History and Origins of Rouken Glen Park

 

Rouken Glen Park has a long and varied history. The lands in the old parishes of Eaglesham, Mearns and Eastwood had belonged to the Earls of Eglinton. The earliest record of the private estate that became Rouken Glen goes back to 1530 when James V gifted the lands known as Birkenshaw to the 13th Earl on the occasion of his son's marriage. The origin of the name 'Rouken' seems to lie in the name of an old meal mill that stood on the banks of the Auldhouse Burn from the middle of the twelfth century to 1879, and was used by local farmers to grind their grain. This mill was known as 'The Rockandmyll' or 'Rock-End Mill', and its ruins can still be seen today.

 

Before the Rouken Glen lands became a family estate, it had been used for various commercial and industrial purposes, including a quarry for blond Giffnock sandstone and as a water supply for the Thornliebank Printworks, under the ownership of various Glasgow merchants. The owners of the Thornliebank Printworks, the Crum family who also owned factories and mills in Lancashire, bought the Rouken Glen lands in 1852 with the plan of building a paper mill. However, no investors could be found and so Walter Crum, the second generation of the Thornliebank Crums, decided to make his home there. Walter and his eldest son Alexander rebuilt the Mansion House (also known as Thornliebank House) to grand Victorian standards, planned and planted the famous walled garden and added to the natural woodland.
 

Walter's daughter Margaret lived for a time at Birkenshaw Cottage with her husband William Thomson, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow University and later Lord Kelvin. After Alexander's death in 1893, his brother William Crum sold the estate to the Liberal MP for Tradeston, Cameron Corbett (later Lord Rowallan) in 1904. Corbett immediately presented it to Glasgow Corporation as a philanthropic gift for the people of Glasgow.

In May 1906, Rouken Glen Park was formally opened to the public, and so began a new chapter in its history. At first it was only opened for two days a week to members of the public. Access was increased, however, and Rouken Glen became a very popular destination for day-trippers, family groups, Sunday School classes and works parties. Glasgow Corporation extended the city's tram network to the gates of Rouken Glen in 1906. Alternative routes to the park were by train from Glasgow Central Station to Whitecraigs Station, and later by bus from the city centre. Several tearooms were opened to cater for the visitors - in the Mansion House, Birkenshaw Cottage, the Bungalow tearooms and the Queen Mary tea garden. A children's playground with swings was erected in the parkland, and two bandstands were built to host summer concerts and bands as well as shows performed by the Rouken Glen Entertainers.

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