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.

Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick
13 Apr 21 Blog Comments Off on Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick

Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick

Creative Communities – Artist in Residence Interview Series

Have you heard our latest news? 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. 

We caught up with artist, Fraser Taylor. Fraser lives in Partick and he shared his stories with us about how he came to live in the area, and why it feels like home to him. 

Have you always lived in Partick?

I’m actually originally from Kirkintilloch and I went to Glasgow School of Art from 1977 from 1981. Then, I went straight down to London to do my Masters at the Royal College of Art and studied there until 1983. I lived in London for 21 years, then went to Chicago in 2001 for a one-year teaching position and ended up staying there for 16 years! Things turned out very differently to how I imagined. After a sabbatical in Chicago in 2014, I decided to come back to Scotland. I did a residency with Wasps for a year and had studios in Shetland, Fife and in Glasgow – it was amazing. I completely fell in love with Scotland again and became besotted with the landscape. When I went back to Chicago, it just didn’t feel right anymore, so I decided to come back to Glasgow. I never ever thought I would move back to Glasgow again, but I did and I loved it. I lived in the Merchant City for a year, but it never felt quite right. It didn’t feel like home. I have a lot of friends who live around the Partick area, so I was hanging out there and I decided that was the neighbourhood that I wanted to live in. I found a flat really quickly and I’ve been there since 2018. 

I’ve definitely travelled about. I’ve been really lucky with where my career has taken me. I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, Australia and other amazing places but, oddly, it feels very much like I’m home and I’m here to stay now, and it feels great.

Where is your favourite place to visit in the neighbourhood?

I like Mansfield Park – every time I walk through it, it feels really different. There are so many different communities that hang out there – students, people relaxing and having drink… It just feels lively and I remember during the lockdown last summer, I would walk through the park and there would be musicians playing there. I really like the atmosphere there. It feels almost European. One of my favourite places is the Partick Duck Club right on the corner, when I walk out of that side door I feel as though I could be in Paris! That probably sounds slightly bizarre, but there is something so Parisian about that corner with the trees on the street and some of the ironwork… It feels French to me. I love those little moments.

I drink in the Lismore and I like The Sparkle Horse as well, they both have a friendly atmosphere. I like the weird mix of people. I live near Gardner Street, so if I go up the hill, I’m in real ‘West End’ land, which is very privileged. Then, if I go down the hill, I’m in a much more real environment. I like the proximity of these different socio-economic situations. I’m not that much of a West End person really, so I think it’s nice that Partick maintains a bit of its history.

If you were taking a tourist somewhere in Partick East and Kelvindale, where would you take them?

First of all, I would take them for a walk, just to give my thoughts on the area. I do love the walk up Gardner Street, along with everyone else in the world! I think most people enjoy walking up there and getting to the top of the street and looking over the whole south side of Glasgow. I find those views quite breath taking, it really is spectacular. I hate to say it, but I would probably take a tourist to the Lismore. I think that it is such a traditional Scottish pub and it still carries lots of traditions. They have folk music playing in the evening and it feels like a genuine Glasgow pub. I really like The Sparkle Horse but it’s much younger and a bit more hipster. There’s nothing wrong with that – I like that – but I prefer the tradition of the Lismore. It’s so authentic. Sometimes with certain pubs, I feel as though I could be anywhere in the world. The world is becoming more and more generic and everywhere is losing its identity a wee bit, so I do levitate to places that feel a bit more real and haven’t lost their character.

Did you discover any new places during lockdown?

During the first lockdown, when my studio was closed for 3 months, I realised that I didn’t really know Glasgow as I left the city when I was young. As a result, I did a lot of walking – 8 to 10 miles on some days. I would walk through Partick and I would go over the river to the south side as well. I loved walking down Dumbarton Road and seeing all the back streets of Partick and just exploring the area.

What are you up to at the moment?

Nicolls – a gallery closed at the moment due to Covid – is running a programme called ‘Through The Window.’They have invited artists to show their work in the window, and I recently took part in this. It’s only available to view from the street, as people aren’t allowed into the gallery as a result of Covid. As it can only be viewed from that one vantage point, I found it quite exciting. When I was installing it, a local lady who was passing by stopped and said how happy she was that the gallery is doing it, as every time she walks by there is something new for her to look at. I think it is great that it has been able to engage the community. 

I also have an exhibition on at The Briggait at the moment, which is also in the window. It’s called ‘Two-Step / Selvedge to Selvedge’ and is a collaboration with myself and an artist called Beth Shapeero. This is running until 26 April. Galleries aren’t opening back up until after 26 April so there’s a lot of people and artists who are trying to work out how to engage the community without being able to give them access to premises.

There are people embracing the digital world and where that is going to take us but I think people are also realising the necessity for having direct contact with artwork, projects and performances. The virtual will put us in better stead when leaving lockdown, but that has to exist alongside the actual experience. There’s nothing that can compare to sitting in the audience watching a performance, or stepping into a gallery and seeing a painting or sculpture. It can be enhanced by digital, and digital can make the arts more accessible to people, but we have to find a good balance between digital experiences and real-life experiences. 

Thank you so much to Fraser for speaking to us about Ward 23 and giving us an insight into what makes this neighbourhood special. 

You can find out more about Fraser on his website, and can follow him on Instagram at @haxtonstudio.