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Overspill Policy and the Glasgow Slum Clearance Project in the Twentieth Century: From One Nightmare to Another?

by Lauren Paice, Department of History, Oxford Brookes University



This article aims to investigate the methods used by the authorities in Glasgow to try and reduce the inner-city population, many of whom resided in Victorian slum tenements. The study will focus on the overspill solution implemented in the post-war years, and in particular on the peripheral housing estates. These housing estates were to offer sanitary living conditions and a new way of life to those displaced from the slums under the city’s regeneration movements, yet problems rapidly surfaced within them. By investigating both the planners’ intentions for the housing schemes and the reality of life there for many residents, this article hopes to offer an in-depth analysis as to whether or not the tenants once again found themselves living in slum conditions.

Other studies conducted on the regeneration of Glasgow often gloss over the issue of the peripheral estates; this study places these estates as the focus of the investigation and hopes to illustrate exactly why they have come in for widespread criticism since their construction.

KEYWORDS: Urban regeneration, slum clearances, Glasgow, overspill, housing estates



The four main housing estates which lie on Glasgow’s periphery have, over the course of their existence, attracted international attention. Yet more often than not, the publicity afforded to Pollok, Drumchapel, Castlemilk and Easterhouse has been negative in nature. As recently as December 2000, 27 percent of tenants in Easterhouse, and 24 percent of tenants in Drumchapel, believed that their houses should be destroyed (Housing Tenants Survey, 2000: 3). Why is this the case, when these houses were built as recently as forty years ago? This article aims to investigate the methods used by the authorities in Glasgow to try and reduce the inner city population – many of whom resided in Victorian slum tenements – and will focus on the overspill solution implemented in the post-war years, particularly in the peripheral housing estates.

While much has been written about post-war accommodation and housing policies (Dunleavy, 1981; O'Hara, 2006), the number of sources dedicated solely to the issue of Glasgow's overspill policy and the peripheral housing estates is decidedly fewer. A vast number of sources – such as those by Devine (1999), Gauldie (1974) and Brennan (1959) – highlight the growth of Britain, and more specifically that of Glasgow, into a leading industrial centre, and the problems which accompanied this growth. Other historians, such as Pacione (1995), Keating (1998) and Rodger (1989), have examined the decisions taken by the Glasgow city planners, and the subsequent policies which materialised. Although mentioned in many sources, the subject is too often glossed over under the wider topic of urban regeneration. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to find a major publication that deals exclusively with the successes and failures of the peripheral schemes. Whilst still a part of the larger process of urban regeneration, the importance of the Glasgow overspill policy means it should command a certain amount of dedicated literature, yet this is not currently the case. This study aims to address this issue and to evaluate whether the Glasgow slum clearance programme completely ameliorated the poor living conditions of many thousands of working class citizens, or whether the problem was simply transferred elsewhere.



The vast urban population growth experienced from the early nineteenth century onwards as a result of the processes of industrialisation created an urgent need for more housing. Yet, as Gauldie comments, 'even at the beginning of the century the pace of population growth was too fast for the builders and scores of families were crowding into houses built to accommodate one or two' (Gauldie, 1974: 73). While one cannot deny that house building in Glasgow occurred, overcrowding remained a long-term problem due to the ill-distribution of housing between income groups. As the wealthy members of society moved to the suburbs, the poorest of the working class masses remained packed into high-density areas, with numbers rising every year due to the sheer number of migrants pouring into the city (Devine, 1999: 334). Evidence of this situation in Glasgow was highlighted by Edwin Chadwick, who mentioned that in Blackfriars’ Parish – the most densely populated area of the city in 1841 – the population had increased by 40 percent since 1831 while the number of new dwellings had not increased at all (Chadwick, 1842: 189). Moreover, the demolition of old buildings in an attempt to improve public health proved detrimental to the overcrowding issue, as the City Improvement Trust had displaced 25,375 people by 1876, but by 1902 had built only 1646 new houses (Gauldie, 1974: 86).

