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Art Deco fragments of Shawfield Stadium


Places have their own private and public life and can feel haunted in multiple ways: some because they’ve changed but remain familiar; others because they spark vivid personal memories difficult to express in words, embodying fragments of times past that we can’t – for better or for worse – return to.


They help define us – where we were then or are now, sometimes both – and convey how our predecessors lived. In our own lifetimes huge changes happen, but what often strikes us most is that jolt that comes when faced with sudden, drastic change in what we’ve only recently left behind us or have a meaningful connection to.



Shawfield Stadium gates on 10th July 2021
Shawfield Stadium gates, 10th July 2021


This could soon be the case with the (temporarily closed since 2020) Shawfield Stadium, which sits north east of Polmadie near the banks of the Clyde, as a planning application to demolish it and redevelop the site for residential and other uses has been lodged with South Lanarkshire Council by its owners.


Although just outside Glasgow’s present day borders, its history is entwined with that of the city. For a brief period from 1975-1996 it was even incorporated into Glasgow’s municipal district control within the larger Strathclyde Regional Council framework, after Rutherglen lost its own local council. Then in 1996, as part of Rutherglen, it was reallocated to South Lanarkshire council.


Shawfield Stadium gates viewed from the right


In line with its shared and shifting history, if we start to look even closer, we’ll discover not just connections to urban leisure in times past, but ghosts of multiple sorts still making their presence felt here, including ones that have survived from even further back than 1936 when the re-designed stadium opened…


The inner-city industrial landscape


By the 1930s, although the shipyards started to boom toward the decade’s end as the world re-armed in the run up to World War Two, Glasgow’s industrial might was already in decline. The tract of land on the east side of the Gorbals however – just grazing north eastern Govanhill to the south and stretching east into the fringes of Rutherglen – was still one of the most intensely industrialised areas of the city at the time.


This was Oatlands, Polmadie and Shawfield, home to such collosi as William Dixon’s Govan Iron Works (aka Dixon’s Blazes) and J & J White’s Chemical Works amongst many others.


Photo of J & J White Chemical Works, 1967. Photo copyright of Canmore, Historic Environment Scotland, John R Hume Collection.
J & J White Chemical Works, 1967. Photo © Canmore, John R Hume Collection


But the workers and other residents locally needed some release from the industrial grind, and while factory owners, municipal bodies and civic and professional clubs provided much of these facilities in the form of parks, swimming baths, football grounds, tennis courts and bowling greens, in the post-war period innovative private enterprise focused on cinemas, from the first projection of moving pictures in 1895 to the arrival of sound in 1927.


By the time of cinema’s golden age of the 1930s picture houses had been joined in urban hubs by greyhound racing tracks, with the oval track and mechanical hare arrangement imported to Britain from the USA in 1926, as palaces of leisure and mass distraction.


Oblique aerial view centred on Shawfield Stadium taken 31st August 1998 © Canmore
Oblique aerial view Shawfield Stadium 31 August 1998. Photo © Canmore


While Shawfield was still heavily industrial, there were pockets of non-industrial space, and succumbing to the American trend, the stadium of financially struggling Clyde F.C. since 1898 next to Richmond Park agreed it could be used for greyhound racing while still also holding football matches.


The stadium was slightly altered to incorporate a greyhound track and re-opened to the public on 14th November 1932, eventually being sold outright to Shawfield Greyhound Racing Company Ltd (SGRC) in 1935, with a fully-transformed stadium boasting an American-style oval greyhound racetrack listed as having been completed in 1936.


When Shawfield part-shifted to racing track status in 1932, there were already four National Greyhound Racing Society tracks in Glasgow, plus three other independent tracks in the city, so Shawfield needed to stand out against its competitors. As an entertainment-cum-“sports” venue that was part of the gambling industry we shouldn’t be surprised then – in terms of the track’s defining features as it morphed further under full SGRC control – that the owners went for the style of the moment to lure folk in and add some swagger to proceedings: Art Deco.


Shawfield Stadium gates. 1937 courtesy of Glasgow City Archives
Shawfield Stadium gates 1937. Photo: © Glasgow City Archives


This is where the iconic Shawfield Stadium gates come in and what drew your correspondent down there on a dry but typically cloudy July afternoon in 2021. Cyclling through the Gorbals, the contrast with other great enclosure of the area passed en route – the Southern Necropolis – couldn’t be starker.


