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warmer climes

Tenement question?


i've got some questions about the tenements, and i'be grateful for some help.

i lived in tenement flats for ten years in Hillhead, Crosshill, Battlefield, Hyndland and Shawlands - all were large, multi-bedroomed, dry, warm and great fun to live in - so, i'm curious to know whether the tenements i've lived in were fundamentally different to the tenements that i read about as being tiny, damp, infested and that have all been demolished?

is it merely a case of 'later builds, better building standards', or were the vast swathes of tenement blocks that were demolished in the slum clearences deliberately designed (perhaps at the same time as the nice, large tenements that i lived in?) to be cramped, tiny, with little in the way of services?

i loved living in Glasgow, and i loved living in the tenement flats - but looking at some of the photos on this site makes my hands itch, and i want to know how such vastly different living experiences should hsve occured in what appear to be the same types of building...

cheers, grateful.

(fantastic site by the way, utterly transfixing!).

Some were better designed and built... some were refurbished/rebuilt
Delmont St Xavier

Some were definately built to different standards, the big classic ones in Dennistoun and the affluent ones in the west end with many rooms and all ornate cornicing and a rose where the light is.  Many of those were built with toilets within the property and built to a high standard.  

My own flat is mid range, not many rooms, not so ornate in plaster but it was originally built with toilets in each flat and with 'maid's room' complete with bells to summon her the whole 8 feet of the room!

Whereas others were a room and kitchen, maybe two rooms or a formal room if they were lucky.  I remember many of the Anderston and Sandyford tenements having outside toilets and bare wiring running down the wall.  Coal fires in the main rooms and lino on floors but don't ask me why but I loved those particular tenements for their was something unique about them.

it seems natural to expect that lower quality - lower end housing would not survive as long as better quality housing, I live in large tenement flat with cornicing etc and have often wondered the same question, was each room a separate abode, etc? But I guess the overcrowded under-funded under-maintained housing would be the first to be replaced and the more expensive victorian dwellings kept back.

Something perhaps the Tenement Museum to the North West of the city centre would answer?

Change is dictaated by several factors: Condition of living space, Force of local oppinion, Resources (ie money) available to facilitate change.

Much of the 'Slum' housing was knocked down because people wanted. a better standard of living. The old building were seen as outdated and there was a postwar dirth of money to fund regeneration projects.  The victorian housing that survived was often in locations where a good standard of repair had been maintained within the fabric of the buildings. both in terms of building and upkeep but also due to a desire on the parts of the residents to maintain the status quo.

As to the specifics about living conditions 100 / 75 years ago britain wasn't subject to the same planning laws that we have now.  Many buildings were built to differing standards and were then subdevided to cram the maximum amount of tennants into a space as possible.  Lots of the early tenemants are created before the 'bathroom' has been invented and the 'facilities' were either primitive or were retro fitted, Hence the comunal stair toilet blocks.  A lot of the Glasgow tenements were built by privet individuals / companies and they were out to make profit.  This means that in a working class housing scheme they were looking to have as meany tennants in place as possible whereas in a upper class housing scheme volume of tennents was sacrificed in favour of larger spaces that could sell for more money.

The final point to make is that the 'tennemant' concept has been around for several hundred years (since the 18C) and is constantly evolving many of the surviving victorian tenements are later build (late victorian) whilst the majority of the 'slums' were earlier.  regeneration never stops and many of the tenemants replaced earlier ones.  I live in a 1980's (I think?) block of flats which is basically a 'tennemant' by another name.

Mr Sam

It is important to remember that the vast bulk of tenements were built by speculative property developers, therefore in more affluent areas (or areas they hoped to attract more affluent tenants) the buildings were of better quality and had more space and features. In other areas were there was just demand for low cost housing stock the quality was not as good. I grew up in a street in Govan in the 70's where when I was first born we lived in a single end on the ground floor of a tenement with a shared landing toilet. A single end being basically the smallest flat in the block due to the stairway meeting the ground, just a space filler really and having only one room so what would be called a studio flat now. We then moved across the road to 2 apartment with inside bathroom - bliss - both closes were demolished in 1980.
Tom Benson


In response to Warmer Climes, re: Tenement question? I was born in the Bridgeton/Calton district in '52 - and I survived to tell the tale, yay! Until the age of 8 years old, I lived in a 'single end' at 32a Well Street, off London Road.

The front close was 32b which faced onto Well Street and was a tenement with an open close / passageway to a concrete yard. Beyond this yard (approximately a 10 metre square) there was the next close (32a).
I remember clearly walls of the close had ornate tiling and there were four single-ends on the ground floor. A winding stone staircase took you up stairs past landing windows (sash type - no health and safety features).

Our single end comprised of a cloakroom sized entrance (about the size of an MFI wardrobe). Stored there was a 'z' bed (folding bed). After the cloakroom it was a doorway into the 'house'. A small square room which opposite the door had a large sash window over a Belfast sink and draining board. Opposite that window and next to the doorway was a deep recess in the wall covered by a curtain - behind which was the family bed.

On the left wall were the three flying ducks (I know, I know). Below the ducks was a sideboard. On the opposite wall was an open fireplace where real dirty, smoky, unhealthy coal was burned - when my parents could afford it. The space between the sideboard and fire had a folding table and a three-seat sofa. Close to the bed was the tiny black and white TV.

Does that all sound a bit cramped? I was born in '52 to a mother who was barely 17. My brothers came along in '53, '54 and '58. We moved to Drumchapel in 1961. I remember we all sat in the back of the furniture lorry with the tailgate semi-lowered.  

Our new house in Fettercairn Avenue had a living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. What was the pile of dirt? Oh yes, we had a GARDEN.

I'm presently writing a modern thriller about a vigilante - and it's set in 1996 Glasgow. It's due for publication on Amazon in October. I'll mention it on here when it's available. My hero chooses to live in the east end of the city because nobody will question his comings and goings - because some parts of that fair city never change.  

In industrial areas like Bridgeton, the tenements were built as "barracks for the workers" - places for the working class factory hands to eat and sleep in - not as places for raising a healthy, happy family.

In contrast, the tenements built in areas like the West End, were designed with the middle classes in mind, hence the higher standard of building and amenities.

There's no real myster about it.  Then, as now, people with money could afford to live in better conditions.

On Queen Mary street at number 5 there was three outside toilets and on the voters role there were 75 adults down as living in that close i knew  all of them

mani wrote:
On Queen Mary street at number 5 there was three outside toilets and on the voters role there were 75 adults down as living in that close i knew  all of them

That must have been some queue for the dunny on a Sunday morning. thank god for change when the only hardship suffered is the daughter preening for a night out and i need to use the smaller toilet. Forum Index -> Urban Adventures, Exploration & Photography
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