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Coatbridge
(Cotts Brig)

The town has seen many changes over the years - the slums that crowded around the Ironworks have long gone, as have the ironworks themselves. Coal is no longer deep-mined in the area , but Coatbridge has moved on from being a depressed ex- industrial area to a thriving town once more.

Up until 1975, Coatbridge had its own Burgh Council. Between 1975 and 1996, Coatbridge was part of Monklands District Council. It is now part of North Lanarkshire council.

"COATBRIDGE, (From: http://www.british-history.ac.uk) a village, in the late quoad sacra parish of Gartsherrie, parish of Old Monkland, Middle ward of county Lanark, 1 mile (N. W.) from Airdrie; containing 1599 inhabitants. This is a very thriving place, which has more than doubled in extent and population within the last fifteen years, owing to the extension of the iron trade in the district, and to its being in the vicinity of valuable coal-mines; the Dundyvan and Summerlee iron-works in the neighbourhood are conducted on a large scale, and afford employment to a great part of the population. The village is on the road from Airdrie to Glasgow; and the Monkland canal also affords facilities of communication with the adjacent towns. A post-office has been established here, and there is a place of worship for members of the Free Church"

At the turn of the last century Coatbridge was the eight largest town in Scotland. It was during the last years of the 18th century that the area developed from a loose collection of hamlets into the town of Coatbridge. The town's development and growth have been intimately connected with the technological advances of the industrial revolution, and in particular with the hot blast process.

Coatbridge was a major Scottish centre for iron works and coal mining during the 19th century and in this period was described as 'the industrial heartland of Scotland' and the 'Iron Burgh.  It was formed by the amalgamation of a number of local villages: Old Monkland and Kirkshaws, Coatbridge, Coatdyke, Dundyvan, Gartsherrie, Langloan and Whifflet.

The area around Coatbridge was described in the 1799 Statistical Account as an "immense garden" and it was not until the 1830s that the character of the district began to change from a rural landscape of small hamlets and farmhouses to a crowded industrial town. 
see http://www.monklands.co.uk/kirkwood\index.htm

The industry which transformed Coatbridge was the iron industry.   In 1811 Old Monkland parish, which included Coatbridge, was recorded as having less than 6000 inhabitants. By the mid 1800's the Iron industry was predominant in the town and when it achieved Burgh status in 1885 it was known as "the Iron Burgh" and its population had increased to around 25,000.  As it grew, its landscape changed from a country area to a crowded industrial town. Today, the population is now estimated at over 48,000.  The present-day street layout of the town centre was largely influenced by the planning of the Baird family, owners of one of the town's largest ironworks. Coatbridge was the eighth largest town in Scotland in 1911.

Old Monkland Parish as described in Pigot's & co's national commercial directory 1854

This is perhaps one of the most productive and beautiful parishes in Lanarkshire. It is well enclosed, cultivated and finely planted with forests and fruit trees and to a stranger the resemblance is that of an immense garden, embellished with numerous seats and villas principally belonging to the merchants of Glasgow.

A description of Coatbridge is given in a book on the industries of Scotland by Bremner in 1869: 25 years later!!

"Though Coatbridge is a most interesting seat of industry, it is anything but beautiful. Dense clouds of smoke roll over it incessantly, and impart to all the buildings a peculiarly dingy aspect.

A coat of black dust overlies everything, and in a few hours the visitor finds his complexion considerably deteriorated by the flakes of soot which fill the air, and settle on his face. To appreciate Coatbridge, it must be visited at night, when it presents a most extraordinary and when seen for the first time startling spectacle.

 From the steeple of the parish church, which stands on a considerable eminence, the flames of no fewer than fifty blast furnaces may be seen. In the daytime these flames are pale and unimpressive; but when night comes on, they appear to burn more fiercely, and gradually there is developed in the sky a lurid glow similar to that which hangs over a city when a great conflagration is in progress.

For half-a-mile round each group of furnaces, the country is as well illumined as during full moon, and the good folks of Coatbridge have their streets lighted without tax or trouble.

There is something grand in even a distant view of the furnaces but the effect is much enhanced when they are approached to within a hundred yards or so. The flames then have a positively fascinating effect. No production of the pyrotechnist can match their wild gyrations. Their form is ever changing, and the variety of their movements is endless.

Now they shoot far upward, and breaking short off, expire among the smoke; again spreading outward, they curl over the lips of the furnace, and dart through the doorways, as if determined to annihilate the bounds within which they are confined; then they sink low into the crater, and come forth with renewed strength in the shape of great tongues of fire, which sway backward and forward, as if seeking with a fierce eagerness something to devour".