One is a welcoming and tranquil green space, an oasis of biodiversity, history and sculpture amid the high-rise and mid-rise flats of Hutchesonstown and the warehouse district of Oatlands on its southern flank. The other is disjointed in feel and brutal in parts, a void encircled with hulking corrugated iron exteriors in places, clashing with earlier more delicate parts.


Shawfield is pervaded by a lifeless, unearthly air that permeates beyond the stadium…. people live nearby in sizeable numbers, it’s the streets that are devoid of life apart from traffic. What these enclosures have in common, however, is great entry points.


Gateways to escape: eternal and earthly


Southern Necropolis Gate Lodge built 1848 seen from inside the cemetery in 2020


The Southern Necropolis gate lodge (1848) was designed by Charles Wilson (1810-1863), an architect with a huge output of work all over Scotland, famed for such other buildings as 1-16 Park Circus and 18-21 Park Terrace in Glasgow, Strathbungo Free Church, Glasgow Academy, and Lews Castle in Stornoway. The architect of the Shawfield Stadium gates is likely to have been John Easton, whose catalogued output is minimal.


His design oversight can only be inferred, as Easton is named as the Stadium’s architect in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, so we assume he must have also fashioned the gates. Information surrounding the design history of the site is so scant though that a degree of conjecture is necessary. Closer inspection of the site however, turns up other affirmative clues.


Shawfield Stadium gates close up of right flagpole


The first thing that strikes you about the gates is the stepped arch or pyramidic ziggurat design – a style originating in Mesopotamia (largely within what is now Iraq) which was re-ignited in the Art Deco era, enlivening everything from New York skyscapers to suburban fireplaces. It was seen everywhere, including in the proliferation of shops, garages and dancehalls built in the era.


The ziggurat also defined the totalisator board (or ‘toteboard’) inside the stadium. It was perfecly suited to the passtime’s central engine, betting, constantly drawing the gambler’s eye to their possible win or lose scenario. Only two things mattered here: the dogs on the track (though not their health or happiness) and the money.


Photo of Totalisator Board in Shawfield Stadium, 1955, from the Burrell Collection
Totalisator Board Shawfield Stadium © Burrell Collection Photo Library 1955 survey


The ziggurat toteboard became a feature of other 1930s-built racing tracks, a famous survivor being that at Walthamstow Stadium racing track in north east London completed in 1932.


Walthamstow Stadium toteboard by Futureshape August 2006, CC BY-SA 4.0
Walthamstow Stadium toteboard, August 2006. Photo: Futureshape CC BY-SA 4.0


Interestingly the stadium entrance and toteboard at Walthamstow, while no longer part of a greyhound racing track, is a listed building – Grade II listed on the system operated by Historic England. It only became listed in 2007 but its key features have been restored while incorporated into a mixed usage housing and retail development.


Walthamstow Stadium sign 25 April 2017 copyright of Acabashi CC-BY-SA 4.0
Walthamstow Stadium restored sign 25 April 2017. Photo: Acabashi CC-BY-SA 4.0


Where Shawfield’s design differs most notably from Walthamstow is in its use of that most Glaswegian of surfaces, and the main reason I ventured here, the redoubtable ceramic tile…


The iconic photo of Shawfield Stadium gates in 1937 held by Glasgow City Archives at the Mitchell Library (photo 5 in this article) shows two extruding columns faced in what looks like tiling and topped with lamps, but the monochrome photograph makes it impossible to be certain of the surface material.


Shawfield Stadium gates close angle view 10th July 2021


Seen in situ there’s zero doubt, as the grey captured by the camera’s lens is revealed as rich green tiling affixed to the bricks behind, smooth to the touch albeit much chipped, missing some tiles entirely, and crudely painted over at points.


Shawfield Stadium gates close up of green-tiled brickwork column


Design-wise the ziggurat arrangement matches the old photo but on closer scrutiny something’s not quite right. The tiled columns don’t extrude in exactly the same way. What’s gone on here then? Nothing in fact. There were two sets of gates, these being the slightly less grand set although still impressive in their day. Thanks to Lost Glasgow for the tip.


