WHEN is a Glasgow park not a Glasgow park?

When it is Rouken Glen…

There is a fascinating history to this beautiful spot, about which it was written in 1914: “Rarely has any city received so munificent a gift. The grounds are romantically situated and beautifully laid out.”

You would be forgiven for thinking this quote relates to Pollok Park, bestowed on the city in 1966. But it actually refers to the gift of Rouken Glen estate and mansion house made to Glasgow Corporation in 1906.

Before Pollok, Rouken Glen was arguably the greatest gift of land the city had received. Located to the south-west of Glasgow, but not within its boundaries, it became a place for her citizens to escape the hustle and bustle of their city environs.

Glasgow Times: Rouken Glen in 1950Rouken Glen in 1950 (Image: Newsquest)

The land, together with its mansion house, had been purchased from William Graham Crum in May 1904. It was bought for £24,000 by Archibald Cameron Corbett, MP for Tradeston, who then gifted it all to Glasgow Corporation.

Corbett became well-known as a politician and temperance campaigner. Born in Hillhead in 1856 to an affluent family, he moved to London with them while still a child.

Glasgow Times: Rouken Glen in 1983Rouken Glen in 1983 (Image: Newsquest)

However, he retained both an interest and a presence in Scotland for the rest of his life, becoming Lord Rowallan of Ayrshire in 1911. 

The opening of Rouken Glen on May 26, 1906 was a grand affair.

Corbett and his family attended, as well as the Lord Provost and members of Glasgow Corporation plus a deputation from the Town Council of Lyons including its mayor.

The attendees were all photographed standing in front of the mansion house known then as Thornliebank House.

Glasgow Times: The opening of the park in 1906The opening of the park in 1906 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

It was not the only such presentation of land which Corbett made to the Corporation for the benefit of her citizens. He was also responsible for gifting the Ardkinglas (later Ardgoil) Estate in 1905, a mountainous region in Argyll and Bute, which is now part of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Glasgow Corporation acquired additional land for Rouken Glen in 1910 and 1913 which enabled it to lay out what became the city’s largest public park.

By 1914, the 220 acres which comprised Rouken Glen Park attracted thousands of visitors from Glasgow and beyond.

This was unsurprising as the park was (and still is) a truly lovely locale, with several waterfalls and waterside walks which were once poetically described by an enthusiastic Corporation official as being “shaded with delightful effect by the dense umbrageous green of the encircling trees.”

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As with many of Glasgow’s public parks, Rouken Glen had its own amphitheatre-style bandstand where musical concerts were held during the summer months. The park also boasted a large boating pond.

All these attractions and good transport links made Rouken Glen a particularly popular venue for day trippers.

My paternal grandad often took the bus from Knightswood to walk the park in peace during the 1960s. Another, earlier, visitor was Thomas Cairns Livingstone, who walked to the park occasionally from his home in Govanhill.

Glasgow Times: The waterfall at Rouken Glen in 1914The waterfall at Rouken Glen in 1914 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

His illustrated diaries chronicling Glasgow during the First World War are part of our collections. The park also played host to outings for Sunday School scholars and groups from other churches, clubs and societies who enjoyed picnics there.

Small wonder, then, that the mansion house in this peaceful place was chosen as a boarding house for Belgian refugees in late 1914.

Glasgow Corporation had been appointed as the distributing centre for Scotland for Belgians escaping the German invasion of their country after the outbreak of the First World War.

Rouken Glen House (as it was now known) was chosen to accommodate more than 500 Belgians.


At first, it housed families like the Van Boterdaels from Dendermonde. Carolus, a blanket manufacturer, and his wife, Clementina, stayed there with their two teenage daughters and younger son. However, it later became a male only institution whose residents were encouraged to join the army. Details of the Belgians who stayed at Rouken Glen are recorded in our Glasgow Corporation City Assessor records.

Of course, children of the 1980s and 1990s will remember Rouken Glen for a different reason. Many of us were taken on school trips to the park’s Butterfly Kingdom and still remember the thrill (or the horror) of having one of these winged beauties settle on your arm or head.

Rouken Glen is now leased and run by East Renfrewshire Council, although it is still owned by Glasgow City Council.