London Road runs all the way from Glasgow Cross to its junction with Hamilton Road, far to the east. It has developed over the centuries into one continuous route, but it was not always so.
London Road from Glasgow Cross to Bridgeton Cross is a composite of old country paths which led from the town, at the edges of the Royalty boundary, and early 19th century developments within the town itself. The oldest pathway ran from the south end of the Burnt Barns (now Ross Street) eastwards to the Camlachie Burn at which place Bridgeton Cross was eventually formed. The first part passed through the lands of Craignestock and was known as the Craignestock Lone or sometimes as the Pleasants. Beyond this (near present day Green Street) it was the Barrowfield Lone which led to the Barrowfield* estate and mansion house. In the earliest days, these were very irregular paths through countryside.
A description of Craignestock Lone illustrates this; a narrow Country Road, uncausewayed, with many Sloughs and Ruts, between old skranky Hedges (wholly unbuilt), out to the present Old Dalmarnock Road, off which last the Gateway to Barrowfield House opened. This bad Road was called "The Craignestock Lone" and was so narrow that Carts could scarcely pass each other. (Glasghu Facies, p188-)
McIntosh (1902) provides a descripion of Craignestock Lone after some development had taken place; It had previously been a footpath known as The Pleasants, and it was interpersed with self-contained houses, which had gardens back and front. It was at that time nine or ten feet above its present level, and culminated in a hillock about fifteen feet high near its eastern extremity, where stood the toll-house. The Green reached in at this point with a clump of trees whose branches overhung the roadway...
Beyond the Camlachie Burn, the main route veered south east towards the Dalmarnock ford, but there may also have been something of an eastward continuation through the Barrowfield lands towards the Clyde Iron Works and beyond. The whole - Burnt Barns, Craignestock Lone and Barrowfield Lone - provided an alternate route from the Gallowgate to reach Dalmarnock ford and from there to Rutherglen and other points south.
By the end of the 18th century the lands to the south of Craignestock Lone had been acquired by Glasgow Town Coucil and incorporated into Glasgow Green as the Gallowgate (or Calton) Green. In 1793 the Town Council took steps to feu this part of the Green after enabling legislation had been obtained. To encourage interest, the general condition of the route was greatly improved; it was widened, straightened where necessary, and a pavement laid out on its southern side.
The new improved thoroughfare as far as Green Street was then named Great Hamilton Street after the Lord Provost, John Hamilton of Northpark, and opened for feuing in 1813. Beyond Green Street, Barrowfield Road as far as the toll bridge at the Camlachie Burn later had its name changed to Canning Street in honour of George Canning (1770-1827), Prime Minister for a mere 4 months before his death.
This enhanced road was seen as providing much easier access to the southern part of Glasgow since it connected with a lane leading there from the western end of Great Hamilton Street, and which was eventually to become Greendyke Street. Thus, it by-passed the difficult and narrow passage over Gallowgate Bridge and particularly facilitated the movement of coal to the town and Broomielaw from the collieries to the east.
The connection between Glasgow Cross and Great Hamilton Street was not achieved until London Street was opened up in 1824 by the Town Council. Thus, this part of the road is a 19th century creation and not, as one might assume, one of the more ancient Glasgow throughfares which radiate from the Cross. It was actually opened up into the Saltmarket through very densely populated land, which was acquired for the purpose at the high cost of £50 per square yard. To raise the necessary finance the Council held a Lottery, which turned out to be illegal. Parliament considered the use to which the funds were being put and decided against taking any action on the condition that there would be no repeat of the offence.
It had not actually been planned that the new street would connect with Great Hamilton Street. Monteith Row had been started a few years previously, in 1819. It had been intended by Glasgow Town Council that the new street would connect with that, run through Greenhead to Barrowfield and link with New London Road beyond the Barrowfield Toll. In this way a more direct and less congested route to the east would be provided for access and egress to the town centre, and take more pressure off the Gallowgate. However, the influential proprietors of the new and prestigious terrace did not wish to have their peace and tranquility ruined by the proposed routing of traffic, and successfully opposed the plan.
As a consequence, the route took a sharp turn to the north at Monteith Row through an old footpath which had built up over the years and was known locally as Balaam's Pass. This had been a route to brickworks in the lands of Merkdailly at one time before Charlotte Street was opened up. The eastern portion was officially known for a time as London Lane then Charlotte Lane before disappearing beneath the new major road. Thus was connection finally made to Great Hamilton Street and on eastwards. This awkward twist to London Road exists to this day, with this explanation remaining part of local folk-lore. The actual name of London Road was not given to the entire route until as late as the 1920s.
Beyond the Barrowfield Toll (Bridgeton Cross) the route was formally continued on the pathway running eastwards towards the Clyde Iron Works and from the beginning of the 19th century this section was known as New London Road. It was intended to further improve communication with the coalfields and provide a new route to the south, as the name implies. It too became built up as the city expanded its boundaries with various incorporations. From its junction with Helenvale Street to the then city boundary the route was elevated into a dual carriageway with the removal of the tramlines in the early 1960s. Improvements continued thereafter and it is now a modern dual carriageway all the way to its conclusion. Despite this, it still retains a far more rural and open aspect than the western section.
For a time in the 1970s, the section from Bridgeton Cross to Springfield Road was condemned as an eyesore in the press due to the advanced state of dereliction of the buildings lining it. At that time it was still a main road to and from the south, linking as it eventually did to the M73 motorway. It was held to be a poor advertisement for those visiting the city. Since then, significant improvements have been made and a considerable part of the roadside is landscaped and tree-lined, despite the brunt of traffic having been routed to the M8 further north. In particular, the inner city part of the road has a far more suburban appearance with the canyons of tenements now gone.
MacIntosh, H. (1902); "The Origin and History of Glasgow Streets." James Hedderwick & Sons Ltd., Glasgow.
© 2007 Gordon Adams
NOTES: Updated for 1st March, 2010.
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