The following was said about Coatbridge in the latter part of the 19th
century: 

"There is no worse place out of hell than that neighbourhood.  At night the groups of blast furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes at most of which smelting is continued on Sundays and weekdays, day and night - without intermission"

Coatbridge Fountain c1890

The fountain is dedicated to Alexander Whitelaw, industrialist and partner in the local firm of Gartsherrie Iron, who in 1872 organised the relocation of the railway line away from the main street to create a civic space.

The original location of the fountain was in front of the Royal Hotel (now Airdrie Savings Bank) at the point of the removed railway approximately 100 yards to the W of where it stands today (c1890); it was apparently moved due to incidents with increasing traffic.
Inscriptions to the granite panels read: `This fountain stands on the site of the level crossing of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch railway which was removed 1872' and `Created by subscription in honour of Alexander Whitelaw Esq (MP') In recognition of the many valuable services rendered by him in the community.
Inaugurated 10th August 1875' When fully working the fountain had metal drinking cups attached to each basin (now infilled) on a chain with constantly flowing drinking water for the public.

The Coatbridge Fountain - as it was in 1950s -The Fire Station is on the right.
If you place the mouse on the pic you can see a photo of the fountain taken in December 2009 by Ray Devlin.  The fountain has been moved (again) to the right corner of main Street - it isn't very conspicuous.

The Coatbridge Fountain - as it was in early 1900s - 
The fountain has moved a few times since then - it is now located near to the left right of the picture - it may move again
note the Baxters bus just coming into view.
 

TODAY
Today the older, heavy industries have almost disappeared and newer light industries are taking their place. Coatbridge has a number of attractions, including Summerlee Heritage Park - "Scotland's noisiest museum" and the Time Capsule leisure complex. It has a public baths, five railway stations - Coatdyke, Sunnyside, Blairhill, Central, & Whifflet.  It has many public parks including the very popular Drumpellier Country Park with it's Peace Garden, two golf courses, one cricket club, an indoor and outdoor sports centre, an indoor bowling centre, a ten pin bowling club, six industrial estates and a modern shopping centre. 


Coatbridge Tinplate work c1890

To quote the latest North Lanarkshire Official Guide: "This vibrant town now boasts unrivalled leisure and entertainment facilities as well as ample shopping opportunities in the town centre precinct and retail parks".

This view is taken from the bottom of the hill at Kirkstyle cottages.  These cottages were named as such because of the proximity to the church Gate - Kirkstyle! C1860.   These cottages are no longer there and the right side of the picture is now occupied by Forsyths Fruit & Veg Merchants. -The Old Monkland Cemetery is on the left.- note the old greenhouse.  Directly opposite the Old Monkland Church Gate is a more modern row of 4 Cottages (c1904) - also formally named Kirkstyle Cottages. (below)

Recent photo 2008 - the Church is hidden by trees - note the cars at the entrance.

baird.jpg (6911 bytes)

This photo show a traffic jam in Baird Street as it was in the early 1900's
- the carts are loading (or unloading?) water and the kids seem to be enjoying it! The church at the top of the hill is Garsherrie Church - now known as St. Andrews

 

 

This is a view of Coatbridge looking towards the Whifflet - The Front Row of the infamous Rosehall Rows is on the left.  

Rosehall Rows looking North towards Whifflet along Back Row

"The rows are the property of Addie & Company, coalmasters. They are a wilderness of single- and double-(mostly single-) roomed houses. They cannot be described justly, and to do so unjustly would flatter the owners. They consist of four long parallel rows of single-storey hovels; most of them have not even rhones to carry the rain from the roofs. Rain-water simply runs down the roof and then runs down the walls, or falls off as chance or the wind decides. There are no coal-cellars; coals are kept below the beds. There are no washhouses. Water is supplied from stands in the alleys. The closet accommodation is hideous. The closets outside are not used by the women. In some of the rows 7 or 8 people occupy a single room. The sanitary conveniences are in a state of revolting filth. A number of these hovels are built back to back. Rents for single apartment, 3s. 9d. per fortnight, deducted at the office of the colliery. The whole place is an eyesore, and positively disgraceful. Surely the Commission can find time to see this place." [Extract from evidence presented to Royal Commission, 25th March 1914]

They were eventually cleared in the  1920s and replaced by the current housing between Coathill Street and Whiffiet Street.