The population growth in Glasgow was at a higher rate compared to that of other centres of population such as Birmingham or London, largely due to immigration from the Highlands and from Ireland. Indeed, in 1861, after a wave of immigration from Ireland, 63.2% of the Glasgow population lived at densities of more than two persons per room and by 1921 around 40% of the population still lived at this density (Keating, 1988: 4). A crucial explanation as to why the Glasgow situation was so unique was that the city itself had little scope for expansion. Due to the shipping trade it was impractical to bridge the river Clyde, and the city was effectively blocked in from all sides. While the Campsie Hills to the north of the city were too steep to build on, boggy moorlands occupied the eastern, southern and south-western areas beyond the city, and the built-up area of Glasgow already joined such places as Paisley and Renfrew (Brennan, 1959: 25). Consequently, by the mid-nineteenth century a huge urban population was being contained in a tiny area in Central Glasgow, creating 'a press of human beings more closely packed together than in any other city in Europe' (Pacione, 1995: 115).

Glasgow in the 1920s and 1930s had a higher level of slums of the worst kind and much more overcrowding than anywhere else in Britain (Damer, 1989: 76). By 1945, around 700,000 people lived on 1800 acres, with one seventh of Scotland’s population compressed into three square miles of central Glasgow (Pacione, 1995: 161). Images 1-3 of the city highlight the severity of the problem faced by Glasgow Corporation in tackling the overcrowded slums issue. By this time the existence of a housing crisis in Glasgow was universally acknowledged. Collective agreement on a solution was harder to find, however, and opinions were divided over whether regeneration would be able to take place within existing municipal boundaries (Keating, 1988: 17).

Two conflicting schools of thought arose, with the then City Engineer Robert Bruce and the Glasgow Corporation leading the field in believing that Glasgow could make improvements and re-house all citizens by filling in the less densely populated areas of the city, and rebuilding where necessary at even higher densities. On the other hand, a 1946 report by the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee (CVRPAC) argued the need for a green belt of unbuilt land around Glasgow, with a population overspill to new towns and areas beyond it. This mirrored the view at the time of the British Planning profession, and by 1951, following the defeat of Bruce’s plans and a complete lack of available sites within the city which were suitable for building, the Corporation now recognised that population must be transferred away from Glasgow.
















Image 1: Slum Housing at Charlotte Lane, Central Area of Glasgow, January 1947 (Mitchell Library: a)



Image 2: Slum housing at Lawmoor Street, Hutchesontown, June 1947 (Mitchell Library: b)



Image 3: Slum Housing at Crown Street, The Gorbals, December 1946 (Mitchell Library: c)


The late 1940s and 1950s witnessed the development of four huge peripheral Corporation housing schemes outside of Glasgow. Map 1 shows the location of each scheme, with the construction of Pollok to the south-west of the city beginning before the Second World War and finishing in 1951. The construction of Drumchapel in the north-west was approved in 1951, followed by the commencement of work in 1954 in Castlemilk to the south of the city, then Easterhouse on the far eastern boundary of Glasgow in 1955 (Worsdall, 1979: 139-42). Moreover, by 1957 a total of 29 comprehensive development areas (CDAs) for immediate redevelopment had been identified in the city, with a decision taken to demolish dwellings at a rate of 4500 per annum (Pacione, 1995: 163). It was from these areas that many of the residents of the new peripheral schemes originated.


Map 1: The Location of Glasgow's Four Peripheral Estates (CES Ltd, 1985: 2)



While many housing developments were proposed in the 1930s, the disruption and destruction caused by war meant that by the 1950s, the housing crisis in Glasgow had reached epic proportions. The sheer number of people requiring re-housing meant that the construction of the peripheral estates needed to be undertaken as quickly as possible. With each estate designed to accommodate up to 50,000 people, full-scale clearance of CDAs such as Govan and the Gorbals began, which resulted in many people leaving communities where their families had resided for generations in the search for better homes. While these village-like communities were being dispersed, it was hoped that the new estates would allow new communities to be formed. The movement of people from large cities to peripheral areas was rapidly becoming a recognised solution in many areas of England, but due to the scale of its problem, Glasgow led the way in the fields of urban regeneration and the redistribution of population. The Glasgow peripheral housing schemes experiment was therefore undoubtedly under close scrutiny from all angles, to be held up as an example of what to do or what not to do in future projects.

