Welcome to Springburn Parish Church


Springburn had no claim to fame. The Romans came north under Agricola in the year 80AD and in the following summer, Agricola began an important work of securing his conquests by building a chain of forts between the Firths of Forth and Clyde. One of these forts was erected at Cadder, another at Kirkintilloch, and to them a road led. The main Roman road from east to west passed through Glasgow along the old Drygate, where it connected with another road running northwards to Cadder. As late as the first decade of the eighteenth century, this military road was clearly visible and with it, modern Springburn Road corresponded at several points. The straight portion of the present day road south of Sighthill Cemetery must lie very close to the old Roman highway, while another section of it corresponds with the straight part of Balgrayhill.It has been suggested that part of Springburn Road (as it was) is not as straight as Roman roads are because the low lying ground in Springburn was an impassable morass and the Roman engineers diverted their road to the right, and the line of it formed three sides of a square before it again enters the straight.
On the night of 3rd January 1746 Springburn again figured for a few hours in the history of Scotland. Prince Charles Stuart had arrived in Glasgow from the south on Boxing Day 1745 and had spent the following week refitting his men at the expense of the resentful citizens.
No Scottish town was more loyal to the Government than Glasgow. Then on 3rd January, Lord George Murray led one half of the Highland army by Cumbernauld towards Stirling, while Prince Charles led the remainder of his followers north by Kilsyth. That night, the Prince's army bivouacked on Sighthill (the present Balgrayhill) before proceeding eastwards next day to the brilliant but futile victory at Falkirk. It was claimed that the Prince spent the night in Balgray House. The next day as the wild Highlanders passed through Bishopbriggs, it is said that every blind was drawn. One who was a girl at that time has told of clinging to her mother's skirt and peeping out through a corner of the "steekit" window to watch the Prince and his men march past.
Industry came to Springburn in the year 1800. In a rural area with scattered country houses, there must have been some hostility in the new factory of Tennant, Knox and Co., that had just started the manufacture of chemicals on the banks of the canal at Lime House. It was in 1799 that Charles McIntosh firm produced chloride of lime in a dry form and in the following year the wholesale production of it began at St. Rollox. By 1835 it was considered to be "the most extensive in Europe" and covered 10 acres, had over 100 furnaces, retorts or fireplaces, and consumed 600 tons of coal weekly.
It was from another direction that industrialism was to make its most effective invasion of the rural parish. The invention of the steam engine made Springburn what it was. In 1808 there was opened a short line of nine and three quarter miles between the town of Kilmarnock and Troon, on which horses were used for locomotion. Similar lines were opened at other places, such as between Monkland and Kirkintilloch that cost about £7,000 per mile, mostly single line and was largely for the transport of coal.
The first railway, in the modern sense of the word, was opened between Liverpool and Manchester in 1829 and two years later on the 27th September 1851 the Glasgow to Garnkirk railway line was partially opened, George Stephenson himself driving the first engine over the line. This railway had double track, cost about £12,000 per mile with its "deep excavations and high embankments" traversed the southern portion of Springburn, crossing the main road at the old Charles Street bridge. The original station and engine shed stood there until recent times.
The 1st February 1832 was a red-letter day in Scottish railway history, for that day the locomotive engine 'The Glasgow' built by Johnston McNab of' Glasgow, hauled a train of 56 loaded coal wagons eight and a quarter miles, a gross weight of about 145 tons in one hour and seven minutes, carrying a load of twenty tines its own weight." This was the first locomotive engine made in Scotland on the "improved construction. Other lines were soon opened and then in 1841 Springburn was again bisected by a railroad when the Edinburgh and Glasgow line was completed. It had taken three years to build and was practically level throughout, with the exception of the last mile between Cowlairs and Queen Street Station. Here the gradient is 1 in 42 and up to November 1908, a stationary engine with a rope at Cowlairs, was used to assist trains on this incline.
On the 18th February 1842, the Edinburgh to Glasgow line was opened for passenger traffic, five months before the opening of the first Springburn Church.
The year 1842 found Springburn still largely a rural area consisting of two rows of dwelling houses spread alongside a stretch of main road to the city from the foot of Hill Street, roughly about 300 yards in length. Outside this area everything was truly rural, consisting of Estates with the individual mansions, farms and orchards. It is difficult to realise that Springburn was once a beautiful village set among the hills carpeted with grass and crested with trees. The burn which gave the village its name, was the overflow from a well of spring water rising in the fields near the west end of Mansel Street flowing down what used to be called 'Knox's Open) eventually being named Union Street, running down the side of the derelict building which was once Woolworth's, under Springburn Road, past the 'Well Brae' out to the fields beyond and so meandering until it finally ended in Possil Marsh. The burn coming from the spring was the only domestic supply of water.
