Cumbernauld, just 15 miles north east of Glasgow, was officially designated as a New Town in 1955. Since then it has grown from a small village to a large town of more than 50,000 residents, and is now North Lanarkshire’s largest settlement.
Before The New Town
A fascinating collection of black and white photos showing how everything completely changed over the course of a few decades.
Unfortunately, this extended family stays firmly indoors so we don’t see the original village. But it gives you some idea of normal family life before the new town – and television.
A Planned New Town 1955-1970
Shipbuilder and politician John Scott Maclay, Viscount Muirshiel, (26 October 1905 – 17 August 1992), was Secretary of State for Scotland in 1957. He was one of the dignitaries leading a ceremony marking the start of the new town building programme.
Watched by dozens of onlookers, the men stand about talking. Then the Secretary of State makes a speech, though this is a silent film so we can’t hear it. Finally he digs out a square of turf, and looks very pleased about it all.
This film from 1958 shows countryside fields being dug up by a Scottish Land Development Corporation bulldozer.
Small teams of men with no safety equipment build a row of houses surrounded by fields and trees. Watering cans of steaming hot tar hoisted to the roof on a rope look precarious.
A woman cleans the windows of her home even as a workman is busy next door.
Finally, we see officials turning up for the official opening of new houses at Braehead Road.
Family life in a town still being built. There appears to be a jumble sale in the street.
The toddler has problems with the height of the steps connecting the front door of the house to the street. It’s a bizarre construction for a brand new family home on a ‘planned’ site.
Everywhere is much more grey and severe than official films show.
This 1968 look at new towns around the UK tells us that Glasgow’s planned redevelopment will reduce the number of residents.
One in every 10 Glaswegian citizens must make new homes elsewhere in the next 10 years, predict the planners.
This film made for the Cumbernauld Development Corporation and Films of Scotland looks at the ideas behind creating the new town:
- A budget of £70m
- Would draw people from “all over Britain”
- Create a home for 70,000 people
- 5,000 parking spaces below the town centre
- A third of the population was under the age of 15
- ALL health services (including dentists) are located at the health centre
- Footage of teenage girls accompanied by a wolf whistle
- Every 400 houses have a corner shop
- More than half the houses have their own garden, most have a garage
- Recognises that privacy can be isolating
- No one ever needs to cross a road because of pedestrianisation
- Accident rate one fifth of the national average
- 5% of the population are “old people”
- Official policy to encourage pensioner settlement there
- Kirk-a-go-go provided church Sunday discos for teenagers
- Air taxi service to main airfields
- A big pram left outside a flat at the top of a flight of steps
Hundreds of people on screen throughout the film. It looks very idyllic and optimistic, with lots to do.
To modern eyes, the houses and flats are too tightly packed in with little private space. There’s a heavy reliance on outside landscapes to ease the endless concrete.
The family’s experience is interesting, with the housewife blaming herself for not settling in since her working husband and school age children have enjoyed the move.
Life In The 1970s
1970s footage of a large number of boys playing in the snow in the school playing field at Greenfaulds High School. The last few moments show a Highland cow.
Silent colour footage from the 1970s. Most of the film looks at the Marshall Orr Precision Sheet Metal Engineers, but the introduction and several later scenes include different locations around town.
In 1977 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the town. This film shows the Royals, but also a few clips of people and places.
In The 21st Century
In 2016 Patrick Bradley filmed a visit to one of the 1960s Penthouses.
It’s a fascinating look at how these cutting edge homes look half a century later. Moreover, it highlights the extent of demolition and redevelopment in the area.
People didn’t change their way of living to adapt to the new environment in the way planners expected. Also, concrete landscapes are expensive and difficult to maintain over time.
It’s fascinating footage of an area few people see now. In addition, the information given on screen and the inclusion of old photos and film really give a sense of the history of the buildings seen today.
The High School building opened in 1965. Like so many schools of that era, maintenance issues and changing education standards caused problems in later decades.
These photos were taken just before demolition in 2019.