The peripheral schemes were to have many architectural and structural similarities, with only a few different types of housing making up the majority of all accommodation, as images 4-7 show. Each scheme was to feature communal facilities and green spaces, arranged over an area similar to the size of a new town. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the experiences of many tenants of the schemes were often of a similar nature. The relatively short timescale in which all four estates were built meant that there had been no time to observe the successes or failures of a preliminary estate before pressing ahead with the subsequent three. As the first housing scheme undertaken, Pollok was started in 1934 and completed by 1951. The name referred to an area covered by several housing schemes and by 1951 the Pollok peripheral scheme contained over 9000 houses for slightly fewer than 50,000 people (Worsdall, 1979: 140). While a density of 12 houses per acre was both desired and achieved, the density of occupation in some places reached 65 persons per acre due to the average household being much bigger than originally planned for (Brennan, 1959: 47). Drumchapel was subsequently built in the early 1950s in an effort to tackle the post-war housing shortage. Here, Glasgow was to have a self-contained satellite township with its own town centre, shops, schools, churches, open spaces and complete communal services and amenities to serve 7500 houses (Worsdall, 1979: 139-40).

By November 1941, Castlemilk was envisaged as the largest of all the schemes, covering an area of two and a half square miles but by the time work started in 1953, the plan had grown to include the development of 8300 houses at an estimated cost of £16 million (Worsdall, 1979: 141). Like Drumchapel, Castlemilk was planned as a township with five neighbourhood units each containing their own shops, schools and churches (Worsdall, 1979: 141-2). Work began in 1955 on another township style project at Easterhouse. Situated just over four miles from the centre of Glasgow, the project contained thirteen local authority housing schemes as part of the Greater Easterhouse area, with almost exclusively working class households and large families re-homed within its borders (CES Ltd, 1985: i). No other location in the UK could compare with the level of council housing built in Scotland in the twenty years after the war. Between 1945 and 1965, approximately 86 percent of all houses built were in the public sector (Devine, 1999: 559).

Image 4 Corporation housing at Pollok 1950.jpg

Image 4: Corporation Housing at Pollok, 1950 (Mitchell Library: d)



Image 5: Corporation Housing at Drumchapel, January 1954 (Mitchell Library: e)



Image 6: Corporation Housing at Birgidale Road, Castlemilk, 1958 (Glasgow City Archives: a)



Image 7: Corporation Housing at Duntarvie Quadrant, Easterhouse, 1959 (Glasgow City Archives: b)


Accommodation for most people on the new peripheral estates represented a completely different way of life in every sense. Families were given more living space than ever before, accompanied by modern facilities within the houses, causing an overall sense of excitement to be felt by new residents as the schemes opened. When recalling first impressions of the schemes, one resident of Easterhouse commented 'it was enormous to me…just like walking into a big castle. It was all fields roundabout – it was common heath, so we had plenty of places to run…' (CES Ltd, 1985: A11).

The planners intended to fill the schemes with play areas and green spaces, a luxury that many had never before experienced. In accommodation terms, houses built from a modern design were intended to be both wind- and weather-proof, and at a much lower density to the overcrowded slums. Moreover, many were to feature balconies and back and front doors, with indoor toilets in every house, another new experience for many families used to sharing one toilet with three other families living on the same floor of their tenement block. Accommodation was also intended to feature such modern amenities as electric heating, hot water immersers and laundry facilities of a more private nature than had ever been experienced by many of the new tenants. By comparison, the single-end style of apartment from which many had moved was frequently found on a landing of four apartments, all sharing the same single outdoor toilet. Each single end consisted of only one room and a cupboard, with occupants all sleeping in the same room (Worsdall, 1979: 47). On top of modern accommodation, the intended advantages of living in the peripheral schemes included the construction of new, modern schools, shops and social facilities. It was envisaged that with a ready labour pool, small businesses and industries would operate locally to generate employment for a large number of residents. Furthermore, sports facilities were to be readily available to provide the peripheral estates with a way of life that was previously unimaginable to most inner city residents.