The Rosehall Rows were built for the workforce of Rosehall colliery, which was owned by Robert Addie and Sons. In 1938 their registered office was at 36 Robertson Street, Glasgow. Rosehall was one of the largest collieries in Lanarkshire and just before the Great War had over 1300 underground workers. The coal mine clearly had a long life surviving well into the 20th Century. In 1938 the workforce had declined to 232 with 168 working below ground. The pits closed in 1945.

Shawhead Pits
These pits were run by Robert Addie & sons - most of the miners who worked there lived in the Rosehall Rows. 

The Iron Burgh by Alistair Ewen

Coatbridge was famed as the "iron Burgh". The nineteenth century boom in iron was made possible by David Mushets (1801) discovery of blackband ironstone in the bed of North Calder Water and James Beaumont Neilsons invention of the hot Blast furnace in 1828. These breakthroughs, together with the ample supply of coal and the benefit of the Monkland Canal for transport led to a rapid industrialisation of the area from 1830 onwards.

By the 1860s there were 8 ironworks producing pig iron from banks of large blast furnaces and 12 malleable iron works producing iron rails and plate for engineering firms in Airdrie and Glasgow.

This rapid industrialisation was mirrored by a dramatic increase in population. In the 20 years from 1831 to 1951 the population nearly tripled from 10,000 to just fewer than 30,000. The pressure on housing and living conditions became particularly acute during these years.

Over time local supplies of coal ironstone ran out and new technology made steel cheaper to produce. By the 1920s most of the ironworks had either closed down or switched to rolling steel or tube making. Today only one rolling mill and one tube works remain.


Northburn Steelworks and Waverley Ironworks -  closed in 1967

Gasworks and cooling tower c1966

Gasboard House in Burnbank St c1960

Drumpellier Country Park

The Park was gifted to the town by DWR Carrick Buchanan in 1919.  The Drumpellier estate can be traced back to 1161 and was the site of the original Grange built by the monks of Newbattle Abbey.   The farming Grange, which stood on the ridge near the site of Drumpellier House, was probably built from wood with a thatched roof.

The monks cleared part of the extensive forest which covered the area at the time they cultivated the land extensively and by the 16th  century had leased most of the lands to farmers. After the reformation the monks land was sold to the Hamilton family. 

In 1739 Andrew Buchanan purchased the Drumpellier Estate from the Colquhoun family of Langloan.  In 1741 he built Drumpellier House, a Georgian mansion on the estate.  The mansion was demolished in the late 1960's.  
The park soon became popular with the townspeople of Coatbridge.    During the 1920's and 30's large groups of people from Glasgow arrived by tram and spent their weekends camping by the lochs.  
In 1984 Drumpellier was officially designated as a Country Park and a visitor centre was opened by the then Provost Cairns of Monklands District Council The park is popular for a number of recreational activities including: an adventure playground, guided walks, Jogging, dog walking, picnic areas, water - based activities such as boating, and angling. 
Nowadays the park is popular with passers-by and day trippers from all over,  who arrive by car to take part in the most popular activity by far, feeding the multitude of swans, geese and other birds (strictly against the rules) - or just sitting and watching them.

 

Gartgill Houses c1955!


Drumpellier Home Farm - as it was c1980

Photo by Ray Devlin
The old railway station - converted to Watermans restaurant -
 now empty.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4)

Coatbridge, a town of Old Monkland parish, Lanarkshire. It stands, at 300 feet above sea-level, on the Monkland Canal, and in the midst of a perfect network of railways, being 2 miles W by S of Airdrie, 8 E of Glasgow, and 34 W by S of Edinburgh - Fifty years since it was only a village; and its rapid extension is due to its position in the centre of Scotland's chief mineral field.

The Airdrie and Coatbridge district comprises 21 active collieries; and in or about the town are 5 establishments for the pig-iron manufacture-Calder, Carnbroe, Gartsherrie, Langloan, and Summerlee-of whose 41 furnaces 29 were in blast in 1879, when 8 malleable iron-works had 113 puddling furnaces and 19 rolling mills. Nor are these the only industries; boilers, tubes, tinplate, firebrick and fireclay, bricks and tiles, oakum, and railway waggons being also manufactured.

Coatbridge, in its growth, has absorbed, or is still absorbing, a number of outlying suburbs-Langloan, Gartsherrie, High Sunnyside, Coats, Clifton, Drumpellier, Dundyvan, Summerlee, Whifflet, Coatdyke, etc.; and the appearance of the whole, redeemed though it is by some good architectural features, is far more curious than pleasing. Fire, smoke, and soot, with the roar and rattle of machinery, are its leading characteristics; the flames of its furnaces cast on the midnight sky a glow as if of some vast conflagration.

