Women’s histories in Glasgow’s place names

Jacki Parry, Women In The City, 2012 © Jacki Parry and Glasgow Women's Library

Jacki Parry, Women In The City, 2012
© Jacki Parry and Glasgow Women’s Library

There are hundred, thousands  of streets and buildings in Glasgow. Most are named after white men. Many after somewhat dubious characters who profited from slaving.

There are streets named after lightweight and stylish fabrics, like Muslin Street. But women… not so much. If you exclude those named for queens, very few tell women’s stories. Here’s a few that we have found. If you know of any others, please let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

  • St Enoch Station and Centre
    St Enoch lived in the 12th century and is regarded as Glasgow’s co-patron, along with her son St Mungo. She was a Princess of what is now Lothian and legend has it that her son was concevied when she was raped by a Welsh Prince disguised as a woman. When her father learned of her pregnancy, he ordered that she was thrown off a cliff. Amazingly, she and her baby survived, she went on to bring him up as a lone parent and they founded Glasgow together. How’s that for a story?
  • Mordaunt Street
    This street is home to Dalmarnock Primary School and is named for Lady Mordaunt, who later became notorious for having had extra-marital affairs, including, she claimed, with the Prince of Wales. She was declared insane and ended up living out the rest of her life in what was then called a “lunatic asylum”. Nice.
  • Mary Hill
    Apparently the hill part of Maryhill doesn’t refer to the gradient, it’s the surname (the maiden name no less) of the woman who gifted the land. This was back in the 18th century so, although she had inherited the land from her father, she needed the permission of her husband to feu a plot to a grocer. She insisted that the land was known as Maryhill. And it still is.
  • The Pearce Institute
    You can hardly swing a cat in Govan without finding a story of an inspirational woman: the rent strikes, the sufragettes, founding members of the labour party. But streets named after them are still thin on the ground. The Pearce Institute, on Pearce Street is a notable exception. It is named after Lady Dinah Pearce, who gifted it to the people of Govan. The building also has a Mary Barbour Hall, named after the prominent suffragette.
  • Mary Slessor Wynd
    Thank the Lord for new build estates. With new homes comes the chance to choose new street names and here we have one named for Mary Slessor. She was a missionary to Nigeria and fought for women and children’s rights in the country; she is credited with having stopped the killing  of newborn twins among the Efik people. She was featured on the Clydesdale Bank £10 note and now has a street named after her in Glasgow, as well as a few in her hometown of Aberdeen.
  • Grace Street
    This Anderston address was named after the youngest daughter of John Geddes of Vereville Pottery. The records say that she burned to death while dressing for a ball. This was a real risk for women, whose clothes were made of very flammable fabric and who tended to do most of the cooking over open fires.
  • Belmar Terrace
    Belmar? That doesn’t sound like a woman’s name. And it’s not- it’s two women’s names. As if there aren’t few enough places named after women, these two had to share. The original proprietor created a portmanteau of his two daughter’s names: Bella and Marion. It’s not exactly Brangelina, but it’s not far off.
  • Maureen Cope Hall
    This community centre in Castlemilk is named for a true Glasgow hero. When the community took over ownership from St Martin’s Church, they wanted a new non-denominational name. The committee decided to name it after Maureen Cope MBE: a community activist who helped transform housing in the area through her work with Arden Glen Housing Association. One community member said “we wouldn’t have front or back doors if it wasn’t for Maureen”. Maureen was said to be more proud of the tribute than she was of her MBE, as it had “come from her community”.

If you’re interested in learning more about women’s history in Glasgow, The Glasgow Women’s Library Women’s Heritage Walks are a good place to start. And if you find any memorials to women around Scotland you can add them to the crowdsourced Mapping Memorials. 

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2 Responses to Women’s histories in Glasgow’s place names

  1. Caroline Scott September 1, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    I’ve read that Daisy Street, Allison Street and Annette Street were named after Dixon’s (of Dixon Blazes) daughters

  2. editor September 1, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    Thanks so much. That’s interesting- we didn’t get them and they don’t seem to be on the Mapping Memorials site either. It might be worth adding them?

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