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Top of Caledonia Road Church, Gorbals, drawn by Gerald Blaikie

Top of tower of Caledonia Road Church, Gorbals


A very early reference to Gorbals is contained in a charter dated 1285 referring to a wooden bridge opposite Stockwell Street, then known as Fishergate. The original small settlement in the lands of Gorbals was named "Bridgend", derived from its proximity to the bridge. The bridge fell into decay around 1340 and was pulled down a decade later to be replaced by the first stone bridge.
The 'lands of St Ninian's Croft' in Gorbals had a leper hospital dedicated to the saint of that name dating back to 1350.

Gorbals was acquired by the Elphinstone family in 1571, and the district was made into a "Burgh of Barony and Regality" in 1607. The dynasty was led by various George Elphinstones until the final George, who built the Baronial Hall on Main Street. On his death, the lands passed into the hands of Lord Belhaven. In 1648 the lands were acquired by Glasgow Town Council, the Trades House and Hutcheson's Hospital.

In 1661 an Act of Parliament was passed, annexing the lands of Gorbals and town of Bridgend to the city for ecclesiastical purposes. In the antiquated language of the age, the measure was described as the ''disolution frae the shire of Clidsdaile, regalitie of Glasgow and parochin of Govean, and vnion to the said citie of Glasgow''. This did not affect its burgh status, as the Act was mainly intended to allow the inhabitants to become parishioners in the city of Glasgow and attend the church nearest to them.
Although partially owned by the Town Council, Gorbals was not formally included within the city boundaries until 1846.
The old "Burgh of Barony and Regality" was raised to the status of a Police Burgh in 1808, before its inevitable disappearance.

The 'Titles of the Lands of Gorbals' are shown below.

Titles of Gorbals Lands

Seal attached to Titles of Gorbals Lands

'Titles of the Lands of Gorbals' and attached seal


Map of Gorbals from 1783, before the division of the lands

Map of Gorbals from 1783, before the division of the lands


At the division of the jointly owned lands of Gorbals in 1790, the Gorbals village became the property of Glasgow Town Council and the immediately surrounding areas became the property of Hutcheson's Hospital. The new suburb of Hutchesontown was developed to the east of the old village, being laid out from 1794 with regular streets “with good houses from two to four storeys in height”.
The land to the west of the old village was sold by the Hutcheson trustees to Mr James Laurie and developed as Laurieston from 1802.
The land acquired by the Trades' House of Glasgow, to the west of Bridge Street / Eglinton Street, was developed as the manufacturing district of Tradeston.

In the plan shown below, the area originally acquired by Hutcheson's Hospital is shown in pink, and the lands acquired by the Trades' House are shown in orange and green.
In the archaic Scots language a 'croft' was a small piece of land, usually attached to a building or some other local structure. A 'fauld' or a 'fold' was a field used for the grazing of sheep or cattle.

Twentieth century plan of part of the Barony of Gorbals with an overlay  of the various crofts and faulds

Twentieth century plan of part of the Barony of Gorbals with an overlay of the various 'crofts' and 'faulds'

The Barony of Gorbals stretched all the way from the Clyde to the county boundary with Renfrewshire at Strathbungo. A map showing the furthest extent of the area is included in the Strathbungo & Crossmyloof page of this website.


The map below shows the Clyde at the Gorbals in 1654, with a little island east of the Stockwell Bridge, facing what would be later developed as Carlton Place.
The lands of 'Little Govan' would later become the suburbs of Hutchesontown and Govanhill. The surrounding areas of Polmadi (Polmadie) and Sheafield (Shawfield) are still familiar today.

An illustrated guide to the many historical buildings on the other side of the Stockwell Bridge is featured in my Merchant City page.

Map of Gorbals and surrounding area, c.1654

Map of Gorbals and surrounding area, c.1654

In 1654 there were six small islands or "inches" on the Clyde between the Stockwell Bridge and the mouth of the River Cart at Renfrew.
A map from 1654 showing the little islands downstream from the city is featured in my Partick - Origins & History page.
An old report tells us that "it used to be a very common occurrence for stone battles to take place in the vicinity of the old Stockwell Bridge, between the Glasgow and Gorbals youths, for the possession of an island on the river situated opposite where Carlton Place now stands. The death of a boy caused the objectionable sport to be put down."


