Airdrie owes its existence to its location on the "Hogs Back" - the ridge of land running from East to West. The Monks of Newbattle had numerous establishments throughout the area including a farm grange at Drumpellier, a Court House at Kipps, a Chapel in the area of Chapelhall and a number of corn mills - one being the original Airdrie Meal mill. The Monks were also expert in the construction of roads. In the 12th century they established the original Glasgow to Edinburgh road via Airdrie and Bathgate, to link up with their lands in Newbattle in East Lothian.
In those days travelling was lonely and dangerous. Horses were still very rare and could only be afforded by the rich. Low lying ground was usually extremely difficult to navigate because of the numerous bogs, forests and burns - not to mention the possibility of ambush by a footpad or robber. Hence, it became much more practical to travel on the high ground (the "High Way") where one could avoid the mud and be able to see any robbers and thus avoid an ambush. These roads (tracks) became known as the Kings Highway. (Most roads are still called highways).
The old Monks road was via Cliftonhill, Airdrie House (Manor Drive/ Monkscourt Avenue), Aitchison Street, High Street, Hallcraig, Flowerhill and Colliertree. It was along this road that the first houses in Airdrie were built. (It is thought that there was another road/track joining Drumpelier to Kipps Farm and on to Monkscourt Avenue).
Airdrie is first referred to by name in 1605 but it was not until the end of the 17th century that the foundation of its future prosperity was laid when in 1695 an Act of Parliament made Airdrie a market town with a weekly market and four Fairs each year. Mr Robert Hamilton was credited with being the real founder of the modern Airdrie. He was the owner of most of the land around Airdrie and was the "Laird" of Airdrie House. He led Airdrie's transition from being a "Ferm Toon" to the more prestigious country village. After obtaining the Act in 1695 he continued to foster and encourage the development of his native place until he died in 1705 at the age of 55. "He truly lived for others"
The part of Airdrie that was first built was mainly along Aitchison Street and High Street.- still referred to as the "Aul Toon". By the year 1795 Airdrie had a population of nearly 2000 people and the old town had been extended to cover East High Street, North Bridge Street, Chapel Street, South Bridge Street, Hallcraig Street, Wellwynd, Bell Street (Finnies Lane), Wilson Street (Pump Lane). The majority of the house owners in the old town were hand-loom weavers.
The statistical account for the Parish of New Monkland for 1793 tells
Flax was grown on many local farms and the town became a well-established centre of woollen and linen fabrics. The population of the town continued to grow from 2,745 in 1801 to 4,860 in 1821 which was the year Airdrie was created an Independent Burgh. The expansion of the coal and iron industries led to a demand for machinery and tools and Airdrie became important for engineering works and the population climbed to13,488 in 1871.The growth in population was not due to high birthrate, but instead due to an influx of residents from the Highlands and predominantly Ireland. This followed the potato famine of the mid 1840s and also reflected the change from cottage industry to heavy industry in the area. Most of the Irish immigrant population were involved with mining and labouring. This led to an increase in ironwork foundries around the area. Because of this explosion in industry, railway links were soon established (circa 1830) and by 1862, the Airdrie and Bathgate Junction Railway provided a direct link to Edinburgh with Airdrie South Station providing the starting point for trains to Glasgow.
In August the Public Libraries Act (Scotland) 1853 was passed, and in November Airdrie Public Library was the first in Scotland.
Wellwynd was originally the path that led to Eppy Jacks well at the foot of the Wynd. Another well was located at the foot of Pump Lane (Wilson Street). This is an extract from a poem by Wm. McHutcheson the Airdrie poet who also wrote "The Auld North Burn" which featured Maggie Ramsay.
I mind when Airdrie Toon was sma'
Commonhead c1910 - the Weavers Cottages on the left have since been demolished - as has most of the street -
Airdrie House -
A view looking south from Manor Drive - through the entrance gate to Airdrie House C1945 Note: the war memorial in the centre Centenary Avenue is on the right of the gate
In 1821 Airdrie was created an independent Burgh by an Act of Parliament.
Sir John Wilson gifted £1000 to be spent on laying out the Public Park to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The park was laid out and a Band Stand erected - and was opened in 1897. In 1908 Sir John Wilson also laid out the West End Park
Site of old Town Hall - Airdrie
In 1910 Sir John made a free gift of £10,000 to the community for the purpose of building a new town hall. In 1912 the Sir John Wilson Town Hall was formally opened.
In1921 Airdrie had become an industrial town. This time it owed its growth to growing iron and steel business in Coatbridge.
In 1971 Airdrie celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Burgh
Victoria Bowling green
Some of the principal industries around the town included:
Rochsolloch Works - Scottish Iron & Steel Co
Bakeries: Wheatholm -James Taylor
Airdrie Cross c1940s
At the end of the First World War, Airdrie was hard hit with many casualties from the war and also many inhabitants emigrated. The population rose by 3% to around 26,000 by 1931. The depression years had made a great impact on the town and several well known manufacturers ceased to exist and few replaced them. It was reported that 50% of the registered population were unemployed. The Church groups tried to provide some comfort for the poor folk in the area and set up educational and work experience projects to help and by 1936 the Airdrie Churches Council had attracted national interest through their work culminating in a building in Graham Street being provided for them Conditions in the town did not really improve until well after the Second World War. In 1949 a major pharmaceutical company (Boots Pure Drug Co. Ltd) and Banner Textiles Ltd were attracted to the town (between them employing 1200). With this impetus, new companies began to consider Airdrie as a viable option for business and in 1958 Pye Scottish Communications Ltd opened employing over 1000 people. A well known building in the town is Airdrie Arts Centre - opened in 1967, it is still a popular venue for concerts and plays.
Today, Airdrie is a large town and encompasses the former villages of Clarkston and Rawyards. It has an Arts Centre, library, two railway stations (with frequent electric trains to Glasgow), public baths, a sports centre, a modern shopping centre, 16 churches, many public parks, a golf course and five industrial estates.
Airdrie town centre has changed much in the last few years with a new road scheme and a shift in emphasis with the type of shopping it offers. Graham Street, the main pedestrianised street, has recently been refurbished and has had the pedestrian precinct area upgraded. New housing complexes are being built around this suitably situated commuter town and notably in Chapelhall, Rochsoles and Glenmavis and the former Boots factory site in Rawyards.
Below is an image and comments supplied by Carrick Watson that should interest you, it shows most of Airdrie Town Centre as it used to be in the 1950's
Amazing just how many buildings have now been demolished that you can see in this photo