Airdrie (surveyed in 1858)


Airdrie's name is derived from the Gaelic, airde ruigh, which means 'high pasture'. It is situated between Glasgow and Edinburgh, in Lanarkshire. In the 1850s it was a post and market town and a Parliamentary Burgh in the parish of New Monkland. Its population in 1851 was 14,435, an increase of almost 8,000 on the 1831 census. This enormous growth was due not to high birth rate, but to an influx of residents predominantly from Ireland, but also from the Scottish Highlands. This followed the potato famine of the mid-1840s and also reflected the change from cottage industry to heavy industry in the area. Most of the Irish immigrant population worked in mining and labouring.

Town Planning

The town at the time of this survey consisted primarily of one long street, which was also the main road between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland (1857) gives a good impression of the town, he says, '[It] is 'well-built, and has an aspect of tidiness, good taste, and great prosperity . . . [It is] not compact, yet on the other hand is free from all disagreeable compression and unhealthy closeness'.

Trade and Industry

Part of the reason for this prosperity was that Airdrie had changed from being a rural, agricultural town to a centre of industry through its exploitation of the surrounding ironstone and coal beds. Its trade also benefited from being situated on the Monkland Canal and on the new North British Railway.

Religious Life

Airdrie in the 1850s had three Free churches, two United Presbyterian churches, and a Reformed Presbyterian church. There were also two Chapels of Ease, East and West, although the former was unoccupied. The other places of worship in the town were the Independent church, and the Baptist church. There were also two Methodist churches and a Roman Catholic church.


The Town House on Bank Street was built in 1826 and, with its three-stage clock tower, is a distinctive feature of the town. It originally had a multiple role, functioning as the prison, police office and town hall. At the time of survey, Airdrie contained offices of the Bank of Scotland, the National Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank, the City of Glasgow Bank, a savings' bank, and a temperance savings' bank. The town also had 10 insurance companies. The poor and destitute were catered for by the New Monkland Poor-House, the New Monkland Orphan Society, the Airdrie Charity-House, and the Benevolent Society. At this time the principal school was Airdrie Academy, which also had a branch for girls. In 1846 the Airdrie and Coatbridge Water Company was founded to construct a reservoir at Roughrigg. The town also had a domestic gas company.

Culture and Society

There were several recreational societies in the town at this time, among them the Mechanics' Institution, the Horticultural Society, the Gardeners' Societies, the New Monkland Agricultural Society, the Phrenological and Literary Society, the Temperance Society and the Airdrie Sabbath School Union. In the mid-1800s, several local newspapers began appearing. Most notable was the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, which is still a widely-read local newspaper today.Also at this time, football and cricket were gaining popularity. The local team was called Excelsior although the name changed to Airdrionians F. C. in 1878. Race meetings were also held in the town for about 20 years between 1851 and 1870 but this land became the golf course in 1877, when Airdrie Golf Club was founded.