A rural backwater

In the year 1896, the ordinance survey mapped the area that we know today as Riddrie. The map they made shows a very different place to the one we know so well today. The area was bounded on the north by the Monkland canal, which was built in the 18th century and was, at that time, the main artery for transporting coal from the developing coal fields of Lanarkshire to Glasgow. The railways were still a long way off when the Canal system was in its heyday and the Monkland Canal was to play a major role in the development of towns such as Coatbridge.

By 1773 the Canal had cut its way through Lanarkshire and had reached an area a few miles from Glasgow known as Riddrie. The Canal ended at Riddrie Locks and the coal was loaded onto carts for the last leg of the journey to the city of Glasgow. The use of carts was an expensive and cumbersome way to transport coal and the obvious solution was to extend the Canal into the City itself. By 1783 much more substantial locks had been built at Blackhill and these allowed barges to navigate closer to the city. The Stirling brothers, who owned the Canal, continued to develop it until it reached the townhead area.

Riddrie continued to be a sleepy rural backwater which people travelled through on their way to Cumbernauld or Falkirk. The fact that the Canal and the Cumbernauld Road ran through the district encouraged one or two businessmen to set up in the area. The existence of clay in the earth led to the building of the Barlinnie Fireclay Works. There were also several small quarries and coal mines in the vicinity, all supplying materials to the growing City of Glasgow.

There were a few scattered houses and cottages among the fields some of which gave their names to current streets. Maxwelton Cottage, Smithy Croft, Blackhill House, Lethamhill House, and Gartcraig Farm are some examples. Few who lived in the vicinity in those days could have predicted the huge expansion of Glasgow that would swallow up the area in the years ahead.