Govan is one of the most historic districts of Glasgow. Standing on the south bank of the River Clyde Govan grew as an agricultural and fishing village and then as a centre for weaving.
However it was shipbuilding that catapulted Govan to the forefront of heavy industry. At its peak, before World War 1, shipbuilding directly employed a staggering 70,000 workers in 19 yards in and around Govan.
One such shipyard was Fairfield’s. In its heyday Fairfield’s was the centre of shipbuilding on the Clyde after Robert Napier had grown it from a small shipbuilding yard in 1841 into a world-class operation. He also trained future shipbuilders including John Elder and William Pearce.
A fine statue of John Elder stands in Elder Park, named after Isabella Elder after she created the park in memory of her husband. When John Elder died in 1869 Isabella used her wealth and status for the benefit of the wider community, including the building of Elder Park Library.
Within Elder Park stands a magnificent statue of John Elder and another of Isabella. Other notable landmarks include the old Linthouse Farmhouse. This is all that remains of Fairfield Farm, which Elder Park was built on. Also standing here is the old Italian portico that used to be the entrance porch of Fairfield Mansion, which was built on the Linthouse estate in 1791.
Perhaps the finest building in Govan is Govan Parish Church. This stands on the site of a 6th century church that was established by St Constantine. It is thought that Govan was once the administrative and ecclesiastical centre of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde. There were several churches built here before the present day Sir Robert Rowand Anderson designed building was opened in 1888.
However it is what has been unearthed in the churchyard that is of incredible significance – these include five hogbacked, carved tombstones, of Viking influence, and The Govan Sarcophagus, an ornate sandstone coffin. They are now on display inside the Govan Parish Church. Over the last 150 years a total of 47 carved stones have been recorded here, dating from the 9th to the 11th century and 31 survive today.
Govan has gone under some major redevelopment in recent years, including the creation of the Clyde Walkway. A stroll along here grants superb views of the Riverside Museum (which can be reached by ferry from Govan) and along the River Clyde to Stobcross Quay.
Also here on the Clyde stand the historic Graving Dry Docks, built between 1869 and 1898 and Stag Street. Here there used to be the Highland Lane, once a fordable crossing for the drovers who had driven their cattle from the Highlands. Here they would cross the Clyde and continue to the great trysts at Falkirk or south into England.