Walk: Govan Heritage

Govan has an amazingly rich social and industrial heritage which you could easily spend a day exploring in itself. It is best known for its shipbuilding industry from 1841 onwards and has pride in its work ethic and charitable patrons. This attitude is exemplified with The Aitken Memorial Fountain [14] which stands in Govan Cross. Dr John Aitken was a surgeon in the area for 20 years during a period of rapid expansion from 1864. He campaigned for better living standards at a time when disease was spreading due to overcrowding and inadequate water and sanitary provision. He lived among the people and his death was commemorated, aptly, with a fountain providing clean drinking water. It is beautifully decorated with unusual details such as the crocodiles at the head of the columns.

Walk towards the river to get a great view of the Riverside Museum [22] (Transport Museum) or take a ferry across the water from Govan (at certain times only) and visit the museum which sits on land which for years has mourned the lost legacy of the ship building industry.

This legacy is more ornately shown in The Pearce Institute [15] – the building was gifted to the people of Govan in memory of Sir William Pearce, one of the most influential figures of a prolific ship building period. A model ship is perched on the front gable of the building while his statue stands at Govan X/Brechins Bar [16].

Next up along Govan Road is Govan Old Parish Church [17] which is one of the most important and oldest religious sites in Glasgow. This church, completed in 1888, is the fourth in a series of religious structures that have stood here since the 6th Century. A walk through its graveyard and stones gives clues to the changing industries of Govan while the beautiful interior is home to some amazing pieces of medieval sculpture such as the Govan sarcophagus as well as a collection of Victorian stained glass windows including work by Charles Kempe.

Further along you will find The Lyceum [18], a 1930’s cinema awaiting restoration and further again you come to Fairfield Shipyard [19]. At one point this building housed the offices and drawing room of one of the largest shipyards in the world. It’s impressive interior is currently being refurbished and will open in March 2013 as a centre devoted to the shipbuilding heritage of Govan. Across the road you can enjoy a walk through another gift to Govan, Elder Park. Donated to the people of Govan by Isabella Elder, the wife of John Elder – another significant
figure in the founding and history of the shipbuilding industry. The park was designed as an escape from overcrowded, industrial Govan and contains the Elderpark Library [20]. Injecting colour and relief in a contemporary manner is DO-Architecture’s new ‘Park View’ [21] housing scheme that faces the park on Golspie Street.

Architecture: Govan Station

Govan Subway station was re-built as part of the underground refurbishment of 1974-80. The design of the station reflects the architectural discourse of the time – a kind of ‘plug-in’, temporary architecture. The building looks alien to the site, as if it has just landed there. It consists of a rounded white pod supported on a brown brick plinth with cooling towers. While the brick is consistent with the rest of the refurbishment works of the time, it is the addition of the white pod that both dates the station and gives it the ‘futuristic’ look.