Helen Rose Outdoors – April 2021
As lockdown continues due to the virus, I am still limited to my home area and mainly parks in and around Glasgow. Over the winter, the Glasgow Ramblers organised a project to walk in all of the parks and open spaces in and around Glasgow. One of the organised walks was to Springburn Park led by Ian who knows the area well. I was inspired to write about it by a family member who knew it when she was young visiting her Grandmother who lived near the park so it was a trip down memory lane. The old photo is from Springburn Community Council (https://www.facebook.com/RestoreSpringburnParkandWinterGardens/photos/ )
Springburn Park is situated on the crown of Balgrayhill, one of the highest areas in the North of Glasgow. At its peak you will be standing 364 feet above sea level and have impressive views of Ben Lomond, the Trossachs, the Kilpatrick Hills, the Campsies and Kilsyth Hills, and the hills of Argyllshire. If the weather is kind the peak of Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran can be seen.
Sir James Reid
Sir James Reid (1823-1894) lived nearby at Belmont House and contributed to the park’s development. He was born in Kilmaurs, near Glasgow, became a blacksmith’s assistant then moved to Greenock as an engineer with Scott, Sinclair & Co., becoming their chief assistant in 1850. The following year, he became manager of the Hyde Park Locomotive Works at Anderston, Glasgow, and its sole partner in 1876 after buying out its owner, Walter M. Neilson. As a local benefactor, he donated funds for the erection of the bandstand and Winter Gardens in Springburn Park and served on the boards and committees of several institutions including Springburn School Board. He was elected Lord Dean of Guild in 1893, President of the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 1882-84, and served as a Justice of the Peace for the counties of Lanark and Perth. An enthusiastic art collector, he donated many of his paintings to Glasgow and served as President of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, from 1891-94 He died whilst playing golf at St. Andrews. The statue is dedicated to him.
North British Locomotive Company
The North British Locomotive Company was created in 1903 through the merger of three Glasgow Locomotive Manufacturing companies including Hyde Park Works in Springburn creating the largest locomotive manufacturing company in Europe and the British Empire. The main factory was in Springburn at the Hyde Park Works. A new central Administration and Drawing Office for the combined company was completed across the road from the Hyde Park Works on Flemington Street by James Miller in 1909, later sold to Glasgow Corporation in 1961 to become the main campus of North Glasgow College (now Glasgow Kelvin College) and a new building has been erected opposite for the college of an unusual design where a wing tapers to a very narrow point.
As Springburn was the centre for locomotive production for export all over the world, a mural has been put on the gable end of a tenement block nearby although the background looks more like the Alps than Scotland! South African Railways locomotive 3007 was built in Springburn and came back on the deck of a ship to Glasgow in 2007 to its new home at Riverside Museum. SAR loco 3007 is the largest object in Glasgow Museums’ collection, and required extensive conservation work to prepare the engine and tender for their new Riverside residence.
Unicorn Doulton Fountain
The Unicorn Doulton Fountain was a grand affair, with a design derived from the traditional Scottish mercat cross. It was commissioned from Doulton in 1912 by Sir Hugh Reid of the North British Locomotive Company as the centrepiece of the new Balgray Pleasure Park, and once featured a base ornamented with portraits of Sir William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns, as well as a relief of the steamships Comet and Lusitania, and sea monster water spouts. Above them was a tall column surmounted by an Ionic capital with four female heads between its volutes and other motifs representing the home nations of the UK and surmounted by a unicorn holding a shield bearing the Saltire. In the 1970s, the derelict Doulton Ware fountain was moved from the Balgray Recreation Ground to the centre of the park first used as the site for the Bandstand, which had been scrapped in 1968. The fountain was seen to have inhibited the best use of available space at the Balgray Recreation Ground, so was dismantled and only the column was salvaged and re-erected in a flowerbed at Springburn Park. The fate of its base and reliefs is unknown, although it has been suggested that the latter were stolen by vandals. A fate suffered by the unicorn as late as August 2003 or that the entire base was buried where it stood (the stolen unicorn was eventually returned). The remains of the fountain are B-listed.
The Winter Gardens were built by Glasgow Corporation in 1899-1900 as a condition for accepting a £12,000 gift from Sir Hugh Reid to finance the construction of the nearby Springburn Public Halls. The Winter Gardens were much loved by generations of Springburn residents for their displays of exotic plants and for the concerts and exhibitions held there. Classified as an A-Listed building, the Winter Gardens have remained derelict for the last 20 years due to major structural problems. Sadly, the Springburn Public Halls have now been demolished. The Springburn Winter Gardens Trust want to restore the beautiful Winter Gardens for future generations of Glaswegians.
The existing Mosesfield House stands near the site of the old Mosesfield House, occupied from 1790 by William Moses a merchant who made his fortune from selling sedan chairs. The new Mosesfield House is a two storey ashlar house, built in 1838 by the renowned architect David Hamilton for a bookseller called James Duncan. It later became the Manse of one of Springburn’s churches. George Johnston, the minister’s son, built the first motor car ever produced in Scotland at Mosesfield yard in October 1895. With finance from Sir William Arroll, Arroll-Johnston motor cars were produced for the next 30 years. Mosesfield House was presented to the Corporation in 1904 by Hugh Reid and the lower part of the house served as a museum until just before the Second World War.
One of the most charming features of the park is the Peace Garden dedicated to the late Lord Provost, Bob Innes which features beautifully laid out gardens and heather beds, with memorial seats, pergolas and a ‘Peace Pole’, donated by Japanese atomic bomb survivors.
Ponds and Rockery
The bridge in the park has one of Scotland’s most beautiful rockeries. The recently refurbished rockery was previously the site of an old quarry and the Glasgow Corporation created the rockery following the purchase of the land in 1892. It is one of the few reminders that Springburn was once a mining and quarrying area.
The Swan Pond and the Pond fringed by bamboo are two ponds where waterfowl live and breed and the City Council has recently created a third pond by naturalising a redundant boating pond. Herons are regularly sighted near these ponds. Mute swans, coots, moorhens, mallards, little grebe and tufted duck all nest in the islands. There are also less common visitors such as American Wigeon.
Near the Park was a house garden devoted to herons which was very cleverly set out and fun to look at.
Many thanks to Ian for leading us on this fascinating walk full of historical interest but the weather could have been better!
Coming attractions; Glasgow Graffiti. University of Glasgow.
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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