John Paton Talk

John Paton – Hyndland and its buildings, yesterday, today and tomorrow

John opened his talk with a 1795 plan of the North West Glasgow which included the area which would become Hyndland.  The main features were Partick, the Forth & Clyde Canal and a number of large estates evident from the avenues of trees recorded on the plan.  Interestingly, John observed that there was no evidence of ordinary housing!  It was clear that he had gone back to the bedrock to tell us the history of Hyndland.  His talk was richly illustrated with old photographs which charted the development of Hyndland and adjoining areas.  John pointed to significant drivers for development of the area including the extension of Great Western Road to Anniesland in 1840, the horse tram in 1873, the arrival of Hyndland Station in 1896 and finally the electric trams in 1910.  These improvements initially led to the development of the Kelvinside and Dowanhill Estates before moving westwards to Hyndland, a pace reflecting the ups and downs of the City’s economy.

During his talk John explained that successful industrialists started buying land for development in the West of Glasgow from Byres Road around the 1840s.  A hint of the old maxim, never let your money go idle!  The normal approach in these times was for the land owner to commission a feu plan for the land to be sold off to developers in parcels for development while remaining the Feu Superior to enjoy the long term feu duties.  The land owner determined what type and quality of developer would develop through the feu conditions.  For instance, TL Paterson, merchant, who developed the Dowanhill Estate from the 1850s onwards sought to see his land developed for all sectors of society.  So that at the bottom end of the Estate in Partick, we find tenements for the workers and, at the top of Dowanhill, villas for the owners and senior managers with terraces in between.  This is resonated to a degree in Hyndland as the quality and size of flats gradually diminish away from Hyndland Road.  In short, Glasgow’s socio-economic hierarchy was writ large in the local topography.

It wasn’t until the mid 1890s that development in Hyndland properly started to get underway.  The original land owner, Crawford, a farmer, had asked John Carrick in the 1870s, then the City Architect for Glasgow, to draw up a feuing plan for the area.  It had a generous layout with gardens between the rows of tenements.  The land was then sold to a consortium of developers in 1876.  However, these aspirations were snuffed out by a recession in 1877 and the following crash of the Glasgow Bank in 1878.  However, two blocks were built at the top of the hill in Kingsborough Gardens before everything stopped.  Twenty years later with a recovery in the economy through increased manufacturing in the City and a newly navigable River Clyde making the City accessible to international trade, development activity restarted.  We learn that the blonde Sandstone used in the early developments came from Giffnock but as development progressed, Red Sandstone from Dumfriesshire replaced the Giffnock stone as these local quarries fizzled out.

Crucial to the quality of the development in Hyndland was the strong control exercised by the land owners, through their agent, James Barr, Engineer.  It was he who had been commissioned to replace the earlier Feu Plan prepared by John Carrick, the City Architect in the 1870s.  While the new plan wasn’t as generous, as illustrated by only Queensborough Gardens surviving with central gardens, rigorous feu conditions were crafted to ensure ‘superior houses’ were built.  They included target rental values that the properties should command.  In addition, James Barr had to approve all the designs, a far cry from today’s much weaker planning system.

John bemoaned the disappearance in current developments of the ‘garnishes’ to be found on the Hyndland tenements such as castle corners, turrets, spires and distinctive architectural features around doors.  This was evident from the John’s photos of many of the more recent and plainer infill developments that have taken place.  He also observed, typical of the time, that housing in Hyndland was all built to rent largely under the management of the Western Heritable Investment Company.  This started changing in the 1950s and 1960s, so that the area is mainly owner occupied today.

Looking further to the future, John observed that the housing stock has no energy efficiency, an issue as we seek to move away from fossil fuel.  In addition, it will be necessary for our cars to become electric, a challenge to the capacity of the existing electricity grid in the area.  Moreover, installing charging points, and their use and management will also be an issue.  Indeed, a thought provoking reference to issues which will affect us all, not to mention the rest of Scotland, as the Glasgow CoP26 event made clear last year.  These issues, while recognised for some time now, haven’t received much attention probably because, as John hinted, they are difficult, not to mention expensive to solve.

John’s account had a very fine grain of detail which can’t be replicated here such as the fact that the developers before WW1 chose the street names.  Something which disappeared when Glasgow absorbed the Burghs such as Partick, Maryhill and Govan around the City and a major rationalisation of street names was required.  In addition, John noted that the last stone tenements in Hyndland were amongst the last built in Scotland due to the Lloyd George Finance Act of 1910 which penalised speculative rental development.  However, during the question and answer session, many members were able to bring their own personal experiences of Hyndland of yesteryear to the discussion.  This led to some very animated reminiscences.  A demonstration, if any were needed, that John’s talk was very well received.  Many thanks, John

John Paton Talk