13. Calton and Bridgeton

Tenements and Factories

After his second marriage in 1859, to Janet Walker McKinlay, William Wilkie the Second moved from Great Hamilton Street to a new home at 8 William Street, less than a quarter of a mile away. It was a tenement building which housed at least two other families Donald MacPhail, a spirit merchant, and John Easton, a skinner. Next door, at number six, was John Crawford, whose occupation is unknown. At number four, Robert Laird, a grocer; at number two, Marion Allison, a greengrocer. At the end of the street, where it ran into Greenhead Street, were the woollen mills of James Templeton, established in 1839. These mills were the most impressive in Glasgow, having been built to imitate the style of the Doge's Palace in Venice. Also in William Street the much criticised power-loom weaving factory of Dougal MacPhail and Company had been located a few years earlier.

The MacPhail’s had also had spinning mills in Greenhead Street, as well as their own mansion at number 47 Greenhead Street. This mansion was later sold to the Buchanan Institute and used as a school for the “maintenance, education and industrial training of destitute boys”. This education and training included reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as navigation, gymnastics, tailoring, shoemaking and carpentry in order to fit them for the navy, army or merchant and marine service, as well as provide them with training to enable them to emigrate to the colonies .

A few years later, at 71 Greenhead Street, the Logan and Johnston School was established to provide education for destitute children, preferably those with the surnames of Logan or Johnston. By 1878 there were 120 girls receiving education in reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing and knitting . It is of interest to note the difference in the education given to boys and girls at these two institutions.

Despite the variety of tenements, shops and mills found in William and Greenhead Streets, most were relatively new and were generally regarded as being of good design and construction. Greenhead Street became one of the more desirable residential locations of Bridgeton. It has been described as “Bridgeton's West End“ .

Originally Greenhead Street had extended from its connection to William Street to the corner of John Street where MacPhail’s built their mansion and spinning mills. The land to the south was owned by Alexander Allen, owner of a West Indian Sugar Plantation, and James and Archibald Templeton, owners of the Carpet Factory at the end of William Street. Their land was sold and subdivided during the 1850s and 1860s. Several new mills were built and good quality tenements were constructed along the new extension of Greenhead Street, facing the Green . William Wilkie the Second moved to 101 Greenhead Street around 1870, almost as soon as the new development was completed. The location was surely an indication of the success of his business.

At 101 Greenhead Street, sharing the tenement with the Wilkies, were Thomas Lochead, the Reverend Robert Wood, David Patrick, Moses Hetherington, Peter Herriot, John Johnston, and Isabella Dow, a teacher at the Bridgeton Public School. With the closure of many of the Greenhead Street mills following a shortage of cotton from America during the civil war, the area became a desirable residential location.
William's younger brother, Conal, the stationer and bookseller who had his business next door to William and John at 27 Stevenson Street, moved from the family home at 22 James Street to the newly constructed Alexandra Terrace at 125 Greenhead Street during the 1870s .

In 1851, when the Wilkie family lived at 22 James Street, Calton, there were eight members of the family in the tenement. Similarly in the early 1880s when William the Second lived at 101 Greenhead Street, the family consisted of eight members, including Janet Livingston, their domestic servant. Despite these numbers their apartment would not have been regarded as being overcrowded. During the earlier decades of the century there had been reports of severe overcrowding in the Calton area when many families were forced to share the same rooms. But in 1866 all houses of three rooms or less were measured and “ticketed”. A metal plate showing the size and permitted number of occupants was fixed to the front of the buildings . The tenements occupied by the Wilkies probably had sufficient space for each family.

The architectural style of the tenements was often remarkably similar from the outside. This was partly planned by local government authorities who desired a uniform streetscape, but later the monotony of the tenements aroused much criticism. Internally, however, the tenements varied greatly in design. The cheaper tenements had a minimum number of rooms and facilities and usually shared stairs and toilets. More expensive tenements offered as much space and amenities as a well-designed house. We might assume that William Wilkie the Second moved to better lodgings with each move of address. The Greenhead Street address was certainly a desirable location and was probably one of the higher quality tenements.
The physical surroundings of home and neighbourhood are significant factors in looking at occupational history. The industrial revolution brought the opportunity for many to become upwardly mobile from their working class origins. Indicators of such upward mobility were, and still are, often seen as the type of house one could afford and the address of that residence. Once the urge for upward mobility has become implanted, satisfaction with one's work is frequently related to the material indicators of home, address, and possessions. Although there is no way of knowing just how much William Wilkie the Second was influenced by any desire to material “improvement” the indications of changing address and expanding business suggest that the process was taking place.

Occupational Diversity in Calton:

The diversity of residences and businesses in Calton continued for over a century and is reflected in the Calton Song, written by children at the St.James' Primary School in Calton in 1976 .

Ye canny whack thi Calton
fur noise and durt and smell
The streets ur full u bizzies,
Wae plenti tales tae tell.
Aw the wimen grass oan ye,
thi men can slag ye tae.
Ye canny whack thi Calton
An ats aw ave tae sae.

Corner of Stevenson and Green Streets, Calton 1844Stevenson Street was a very busy street of shops and other businesses in 1859 when William, John and Conal Wilkie had their businesses there. The 1859 Glasgow Post Office Directory lists over sixty businesses. These included 6 wine and spirit merchants, 1 dressmaker, 1 china merchant, 4 tinsmiths, 1 pawnbroker, 5 victuallers, 4 drapers, 2 milliners, 5 grocers, 2 leather merchants, 3 booksellers, the Calton Police Station, 1 baker, 1 shoemaker, 1 surgeon, 1 butcher, 3 painters, 2 confectioners, 1 slater, 5 provision merchants, 1 clothier, 2 eating houses, 1 furnisher, 3 fleshers, 1 green grocer, 1 tobacconist, and the Calton Accommodation Company.

Green Street Calton 1950sMost streets in Calton and Bridgeton consisted of a diversity of commercial and residential buildings. James Street, where the Wilkies lived for many years was similar in its variety of single houses, tenements, workshops and commercial premises. Such diversity appears to have been the pattern for many of the streets in the district.

Until Calton was incorporated into the City of Glasgow there was no control over the standard of the buildings. The early three storied tenements, usually of brick, were built as close to each other and to the mills as possible . Later buildings were subject to better controls over the standards of amenities and comfort. The Wilkie's house in James Street was possibly one of the earlier tenements, although new at the time they moved into the district. The children of the family gradually moved to better quality housing as they married and as their respective occupations provided the resources to do so. As Smart observes, “although many parts of Calton were undoubtedly overcrowded and disease ridden, the entire population of the area by no means belonged to what the Victorians termed ‘the lower orders’” .


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