Historic Glasgow maps revealed in new book

The first ever map of the Clydesdale in 1596
The first ever map of the Clydesdale in 1596
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A NEW book by a Scottish librarian looks back at 500 years worth of maps from Scotland’s largest city.

Glasgow has been sporadically mapped over the centuries - nowhere near as much as the capital city.

The last great private survey of the city in 1842

The last great private survey of the city in 1842

One of the first, and arguably the most extensive, maps of Glasgow was commissioned by the British Army.

After the Jacobite Rebellion ended on the Battlefield of Culloden, the Hanoverian establishment realised they knew very little about the lands they were supposed to be ruling, so were resolved to correct this.

John Moore, author of the new book Glasgow: Mapping the City, was originally approached after a similar idea for Edinburgh was proposed.

Mr Moore was quite intrigued as, while early Edinburgh and its transformation over the years had been well documented, there was very little on Glasgow.

The Empire Exhibition map of Glasgow in 1938

The Empire Exhibition map of Glasgow in 1938

As the librarian of the University of Glasgow for nearly 38 years, Mr Moore was well acquainted with the city. Instead of just picking maps in chronological order, he wanted to pick the ones which told a story about the city.

“There are a surprising number of unique maps to Glasgow,” Mr Moore said,

“There’s a plan of what was the Royal Botanic Gardens of Glasgow.

“It opens up a whole story about how significant and innovative Glasgow was. It was opened by Thomas Hopkirk, a local plant keeper. He realised Glasgow needed to open this garden as a lot of plants that were kept were for medicinal purposes. It was so successful that the university chipped in £2,000 - approximately £35,000 in modern money - so the students could use the plants. Glasgow wasn’t second best - it was up there with the big boys.”

One of the other more colourful maps is from 1884.

It highlighted all the hotels and public houses in town - essentially where you could get a drink. And while the churches were also noted on the map, they were coloured in black.

The public houses were in red, and stand out greatly on the map.

This was no doubt done on purpose as the Provost at the time was a strict teetotaller, and no doubt wanted to highlight how Glasgow was succumbing to the “demon drink”.

The maps paint a vivid painting of the history of the city, including the 1864 Sulman’s bird eye view. While the map would have been created in the years before, the Clyde is shown to be full of Victorian ships.

However, when the map was actually published, the Clyde was near empty as the British were providing a naval blockade during the American Civil War.

Mr Moore said that the underlying theme was to depict the relationships between individuals and the environment they lived in, through the story of the maps, regardless of the images selected.

Glasgow: Mapping the City is available from Birlinn Limited for £30.