Without question, the introduction of the peripheral housing schemes in Glasgow had a huge impact, not just on those having to relocate, but in the city as a whole, as the renewal of the 29 areas earmarked for comprehensive redevelopment could begin at full speed. The wholesale demolition of inner-city tenements that followed in the Gorbals and the other CDAs in subsequent years removed a significant number of the Victorian slums that had housed so many people in sub-standard conditions for too long. Those displaced were highly likely to find themselves placed in one of the peripheral schemes. While relocation was often an unpopular choice, the availability of new housing showed the efforts being made by the Corporation to address the Glasgow housing problem. By 1981, private ownership of houses was in the minority, with 63% being publicly owned after the purchase of property in the CDAs by the Corporation in order for regeneration to take place (Pacione, 1995: 24).

Despite the overspill policy and the CDA operation, a severe housing problem continued into the 1960s as the rate and scale of decay in the old tenements continued to outstrip the pace of building new accommodation. Moreover, problems with municipal-owned housing began to surface, both in the new, centrally located high-rise flats and in the peripheral schemes, where densities of up to 100 persons per acre, 40% higher than those recommended in the 1940s, had been achieved (Keating, 1988: 23). Although all of the housing projects introduced held the regeneration of Glasgow at their hearts, some of the attempted solutions threatened very quickly to become problems themselves. By looking at the peripheral schemes from the late 1960s onwards, one can see a whole new set of housing problems for the Glasgow Corporation, as estates such as Easterhouse and Drumchapel threatened to become modern day slums for many reasons.



In the name of regeneration, many long-established communities across the city were torn apart in quick succession, with neighbours and extended family often being re-housed far apart from each other. While life in the peripheral schemes undoubtedly offered most people a lifestyle unachievable in the slums, many encountered a sense of isolation as the gloss of their new accommodation rapidly rubbed off.

All too frequently, initial enthusiasm turned sour as the ideal of the new housing estates turned out to be a far cry from reality. Almost from the outset, the peripheral schemes were plagued with common problems affecting both the residents and the accommodation in which they lived. The extent of the troubles proved to be so great that it created a widespread belief amongst many historians and social commentators of the limited success of the housing estates. As Michael Keating stated, 'these peripheral schemes were themselves to pose some of the most severe social, economic and environmental problems faced by urban policy in the 1980s' (Keating, 1988: 24).

The estates manifested problems from the start, due primarily to the major disruption of the extended family and the social and employment networks that had characterised inner city life for so long (Maclennan and Gibb, 1988: 43-4). Families were no longer close to each other, and making the trip to see friends or relatives now proved both long and expensive. So too was the trip into work, as the promised employment opportunities within the estates failed to materialise for the majority of people, with only a lucky few finding employment within their area. The widespread lack of amenities throughout the schemes meant that what used to be a quick walk to the shops or doctor’s surgery turned into a significant, time-consuming journey. The quantity of shops, although gradually increasing over the years, never reflected the size of the populations they were meant to serve, and the absence of entertainment facilities provided more reasons for people to have to return to the city on a regular basis. However, the infrequent and relatively expensive bus services from each estate to the city centre failed to service their needs and those who made it into the city faced a race to be finished in time for the last bus back.

The lack of facilities often caused young people to turn to vandalism as a means of relieving boredom, a trend that continued for a long time. Anti-social behaviour flourished out of adolescent boredom, despite the intended control factor of housing Police Officers in “police houses” within the scheme. Police families were, quite simply, persecuted and hounded out of their homes. Moreover, gang warfare was endemic; the hooligan and sectarian gangs that flourished in the '30s and '40s in areas such as the Gorbals, Bridgeton, Calton, and Springburn found themselves relocated to new territories in Easterhouse and in the other schemes.

The estates themselves comprised many undifferentiated neighbourhoods of repetitive tenements (Craig, 2003: 43), thus creating a bleak, cold environment for those living there. While the new tenements were generally weatherproof, the poorly designed heating and ventilation systems caused massive condensation, which led to the dampness that affected so many council properties. Coupled to this was the policy of integrating good and bad tenants in the belief that the good would help the bad. However, the policy had almost the opposite effect, with the good invariably moving out due to anti-social neighbours and leaving the bad in schemes that suffered from unemployment, social deprivation and sub-standard housing (Craig, 2003: 49).

