Review – The Birth of Industrial Glasgow: the archaeology of the M74

2 mins read
Michael Nevell
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, £25
ISBN 978-190833210
Review LM

The M74 Completion Project saw the construction of a new section of road linking the M74 and M8, which cut through southern Glasgow. Fieldwork carried out by archaeologists along the way investigated the changing landscape of what was one of the world’s key manufacturing centres from the late 18th to the early 20th century. A number of publications on the excavations have appeared since, but this book draws together the work of archaeologists and architectural and archival historians to provide a clear and full overview of the project and its findings.

This major monograph by Michael Nevell, industrial archaeologist and Head of Archaeology at the University of Salford, covers canals, railways, engineering works, textile mills, potteries, lime kilns, and housing in detail, exploring a time of rapid change in industry and society. Features by other experts introduce the public archaeology aspect of the project (including the M74 Dig Discovery Centre and the oral-history programme) and highlight technological innovation (such as the manufacturing process at the Govan Iron Works and the hot-blast process that made the highly prized – and at times counterfeited – Glaswegian kiln bricks).

As well as the wide range of industries going on in the area, including cloth-working, rope-making, and soap production, the book examines the archaeology of the tenement houses in the area to uncover how the workers lived. Housing was the most common site-type excavated along the new stretch of the M74, and the small finds included ceramic and glass marbles, golf balls, and a clay pipe shaped like a golf ball, illuminating work and play. One unusual find from this domestic context was a set of used rifle cartridges from the 1940s, which bear witness to the Lower English Buildings’ role in the Second World War as a street-fighting training ground for the Glasgow Town Area Fighting School.

Focusing on both the work and the workers’ lives makes this a well-rounded account of industrialisation in the city, and one that is well illustrated and firmly grounded in the physical remains.

This review was published in CA 324

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