Pollokshields Heritage Heritage Trail Two 


Sir John MaxwellThe development of Pollokshields dates back to 1834 when the 8th Baronet Sir John Maxwell of Pollok conceived of an idea to create a residential suburb on his lands at Kinning Park. He commissioned Glasgow surveyor Peter MacQuisten to draw up fueing plans for part of his estate around Kinning House. MacQuisten’s masterplan took its cue from John Nash’s work around Regent’s Park in London focusing on a spectacular 1000 foot wide great circus radiating out from which were villas, terraces and tenements in crescents, squares and avenues that connected into the Tradeston grid. With the exception of now demolished Pollok Street (once the widest street in Glasgow) nothing came of this overambitious scheme with the southern banks of the Clyde more profitably given over to industry and gridded streets of tenements.

However, in 1849 Sir John Maxwell built a road bridging the Paisley, Johnstone and Glasgow canal and the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway which extended Shields Road southwards. He then commissioned architect David Rhind to draw up feuing plans for the land to the west with wide drives that followed the contours of the land. The first road was St Andrews Drive. There were to be strict feuing conditions which permitted only villas situated in their own grounds and no shops or factories. Feuing started in 1851 and by the mid 1860’s St Andrews Drive was lined with villas.

In 1875 the areas north of Nithsdale Road and east of Albert Drive had been built upon and had a population large enough (1,518) for it to become the Burgh of West Pollokshields. The area to the east of Shields Road was feued in the 1860’s and became populated with tenements, schools, shops, and churches and the extension of Shields Road to the south of Albert Drive in 1870 encouraged further building. By 1880 the population was large enough (4000) for it to become the independent Burgh of East Pollokshields. By 1890 large middle class tenements had become a feature of East Pollokshields while West Pollokshields which by this time had spread to the north of Maxwell Park had over 400 villas. The areas to the south and west of Maxwell Park where laid out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and populated with large villas. The independent burghs of East and West Pollokshields were annexed to Glasgow in 1891.

The Maxwell family were innovative in their use of feuing conditions to shape and control the development and quality of property on their lands. This is particularly true with regards to urban health. Strict feuing conditions prohibited shared or outside toilets in tenements and insisted on the provision of baths in the flats from the outset. Daylight and ventilation were also a concern with unusually broad streets and pavements being lined with tenements of three storeys as opposed to the more typical four storey Scottish tenement. This is in stark contrast to the remainder of Glasgow and considerably pre-dates various City Improvement and Police Acts designed to improve public health.

In West Pollokshields shops and trade were prohibited and no two villas were permitted to be exactly alike. The width of streets and pavements were specified. Villas had to conform to a building line 40ft from the road edge and at least 40ft from each other, fronted by a dwarf wall with railings.
Provision of shops was strictly regulated by the feu superiors being restricted to key focal points such as Albert Drive, Maxwell Road and Shields Road, as well as Nithsdale Road and Kildrostan Street. Other neighbourhood facilities such as churches, schools and libraries were confined to East Pollokshields.

The Maxwell’s took care to incorporate innovations in transportation with a corridor of land on the southern edge of the suburb being sold off, at agricultural land value, for the construction of Cathcart Circle railway which was set in a cutting to minimise disturbance to residents. The new stations both accommodated commuters and allowed the surrounding lands to be opened up for development. Glasgow’s extensive tram network was also threaded through the suburb’s streets.

Over a six decade span of development these stipulations, and careful planning, allowed the Maxwell family to achieve their aim of an upmarket residential neighbourhood. The tenements in East Pollokshields are amongst the finest examples in Scotland whilst the picturesque villas of West Pollokshields, in their sizeable grounds, embody the original arcadian ideal whilst simultaneously combining the divergent middle class Victorian aims of show and privacy.

The result of the Maxwell’s endeavours was that families of Glasgow’s Victorian and Edwardian denizens of industry and trade, as well as prosperous professionals, were able to conduct their lives in peace and tranquillity just a short coach, train or tram ride away from their businesses in the hustle and bustle, congestion, disease and pollution of the industrial city.

Sir John Stirling MaxwellThe other key family member was Sir John Stirling Maxwell. He was born in London on 6th June 1866 to Sir William Stirling and Lady Anne Maria Melville and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and succeeded to the Baronetcy on the death of his father on 15th January 1878. A man of wisdom, patience and tact, in 1887 he became private secretary to Lord Knutsford, Colonial Secretary in Lord Salisbury’s Government till 1892. In 1895 he successfully stood as a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party in the College Division of Glasgow Ward. He lost his seat in 1906 and began to further indulge in his main interest of arboriculture which he studied in many other countries.

The knowledge and experience he picked up on his travels was put to good use on his own family estates. He was one of the original members of the Forestry Commission serving as chairman from 1929-1932 and a trustee of the Royal Fine Art Commission of Scotland. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions in Scotland from 1934 becoming chairman in 1940 and a trustee of the Scottish National Galleries.

Sir John was a key figure of his generation, and the most important collector of architectural books between the wars. He was president of the Western Scotland Branch of the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association. He was also a founder member of the National Trust for Scotland, becoming one of its first Vice-Presidents and President from 1943 until his death. He was author of ‘Shrines and Homes of Scotland’ published by Alexander Maclehose in 1937.

Through his work in arboriculture he realised the importance of green spaces within a city environment and to this end he gave the people of Glasgow access to his Pollok Estate in 1911.

Sir John Stirling Maxwell died aged 89 on 30th May 1956 at Pollok House. The baronetcy passed to his daughter Anne Maxwell MacDonald who in 1966 gifted 361 acres of parkland along with the house and its internationally famed collection of paintings to the City of Glasgow.