Wholly almost of recent erection, it has stations on the Caledonian and North British railways, a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and railway telegraph departments, branches of the Clydesdale, National, Royal, and Union banks, 24 insurance agencies, 2 hotels, a literary association, gas-works, a water company conjointly with Airdrie, and a Saturday paper, the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser (1855). A theatre and music hall, seating 2000 spectators, was opened in 1875; and at Langloan is the West End Park, where in 1880 a red granite fountain, 20 feet high, was erected in memory of Janet Hamilton (17951873), the lowly Coatbridge poetess.

Gartsherrie quoad sacra church (1839; 1050 sittings) cost over 3300, and is a prominent object, with a spire 136 feet high; and Coats quoad sacra church (1875; 1000 sittings) is a handsome Gothic edifice, built from endowment by the late George Baird of Stitchell.

Of 4 Free churches-Middle, East, West, and Whifflet-the finest was built in 1875; and other places of worship are a U.P. church (1872), a Congregational church, an Evangelical Union church, a Baptist church, a Wesleyan church (1874), St John's Episcopal church (1843-71), and two Roman Catholic churches, St Patrick's (1848) and St Mary's, Whifflet (1874).

Besides other schools noticed under Old Monkland, Coatbridge public school, Langloan public school, and St Patrick's Roman Catholic school, with respective accommodation for 795,388, and 582 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 751,373, and 456, and grants of 739,10s., 282,14s. 2d., and 347,7s. Pop. (1831) 741, (1841) 1599, (1851) 8564, (1861) 12,006, (1871) 15,802, (1881) 18,425, or, with Whifflet, 20,608.Ord. Sur., sh. 31,1867.

COATBRIDGE
SOME HISTORY and SOME MEMORIES
by William Willis

From 18th Century hamlet's, our Coatbridge town was born.
Our coal and iron empire, a dynasty was formed.
Our Iron Burgh blasted gave employment and pollution.
Coatbridge were now master's of The Industrial Revolution.

Immigrant's from Ireland did come in search of work.
With raw material's running low, unemployment it did lurk.
Baird's blast furnace's would brighten up our sky.
Miner's dream's now darkening , coal in short supply.

A canopy of toxic plume, engulfed our once green town.
Now it's devil's graveyard smog, has made our good Lord frown.
Our population growth was now going off the scale.
The coal-mines and foundries, were all now doomed to fail.

Coatbridge, it's coat of arms, now shrouded in black dust.
Demi Monks now tearful, all our industries have gone bust.
Filthy, huddled housing, The Great Depression is now here.
Cholera and typhoid's rife, diseases that we fear.

Gartsherrie Foundries bing, stand 'bout twenty storey's high.
Man-made mountain slag-heaps, they now blacken out our sky.
Front page news from town, where sweat and blood are given....
.reads."Gartsherrie Steelwork's has closed down." .....It's 1967.

Regeneration and the 70's, new industries in town.
Electronic's and engineering works, took unemployment down.
R.B.Tennent, Martin Black, still making steel and wire.
And just like the nearby Ravenscraig, their time it did expire.

Coatbridge sports and leisure, Albion Rovers from Cliftonhill.
Townhead's Municipal Course, many teeing-off there still.
The toffs they liked Drumpellier, picturesque and velvet lawns.
Take a stroll down The Daisy, see the water, feed the swans.

Public Houses there are plenty, run the full length of our town.
From Big Owens down to Silky's Bar but many closing down.
Sportsmans Bar and Garfields, Vulcan Bar, Le Club de France.
Scruffy Murphys, Galleria then Electric Gardens for a dance.

Fitba-studs fae Foster Sports, bike parts fae King Fergies.
Food fae Fine Fare, sweets fae Woolies, school stuff fae John Menzies.
Now most shops in Coatbridge Town have gone into decay.
And now there's only pound shops, moneys spent at Faraday.

Take the weans to West End Park or The Heritage Museum.
Locomotives, working railways, children queuing up to see them.
All these memories I remember and the history. It is fact.
So Monklands keep your chin up, keep our heritage intact.

So Coatbridge Town, I'll say goodbye and put away my pen.
I'll maybe write more verses but I really can't say when.
P.S. I forgot to mention, in this poem twists and turns.
A big well done to Boxing Champ. Our one and only Ricky Burns.

Some nearby attractions

Coatbridge today is a thriving bustling town. The old industries have gone. The air is clean - the dust has gone.
 

 

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