View of Stockwell Bridge, 1797

View of Stockwell Bridge from Gorbals side of the River Clyde, 1797

After the old wooden bridge at Gorbals was pulled down c.1350, the first stone bridge on the site was constructed consisting of eight arches, each 12 feet wide. This new bridge remained in good condition for about 300 years, until an order was passed on 18th September 1658 preventing carts on wheels from crossing over. In 1777 the bridge was widened by 10 feet on the eastern side and the two northern arches built up to prevent danger in times of spates on the river.
In 1821 the bridge was once again overhauled, but in 1847, owing to the great increase of traffic, it was removed completely to make way for the present Victoria or Stockwell Bridge.


The present day river crossing at the site of the old Gorbals settlement is the Victoria or Stockwell Bridge, which opened in 1854, replacing the older stone bridge, shown above.
A temporary wooden structure came into use in January, 1847, erected alongside the construction operations for the new bridge, shown below.

Construction of Victoria Bridge connecting Gorbals to the city, 1851

Construction of Victoria Bridge with temporary wooden bridge in the background, c.1851


View of Victoria or Stockwell Bridge

View of Victoria or Stockwell Bridge from Gorbals side of the River Clyde


This early 19th century view of Main Street Gorbals, is looking north towards the city centre, showing the Baronial Hall with its square turreted tower and Elphinstone's private chapel with a circular tower.

Engraving of Main Street, Gorbals

Engraving of Main Street, Gorbals

Sir George Elphinstone built his mansion on the east side of Main Street, Gorbals. It was built with projecting turrets and elaborately carved timberwork. The chapel was erected a few yards farther down the street. The arms of the Elphinstone family were carved over the doorway, with the letters S. G. E. for Sir George Elphinstone and D. V. B. for his nephew and successor, Douglas, Viscount Belhaven. Sir George Elphinstone died bankrupt, and was buried in his chapel in 1640.


Pencil sketch of single storey buildings in side street off Main Street, Gorbals, 1839

Pencil sketch of single storey buildings in side street off Main Street, Gorbals, 1839


Old photograph of Elphinstone's Tower

Photograph of Elphinstone's Tower after turrets had been removed.


Coat of Arms featured on outside wall of Elphinstone's mansion

Coat of Arms featured on Elphinstone's mansion, with motto "Sans Tache", meaning spotless or undefiled.


Pencil sketch of Elphinstone's Tower

Pencil sketch of Elphinstone's Tower


Perspective view of Elphinstone's Tower

Perspective view of Elphinstone's Tower from the north


Rear view of Elphinstone's Tower

Rear view of Elphinstone's Tower


Watercolour of back court of the Baronial Hall, Gorbals, 1846

Watercolour of back court of the Baronial Hall, Gorbals, 1846


This image of the interior of Gorbals Baronial Hall is dated as 23 August 1858, when the building was occupied as a public house known as the "Old Gorbals Wine and Spirit Vaults".

Interior of Gorbals Baronial Hall

Interior of Gorbals Baronial Hall


View of east side of Main Street Gorbals looking south

View of east side of Main Street Gorbals looking south


Photograph of Main Street Gorbals, 1868

Photograph of Main Street Gorbals, looking north, 1868


Main Street Gorbals, 1868

Main Street Gorbals, looking south, 1868


View of back court in old Gorbals

View of back court in old Gorbals


Main Street Gorbals, 1876

Sketch of Main Street Gorbals, 1876


Pencil sketch of shops in Main Street Gorbals

Pencil sketch of shops in Main Street Gorbals


Bedford Lane at corner with Main Street, Gorbals

Bedford Lane at corner with Main Street at "Gorbals Public Washing House", c.1890


View of western side of Main Street, looking towards city centre and Public Wash House

View of western side of Main Street, looking towards city centre and public wash house, c.1890


'Old Houses in Main Street Gorbals' by Jessie Marion King, 1912

'Old Houses in Main Street Gorbals' by Jessie Marion King, 1912


View of Gorbals Cross from Ballater Street c.1910

View of Gorbals Cross from Ballater Street c.1910


Drinking fountain and public toilet at Gorbals Cross

Drinking fountain and public toilet at Gorbals Cross


View of Gorbals Cross c.1960

View of Gorbals Cross c.1960


Overview of the site of the old Gorbals settlement

Modern overview of the site of the old Gorbals settlement


Much of the site of the original settlement at Bridgend, Gorbals, is now occupied by the Glasgow Central Mosque and Islamic Centre, which was developed on four acres of cleared land on the eastern side of Gorbals Street, near the river.
The complex, which was designed by the Coleman Ballantine Partnership, was formally opened on 18th May 1984 by Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League.
The design of the mosque is a fascinating synthesis of traditional Islamic architecture with modernistic glass elements, also featuring familiar traces of old Glasgow with red sandstone finishes.
Previously, local Sunni Muslims met at converted premises in Oxford Street and Carlton Place, Laurieston, on the other side of the main road.

