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Baillieston and District Memories


The Origins of the Village

By Robert Murray  of  Baillieston History Online

In September 1791, an application for an Act of Parliament was made seeking authority for the Making a new road and communication between the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow from Newbridge over the Water of Almond being the boundaries betwixt the counties of Edinburgh and Linlithgow westwards by Broxburn and Bathgate to Airdrie or Langloan and from thence to Glasgow". Among the promoters were local landed proprietors, Robert Bogle of Daldowie and Andrew Stirling of Drumpellier.

The building of this new turnpike road to Edinburgh via, Airdrie and Bathgate and its opening in May 1795 was the single most important factor in the birth of the village of Baillieston. The portion of this great highway from the present fork in the road on Baillieston Main Street eastwards was a completely new route, the existing parish road to that point from the west was upgraded to turnpike standard.

On completion of just the Baillieston Toll to Cotts bridge leg, the parish road past Crosshill farm and Bredisholm to Dykehead became a back road and suffered a great loss of through traffic. The birth of Baillieston was about to begin.

The new turnpike may have been the prime factor but there were other advantages that the present Main street area had over other parts of the district and that it is that it was all owned by one proprietor Scott of Wester Daldowie, it was situated in the northern periphery of that property - an easily disposable corner that could be feued off (sold) in lots at good prices, and it was topographically well sited, being relatively flat with a southerly aspect which would facilitate drainage. The other vital matter was water, and there was water available through the boring of wells. These advantages over other parts of the district were overwhelming and were the deciding factors in making the new village the major settlement of the area.

The land where the toll keeper's house and the toll-bar was situated on it was named Baillieston Toll from the description in the 1791 Act (32. George III Cap. 120). After the opening of the turnpike a few dwellings in addition to the toll bar keeper's - which may have been a timber construction - were built to house a wood cutter, smith and other trades. The village that was to later grow there may not have been a classic 'planned village' as happened in many other parts of the lowlands after the enclosure of agricultural land but it later took on some of the characteristics of one.

The village grew rapidly after 1795 and easily eclipsed the couple of dwellings at Crosshill farm - even though Forrest's map of 1815 would have us believe otherwise - Crosshill was never a village before Baillieston - which was an error of interpretation [due to a lack of research] made in previous writings and perpetuated down the ages but the nearby settlements of Muirside - an ancient fermtoun - and the more recently built row of weaver's cottages in the present Muirhead Road area did exist before Baillieston Toll.

Apart from the original tradesmen occupying a small cluster of dwellings around the present Buchanan and Main Street area there came the weavers of the Old Monkland Weavers Society, some of whom who moved down from Dykehead and others seeking somewhere to live and work. Speculative building of more cottages, in part financed by the Scott family induced an influx of country folk, cottars and the like seeking employment from the increasingly enclosed countryside where some might have had to leave due to the so-called 'Improvement in Agriculture'. These migrants from the countryside engaged themselves as hand loom cotton weavers. This was the first 'industry' of the new village and it grew steadily, providing a living for folk came in from all over the county of Lanarkshire.

'King Cotton' - in the form of the hand loom operated within the cottages of the villages dominated the economy for its first three or four decades when another industry started to become far more important near the village. This industry wasn't at all new to the district but its effect only really impacted on Baillieston in the 1840's. It was coal. Hand loom weaving continued to exist and in 1861 there were still 67 weavers in the area but in ever deceasing numbers and previous accounts of the area's history document the last survivor - Gavin Roy - of this era as dying in the 1890's.

Coal had been mined in the district for at least 140 years but not within the area associated these days with the village. The first pits [if we discount Barrachnie, which we have to as it is - is a separate story altogether] nearest to the village were the Ellismuir group - No.s 1, 2 & 3 - The first Ellismuir pit was sunk on the site of the present Station Park - now a housing development but it was probably the first pit to employ truly Bailliestonians. However another pit was to be called Baillieston Colliery - for a while anyway.

Commensurate with the commercial exploitation of new sinkings was a tragic sequence of events across the sea in Ireland, where a great famine happened due to a failure of the potato crop over the years 1843-46. It is another story in its own right but it had a huge effect on the demography of Baillieston and the surrounding villages of Barrachnie Broomhouse, Swinton and West Merryston.

Other pits around the village were sunk in the latter half of the 19th. century and this directly caused the population of Baillieston and the other villages of the area to expand rapidly. Coal mining continued to be the 'engine room' of the local economy until 1936 when the last pit closed, ironically a short distance from where the first coal in the district was first mined almost 250 years earlier.

* The above image was taken from an original copy of the Act of 1799 which amended, combined and enlarged two earlier Acts of 1791 and 1792.

 

 

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