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Terrible Living Conditions of Gorbals, Glasgow Slums before the Redevelopment

Glasgow’s Gorbals is an area on the south bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. In the late 19th century, Glasgow had become densely populated; rural migrants and immigrants were attracted by the city’s growing industries and employment opportunities. It is estimated that the Gorbals district (which includes Laurieston and Hutchesontown) had 90,000 residents at its peak during the 1930s. Combined with its small size, the area had a high population density of around 40,000 people per square kilometer. The area’s population has declined substantially since WWII due to the redevelopment.

In 1914, Gorbals and Hutchesontown had a population of 15,000 people who worked locally and in commerce. The city center was home to factories and warehouses that produced carpets, garments, food, ironworks, chemicals, railways, docks, shipping, construction, and engineering; as well as 16 schools, 15 churches, three synagogues, swimming pools, libraries, picture-houses, dance halls, and two theatres. The post-war planning of Glasgow Corporation in the 1950s led to demolishing many inner districts, including Gorbals and Huchesontown, just as it had done in London and other major cities. In overspill agreements with New Towns such as East Kilbride, families were relocated to new outlying housing estates like Castlemilk. Others were rehoused within the area in large multi-story concrete towers. In the 1960s, Glasgow Corporation replaced old, outdated, and crowded housing with new high-rise social housing towers, which greatly improved conditions but caused social problems.

Here are some gritty vintage photos from the 1940s to 1960s that show the terrible living conditions of Gorbals before the redevelopment.

#1 A workman in a bulldozer in front of a tenement being demolished in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A workman in a bulldozer in front of a tenement being demolished in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#2 A woman pushing a pram laden with bedding past a newly built shop in the modern Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A woman pushing a pram laden with bedding past a newly built shop in the modern Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#3 A coalman doing his rounds in his horse-drawn cart in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A coalman doing his rounds in his horse-drawn cart in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#4 Modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, some of it under construction, 1960

Modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, some of it under construction, 1960

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#5 A woman and a little girl walking through an area of modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A woman and a little girl walking through an area of modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#6 Workmen and a bulldozer beside a tenement being demolished in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Workmen and a bulldozer beside a tenement being demolished in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#7 People walking past newly-built tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

People walking past newly-built tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#8 A man pulling a hand cart past tower blocks under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A man pulling a hand cart past tower blocks under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#9 Two boys in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

Two boys in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#10 A man pulling a hand cart past a closed-down pawnbroker’s shop in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A man pulling a hand cart past a closed-down pawnbroker's shop in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#11 A woman and a little girl walking through an area of modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1690

A woman and a little girl walking through an area of modern housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1690

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#12 Tower blocks under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Tower blocks under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#13 Children playing beside modern tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Children playing beside modern tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#14 An area of cleared ground in the Gorbals area of Glasgow where debris from the newly-demolished slum tenements is being burnt on a bonfire, 1960

An area of cleared ground in the Gorbals area of Glasgow where debris from the newly-demolished slum tenements is being burnt on a bonfire, 1960

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#15 Modern housing under construction beside old tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Modern housing under construction beside old tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#16 A man walking past modern tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A man walking past modern tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#17 A high-rise block of flats under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A high-rise block of flats under construction in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#18 The Buchanan family at home in their new flat in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

The Buchanan family at home in their new flat in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#19 Flats in Camden Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

Flats in Camden Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

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#20 Children play on waste ground outside a tenement block in Camden Street, the Gorbals, Glasgow, 1956

Children play on waste ground outside a tenement block in Camden Street, the Gorbals, Glasgow, 1956

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#21 Children peer over the banisters of a spiral staircase in a tenement block in Nickelsar Street, the Gorbals, Glasgo, 1956.

Children peer over the banisters of a spiral staircase in a tenement block in Nickelsar Street, the Gorbals, Glasgo, 1956.

The tenements were built quickly and cheaply in the 1840's and are owned by various landlords. About 40,000 people live in the Gorbals, with up to eight family members sharing a single room 30 residents sharing a toilet and 40 sharing a tap. The population density for this small area is 281 people per acre. Although 850 tenements have been demolished since 1920 the conditions remain appalling and sanitation and crime are persistent problems. The area was cleared in the late 1950's and the tenements were replaced with modern a tower block complex in the sixties.