Although shops, schools and community centres gradually moved into the estates, the deterioration of the schemes continued, with a 1985 House Condition Survey conducted by the Glasgow City Council indicating that around 13% of the city’s municipal stock was below tolerable standard (BTS) (Maclennan and Gibb, 1988: 45). Defined in part II of the 1974 Housing (Scotland) Act, the tolerable standard was the statutory means used to determine whether or not a house was fit for occupation and took into consideration such issues as whether or not a house was structurally stable, free from damp and had adequate mains supplies and facilities (House Condition Survey, 1985: 2). Table 1 shows the BTS Glasgow District Council dwellings, with only the Mid Eastern area of the city containing a higher BTS percentage than Easterhouse, and with Castlemilk and Pollok at the higher end of the scale compared to other areas of the city. Similar results can be seen in Table 2, which shows the number of dwellings designated BTS status due to dampness. Once again, the figures show that by 1985, Easterhouse and Pollok contained some of the worst housing in the city.


Table 1: Glasgow District Council Occupied BTS Dwellings (House Condition Survey, 1985: 32)



Table 2: Glasgow District Council Occupied BTS Damp Dwellings (House Condition Survey, 1985: 32)


While the 1985 House Condition Survey highlighted some of the problems plaguing the peripheral estates, it was not until 1986 and the publication of Prof. Robert Grieve’s report The Inquiry into Housing in Glasgow that explanations were officially offered as to how such a high level of deterioration could occur in the overspill estates. This citywide investigation of the municipal accommodation stock highlighted the problems found throughout the city, and acknowledged that the single most serious set of housing problems facing Glasgow was located in the peripheral schemes (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 20). Judging that the problems were rooted in the post-war origins of the estates, the Report found that the building density adopted by Glasgow Council was much larger than the Clyde Valley Plan recommendation for peripheral densities, and was achieved by building flatted dwellings, usually four storeys high. Moreover, a paradox appeared between the estates and the highly successful new town of East Kilbride, situated only two miles from the disastrous estate of Castlemilk (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 18). Although similar in size and built roughly at the same time, they were developed by two different authorities with contrasting views on strategic planning, and different approaches to housing types, management and the provision of services other than housing (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 18). Consequently, the appeal of the new towns to families and small businesses was greater than that of the peripheral estates, with the towns being able to offer extensive and ready-made amenities and employment opportunities to those residing in the comfortable homes within their borders.

While the origins of the estates could be seen as the catalyst for the problems experienced, the situation was, in the eyes of the report, made worse by a combination of factors over the years, namely:

1. Seriously deficient housing management.

2. Poor building construction and a faulty building system.

3. Rent levels that were too low to meet maintenance costs and the costs of good management.

4. An allocation system encouraging the segregation of social and economic groups. (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 18-19)

Moreover, if overcrowding constituted more than one person per habitable room, then the levels found in Easterhouse were seven times higher than the British national average (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 21). While this qualification of overcrowding was much less than the one used in 1921 by the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland, the presence of overcrowded conditions in areas designated as solutions to inner-city congestion indicated that instead of finding an adequate solution, the city authorities had simply succeeded in transferring the problem elsewhere within its boundaries.

With around half of the most deprived areas in Glasgow located in the peripheral estates, male unemployment reached 40% in some areas, as the estates contained concentrations of socially and economically disadvantaged groups, many of whom had been relocated from the inner city. With 75% of households without a car, and five times the national rate of infant mortality in the first year of life, the study remarked that deprivation had 'moved outwards to the outer estates' (CES Ltd, 1985: i). Further depth can be added to this view by noting that, in 1971, a high proportion of deprived areas were in parts of the old inner city such as Maryhill and the East End. However by 1981, having undergone redevelopment these areas were showing a relative improvement while the deprived areas were now located primarily in the peripheral estates (CES Ltd, 1985: 14), as Map 2 shows.

Glasgow Corporation lacked the resources, powers and planning skills of the New Town Development Corporations and as a result compromised on housing standards, dwelling design and in the provision of civic amenities and facilities (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 27). By measuring success simply on the number of houses completed, little thought was given to management issues (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 27), and the ensuing rapid deterioration of stock meant that Glasgow was left facing the huge costs of modernising and refurbishing relatively new accommodation. With this in mind, the Inquiry into Housing in Glasgow made the following recommendations that it deemed essential for achieving housing and environmental improvements, and a high standard of housing management:

1. The Council should be prepared to transfer up to 50% of the peripheral stock to locally based housing associations for full modernisation, to create the fundamental change in conditions and management required.