Glasgow Central Mosque, Gorbals

Glasgow Central Mosque on site of original village at Gorbals


View of Glasgow Central Mosque from Ballater Street

View of Glasgow Central Mosque from Ballater Street


The relocated Glasgow Sheriff Court on the western side of Gorbals Street was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 29 July 1986. The height of the courthouse was restricted to 65ft (19.8m) to fit in with the listed Georgian terraces of Carlton Place. The operational space was therefore confined to just five levels.
The complex was designed by a large team of architects co-ordinated by the Property Services Agency, including the local practice of Keppie Henderson & Partners.
The new court was constructed with traditional durable materials, including granite slabs from Denmark and sandstone and limestone from English sources.

Glasgow Sheriff Court, Gorbals

Glasgow Sheriff Court viewed from the north-east, at Gorbals Street


The courthouse was built on the site of Gorbals Parish Church in Carlton Place. The history of the parish and the story of how the church lost its spire in 1929 is included in the Laurieston page of this website.

Tower of Gorbals Parish Church, Carlton Place, drawn by Gerald Blaikie

Tower of Gorbals Parish Church, after it lost its spire in 1929


View of eastern side of Gorbals Street in the 1880's

View of eastern side of Gorbals Street in the 1880's

The Citizens Theatre on the eastern side of Gorbals Street, south of Ballater Street, is now situated behind a completely different façade from that shown below.
The building was erected in 1878 as Her Majesty's Theatre and renamed as the Royal Princess Theatre in 1880. It was designed by architect Campbell Douglas to include Doric columns removed from David Hamilton's Union Bank in Ingram Street. It became the Citizens Theatre in 1945.
The nearby Palace Theatre was being used as a Bingo Hall when this photograph was taken in the early 1970's. The Palace was demolished in 1977.

Old façades of Citizens Theatre & Palace Bingo Hall, Gorbals Street

Old façades of Citizens Theatre & Palace Bingo Hall, Gorbals Street


Aerial view of Citizens Theatre and derelict tenements in Gorbals Street and Crown Street

Aerial view of Citizens Theatre and derelict tenements in Gorbals Street and Crown Street


Citizens Theatre, Gorbals

Modern view of Citizens Theatre on eastern side of Gorbals Street

The present yellow brick façade and foyer were added to the Citizens Theatre in 1989 by the Building Design Partnership. The old Victorian building with its random rubble frontage was left intact behind the new structures. The interior retains its elaborately decorated horseshoe shaped tiers and stage boxes.
The foyer displays a group of statues which were originally placed on top of the old façade, which were created by celebrated Glasgow sculptor John Mossman.


Last surviving tenement in Gorbals Street, surrounded by new housing of Laurieston redevelopment, May 2016

Last surviving tenement in Gorbals Street, surrounded by new housing of Laurieston redevelopment, May 2016


Traditional old house alongside typical Gorbals tenement

Traditional old house at gable of typical four-storey Gorbals tenement, built c.1890


Among the many famous people with Gorbals roots was Allan Pinkerton, who emigrated to the United States and later founded Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The agency's well known motto was "We never sleep".

Birthplace of Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884 ) at Muirhead Street near Gorbals Cross

Birthplace of the legendary detective, Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884), at Muirhead Street near Gorbals Cross


Allan Pinkerton is featured in one of the murals in the railway underpass at Cleland Street which links Hospital Street with Gorbals Street.
The murals are part of a "history wall" by artist Liz Peden of Gorbals Arts Project which was installed in the summer of 2016. It shows famous people with Gorbals connections designed by the artist to “demonstrate to our young people that no matter where you come from, you can achieve great things.”

Mural of Allan Pinkerton with Abraham Lincoln in Cleland Street, Gorbals

Mural of Allan Pinkerton with Abraham Lincoln in railway underpass at Cleland Street


Mural of Benny Lynch, Scotland's first World Boxing Championin Cleland Street, Gorbals

Mural of Benny Lynch, Scotland's first World Boxing Champion, in railway underpass at Cleland Street


Sketch of a 'Girl in a Wood’ by the artist, Hannah Frank

Sketch of a 'Girl in a Wood’ by the artist, Hannah Frank, in railway underpass at Cleland Street


The redevelopment of the Gorbals began with the creation of a Comprehensive Development Area (CDA) in 1957. Over the next two decades street after street of traditional Glasgow tenemental housing was demolished to make way for sub-standard prefabricated deck blocks and other forms of inferior social housing, most of which has also been flattened to make way for the "New Gorbals".
The housing in the "New Gorbals" is much more sympathetic to the traditional Gorbals model. The architect of the block shown below used red sandstone and yellow brick to create an up-to-date version of a typical four-storey Glasgow tenement.
The regeneration of the community is featured in the Hutchesontown page of this website.

