communities: Artists in Residence. For this project, we are engaging with those who live in Ward 23 to create an immersive audio walk of the area. This audio journey is launching on Sunday 8th August. Check our our blog with local artist, Fraser Taylor, to find out why Partick is such a special place.