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October 14, 2017

Glasgow Slum in the Late 1940s: 22 Harrowing Photographs Capture Everyday Life of Residents of the Gorbals in 1948

Up to 40,000 people lived in the notorious Glasgow slum of the Gorbals in the late 1940s. They live four, six, eight to a room, often 30 to a lavatory, 40 to a tap.

At first sight, of an early morning, the Gorbals looks like any other poor area. Its flat, wide streets are lined with flat-faced tenements. There is a pub on every corner and an undertaker’s (open day and night) in almost every other block.

It is not until you get inside the tenements that you realise the Gorbals is no ordinary poor place. It is, in fact, an area that provides a very special version of the slum problem. The tenement blocks in the Gorbals sprung up in the 1840s as people flocked to Glasgow to work in the city's factories.

Unable to keep up with the demand for housing, the tenements were built quickly and cheaply and were designed to pack as many people in as possible. But appalling conditions came with it and it was not unusual for houses to have no water facilities and for sewage to run through the streets.

In its beginnings, the problem was one of immigration. A century ago, thousands of poor labourers began to arrive in Glasgow. They came to work on the new-fangled railways and the docks of the Clyde. They came for higher wages, for fuller plates, for what they conceived to be a better way of life than was possible in starving Erin and the wasted Scottish Highlands.

Two children play with their doll as they pose for the camera

Two boys walking along a street in the run-down Gorbals

Child eat their breakfast in one of the overcrowded tenement flats, that would sometimes see up to 30 people have to share one toilet

Without many toys to play with, two young lads decide to play a game on a heap of rubbish

Children entertain themselves by playing in dirty puddle water in the slums

Two little boys in shorts and long socks play in the street

A woman carrying her shopping basket stands at the bottom of a destroyed flight of stairs

Two young boys link arms as they walk down the street in the Gorbals

A group of young children on a street in the Gorbals.

A street scene in the run-down Gorbals

A Glaswegian woman peers out of the window as she pets her cat

Without proper balls, children had to use whatever they could to enjoy a game of football

Youngsters play with toy guns around the streets of the huge neighbourhood of tenements

A woman peers out of the window of her tenement

A young boy sits on a stone and attempts to blow up his balloon in the Gorbals

One of the main nightspots in the Gorbals was the Diamond Dancing Hall

Two young boys walk their dogs around the streets of the Gorbals

A West Indian family pack into their tiny dining room in the Gorbals

Barmen serve thirsty customers at one of the 174 pubs surrounding the Gorbals area

Men from the Gorbals meet in the local pub for a friendly smoke

The children of the Gorbals pack together to pose for the camera

Barmen work hard to serve all their customers at one of the 174 pubs near the Gorbals

(Photos by Bert Hardy)


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