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East Kilbride - old and new

Kilbride, as it was originally called, dates back to the first millennium, verified by archaeological finds of ancient graves in the area and also the uncovering of Roman coins and other artefacts.

The name is derived from the founding of a monastery for both nuns and monks by St Bride, or Brigit, in Kildare, Ireland in the sixth century AD. The monks later arrived in Scotland to spread the word of their God. Kil is the Gaelic for "church", making Kilbride "church of St Bride".

The first written parish records appear in the 12th century, during the reign of William the Lion, the Scottish king responsible for setting up the Auld Alliance with France in 1165. William gifted the lands to the Anglo Norman knight, Roger de Valoins, who became the Lord of the Manor and lived close to the site of Mains Castle.

The lands of Kilbride passed through the hands of many important and powerful families, most notably the Comyns. In the 14th century John 'the Red Comyn', a claimant to the Scottish throne, sided with William Wallace in fighting for independence from England, although he was often at odds with Robert the Bruce. After the death of Wallace, the Red Comyn and Robert the Bruce appeared to be moving towards an alliance but when they met at Dumfries Abbey in 1306, the Bruce murdered Comyn and stripped the family of all their titles and land. He was crowned Robert I at Scone a month later. The Bruce gave Kilbride as a dowry to his daughter Marjorie when she married Walter the Steward, establishing the mighty Stuart dynasty of Scottish and English kings. Walter later handed over the Barony of Kilbride to the Lindsay family from Renfrewshire, but their line died out in poverty during the 17th century.

The 16th and 17th centuries saw the growth of the Covenanters, Scottish Presbyterians who bound themselves by a series of solemn oaths or covenants to maintain Presbyterianism as the sole religion of their nation. Over a period of 50 years throughout the reigns of Charles I, Charles II and James II they struggled against the Crown to preserve their religion. The struggle often erupted into armed conflict, the most famous being the Battle of Drumclog and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. After their defeat at Bothwell, commander of the Covenanter army, James Reid, charged the King's army alone and snatched the Kilbryd (as it was then spelt) Standard and escaped back through enemy lines. The faded yellow flag, with the red letters "Kilbryd, for God, King and Covenants" is now in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, which is currently closed for refurbishment.

In the early part of the 18th century, Kilbride added the East prefix to distinguish itself from Kilbride in Ayrshire which added "West" to its name. The town was also given the status of burgh of barony, allowing it to hold weekly markets and four annual fairs. The famous Open Cattle Show Society was formed in 1772 which, by the late 1940s, was the largest one-day cattle show in Scotland, taking place in the Show Park which is still there today, owned by the farming community but also home to junior league football club, East Kilbride Thistle.

In 1774 the parish church, now the Old Parish Church, was built in what is now referred to as the Village. This ancient hub, now surrounded by the New Town still retains many features from this period including the Montgomerie Arms, an ancient coaching inn with its Loupin Stane or mounting block for patrons to mount and dismount their horse or carriage.

The oldest building, just off Avondale Avenue, dates from 1640. Now called Rose Mound, it was home to the famous Scots playwright James Bridie before he went to live a secluded life on the Isle of Bute. The poet, writer and historian John Struthers was born in a cottage in the grounds of Long Calderwood in 1776 and another famous writer to have visited East Kilbride was George Orwell. He was a tuberculosis patient in Hairmyres Hospital from 1946 until 1948 and while there he wrote part of his novel 1984.

The anatomists and surgeons William and John Hunter were born at Long Calderwood Farm, now a museum dedicated to their lives and work. The Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University is also named after William, who bequeathed his collection of books, coins and paintings to the university. William pioneered obstetrics while John revolutionised 18th century dentistry giving it a scientific basis for the first time. He was also appointed surgeon to George III and Surgeon-General to the British Army.

By far the biggest event to change the shape of East Kilbride was the decision in 1947 to create a new town - transforming the small peaceful village of around 2500 inhabitants into one of the UK's foremost business and commercial centres.

On Friday, August 8, 1947, the first meeting of the East Kilbride Development Corporation was held, with the task of drawing up and executing the new town plans that would allow both an influx of people moving from the City of Glasgow and new industry to provide them with employment.

Developed around a central shopping and office area was a series of residential neighbourhoods and, on the outskirts, industrial areas and business parks. Each neighbourhood was planned to ensure there were shops and schools nearby. As the town grew most of the housing was public rented but with the 1980s came a gradual rise in owner occupation as tenants were able to buy their properties - by the early 1990s East Kilbride had reached the west of Scotland average and 75% by 2001. This was reinforced by the development of large private housing estates to the north and south of the town. After nearly 50 years the New Town Development Corporation was formally wound down in 1996, its job complete in overseeing the emergence of a vibrant new town.