In 1880, the Riddrie area was deemed to be the most appropriate place to build a new prison. the increase in the number of prisoners at Duke Street Prison, Hamilton Prison and Lanark Jail, coupled to the closure of some older Prisons, led the Prisons Board to recommend the building of a new prison outside Glasgow. The Riddrie area was chosen for the Prison because it was well positioned to serve both Glasgow and the wider Lanarkshire area.
Barlinnie was built between 1880 and 1886, and each new block was occupied as soon as it was finished. The Prison had accomodation for around 1,000 prisoners by 1886. The building of barlinnie led to an upgrading of several local roads and the completion of several related buildings. It also brought an increase in traffic travelling through the Riddrie area and by the turn of the century the Corporation Tram system was running a ‘Red Car’ up the Cumbernauld Road.