2. Full community involvement in the development of improvement and management proposals for each scheme, thus ensuring a high level of tenant commitment to the future of the areas.

3. Improvements made by housing associations should improve home ownership through council house sales.

4. An additional expenditure of £85million on non-housing projects, due to vitality of economic, social and industrial progress to the successful renewal of the estates. (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 38-39).

With a £255 million capital package over a five-year period recommended to ensure completion of the first stages of comprehensive renewal (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 39), Glasgow City Council was by 1986 faced with the huge task of correcting past mistakes. While the residents of the new towns enjoyed the full benefits of life outside the city, many of those relocated to the peripheral estates found themselves living in conditions not dissimilar to those they had been trying to escape. As one female parent commented 'they are making ghettos…' (CES Ltd, 1985: A16). This simple statement is enough to highlight that despite the planners having had the best intentions when designing the schemes, the reality of life there was alarmingly different to that originally imagined. Instead of becoming an ideal solution to the problem of inner-city overcrowding, the peripheral schemes in many ways repeated the social problems suffered in the earlier part of the twentieth century, but simply in a different location. An attempted solution had in fact turned in to an extension of the initial problems.

Map 2: social deprivation in glasgow 1981

Map 2: Social Deprivation in Glasgow, 1981 (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 14)
[Full-size version]



Early attempts by Glasgow Corporation to control overcrowding and improve living conditions failed to address the key causes of the squalid conditions and with the problems carried over into the twentieth century, it was universally agreed that Glasgow was gripped by a housing crisis of epic proportions. With the adoption of the overspill policy recommended by the CVRPAC in 1946, the Glasgow Corporation launched a pioneering assault on the massive overcrowding in the city, aware that the eyes of other local governments in Britain were fixed upon them. What followed was the large-scale transferral of residents from the inner city slums to new towns and giant housing estates on the periphery.

The four main peripheral estates were envisaged as large areas away from the crowded slums of the city centre in which the thousands of families that had been displaced during the process of urban regeneration could be re-homed. Containing wide, open spaces, employment opportunities, and various social amenities, the peripheral estates were to offer clean, modern and spacious accommodation for the first time in the majority of people’s lives. With the inner-city slum dwellers moved to more sanitary environments on the periphery, Glasgow Corporation would therefore be able to lower the population residing in the city centre, and at the same time, regenerate the slum areas to allow for new developments at much lower densities.

The adopted overspill policy was beset with problems from the outset. The delay in deciding between the local-authority-endorsed Bruce Plan and the national-government-sponsored Clyde Valley Regional Plan resulted in the decay and dissolution of thousands more Victorian slum tenements. Consequently, the resultant urgency in house building called for a ‘houses only’ policy (Gibb, 1989: 161), where success was calculated on the number of houses built. With the provision of amenities cast aside until the necessary houses were built, new tenants found themselves placed in housing estates the equivalent size of many towns in Scotland, but with none of the facilities to match. The resurgence of social problems and the high demand for housing transfers by the late 1970s illustrated that the provision of houses was not sufficient enough to create a humane environment (Devine, 1999: 284).

Walking around the peripheral estates today, one can see much redevelopment occurring. Rows of more modern accommodation sit side by side with empty, boarded-up buildings and in-progress demolitions. In places, entire streets lie unoccupied due to tenants having requested transfers elsewhere and the uniformity of the original housing designs is painfully apparent. It was this uniformity that caused problems such as dampness to be so widespread. With the majority of houses designed in the same manner and looked after by a city that never implemented a planned housing maintenance system (Maclennan and Gibb, 1988: 44), the accommodation stock began to experience problems very early on. The extent of this was such that by the 1980s, private building and privatisation of existing stock was being suggested and promoted by the Grieve Report as a way to achieve housing and environmental improvements. Images 8-10 show that this is work still ongoing today with many original houses lying empty awaiting action, others receiving extensive modifications and a significant amount that have been replaced completely with new housing.