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#22 September 1956: Jenny Lamont and her friends play with tin cans in the yard behind tennemants of Florence Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

September 1956: Jenny Lamont and her friends play with tin cans in the yard behind tennemants of Florence Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

At the time of this photograph the Scottish Office had plans to demolish many of the slum buildings in this area and to replace them with modern dwellings. The Gorbals tenements were built quickly and cheaply in the 1840s, providing housing for Glasgow's burgeoning population of industrial workers. Conditions were appalling; overcrowding was standard and sewage and water facilities inadequate. The tenements housed about 40,000 people with up to eight family members sharing a single room, 30 residents sharing a toilet and 40 sharing a tap. By the time this photograph was taken 850 tenements had been demolished since 1920. Redevelopment of the area began in the late 1950s and the tenements were replaced with a modern tower block complex in the sixties.

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#23 Children playing in Surrey Lane in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

Children playing in Surrey Lane in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

The Gorbals tenements were built quickly and cheaply in the 1840s, providing housing for Glasgow's burgeoning population of industrial workers. Conditions were appalling; overcrowding was standard and sewage and water facilities inadequate. The tenements housed about 40,000 people with up to eight family members sharing a single room, 30 residents sharing a toilet and 40 sharing a tap. By the time this photograph was taken 850 tenements had been demolished since 1920.

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#24 Children playing in a Glasgow slum which is to be demolished, 1956

Children playing in a Glasgow slum which is to be demolished, 1956

The small building is a lavatory which is shared by eight families.

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#25 The Surrey Lane entrance to Nicholson Street flats, in the Gorbals, the notorious slum district of Glasgow, 1956

The Surrey Lane entrance to Nicholson Street flats, in the Gorbals, the notorious slum district of Glasgow, 1956

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#26 A dog barks at a girl in the Surrey Lane area of the Gorbals, Glasgow, 1956

A dog barks at a girl in the Surrey Lane area of the Gorbals, Glasgow, 1956

The Gorbals tenements were built quickly and cheaply in the 1840s, providing housing for Glasgow's burgeoning population of industrial workers.

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#27 Children play in a yard in Coburg Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

Children play in a yard in Coburg Street, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1956

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#28 Mr. Jackson inspects a hole in the ceiling of his council house in the Gorbals, 1956

Mr. Jackson inspects a hole in the ceiling of his council house in the Gorbals, 1956

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#29 Slum children at play, 1952

Slum children at play, 1952

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#30 Matilda Szlapikas in her slum surrounding, 1952

Matilda Szlapikas in her slum surrounding, 1952

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#31 General scenes of a slum in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1952

General scenes of a slum in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1952

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#32 Donnelly family of Centre Street, Glasgow, 1952

Donnelly family of Centre Street, Glasgow, 1952

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#33 A boy and girl hold hands under an archway in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 31st January 1948.

A boy and girl hold hands under an archway in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 31st January 1948.

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#34 A barman at work in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1948

A barman at work in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1948

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#35 Two young boys from the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

Two young boys from the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#36 Boys play in a puddle in the slums of Gorbals, Glasgow, 1948

Boys play in a puddle in the slums of Gorbals, Glasgow, 1948

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#37 Two children walking in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

Two children walking in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#38 A woman looks down from a window in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

A woman looks down from a window in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#39 A family at home in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

A family at home in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#40 A bridge in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

A bridge in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1948

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#41 Children playing in a puddle in the Gorbals, a slum distict of Glasgow with graffiti on the walls and muddy pools and rubbish littering the back yards, 1948

Children playing in a puddle in the Gorbals, a slum distict of Glasgow with graffiti on the walls and muddy pools and rubbish littering the back yards, 1948

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#42 A group of boys from the Gorbals play amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the district, 1948

A group of boys from the Gorbals play amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the district, 1948

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#43 Men from the Gorbals, Glasgow’s slum area, meet in the local pub for a friendly smoke, 3rd January 1948.

Men from the Gorbals, Glasgow's slum area, meet in the local pub for a friendly smoke, 3rd January 1948.

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#44 A second hand clothing store in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, January 1948.

A second hand clothing store in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, January 1948.

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#45 Two boys walk down a street in the Gorbals, a slum area of Glasgow, 1948

Two boys walk down a street in the Gorbals, a slum area of Glasgow, 1948

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#46 Children play in a yard with the ‘Gorbals’, a notorious slum area of Glasgow, January 1948.

Children play in a yard with the 'Gorbals', a notorious slum area of Glasgow, January 1948.

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#47 Men at a social club in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

Men at a social club in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#48 Boys and girls pose for the camera in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

Boys and girls pose for the camera in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#49 A group of young children on a street in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

A group of young children on a street in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#50 A group of boys playing leapfrog amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

A group of boys playing leapfrog amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#51 A group of boys play amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

A group of boys play amongst the gravestones of the Corporation Burial Ground in Rutherglen Road, one of the few areas of greenery in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#52 A young woman holding a baby wrapped in a blanket in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

A young woman holding a baby wrapped in a blanket in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#53 Mrs Lundy at her junk shop in Bedford Street in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

Mrs Lundy at her junk shop in Bedford Street in the Gorbals, a slum district of Glasgow, 1948.