The village began to develop round the back of the hill on which a new church was being built - a village composed largely of weavers, although there were miners, quarriers and artisans. Approaching the village from Bishopbriggs by the old Roman road past Huntershill House, the first mansion was 'New Mosesfield' built by James Duncan, a wealthy sugar broker of Glasgow, who became closely identified with the new United Presbyterian Church (Johnston). Old Mosesfield was built by Moses McCulloch, the site of which has an historical importance, for it was part of the patrimony of the Church in Glasgow in pre-Reformation days, one of the dignitaries of the Cathedral in those days being named 'Prebend of Balornock'. The old designations, including that of Baillie of Provan, are relics of the days when the Church was not only a great spiritual force, but a great temporal master as well, and when even the civic authorities has to bow to her rule. The tomb of Moses McCulloch is in the crypt of Glasgow Cathedral.
Almost immediately opposite Old Mosesfield was Janefield House, an estate owned by John Henderson. Following Broomfield Road eastwards came Balornock Farm occupied by Andrew Menzies. Wellfield House was occupied by James Reid of Hyde Park Works, and lay nearer the village. Avenue Road (Northcroft Road) was originally the avenue leading to Wellfield House. This is now obliterated, but began somewhere between the present Health Centre and the Shopping Mall.
A coal mine was in production near Hawthorn Street, whilst good quarries abounded in the district. This was soon changed, for, because of the rapid development of the railways, there came a need by the two original railway companies, the Scottish Central and the Edinburgh and Glasgow, to have workshops within a mile of the western terminus and it fell to Springburn to receive both workshops, one on the south and one on the west. The Caledonian and North British Companies both date from 1844-45, but it was not until 1855 that big amalgamations took place the North British incorporating the Edinburgh and Glasgow Company and the Caledonian uniting with the Scottish Central Company. In 1848 ground was purchased for new workshops at St. Rollox, which were opened eight years later when the old Greenock shops were vacated. Thirty years later in 1886 the St. Rollox works were completely remodelled and enlarged to cover 31½ acres.
In 1862 the famous firm of Neilson Reid and Co., decided to transfer to Springburn because of the difficulty of transporting their locomotives to the railway terminus at Buchanan a Street. So began the growth of' Springburn which attracted workers, the need for houses and the need of churches.
There are many who still remember the time when the workshops finished for the day, when it was almost impossible for traffic to move when the workforce came out after their day at work, and filled Springburn Road with its mass of men.
Passenger traffic in those early days must have combined the maximum popularity with the minimum comfort~ In 1841, for instance, a "Fourth Class" was instituted on the new Greenock Railway. For sixpence one could travel in an open truck known as a "stand-up," the passengers for lack of seats having to stand, lean over the side, or sit on the floor when space allowed!
About this time, also, another aspect of railway travel began to cause some thought and no little concern in religious circles, namely, the proposal to introduce Sunday passenger trains. The question was first raised in Glasgow Presbytery in May 1841, but no Sabbath trains appear to have run that year. The following February, however, the Presbytery called a special meeting to consider a resolution of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company to run trains on "the morning and evening of the Lord's Day." At this meeting a counter-resolution of such strength and vigour was passed that one is not surprised to find the Directors of the Company barring their doors against any deputation from the Presbytery! Among other things it was declared that "the Presbytery regard the carrying into effect of this resolution as a flagrant violation of the Law of God, as expressed in tie Fourth Command, a grievous outrage upon the religious feelings of The people of Scotland, a powerful temptation to the careless and indifferent to abandon the public ordinances of Grace, and most disastrous to the quiet of the rural parishes along the line of the railway, by the introduction into them, every Sabbath, of many of the profligate and dissipated who inhabit the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow."
While every effort was made to persuade the shareholders to rescind the offending resolution, the fathers and brethren resolved "publicly and privately to warn their flock against travelling on the Lord's Day and to exhort them to discountenance the Company so far away be in their power, while a resolution so sinful in itself and so disastrous in it's consequences is suffered to remain on their minutes." The shareholders, in spite of this diatribe, seem to have proved quite unrepentant and, though the whole question was raised in the House of Commons, it was not until 1847 that the Company's directors courteously received a deputation of Presbytery.
© Frank Myers 1997

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