Plantation, Glasgow, Scotland

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"Plantation" is a district in the Scottish city of Glasgow. It is situated south of the River Clyde and is part of the former Burgh of Govan.

A map by Robert Ogilvy in 1741 of the estate of Sir John Maxwell of Pollok shows a field called the "Plantation" in the area which later became known as Plantation, which is likely to be the origin of that local name. There is a story that a later owner of the area, a Mr. Robertson, named the area Plantation in the 1780s because he also owned property in the West Indies. However, the Ogilvy map suggests that the area was known as Plantation well before Mr. Robertson's period.

At that time included the whole of the Kinning Park area right up to the riverbank, shown as a number of fields called Plantation, totalling about 46 acres.[1]

"THE lands now called "Plantation," are situated about one mile west from Tradeston, near the toll bar where the roads diverge, leading to Govan, and to Paisley. They extend to about eighty acres, and are intersected by the two roads referred to. They are bounded on the north by the Clyde, on the south by the Paisley Canal, on the east by Park House, and on the west by Bellahouston and Haughhead. They are made up of three old properties - Craigiehall, Miln Park, and Sleads and Knolls.[2]

The lands of Plantation include three separate estates, namely, Craigiehall (which was the largest, and the land was known by that name until 1783), Miln Park, Sleads, and Knolls, extending altogether to about 80 acres. The northern boundary of the estate was the river Clyde, the southern the Paisley Canal (now the G. & S.-W. Railway), the eastern the lands of Park House, and the western the lands of Bellahouston and Haughhead. They were probably put into shape about the year I701, as a stone bearing that date was taken from the original building at a later period and inserted in the wall on the Govan Road Opposite where the old mansion-house stood. In the year 1783 Mr. John Robertson, merchant in Glasgow, purchased the estate, upon which there was then a small dwelling-house— probably that erected in 1701.[3][4]

The 80-acre Craigiehall estate, previously three smaller properties, was bought in 1783 by John Robertson Jr., son of John "the Bank" cashier in the Glasgow Arms Bank. John Robertson Jr. renamed it Plantation. Commonly assumed since Robertson and his brothers owned sugar and cotton plantations in the West Indies, and he may have changed the name of the estate to Plantation in recognition of his business interests (and the primary source ??? of his fortune).

MR. ROBERTSON was a gentleman who exercised a marked influence on the prosperity of the city during the greater part of last century. Besides his large private business of West India merchant, he was a partner in the works commenced and carried on by George Macintosh and others for the manufacture of cudbear, cashier of the Glasgow Arms Bank, and principal proprietor of the firm designated the "Smithfield Nailree." Nor did he neglect his public duties, for we find him a Director of the first Board of the Chamber of Commerce, and Preceptor of Hutchesons' Hospital. The Nailree was an old and very successful firm, instituted in 1737.[5]
In 1783 Mr. Robertson acquired the estate of Craigiehall, about fifty-two acres in extent, not far from the rural Clyde banks, at the junction of the Paisley Road with the quiet road leading to the ancient village of Govan. As the brothers Robertson owned extensive possessions in the West Indies, the small holding was called Plantation, a name which it still retains; and here he resided till the change we are now about to relate took place.[5]
In the original list of the members of the Chamber of Commerce, the date is recorded when each gentleman, either by death or failure to contribute his annual subscription, ceased to be acknowledged as a member, and the number of names taken off the list about this time, for one or other of the causes we have specified, is very striking. Mr. Robertson, the subject of our sketch, disappears in 1794; his brother, who was cashier in the Merchants' Bank, in 1792; Andrew Thomson, of A. & G. Thomson, also in 1792; and three other gentlemen who were known to be connected with the Glasgow Arms—viz., John Bowman, Virginia merchant; Peter Murdoch, whose father was one of the originators of the bank; and Alexander Brown, ex-Dean of Guild—are all struck off the list about the same time.[5]
JAMES and WILLIAM ROBERTSON were brothers of John Robertson of Plantation, manager of the Glasgow Arms Bank. James was cashier and partner in the Merchants' Bank, and William was manager of the old and successful Smithfield Iron Work, of which the three brothers were the principal partners.[5]
Blackburn Street, Plantation, Govan, Glasgow

The estate was sold to John Mair (d 1824) of John Mair & Co in 1793, and he rebuilt the old house there, adding wings, offices, walls and gates and laying out gardens in the grounds.

In 1793 the property was sold to John Mair. He it was who, by lavish expense, made Plantation the beautiful residence it used to be. He enlarged and embellished the mansion, added wings and offices, built great walls and gates, and formed gardens and grounds not surpassed in their day in this quarter. Mr. Mair's history was a curious one. He was born in Paisley, and bred a mason. When working some height up Paisley steeple, he missed his footing, and was only saved by clutching a projecting stone. He managed to hold on by this till mattresses were hurried out to break his fall. But he had had enough of the mason trade. He left it and Paisley, and coming in to Glasgow, became a prosperous manufacturer here and in London, under the firm, which still goes on, of John Mair & Co. He had the stone that had stood him in such good stead brought to Plantation, and fixed in his grounds, and sacredly guarded. Beside it, in a sunny corner, he had an alcove built on the wall along the Govan Road : below was a seat : and here it was said he used to sit in thought. The top of the alcove, flanked by pinnacles, rose above the wall, and was a conspicuous object to the few passers by. He died in 1824, and the rumour ran in Govan parish that it surmounted the grave Mr. Mair was to lie in. However, he lies in what was then the quiet country kirk-yard of Govan, with shady elms round it, and the clear river below.[6]

In 1829 Plantation was bought by William MacLean, dyer and manufacturer in Glasgow, and Deacon-Convener of that year. Mr. MacLean was afterwards Councillor and Bailie, and returning to the Council, after a long interval, served his native city again for several years, and only retired in 1864 when he was 81 years old. He died in 1867.[7]

Plantation passed to the Maclean family, The Macleans of Plantation, in 1829, in the person of William Maclean (1783-1867), a Glasgow Baillie.

Maclean Street takes its name from William MacLean, who at one time owned Plantation House, a gentleman’s mansion which stood more or less where Maclean Street intersects with Craigiehall Street (or rather intersected, as there is now only a short length of Maclean Street left).[8]

Govan, Plantation Area, Glasgow
Kinning Park Map

In the years that followed, the estate was bisected by the railway to the south, with the shipbuilding yards of The Clyde Trust cutting off the estate from the river.

Plantation was laid out for tenement houses in the 1870s and Maclean, Plantation, Mair and Craigiehall Streets refer to the history of the old estate. The house was in a state of disrepair by 1878 and it was finally demolished c 1900.

Plantation Quay forms part of the site of Glasgow Science Centre

Glasgow Science Centre and Tower

Further Reading


  1. Andrew J McMahon et al. (2003), A History of Kinning Park and District, Glasgow, Glasgow Lending Libraries shelfmark 941.443
  3. The history of Govan, burgh and parish : historical, ecclesiastical, traditional, and municipal / by T.C.F. Brotchie. 1905
  4. Glasghu facies : a view of the city of Glasgow; or, An account of its origin ...By John M'Ure
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Curiosities of Glasgow citizenship: as exhibited chiefly in the business career of its old commercial aristocracy / By George Stewart

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Categories: Govan, Lanarkshire