Another discrepancy is the small flagpoles on the present gates, which don’t appear on the other set. We can see they later had a (now rusted) spotlight affixed to each. Flagpoles are common features of many Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings, particularly on corner sites.


Lack of documentation of the building means we don’t yet know if they were there at launch in 1936 or added later. Maybe we can find out…



Do you have any old photos or newspaper cuttings of either sets of gates that show them in better times? We’d love to see them if you do and optionally you can donate old images to our South Glasgow Archive, whether in digital or orginal format. Leave a comment or contact us on social media if so.


A twentieth century temple to flock to


Photo of Shawfield Stadium 1936 entrance building seen from the street through gates, July 2021


Leaving the gates and cycling round to the opposite end of the site I came to the other stadium structure still abiding from the 1930s. Was it the stadium offices, perhaps a customer bar or cafe with cloakrooms and restrooms, or even a member’s club area? Were you ever in it?


Shawfield Stadium buildings new and old on 10th July 2021
Shawfield Stadium buildings new and old, 10th July 2021


Getting closer the design conveys aspects of both modernist and far eastern architecture, with the almost pagoda-style roof extending over the door reminiscent of Buddhist-influenced roof designs common to China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere in East Asia.


Photo of Shawfield Stadium 1936 entrance building, July 2021


Overall there’s a Japanese feel to this building when looked at in the round, with its minimal but precise use of ornamentation and vertical window arrangements. This echoes some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work which anticipated Art Deco modernism in the Art Nouveau era, with this pared-back style particularly evident at Hill House (built 1904) in Helensburgh and his posthumously realised House for an Art Lover (built 1989-1996) in Bellahouston Park.


While modernist in direction, it’s not fully attuned style-wise with the gates. Maybe the architect didn’t have a singuar vision he wanted to project and was happy to vary styles within the larger stadium site, or perhaps he did and the business wouldn’t allow it. A third possibility is that John Easton didn’t design both structures, so someone else was involved in one of them…


Photo of Shawfield Stadium 1936 entrance building, July 2021


In turn the upper floor windows themselves are metal-framed, possibly Crittall windows. Crittall became the go-to window fitting supplier in many 1930s buildings due to its manufacturing prowess producing windows of reliably tight-fitting seal and weatherproof durability. These ground level windows however are more indeterminate vis-à-vis their material.


Vertically arranged windows by the entrance bay


Crittall became so successful they even built a village of modernist housing for their workers in Silver End, Essex in 1926-27, contracting a range of architects to design them, most notably Paisley-born architect Thomas S Tait (of 1938 Empire Exhibition fame), on behalf of John James Burnet & Partners practice. Tait designed the manager’s house ‘Wolverton’ among others pictured here.


There’s a well-preserved interwar Crittall advertising sign in the corridor of The Engine Shed, Historic Environment Scotland’s premises in Stirling, which I spotted in 2018 when visiting to attend a conference.


Crittall Windows interwar period advertising sign displayed at The Engine Shed, Stirling
Crittall Windows interwar period advertising sign at The Engine Shed, Stirling


Here too, as at the gates, the green tiles play an ornamental and shape-accentuating role, and suggest at their deployment at the gates by the same architect, John Easton, although green tiles especially in tenement wally closes are ubiquitous across Glasgow.


Green glazed ceramic tiles on stadium entrance doorcase


Meanwhile, below the doorway, a surrounding terrazzo stone step carries the staff, or punters, in.


Terrazzo stone step and green glazed tiles at stadium entrance door


Zooming closer in, a look at the window panes reveals a pattern. It’s impossible to confirm, but if these are the original panes then its fitting that the patterned glass has a playful Art Deco design.


A pane of textured glass in the vertically arranged windows


Another possibility is that this ‘textured glass’ or ‘figured rolled glass’ was fitted later, with patterned panes felt to be in sympathy with the surrounding period style. I’d like to think these were original but haven’t found a match to pin down the production period yet. There’s a great selection of Victorian, Edwardian and 20th Century patterned textured glass collated here.

Possibly Art Deco-patterned pane of textured glass


Either way, the pattern detail has a Jazz Modern swish to it that adds a little zing to proceedings. Have you seen this style elsewhere? Maybe someone could bring it back into production!


