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Kilbowie Road, Clydebank - - 731900.jpg
Kilbowie Road, Clydebank
Grid reference: NS500700
Location: 55°53’59"N, 4°24’2"W
Population: 45,210  (2001)
Post town: Clydebank
Postcode: G81 & G60
Dialling code: 0141 & 01389
Local Government
Council: West Dunbartonshire
West Dunbartonshire

Clydebank is a town in Dunbartonshire on the north bank of the River Clyde downstream from Glasgow. Clydebank largely fills the gap between Glasgow and Dumbarton and is often considered part of "Greater Glasgow". The town's origin is in wharfs and shipbuilding, serving the vast Clyde traffic generated by Glasgow, and received a name as a town when the Clydebank police burgh was incorporate on 18 November 1886.

Clydebank is an amalgamation the villages of Duntocher, Hardgate and Faifley which, nevertheless, have their own distinct town centres and their own, strong local identities separate from that of the town, and growing it has encroached upon more of the surrounding lands of the county to become what it is today and to become contiguous with Glasgow.

The Clyde Shopping Centre with its bridge over the canal


The lands now forming Clydebank were originally within the parish of Old Kilpatrick from the 12th century, which latter place remains downstream at the very northwestern edge of the continuous urban area.

The Antonine Wall begins at Old Kilpatrick and runs eastwards through Duntocher, where can be found also the site of one of the forts built at regular intervals along the wall. In 2008, the Antonine Wall was designated as a World Heritage Site, as part of a multinational Heritage Site encompassing the borders of the Roman Empire.[1]

Before 1870, the area which later became Clydebank was largely rural, and agricultural. It consisted of some villages (Hardgate, Faifley, Duntocher, Dalmuir, Old Kilpatrick), farms and estates, with some small scale mining operations (coal, limestone and whinstone), several cotton mills and some small shipbuilding yards.[2]

At the start of the 1870s, however, the growing trade and industry in Glasgow left the city's wharves overwhelmed and the Clyde Navigation Trustees needed additional space. They used their statutory compulsorily purchase powers to acquire the area occupied by the Clyde Bank Iron Shipyard in Govan, which belonged to J & G Thomson. Forced to find another site for their shipyard, J & G Thomson looked at various sites further down the River Clyde, and eventually bought from the estates of Miss Hamilton of Cochno some suitably flat land on the "West Barns o'Clyde" on the north bank of the river, opposite the point where the River Cart flows into the River Clyde. The land was situated close to the Forth and Clyde Canal and to the main road running west out Glasgow, and so was conveniently positioned for transporting materials and workers to and from the shipyard. The position opposite the mouth of the River Cart was to also to prove important as the shipyard grew, since it enabled the company to build much bigger, heavier ships than would otherwise have been possible that far up the Clyde. Construction of the new shipyard started on 1 May 1871.[3]

Initially, the company transported workers to and from the shipyard by paddle steamer (passenger steamers were commonly used by people to travel up and down the Clyde well into the second half of the 20th century). However it was not ideal, having to ship workers to and fro all the time, so the company also started building blocks of tenement flats to house the workers. These first blocks of housing became known unofficially as "Tamson's (Thomson's) Buildings", after the name of the company.[3]

Gradually, as the shipyard grew, so did the cluster of buildings grow nearby. More houses, a school, a large shed which served as canteen, community hall and church (known as the "Tarry Kirk"), then finally two proper churches in 1876 and 1877. As the resident population grew, so did the needs and problems associated with a growing population. Other manufacturers and employers moved into the area, and by 1880 approximately 2,000 men were living and working there.[3]

In 1882 a railway line was built running from Glasgow out to the new shipyard (the Glasgow, Yoker and Clydebank Railway). Then, between 1882 and 1884, the Singer Manufacturing Company built a massive sewing machine factory in Kilbowie, less than half a mile north of the Clyde Bank shipyard. More people moved into the area, and finally, in 1886, the local populace petitioned for the creation of a police burgh, on the basis that the area now qualified as a "populous place". The petition was granted, and the new town was named after the shipyard which had given birth to it - Clydebank.[3]

Political movements

In the early 20th century the town was synonymous with the Scottish socialist movements led by the shipyard workers along the river Clyde, giving rise to the title of "Red Clydeside".

The 11,000 workers at the largest factory of Singer sewing machines went on strike in March - April 1911, ceasing to work in solidarity of 12 female colleagues protesting against work process reorganization. Following the end of the strike, Singer fired 400 workers, including all strike leaders and purported members of the IWGB, among whom Arthur McManus, who later went on to become the first chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain between 1920 and 1922.[4]

Labour unrest, in particular by women and unskilled labour, greatly increased between 1910-1914 in Clydeside, with four times more days on strike than between 1900 and 1910. During these four years preceding First World War, membership of those affiliated to the Scottish Trades Union Congress rose from 129,000 in 1909 to 230,000 in 1914.[4]

It is the generally held belief of residents that Clydebank has far more common interests with other urban towns and districts of the "Greater Glasgow" region than they do with detached rural areas of Dumbartonshire, but many residents feel is important to uphold their Dumbartonshire identity to keep Clydebank's identity distinct from encroachment by the adjacent City of Glasgow, with which there is no discernable boundary.


Although the town currently has a fairly moderate official unemployment rate, at around 6%, however, 20% of the population are described by Scottish National Statistics as "employment deprived".[5]

A major employer in the town was John Brown & Company shipyard, which built several well-known ships, including the Lusitania, HMS Hood, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth 2. Later it became part of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, which was the scene of a famous "work-in" in the 1970s.

Singer Corporation was also a major industry in Clydebank, giving thousands of jobs to the townsfolk but has since closed, with Clydebank Business Park where its famous building used to stand (next to where Singer railway station is now).


  1. "(Press release) Antonine Wall Gains World Heritage Site Status". Antonine Wall. 7 July 2008. 
  2. Barclay, The Rev. Matthew (1845). "Parish of Old Kilpatrick (Presbytery of Dumbarton, Synod of Glasgow and Ayr)". The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1834-1845. Volume 8. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons. pp. 15–35. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hood, John (1988). The History of Clydebank. The Parthenon Publishing Group Ltd. pp. 3–5. ISBN 1850701474. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Singer strike 1911, Glasgow Digital Library

Further reading

Outside links