Peripheral Estates - Times Past

Posted on 28 September 2022

In partnership with the Glasgow Times, our archivists are exploring Glasgow's fascinating history. This week, Dr Irene O'Brien writes about Glasgow's "Big Four" housing schemes.

After World War 2 there was a renewed effort to re-house those displaced by slum clearances. Glasgow’s First Planning Report, 1945, the ‘Bruce Plan’, proposed an almost completely re-built ‘healthy and beautiful city’ with garden suburbs planned for the periphery. These were dropped in favour of higher density tenemental development on the outskirts of the city at Pollok, Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Drumchapel to accommodate the large numbers requiring to be rehoused. Many of the tenants were initially delighted with the modern facilities in their new homes. But, in the rush to build homes, vital amenities were overlooked.

The first of these was the Pollok housing scheme, part of which pre-dated the war. In 1934 the Corporation had purchased land from Sir John Stirling Maxwell to build a housing estate. He imposed stringent conditions - three bedrooms, separate kitchen and toilet - which were a complete contrast to many of the tenants' previous overcrowded single-end type tenements. The remainder of the housing estate was built after 1944 and the type and layout of this development was less attractive due to the urgency of providing large numbers of houses.

Castlemilk (where I was brought up) had been acquired by the Corporation under a compulsory purchase order in 1936, which began to develop it from 1953 to accommodate people from inner-city slum areas such as the Gorbals. The houses, with their indoor bathrooms, provided welcome improvements to life in the overcrowded tenements. Castlemilk had large open spaces, lots of fresh air and I can say from personal experience that it was a great place to grow up!

As part of the overspill policy, the Corporation built a huge housing estate in Drumchapel (shown below) in the 1950s to house 34,000 people in an area annexed to the City in 1938 from Dunbartonshire. 

Building in Easterhouse began in the mid-1959s to provide better housing for the people of the east-end living in sub-standard conditions. Built to house over 50,000 people, the housing was mainly two/three-bedroom tenements. However, like Pollok, Castlemilk and Drumchapel, Easterhouse had initially very few amenities. The first secondary school on the estate did not open until 1962 and children had to get up early to catch one of the dozens of buses which took them to their old schools in the city. Shops, community centres and cafes were also slow in making their appearance on the estate. 

The peripheral housing schemes did not provide the entire solution to planners, who wanted Glasgow to be a self-contained city. Throughout the 1950s. while the large peripheral schemes were being built, a more comprehensive strategic framework was devised for comprehensive redevelopment. Now that is a story for another day!