The many lives of Shawfield Stadium


Few today will mourn the decline of greyhound racing but Shawfield has hosted many other events over the years, such as music concerts and of course plenty of its original activity: football.


From big cup to local club games, it’s been home to plenty of memorable outings for Glaswegians and other Scots who follow the beautiful game, and a key site for Scotland’s sporting heritage, both as home to Clyde F.C., host to visitors prior to 1932, and an ongoing site for matches even while a greyhound track.



In turn, it’s been incorporated into ‘Football’s Square Mile’ by The Hampden Collection project to develop the world’s biggest outdoor football museum centred on the birthplace of the modern game of passing football, namely First Hampden in Crosshill, its successor pitches Second and Third Hampden in the Southside, and connected historic Glasgow (and now Rutherglen) football sites.



Shawfield has a more troubling history too. The site of J & J White’s Chemical Works was built on the lands of Shawfield Estate, owned by Daniel Campbell (1671/2–1753). As Mark McGregor notes in our #SouthsideSlaveryLegacies article on The Tobacco Lords:

“Campbell himself, however, acquired much of his wealth in trading tobacco for iron ore which provided him the means to purchase the Shawfield Estate, next to Oatlands and Polmadie, in 1707… Campbell made a considerable amount from both the trade of tobacco and more directly, in the trading of enslaved people.

The house and estate were passed down to his son Walter who then sold it to the chemical works firm J&J White in 1788. Due to ongoing contamination issues, the site which included the 150-year old Shawfield House was pulled down in the late 1960s.”

The house can been seen still standing eerily amid the Chemical Works complex in this 1967 photo, part of the John R Hume collection in Historic Environment Scotland’s Canmore archive.


Photo of J & J White Chemical Works, March 1967. Photo copyright of Canmore, Historic Environment Scotland, John R Hume Collection.
J & J White Chemical Works, March 1967. Photo © Canmore, John R Hume Collection.


This was it closer-up, in 1966, again photograped by Hume while on his odyssey of capturing Glasgow’s decaying industrial heritage.


Photo of Shawfield old mansion house in Shawfield Chemical Works, taken by John R Hume in 1966
Shawfield old mansion house within White’s Chemical Works, 1966 © Canmore


Environmental legacies of Shawfield’s industrial past


The planning application to demolish Shawfield Stadium and redevelop the land with homes was submitted on 5th November 2021. South Lanarkshire Council responded 22nd December requesting an Environmental Imapct Assessment (EIA) of the proposed works before the application can progess to a final decision, an EIA as yet unreceived at time of publication. This is required as a large area around Shawfield is known to be contaminated with chromium, including hexavalent chromium 6, a poisonous and carcinogenic substance toxic to humans.


Chromium ore processing residue was a byproduct of the aforementioned White’s Chemical Works which operated on the site between 1820 and 1967 producing mainly bichromate of potash, for use in the tanning and textile dying industries. The manufacturing process produced a significant ratio of unusuable chromium byproduct including chromium 3 and hexavalent chromium 6, the latter of which is highly soluble and mobile in the environment.


Over the decades up to 2.5 million tonnes of chromium-containing waste was dumped by White’s – legally at the time – buried mainly in claypits and disused mines all around this area and elsewhere in Glasgow. Toxic clouds of chromium dust were also present in the air at high levels for many decades inside certain parts of the industrial complex.


In 2019 The Herald newspaper spoke to descendants of workers at the plant for an article: ‘Polmadie Burn: Everyone knew chromium waste was damaging health’.

“Workers at the chemical plant responsible for polluting a large area of the south of Glasgow were known as ‘White’s whistlers’, due to the damage caused to their nasal packages by cancer-causing chromium, relatives have claimed.

Men who worked for the company, J&J White’s of Rutherglen, came home clouded in dust, many bearing ‘chrome holes’ – burns in the skin, and with septums ruined by chemicals they had inhaled.”

In recent years large-scale remediation works have been carried out in various parts of the area (both within Glasgow and South Lanarkshire’s municipal borders) to measure and mitigate the leaching of chromium into both the water system and into new structures built locally, by containing or diverting it, by converting chromium 6 in-situ into the less toxic chromium 3, and to a lesser extent by removing it, but the sheer scale of the dumping has made this a huge challenge that’s only partly been addressed.