The handover of much of the accommodation into the private sector illustrates clearly how housing management has come full circle in Scotland. In order to cure the slum problem the Glasgow Corporation bought many of the old tenements from private landlords, but as the new Corporation housing rapidly deteriorated, a significant amount ended up back in private hands in as little as thirty years.


Image 8: Original Corporation housing, now derelict in Lochend Road, Easterhouse, September 2006 (Paice, 2006)



Image 9: Demolition work on Inverlochy Street, Garthamlock, September 2006 (Paice, 2006)



Image 10: Regeneration on Cloan Street, Drumchapel, September 2006 (Paice, 2006)


For the Glasgow Corporation, the aim of reducing the population and regenerating the accommodation in the city centre was achieved by adopting the overspill policy. Today, the population of Glasgow of approximately 600,000 has declined significantly from its peak at 1.1 million in 1951 (Scottish Executive Publications, 2003). Yet for many of those moved to the peripheral estates the situation did not improve radically. While it is undoubtedly true that accommodation in the peripheral schemes was far better and more sanitary than slum dwellings, the social problems that existed in the slums seemed to follow the tenants out to the new estates. As the gloss rapidly wore off, unemployment, gang violence and poverty once again emerged so that for many people, the only thing that had changed in their lives was their location. While it would be untrue to suggest that everyone was unhappy with their new surroundings, Meg Henderson opined that the council housing estates were no more than ghettos to replace ghettos (Henderson, 1994: 89). She adds that the Glasgow experience undoubtedly helped other areas of the United Kingdom not to make the same mistakes on such a large scale (Henderson, 1994: 90).

The attempted overspill solution to Glasgow’s problems was meant to remove people from squalid living conditions and place them in spacious, fully equipped new townships. Due to well-meaning but misguided thinking, however, the needs of the people were not fully considered until it was too late, and a new form of squalor emerged, with the results still visible today. Indeed, as other cities learned from Glasgow’s mistakes, the efforts to improve housing conditions in Glasgow will continue for some time yet, as the intended solution to the city’s housing crisis created an entirely new crisis for the local authority to deal with.





Image 1: Slum Housing at Charlotte Lane, Central Area of Glasgow, January 1947 (The Mitchell Library online image catalogue: a, Record number C3018,, accessed 3 March 2008)

Image 2: Slum housing at Lawmoor Street, Hutchesontown, June 1947 (The Mitchell Library online image catalogue: b, Record number C3201,, accessed 3 March 2008)

Image 3: Slum Housing at Crown Street, The Gorbals, December 1946 (The Mitchell Library online image catalogue: c, Record number C3015,, accessed 3 March 2008)

Image 4: Corporation Housing at Pollok, 1950 (The Mitchell Library online image catalogue: d, Record number C3035,, accessed 3 March 2008)

Image 5: Corporation Housing at Drumchapel, January 1954 (The Mitchell Library online image catalogue: e, Record number C3048,, accessed 3 March 2008)

Image 6: Corporation Housing at Birgidale Road, Castlemilk, 1958 (Glasgow City Archives Department of Architectural and Civic Design: a, Ref: AP9/7/28/93)

Image 7: Corporation Housing at Duntarvie Quadrant, Easterhouse, 1959 (Glasgow City Archives Department of Architectural and Civic Design: b, Ref: A/32/F/46)

Image 8: Original Corporation housing, now derelict in Lochend Road, Easterhouse, September 2006 (Paice, 2006 50).

Image 9: Demolition work on Inverlochy Street, Garthamlock, September 2006 (Paice, 2006 50)

Image 10: Regeneration on Cloan Street, Drumchapel, September 2006 (Paice, 2006 51)


Map 1: The Location of Glasgow's Four Peripheral Estates (CES Ltd, 1985: 2)

Map 2: Social Deprivation in Glasgow, 1981 (Inquiry into Housing, 1986: 14)


Table 1: Glasgow District Council Occupied BTS Dwellings (House Condition Survey, 1985: 32)

Table 2: Glasgow District Council Occupied BTS Damp Dwellings (House Condition Survey, 1985: 32)




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To cite this paper please use the following details: Paice, L. (2008), ‘Overspill Policy and the Glasgow Slum Clearance Project in the Twentieth Century: From One Nightmare to Another?', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 1, Issue 1, Date accessed [insert date].

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