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Culross

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glasgow Tenement Housing

 

 

 

 

 

Glenrothes - New Town Housing

 


Urbanisation in Scotland

From the early creation of burghs as market centres in the twelfth century urbanisation has figured prominently in Scottish population history. By the sixteenth century burghs had greatly increased in number and were growing - though the majority was still small by the standards of other European towns and cities. Some of this expansion could be attributed to the Reformation, which released large areas of former church land in and around the older burghs.

Various seventeenth century poll and hearth tax returns suggest that there were three tiers in the hierarchy of urban centres: first, the largest burghs headed by Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth and St Andrews; second, a middle rank of ten or so including Stirling, Ayr, Dumfries, Haddington and Inverness; and last, many small burghs like Culross on the Firth of Forth - an early industrial centre based on coal and salt manufacture. Estimates of population are difficult - possibly 30,000 for Edinburgh in 1690, compared with London's 400,000 around the same time.

Towns grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution and thereafter-urban growth remained a significant social and economic factor, especially in the Lowlands. There was a notable change in the rank order of the larger towns and cities for the industrial centres like Glasgow, Dundee and Paisley (among others) expanded rapidly during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This is not to deny the growth of towns and villages everywhere - a clear function of economic development - in agriculture as well as industry. The numerous planned villages - though less grand than Edinburgh's classical New Town - were an interesting exercise in urban development during this era.

Glasgow provides a useful case study in urban, industrial growth - with many of its associated social problems of overcrowding, poverty and disease. During the Industrial Revolution the city grew rapidly: its population trebled between 1755 and 1801 (from 23,000 to 77,000); and trebled again in the three subsequent decades to 1831 (202,000 at the census of that year). Later expansion was just as dramatic, with a massive influx by migration from Ireland after the 1840s, so that Glasgow ultimately became the Second City of the Empire and one of the great nineteenth-century international urban centres.

Edinburgh's earlier experience had created the elegant Georgian New Town away from the squalor of the Old Town's ancient tenements. To the existing city and the neighbouring port of Leith more was added, mainly during the late nineteenth century building boom. There were some interesting exercises in working-class co-operative housing, but the most striking legacy of this era are the ordered tenement suburbs that make the city seem as much a Victorian creation as a Georgian one.

A third city, Dundee, was in some senses a microcosm of the Glasgow experience with its juxtaposition of jute mills, overcrowded tenement housing and elegant middle-class suburbs by the banks of the Tay. In many ways nineteenth-century Dundee was a telling indictment of industrial capitalism at its worst - and a manifestation of the acute social problems urbanisation brought in its wake.

The twentieth century saw the relative decline of many small, rural communities (especially beyond the Central Lowlands) partly this was a function of migration to the larger towns and cities. Suburban growth and the establishment of New Towns became major exercises in planning to tackle the problems of congestion and slum clearance in the older urban centres.

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