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Govan
Govan Town Hall.jpg
Govan Burgh Hall
Govan shown within Glasgow
Area 3.6 km2 (1.4 sq mi)
Population 11,000 
• Density 3,056/km2 (7,920/sq mi)
OS grid reference NS555655
• Edinburgh 45 mi (72 km) E
• London 346 mi (557 km) SSE
Council area
Lieutenancy area
  • Glasgow
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town GLASGOW
Postcode district G51
Dialling code 0141
Police Strathclyde
Fire Strathclyde
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
  • Glasgow South West
Scottish Parliament
  • Glasgow Pollok
    Glasgow Southside
List of places
UK
Scotland
GlasgowCoordinates: 55°51′41″N 4°18′30″W / 55.8615°N 4.3083°W / 55.8615; -4.3083

Govan (/ˈɡʌvən/ GUV-ən; Scottish Gaelic: Baile a' Ghobhainn) is a district, parish, and former burgh now part of southwest City of Glasgow, Scotland. It is situated 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west of Glasgow city centre, on the south bank of the River Clyde, opposite the mouth of the River Kelvin and the district of Partick. Historically it was part of the County of Lanark.

According to medieval legend, Constantine, a 7th-century King of Strathclyde, founded a monastery under the rule of Columbanus in Govan. During the Middle Ages, Govan was the site of a ferry which linked the area with Partick for seasonal cattle drovers. In the 18th and 19th centuries, textile mills and coal mining were important; in the early 19th century shipbuilding emerged as Govan's principal industry. In 1864, Govan gained burgh status, and was Scotland's fifth largest burgh. It was incorporated into the city of Glasgow in 1912.

History

Early history

Recent studies of the archaeology of old Govan have revealed the presence of an ancient Christian church. Two associated Christian burials are radiocarbon dated to the 5th or 6th centuries, making Govan the earliest known Christian site in the region. Govan is believed to have then been part of a kingdom ruled from Dumbarton Rock, known as Alt Clut, the rock on the Clyde. During the Viking Age, perhaps following the sack of Dumbarton Rock in 878, Govan is believed to have been one of the major centres of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. According to John of Fordun, Constantine, a 7th-century king of Strathclyde, founded a monastery at Govan, where he died and was buried. In 1855, an elaborately carved sandstone sarcophagus was found during digging in the churchyard. It is now kept inside the church. It may have been used to contain the body or relics of Constantine, although the style of carving indicates an origin in the 10th or 11th centuries. This King Constantine is first mentioned in the 12th-century Life of St. Kentigern by Jocelyn of Furness, where he is said to have been son of Riderch Hael. He is likely a literary invention. The early church in Govan is dedicated to a Saint Constantine, about whom nothing else is known.

Govan's earliest recorded name may be found in the Historia Regnum Anglorum attributed to Symeon of Durham. This is a 12th-century Latin source, but one believed to be based on much earlier materials; it records a place near Dumbarton Rock named Ouania. Based on this, Govan's Cumbric language name has been reconstructed as *(G)uovan. Govan is Baile a' Ghobhainn (the smith's town) in Scottish Gaelic. Bishop Leslie in his Scotia Descriptio of 1578 says it got its name from the excellence of its ale (God-win), whereas Chalmers in his Caledonia says it is derived from Scottish Gaelic, Gamhan (a ditch).

The earliest references to Govan are found in connection with the Christian church. In 1136, when Glasgow Cathedral was formally consecrated, King David I (1124–53) gave to the See the lands of Partick and also of the church at Govan (on opposite sides of the River Clyde), which became a prebend of Glasgow. The Govan Old Parish Church was rebuilt in 1762, 1826, and again 1884-1888. Within it and its roughly circular churchyard is one of the finest collections of Early Christian stones in the United Kingdom, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries.

By the 16th century, extensive coal mine workings had been developed around Craigton and Drumoyne. As the village grew, new trades and crafts, such as weaving, pottery and agriculture, were established.

Blaeu.Atlas.of.Scotland.1654.Renfrew.Govan
A part of Blaeu's 1654 map of Scotland. Modern Govan is at the site labeled Mekle Gouan ("Big Govan"). The small town of Glasgow is on the north bank of the Clyde, across from Litle Gouan ("Little Govan").

There is an oddity whereby part of eighteenth-century parish of Govan (which was in Lanarkshire) is counted as being within Renfrewshire. There existed a hospital in the area, and as quasi-religious foundations were not taxed, it had never been assigned to a sheriffdom. Thus, when Renfrewshire was created out of a sheriffdom of Lanarkshire in the early fifteenth century, the lands associated with the hospital (Polmadie) were not technically in the newly created shire, as they were not part of the sheriffdom. They were, however, very much a part of the physical landscape that became Renfrewshire. A similar uncertainty existed regarding the nearby lands of Pollokshields and Westends. People lived with the inconsistency in the records. When the railway was to be built in the late nineteenth century, however, the confusion over proper descriptions in the land titles made necessary legal transactions difficult and had to be reconciled. The county added to the description of these lands, the phrase: "but now by annexation in the County of Renfrew."

