Glasgow Photo Library
- Merchant City
The area in Glasgow now marketed as the "Merchant City" was first formed during the early 18th century to house the wealthy merchants (often known as "tobacco lords") who traded tobacco, sugar and tea - and slaves - with North America. This was one of the results of the Act of Union in 1707 which gave them access to the English colonies. At one stage, almost half of the tobacco coming into Europe was distributed through Glasgow which was the nearest large port to Virginia and made Glasgow merchants amongst the wealthiest in Europe. Many classical villas were built in the area and it had wide, straight streets, and open squares.
In the 19th century, the once genteel city of Glasgow (described by Daniel Defoe as having "the fairest for breadth and the finest built that I have ever seen...'tis the cleanest, most beautiful and best built city in Great Britain.") grew rapidly and the population explosion transformed the area into a squalid, overcrowded, disease-ridden and smelly part of the city as the more affluent residents moved westwards.
In the 1950s, with the old housing no longer "fit for purpose" and new social housing estates such as Castlemilk, Pollok and Drumchapel being built on the periphery of the city, many of the old houses and warehouses in the area were demolished or allowed to deteriorate. But in the 1980s, when plans for ploughing a ring road through that part of the city fell through, the city planners decided to revitalise the area and its historic buildings. The term 'Merchant City' was coined during this regeneration to give it an identity and to acknowledge its historic past. Progress has been slow, however, with many of the developments being small restaurants and offices and some of the older buildiongs converted to residential apartments.
The picture here shows the "Merchant City" sign beside the old Tron Steeple.
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