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#54 Two boys with their dogs in the Gorbals, a slum area of Glasgow with unkempt streets and graffiti covered walls, 1948

Two boys with their dogs in the Gorbals, a slum area of Glasgow with unkempt streets and graffiti covered walls, 1948

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#55 A scene in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, showing the slums, some of the worst in Britain, 1974

A scene in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, showing the slums, some of the worst in Britain, 1974

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#56 Three children, including a little girl carrying a satchel, walking along a street of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

Three children, including a little girl carrying a satchel, walking along a street of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#57 A thin child wearing women’s shoes standing in a doorway next to a graffiti figure in slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

A thin child wearing women's shoes standing in a doorway next to a graffiti figure in slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#58 Four little girls posing in front of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

Four little girls posing in front of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#59 Four little girls posing in front of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

Four little girls posing in front of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#60 A little boy leaving an outdoor toilet in slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

A little boy leaving an outdoor toilet in slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#61 Looking out through broken windows onto a courtyard scene with laundry and four residents of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

Looking out through broken windows onto a courtyard scene with laundry and four residents of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#62 A family of eight reflected in a mirror in their home in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

A family of eight reflected in a mirror in their home in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow in 1969.

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#63 Four people, including an older couple and a young girl feeding her baby, in their home in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

Four people, including an older couple and a young girl feeding her baby, in their home in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#64 A young girl holding a little baby in her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

A young girl holding a little baby in her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#65 A mother with her five children in poor housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

A mother with her five children in poor housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#66 A mother holding her child at a window in the kitchen of her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

A mother holding her child at a window in the kitchen of her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#67 A mother holding her child in the kitchen of her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

A mother holding her child in the kitchen of her flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#68 A mother and three little children in the interior of their flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

A mother and three little children in the interior of their flat in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#69 The exterior of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

The exterior of slum housing in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1969.

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#70 A group of boys pick their way through a wasteland in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

A group of boys pick their way through a wasteland in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

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#71 The view from a smashed window in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

The view from a smashed window in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

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#72 A lone pram beside a road in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

A lone pram beside a road in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1968.

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#73 A scene in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, showing the slums about to be cleared for new flats, 1966

A scene in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, showing the slums about to be cleared for new flats, 1966

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#74 Beatles fan Ann and her sister Eileen dance the twist in a housing estate in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1966

Beatles fan Ann and her sister Eileen dance the twist in a housing estate in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1966

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#75 A group of women and children stop to look at across the street where sections of the notoriously squalid slums known as the Gorbals have been demolished, 1962

A group of women and children stop to look at across the street where sections of the notoriously squalid slums known as the Gorbals have been demolished, 1962

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#76 A resident of the Gorbals area of Glasgow looking out of his window at a row of newly-built housing, 1962

A resident of the Gorbals area of Glasgow looking out of his window at a row of newly-built housing, 1962

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#77 A woman with two young children walking past a demolition site in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1962

A woman with two young children walking past a demolition site in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1962

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#78 Two young children in street of the Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1962

Two young children in street of the Gorbals district of Glasgow, 1962

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#79 An open site which children in the Gorbals area of Glasgow use for playing, 1961

An open site which children in the Gorbals area of Glasgow use for playing, 1961

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#80 Two young boys playing outside in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, which was described as having the worst slums in Europe, 1960

Two young boys playing outside in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, which was described as having the worst slums in Europe, 1960

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#81 A boy playing with dogs in a road of tenement housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A boy playing with dogs in a road of tenement housing in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#82 Residents of the Gorbals area of Glasgow collecting firewood among partially-demolished tenement buildings, 1960

Residents of the Gorbals area of Glasgow collecting firewood among partially-demolished tenement buildings, 1960

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#83 A woman walking past a block of modern housing with two young children in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A woman walking past a block of modern housing with two young children in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#84 A child looks at a baby in a pram from the window of a tenement block in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, before demolition, 1960

A child looks at a baby in a pram from the window of a tenement block in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, before demolition, 1960

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#85 Boys climbing a tree near a modern tower block in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Boys climbing a tree near a modern tower block in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#86 Children playing in an area of slums under clearance in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

Children playing in an area of slums under clearance in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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#87 A man piling furniture onto a cart in a street of soon-to-be-demolished tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

A man piling furniture onto a cart in a street of soon-to-be-demolished tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, 1960

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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