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Coatbridge Burgh

Prior to the Burgh Act being passed, Coatbridge had the unenviable notoriety of being the largest and dirtiest village in Scotland.    As a village Coatbridge was indifferently paved and its principal streets were like country roads. There were no gas lamps.  The sanitary arrangements were by no means perfect.   But this feature has been removed. All these improvements were carried out. The sanitary affairs of the Burgh have been placed upon a most satisfactory footing, gas lamps have been set up over the greater part of the town.

Coatbridge has been transformed into an attractive, business-like and prosperous town with an earnest and public spirited Magistry and Council who have erected public buildings of a very high class wherin to discharge the many duties pertaining to the municipality of such a populous and rapidly increasing centre of the great iron industry.

When the Burgh was at its infancy the greatest question was regarding the building of a Town Hall.

The first Town Council found a temporary home in the Parochial Chambers in Ross Street and afterwards, more recently,  in the County Police Buildings in Dunbeth Road.  The Council viewed a number of site plans  by Mr A McGregor Mitchell, the then master of Works. After various alterations and additions a set showing a Town Hall incorporating a suite of offices and rooms for officials and police establishment were proceeded with upon a free site presented to the town by Mr Weir of Kildonan. 

The buildings were upwards of 3 years in construction.  During construction many improvements to the plan and extensions to the original contract took place.

On completion the "Iron Burgh" may well boast of "marble halls" second to none in Scotland outside Glasgow.

The town officials and police establishment took place before the opening ceremony.  The opening was an event worthy of the magnificence of the hall itself and of the municipal dignitaries under whose zealous hand the handsome pile of buildings have attained completion.

Coatbridge wa s a product o f the Indu s trial R ev olution that tr a n s formed S co tl a nd bet w een 1760 a nd 1 830. It app ea rs on G e neral Ro y ' s map of 1755 as a bridg e o v er th e G ar t s h e rri e Burn and b y the Censu s o f 1831 the v ill a ge of Coatbrid g e had 741 p e ople and 107 hou s e s .

In 18 8 5 , w h e n it became a burgh , it had a population of 25 , 000 . Thi s wa s brought about b y the rapid d eve lopmen t of the Ir on Industr y and other ancillary indust r i es , but together with this went s ocial deprivation and a lack of public h e alth that may not ha v e e xi s ted if Coatbridge had achieved burgh s t a tus much ea rlier.

Forrest's map of the Coats and Drumpellier Estates made in 1801 shows a villas of above twelve houses clustered around the Fountain area and along Sunnyside Road. However, his map of Lanarkshire in 1816 shows the linear development of what was become a town encompassing Coatbridge, Dundyvan and Langloan, spread along the new turnpike road that had been built in 1795 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Further along that road, built in 1795, was Mr Creelman's Pottery and stables at the foot where Jackson Street exists; horses we kept here for working on the Monkland Canal . To the west of the village stood Neil McBrayne
Vitriol Works, an important part of the Linen Industry in the Monklands. Langloan also had school, founded in 1802, which had been set up by the Heritors of Old Monkland Parish and it also contained a private school from the 1750s

John Alexander was elected the first Provost and the first council meeting was held in the Parochial Board Room in Bank Street on 4th November 1885. The Baillies were Pettigrew, Gilchrist, Bannen and Addie. Mr Alston was appointed Town Clerk on 12th November at which meeting the Burgh
Seal (see title heading) was instituted. At this meeting it was decided to use the County Police Office in Dunbeth Road as Court Hall and meeting hall
. 21 This continued until the Town Hall was built in 1894. Finally, the Passage of the Act cost the ratepayers of Coatbridge the sum of 3 , 494, which was costly at the time. However, it was well worth the struggle. If burgh status had not been achieved in 1885 Coatbridge would probably have become absorbed into the County Council of Lanark which was set up by the Local Government Act of 1889 and would have brought a burden to that organisation, eventually being made a burgh sometime in the early twentieth century.

In 1934 James Knox, the Airdrie historian, writing a foreword for a book written by ex - Provost Lavelle of Coatbridge, entitled 'Looking Back' had this to say:

"T h e first council of the newly - formed Burgh in 1885 had a 'Herculean' task. We at this time of day can hardly imagine a community of over 25,000 people without repre s entative Local Government and all that this implies in the matt e r of ordinar y communal services , but such w as
the position of Coatbridge. Littl
e wonder that it had earned the unenviable reputation of being ' the largest and dirtiest village in Scotland .
' The new town council were therefore faced with such problems as Drainage , Roads , Pa v ements , Lighting, Clean s ing , Hospitals , Municipal and Police Buildings, and a ho s t of minor nec es siti es, b es ides the s e lection and appointment of a staff of permanent officials before it could be said that it was eq uipp e d as a modern Municipality . "

Alexander McGregor Mitchell (1842-1904) spent his early years on the Rosehall estate where his father was factor and was educated at Dundyvan Academy. His earliest known employment in building was at the Deaf and Dumb Institute in Glasgow in 1866-68, presumably as James Salmon's clerk of works. Thereafter he worked for William Shanks of Airdrie. Appointment as Master of Works to the Buchanans of Drumpelier and Coatbridge Burgh Council and then architect to the Colts of Gartsherrie enabled him to open his own office in Coatbridge and obtain the appointment of burgh engineer.

Eventually he became architect and surveyor to most of the estates and trusts in the Coatbridge area - including that of Mr Peddie Waddell of Balquhatston, Slamannan. In 1894, by which date the quality of the practice's work was markedly improved, Mitchell was joined by his son Alexander McGregor Mitchell Junior (born 1878) as an apprentice. He was given responsibility for the planning of tenements and small villas, and in 1899 he became chief assistant. He took full charge of the office in 1900.

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