Ask the Archivist - council housing


Every week whilst we were closed, we invited our wonderful community to submit questions on a different topic for our archivists to answer. 

Our next topic was one that's played a major role in Glasgow's cityscape: council housing. The Q&A is below. You can also read a feature about these records in the Glasgow Times​​.

Q1: What was the City Improvement Trust?

The 1866 Improvement Act gave the Council power to set up a trust to buy slum property, demolish or repair buildings, sell land for redevelopment and build replacement houses. At the time Glasgow was experiencing its largest population boom. Demand for housing far exceeded supply and many working-class citizens were crammed into areas around the City Parish such as High St and Saltmarket, where they experienced slum housing, filthy streets and closes.

Q2: What did City Improvement Trust do?

The Trust bought up and demolished congested slums on large scale, but it took longer and was more expensive than planned. Short of funds, it sold cleared land to private builders on condition they would build high quality houses. The first tenements built by the Trust (Saltmarket & Glasgow Cross) were built as ‘models’ to demonstrate to private builders what should be built. Made to an extremely high standard, they were let to tenants who could afford the high rents. The Trust needed to tackle the housing of the poorest people and from 1900 to 1914 the houses built were simpler and cheaper. The effects of the Improvement Trust were beneficial but on such a small scale that they barely changed the overall housing situation.


Q3: How did Glasgow respond to ‘Homes for Heroes’ after WW1?

The war had changed politics and a consensus emerged about the need for a national housing policy. A UK Housing Act in 1919 required local authorities to provide working class housing with government subsidies. The earliest, including Mosspark, Riddrie and Knightswood, were built under the 'ordinary' scheme. This was a misnomer: these were the elite in Glasgow housing stock, and, with high rents, rarely housed the working classes. A further act in 1923 enabled a large increase in the number of more affordable homes as rents were subsidised. Glasgow built ‘intermediate’ houses which were usually to a similar standard as the ‘ordinary’ houses, but rents were cheaper.

Q4: What were the rehousing schemes in the 1930s?

With the pressure to provide housing with affordable rents, these were built to a higher density, with cheaper materials and with little opportunity for aesthetic refinement in architectural design. They were deliberately nearer the city centre than the earlier schemes to be close to workplaces and some were in fact uncomfortably close to industrial premises. Hamiltonhill was the pioneering slum-clearance scheme and the first new ‘rehousing' scheme.  Another was Blackhill, which was controversial because of its proximity to the Provan Gas Works. 

Q5: Why were the big peripheral schemes built?

After WW2 there was a renewed effort to re-house those displaced by slum clearance. Glasgow's First Planning Report in 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 at Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Pollok and Castlemilk to accommodate the large numbers requiring to be rehoused. 

Q6: Do you have records of tenants who were re-housed?

We hold the rent rolls which include the first tenants of the new housing schemes.

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Q7: Do you have photographs or other records of the housing schemes?

We hold the architectural plans for the city, including the housing schemes. We also have the large photographic archives from the Architecture and Planning Department, which include photographs of council houses. Many of these are on the Virtual Mitchell site but we have many others.

Q8: Do council house types have names?

Glasgow’s original house types do not have names (labelled with letters in drawings). The types generally reflected which scheme they were built under (See Q3 & 4). Later non-traditional house types by outside firms would be identified by their type name.

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