Tenement block in New Gorbals

Tenement block in "New Gorbals"


The view below shows the futuristic Glasgow College of Nautical Studies which was established on the banks of the river Clyde in 1969, east of the site of the old village.

Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, built 1969

Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, RMJM Partnership - built 1969, demolished 2016


Construction of new City of Glasgow College

Construction of new City of Glasgow College alongside original Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, April 2014


Debris from Glasgow College of Nautical Studies after demolition, May 2016

Debris from Glasgow College of Nautical Studies after demolition, May 2016


City of Glasgow College, built on grounds of former Nautical College, November 2016

Completed City of Glasgow College, built on grounds of former Nautical College, November 2016


City of Glasgow College, viewed from refurbished Albert Bridge, November 2016

City of Glasgow College, viewed from refurbished Albert Bridge, November 2016


The establishment of the Southern Necropolis cemetery was proposed at a public meeting on 15th November, 1839 at the Baronial Hall of Gorbals. At a second meeting on 27th February 1840, a committee was formed to prepare a prospectus with the purpose of making lairs available at moderate rates for all classes of the population. The cemetery was officially opened in July 1840 and extended twice in the following years.

Southern Necropolis, Gorbals

View of Southern Necropolis with gatehouse and St Francis Centre in the distance

The gatehouse at Caledonia Road was designed by Charles Wilson and built in 1848. It features a castellated Norman arched gateway with a tall stair turret. Wilson himself was buried in the Southern Necropolis in 1863.


Gatehouse of Southern Necropolis

Gatehouse of Southern Necropolis and nearby multi-storey block create an interesting optical illusion


View of St Francis Church and gatehouse of Southern Necropolis surrounded by cleared ground

1960's view of St Francis Church and gatehouse of Southern Necropolis, rare survivors of the Gorbals slum clearance programme


Undeveloped land to the south of New Gorbals

Derelict site of 'Dixon's Blazes' with St Francis Centre and Caledonia Road multis in the distance


View of Dixon's Ironworks by William Simpson, 1848

View of 'Dixon's Iron Works looking North' by William Simpson, 1848


Long view of undeveloped land 
between Gorbals and M74 motorway at Govanhill

Long view of undeveloped land between Gorbals and M74 motorway at Govanhill


Caledonia Road Church was Alexander "Greek" Thomson's first church to be built in Glasgow, erected in 1857. The ruins of the church remained after an arson attack in 1965 to become what is now Gorbals greatest architectural landmark.
The church is featured in detail at my Alexander Thomson's Churches web page.

Caledonia Road Church, Gorbals

Caledonia Road Church, Gorbals


Sculpture of Gorbals Boys by Liz Peden

The sculpture group of the "Gorbals Boys" by Liz Peden of Gorbals Arts Project was installed in August 2008 in Cumberland Street. The artist used three local boys to model for the sculptures.
The original iconic image, left, was taken by Scots-Italian photographer, Oscar Marzaroli, in 1963.


The statue of a “Girl with a Rucksack” in Cumberland Street was created by sculptor Kenny Hunter and unveiled on 14th April 2004. The bronze figure stands on a high pedestal and is said to represent the movement of people through the area over the ages.
The girl with her tracksuit and backpack is a transient figure of the modern age, looking down on a residential thoroughfare far removed from the Cumberland Street of legend.

Girl with a  Rucksack, Gorbals

Girl with a Rucksack, Kenny Hunter, 2004


Gorbals New Park has been created to provide a pleasant amenity for the district, sadly lacking in the previous redevelopment of the area. The park has fine landscaped grounds surrounding a children's play area.
Gorbals New Park features attractive metalwork by sculptor, Jack Sloan, who designed the gates at each of the entrances and the bandstand in the centre. Sloan was assisted in the fabrication of these pieces in 1998 / 1999 by the highly skilled metalworker, Hector McGarva.

Gate at entrance to Gorbals New Park

Gate at entrance to Gorbals New Park


Bandstand at Gorbals New Park

Bandstand at Gorbals New Park



Tower of Hutchesontown Library

Gorbals - Origins & History
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Hutchesontown
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Laurieston
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Old Gorbals Railway Stations
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Bridge Street Station
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Cumberland Street Station
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Eglinton Street Station
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South Side Guides
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Scotcities Home Page
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Glasgow Quiz Pages - South Side
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All original artwork, photography and text © Gerald Blaikie 2016
Unauthorised reproduction of any image on this website is not permitted.

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