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Bishopbriggs is an affluent commuter suburb in the northern outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland. Though once an independent burgh, Bishopbriggs is now one of the main towns of the East Dunbartonshire Council Area. It currently has a population of approximately 23,500 people.
Bishopbriggs was first documented in Cadder Parish records of 1655, and according to one historian only had eleven residents in the mid-1700s. Even more than a century later, after substantial growth, the village was still being referred to in the terms of its mother parish of Cadder. 'Bishopbriggs', Neil Thomson stated in 1903, 'is the fast growing capital of Cawder'. Despite fears that the village would end up being swamped by nearby Glasgow, its house-building programmes of the twentieth century, combined with its strong sense of identity, have ensured its survival. Instead it was the fate of Cadder, a gift from King William the Lion to the Bishop of Glasgow in 1180, that fell by the wayside, with 2000 of its acres being donated to the city during the 1920s and 30s. The town has also been known as 'Bishopbridges' and was so described in published maps up to the mid-1850's. The arrival of the railway heralded a change, although the first printed tickets called the station Bishopbridges, platform signage showed Bishopbriggs and it has remained so ever since.
By 1793, the introduction of new farming techniques had improved yields. While crops such as oats, barley, potatoes and flax flourished, Cadder's population fared less well; a decrease of around 600 from the mid-1760s was attributed to new agricultural methods which combined smaller farms or Run rigs and swept away independent tenants, known as the Lowland Clearances. By 1836 there were ‘almost no cotters’ with the largest farms employing no more than ten people, and some of those as maid servants. Land reclamation (through drainage) changed the landscape so that crops could grow, where once there was only marshland. Dairy products, dispatched to Glasgow markets, were relied upon to cover ground rents. The districts' farmers claimed their produce was the finest in Scotland.
Development during the 19th century was slow compared to the industrial expansion of other nearby areas, such as Springburn, and in 1836 Bishopbriggs population stood at 175, compared to neighbouring Auchinairn Village's 284. The missing factor was coal, but since this was transported to the village via the area's excellent communication links (the canal, road and rail links), there was little incentive to invest in discovering it. Bishopbriggs train station, opened in 1842, underlined its status as the emerging focus of the parish although expansion was slow throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Carron Company (an iron and mining concern), was the district’s main employer, building the hamlets of Mavis Valley and Jellyhill to accommodate its workers, and there were also many small mining communities in the area, including quarries in nearby Cadder, Crowhill, Huntershill and Kenmure. As a result the town was a major centre for freestone quarrying during the 19th Century, supplying many major municipal building projects in Glasgow, such as Sir George Gilbert Scott's Glasgow University main building (the second largest Gothic Revival building in Britain), via the Forth and Clyde Canal until the exhaustion of the quarries around 1900.
The Forth and Clyde Canal is a popular spot for fishing and a route for cyclists and joggersHeavy industry didn’t fare for long, however and Bishopbriggs suffered a decline in the early decades of the twentieth century. With the working out of the quarries around the turn of the century, what mines it had closed systematically thereafter, throughout the 1920s. Luckily, manufacturing industries arrived after the First World War to soften the blow, with engineering firms, a wire-rope factory, Trebor Bassett, and Blackie and Sons Publishers amongst those providing alternative employment. In 1929, new printing works for the Blackie company were erected on Kirkintilloch Road, and retaining the original name 'The Villafield Press', were built on this 13 acre site, opposite the town's Asda supermarket. During the Second World War, Blackie & Son Ltd used 33% of their Bishopbriggs works for the manufacture of 25 pound shells for the Ministry of Supply. They also undertook some toolmaking for another Glasgow company, William Beardmore & Co Ltd, and, for a short time, produced aircraft radiators. By 1960 the publishing and administration section of the company relocated to join the printing section in Kirkintilloch Road, Bishopbriggs, and in 1971, new premises were occupied in Wester Cleddens Road, eventually becoming the headquarters of the company. The printworks were now no longer required and earmarked for demolition, following a demand for residential property in the area. The Villafield name lives on in these residential streets.
In the 1930s Bishopbriggs emerged as an administrative centre for local government, although the final stage of its expansion was yet to come. The last major boost to the town's population came about as a result of the building programmes of the fifties and sixties which replaced Balmuildy and Woodhill farmlands with private housing estates. A campaign by the local Ratepayers Association won Bishopbriggs its late bid for burgh status in 1964, and this same organisation played a major role in keeping Bishopbriggs out of Glasgow district (and within Strathkelvin) during the local government reorganisation of the mid-70s.
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