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You are here: Information & History | Miscellaneous - New Town

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Miscellaneous - New Town

Stonehouse New Town
On August 1973 Stonehouse was designated to be the next ‘New Town’, projected to receive a population from Glasgow in excess of 35,000, with the likelihood of an increase up to 70,000. This project would include, 25 primaries, 6 secondary schools and the reintroduction of the railway line to Stonehouse.

The purpose of new towns was to accommodate the population living in sub-standard and overcrowded conditions in the cities. Despite the decrease in Scotland’s population the number of households have been ever increasing. It was believed by Government, that until the social and environmental conditions improved in the urban areas, the population would continue to leave the cities, thus the need for new towns, such as East Kilbride, Cumbernauld and Livingston.

With this in mind for Stonehouse, the East Kilbride and Stonehouse Development Corporation was formed to create a plan to develop Stonehouse. However, when the newly formed Strathclyde Regional Council was formed it reviewed the plan and decided that the scheme was no longer needed. It was their view that Glasgow should retain its population with industry directed elsewhere. Thus in 1977, an Act of Parliament dedesignated Stonehouse as a New Town. However only the first phase of the project was carried out with the building of the Murray Drive Estate.

When consultation began with the community on the New Town proposal they met with mixed feelings, though 80% did vote in favour of the New Town, through a referendum at the time. The ‘carrot’ of industry, better leisure and shopping facilities was a welcome and attractive proposition, but at what cost? Stonehouse had always been a small, thriving close knit community, with many hard working organisations, working together in providing the village with many recreational pursuits and community support
groups. One of the villages attractions to potential new residents (‘incomers’!) is the community spirit and character. The New Town, in my opinion, would have threatened this ‘community spirit’.

Many households and farms would have been compulsory purchased to build roads and housing developments. If we think our village is suffering from traffic congestion now, what would the effects on our ‘conservation area’ and natural environment have been if a population of 70,000 were to have descended on our village. And what of our Gala Day, Agricultural Fair and Christmas Festival, would they have still been here? I doubt it. Do we really want another ‘roundabout city’ like East Kilbride? The village is constantly under threat of suburban development in what is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The tranquil winding river Avon is freedom on our doorstep, an education and haven for our children to learn from, and explore.

Stonehouse has the potential to expand and prosper within, developing our industry and residential capacity without having to expand into our greenbelt. With the first phase of the bypass complete the village must now look forward to redevelop the village centre and Conservation area, in creating an attractive location for potential residents and small businesses to locate themselves. Above all we must endeavour to preserve our village’s community spirit and character, and provide future generations with a sound economic base and healthy environment to live in.

In 1996 Stonehouse’s main employer was the hospital providing work for 548 staff, with around 150 living in the village. Unemployment is generally in line with most other villages of a similar size. Unfortunately, apprenticeships are almost a thing of the past with many children opting to go to College or University for further education.

In an era of large discount stores, supermarkets and purpose built shopping centres, many small rural traders are suffering from this new era in ‘out of town’ shopping facilities. Many shops have come and gone in Stonehouse over the years, of which the late Harry McFarlane could name every last one! One of my favourites, and I expect for many others would be ‘Graces’ (Hamilton) in the Trongate. Trading in household goods and bric-a-brac, the shop is a treasure trove of this, that and the other. As a child my memories of shops are confined to just one; ‘Susie’s Sweetie Shop’ (Susan Sorbie). It was situated at the now demolished tenement, across from the Co-operative in King Street. This shop is my only memory of pre-decimalisation, spending my ‘thrupenny bit’ on lucky bags, liquorice, sherbet dips and parma violets. This shop was not only a great loss to myself, but to hundreds of other children who kept our local dentist in great demand.

There have been many environmental, economic and structural changes to our village over recent years. Primarily a commuter village, housing developments at Murray Drive, West Mains, East Mains, Naismith Court, Muirhead, Crow Road, Weavers Court, Bramble Bank, and Boghall etc., have provided housing for an ever increasing population. Unfortunately, leisure facilities are few in comparison to other towns nearby. Parks proposed for Patrickholm and West Mains were never completed, and we have seen over the past 30 years a gradual decay in the condition of our once majestic Public Park. In days of old the park was the holiday and day trippers’ destination for travellers from all over Lanarkshire. This popular tourist attraction of the past has sadly been allowed to lose its attractive and colourful appearance. Due to vandalism we have lost the bandstand tearoom, the public toilets, the boating pond and seating throughout the park. This plague of vandalism has also resulted in severe damage to the fountain commemorating the opening of the park in May 1925 by Alexander Hamilton. This monument however has since been restored after a campaign led primarily by the Heritage Group.

Despite this, we have seen some advances in the last few years by way of a new all play facility and new investment to improve the overall appearance of the park. The park with all its problems, still commands one of the most scenic views of the Avon Valley.

Probably the most common recreational pursuit is ‘television’, transmitting to 99% of the population. Whether this form of communication media is good or bad is open to debate, but what is certain, is that , linked with the video, TV has revolutionised home entertainment to the point of being an addiction. In an era of vast technological advances, computers have become an integral part of everyday life, with continuing demands to obtain the latest technology putting greater financial constraints on society. We appear to be in an every inceasing capitalist society where power, possession and wealth have taken precedence over happiness, health and contentment. Fortunately Stonehouse has a thriving social calendar, and a host of clubs and societies providing a wide range of support and leisure pursuits in providing alternative activities and opportunities.

Stonehouse is also fortunate to have a well attended and organised Community Council, which deals with many topical issues, and represents the village with its grievances and recommendations. Like so many voluntary organisations it is a thankless task, where members of the community give up their personal time to fight for the rights of the residents of Stonehouse in providing a better environment for us all to live and work in.

Stonehouse like everywhere else suffers from ever increasing crime, in particular drugs related crimes, youth disorder, vandalism and violence. Stonehouse has been easy prey in some respects, due to its rural setting, with no manned police facility in the village. Crime has always been present as far back as records show, but what is alarming is the nature of the crimes taking place today, previously rarely heard of. Social behaviour, even in the past 10-15 years has changed, regarding alcohol in particular. Children will always venture to experience what they are told not to do, and always have, but moral attitudes and respect for the law has changed.

One characteristic of Stonehouse which still prevails, is that of the unfortunate label given to new residents, referred to as ‘incomers’. This long established custom probably dates to the Victorian period when the village was very much self contained with large families marrying within the community. Many then and now feel they have to be several generations resident in the village before becoming a fully pledged member of the community. It would appear today however that the ‘incomers’ now out number the locals due to an expanding community both in terms of size and mobility in the work force. It is also my opinion that of the organisations present today most are being advanced and organised by residents who have recently become established in the community. There is no doubt Stonehouse future lies in its inhabitants and both ‘incomer’ and ‘local’ have their role to play in
advancing our economic, recreational and moral endeavours.

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