Govan Glasgow 1904
Pearce Statue and Lyceum Theatre, 1904.

By the early part of the 19th century, Govan was rapidly losing its rural appearance and assuming the character of a town with the development of new industries and factories, including Reid's Dye Works and Pollok's Silk Mill. Town officials arranged for the deepening of the Clyde in 1759, the reclamation of the channels between the islands (The Whyte Inch, The Black Inch, and The King's Inch), and the construction of quays and docks. This facilitated the development of shipbuilding as a major industry. By the 1860s, the village needed a higher order of administration and it was made a burgh in 1864, under the General Police (Scotland) Act 1862. At the time, it was the fifth largest burgh in Scotland and contained within its boundaries, the areas of Plantation, Cessnock, Ibrox, Craigton and Drumoyne. in 1901 the Burgh boundaries increased further west to include Linthouse and West Drumoyne.

With Morris Pollok as its first Provost, the Burgh and its Commissioners ensured that during the next 48 years Govan became a well-equipped, modern town. During the late 19th century, the population of Govan increased more than tenfold: from 9,000 in 1864 to 95,000 by 1907. In 1901 Govan was the 7th largest town in Scotland. In 1912, Glasgow annexed Govan after a series of annexation battles.

A prominent feature of the Govan landscape was the Doomster or Moot Hill, which stood near the river, north of the present Govan Cross. It was removed in the early 19th century and Reid's Dyeworks was erected on the site. The origins of the Doomster Hill are a mystery. One hypothesis is that it was a prehistoric burial mound. In 1996, a team from Channel 4's Time Team programme carried out an archeological excavation at the site. They suggested that the hill may have been a 12th-century Norman motte.

20th century to the present

Traditionally viewed as a lower working-class area, Govan has typically supported the Labour Party, but the Scottish National Party (SNP) has also been strong there. In 1973 SNP won a by-election with Margo MacDonald as their candidate. The SNP won another by-election victory in 1988, this time with Jim Sillars as candidate. The latest victory for the SNP was in the 2007 Scottish parliamentary elections, when Nicola Sturgeon became the MSP for the constituency.

The area has had a reputation for deprivation and poverty, partly due to the construction of housing estates in the 1930s to relieve the overcrowded slum district of The Gorbals, Glasgow. The most famous of these housing estates is Moorpark, sometimes referred to jocularly as "The Wine Alley" - this area was named by The Independent newspaper in April 1994 as one of the worst areas in Britain, with drug abuse being a widespread problem and unemployment standing at nearly 30% (up to three times the national average at the time).

It was parodied by the BBC sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt. Although Govan was the stated setting for the show, episodes were seldom filmed there. In the post-war years, many Govanites were relocated from the town, often reluctantly, to outlying areas such as Drumchapel, Pollok, Darnley, Priesthill and Penilee by the Corporation of Glasgow.

Despite these developments, there were numerous older buildings around Govan until quite recently, most notably the terraces and tenements situated around Govan Road. These were not cleared until well into the 1970s.

Due to boundary changes, Govan in the early 1960s incorporated some surrounding more prosperous areas at its boundaries. Although technically part of Govan, residents of these areas have maintained a distinct identity separate from the area.

The Govan Fair is celebrated on the first Friday in June each year.

Transport

Govan is served by Govan Subway Station, Ibrox Subway Station and Cessnock Subway Station on the Glasgow subway system.

Govan railway station opened on 2 December 1868. It closed permanently to regular passenger services on 9 May 1921.

Regular bus services, mainly operated by McGill's Bus Services and First Glasgow, offer frequent routes to Glasgow City Centre, as well as to numerous locations in Renfrewshire.

List of Provosts of Govan

  • 1864-1867 Morris Pollok
  • 1867-1869 William Cruickshank
  • 1869-1872 Thomas Reid
  • 1872-1880 James Wilson
  • 1880-1883 John Thompson
  • 1883-1886 Alexander Campbell
  • 1886-1889 George Ferguson
  • 1889-1892 Neil McLean
  • 1892-1901 James Kirkwood
  • 1901-1904 John Marr
  • 1904-1908 John Anthony
  • 1908-1912 David McKechnie

Popular culture

  • Scottish TV Series Rab C Nesbitt is set in Govan although the series is largely filmed elsewhere.

Images for kids


Govan Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.