In the meantime, the chromium 6 continues to leach out, turning Polmadie Burn luminous yellow-green as recently as both 2019 and 2021, causing the waterway and local playing fields to be fenced off and raising alarm among residents and public representatives.



For this, unfortunately, is the most concentrated area of chromium-polluted urban land in the UK by an order of magnitude. While it was produced elsewhere, for several decades J & J White’s gained a near monopoly on bichromate of potash production in Britain from their Shawfield complex, accounting for 70% of UK output in the 1930s.


Shawfield Stadium gates and new Shawfield sign on adjacent land
Shawfield Stadium gates and the new Shawfield sign on adjacent land


For now the outcome for the site remains uncertain, and environmental safety concerns are paramount, but the remaining Art Deco fragments of Shawfield Stadium provide a stepping stone into the longer shared history and memories of the area, as well as the interwar era’s design trends.


However development plans proceed, it would be worthwhile keeping these historic elements intact, restoring them, and considering their addition to the register of listed structures in Scotland, as they’re local landmarks and part of the area’s unique character and social history, beacons of its shared past in an area dominated by new developments.


There are good memories here, alongside bad ones, when you get the full measure of the place. Some spectres though might be best not disturbed too hastily until we can figure out how to better tame them. Until then, as sure as it rains in Glasgow, they’ll keep haunting us.


What are your memories of Shawfield Stadium? Tell us in the comments below.


By Deirdre Molloy

Published: 14th October 2022

This is the third in our #SouthsideModerne series of articles, documenting the range of Art Deco and other interwar modernist buildings south of the Clyde for the two-decade Centenary of Art Deco architecture and design.

Follow the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

Read part 1: James Miller’s Art Deco Leyland Motors

Read part 2:  Renewing Govan Lyceum’s Faded Ambition


Sources & Further Reading:


John Easton, architect (1898-1977); entry in Dictionary of Scottish Architects

Charles Wilson, architect (1810-1863); entry in Dictionary of Scottish Architects

Southern Necropolis Gate Lodge, 316, Caledonia Road, Gorbals; Buildings At Risk website

Friends of Southern Necropolis website

Lanarkshire racetrack faces uncertain future with environmental report needed for planning application to proceed; Daily Record, 19th Sept 2022

Polmadie Burn: Everyone knew chromium waste was damaging health; The Herald, 6th March 2019

Whites Chemical Company; Rutherglen Heritage Society

Soil 2017 | Lecture 3 Characterisation of Cr(VI)-Contaminated Urban Soils; online talk by Professor Margaret Graham, University of Edinburgh for the International Institute for Environmental Studies, 20th Mar 2017

Contamination tests over toxic green burn in Glasgow; BBC News website; 12th April 2019

SEPA called to investigate ‘toxic’ Glasgow burn; Glasgow Evening Times, 26th April 2021

The Toxic Burn, Future Climate Info, undated 2021

Football’s Square Mile; The Hampden Collection


Image Sources:


Glasgow Road, Shawfield Chemical Works General view from NE showing SE side of works, 23 July 1967, John R Hume Collection, SC 595654. Copyright: Canmore / Historic Environment Scotland

Glasgow, oblique aerial view, taken from the SW, centred on Shawfield Stadium, 31 August 1998, SC 1685599. Copyright: Canmore / Historic Environment Scotland

Shawfield stadium boundary wall and gates, 1937. Copyright: Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library

Totalisator Board at Shawfield; Burrell Collection Photo Library, 1955 Survey. Copyright: Glasgow Life

Walthamstow Stadium toteboard, August 2006. Copyright: Futureshape, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Refurbished frontage of Walthamstow Stadium, 25 April 2017. Copyright: Acabashi; Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Glasgow, Shawfield Chemical Works General View, 27 March 1967, John R Hume Collection, SC 591198. Copyright: Canmore / Historic Environment Scotland

Glasgow Road, Shawfield Chemical Works View from SSE showing SW and SE fronts of old mansion house ‘Shawfield’, 11 September 1966, John R Hume Collection, SC 591469. Copyright: Canmore / Historic Environment Scotland

All other images copyright of the author, July 2021 (Shawfield) and April 2020 (Southern Necropolis).


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