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Glasgow History

The exact origins of the city of Glasgow are still a matter of debate amongst historians. However, it is generally acknowledged that in the sixth century the Christian missionary Kentigern – who would become Saint Mungo – founded a monastery around the area where the Molendinar Burn flowed into the Clyde. In 1175, King William awarded an official charter to the town. In the mid-1400s, the first University (and the second in Scotland) was founded on the site of the ancient monastery. By 1492, Glasgow had achieved city status and was a major population centre within Scotland.

By the early 1700s, Glasgow had become a major port city; in 1770 the Clyde was dredged and jetties built along its banks, allowing larger vessels to dock within the city centre. In the 1830s, as the industrial revolution took hold, Glasgow became a key centre for glass, paper, textile, cotton and chemical manufacturing and distribution.

The 1860s through to the turn of the twentieth century saw Glasgow become the shipbuilding centre of the world. This was partially due to the location, with the Clyde being a perfect natural shipbuilding centre, and partially due to the large increase in the population, attributable in part to mass immigration from Ireland. Over the next century, many of the world’s most famous ships, such as the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth II, were built on the banks of the Clyde.

In addition, a program of building lasting some half a century from the 1870s saw the development of a large number of museums, galleries, and libraries. Infrastructure developments resulted in Glasgow being one of the first cities in Europe with a regulated telephone system, water supply, and gas supply. Great exhibitions of international repute were held in Kelvingrove Park in 1888 and 1901 – the greatest ever held outside London.

Over the last 20 years Glasgow has undergone tremendous change. From the 1970s through to the present day, the industrial focus of the city has moved from the heavy industries such as shipbuilding (although this still carries on today in a much reduced capacity), to service-based industries such as IT and tourism.

Whereas in previous decades the centre of Glasgow was considered unsafe at night, a radical transformation has led to Glasgow being one of the safest cities in Britain. The ongoing development of the main shopping precincts and streets in Glasgow, as well as an emerging cafe culture and late night opening, has made Glasgow a pleasant environment in which to work, live, shop and be entertained. In addition, the people of Glasgow have a growing reputation of being amongst the friendliest and most helpful of any British city.

Glasgow has, for many years, been a world leader in design and the arts, and several galleries and museums celebrate the work of artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Exhibitions within Glasgow that explore this subject, such as The Lighthouse, are well worth visiting.

Many of Glasgow’s old housing problems have been eradicated, by a variety of means. Some warehouses and tenement buildings have been turned into studio flats and other modern accommodation; others have been pulled down, with shops, offices and new flats taking their place. As the transport system has been upgraded in Glasgow, other estates have been removed to make way for rail lines and motorway links; Glasgow is one of the few United Kingdom cities in which a motorway allows access straight to the centre. Other estates, such as the Gorbals, have undergone extensive rebuilding and are now much more welcoming areas of the city. These, and many more developments, helped Glasgow to become the 1999 UK City of Architecture and Design.