11.40  "It Wis a Healthy and Wealthy Place": The Springburn Winter Gardens as a Symbol of Economic Decline and the Conflicts of Community Regeneration

The existing literature on industrial ruination is focused primarily on sites with a direct connection with work and employment, such as abandoned workplaces and symbols including cranes and smokestacks. The processes of deindustrialization, however, have impacts and consequences on entire working-class neighbourhoods and towns, affecting spaces with community significance. This paper will examine a non-work related site of abandonment, utilizing oral testimonies to consider the significance of community spaces in areas historically tied to industrial production. It will also examine the conflicts between government-led regeneration initiatives and community-based campaigns, considering the different sites given prominence and exploring the reasons behind these contrasts and the new struggles that have emerged from these. 

The site of analysis is the abandoned Springburn Winter Gardens, an A-listed Victorian glass house which was gifted to the community by locomotive industrialist James Reid in 1900. Oral testimonies with former locomotive workers demonstrate the sense of loss and terminal community decline in the area following the collapse of the industry, and Springburn has become synonymous with deprivation and antisocial behaviour. Located in Springburn Park, the Winter Gardens—abandoned in the 1980s—serve as a physical symbol of the area’s decline. Through an interaction with grassroots campaigners and local residents, this paper will offer a critical analysis of civic regeneration programs that utilize heritage sites. The argument will be presented that the abandonment of sites such as the Springburn Winter Gardens is representative of the misuse of industrial heritage across Scotland. It will be demonstrated that the perception of Glasgow as a modern, vibrant city is directly challenged through a closer examination of the ways in which the City mistreats residents and communities outside its metropolitan centre. The interviews conducted through this research demonstrate the disconnect between civic regeneration based on an uncritical celebration of an industrial past, and working-class areas blighted by neglect and depravation as a direct result of industrial decline. The paper will argue that prominent sites such as the Springburn Winter Gardens demonstrate clearly the contested decision-making process that has accompanied the continued decline of working-class areas following industrial closure in later twentieth-century Scotland.

Participant
Scottish Oral History Centre

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