On this day in 1949

Proposals for building Glenrothes new town unveiled

East Kilbride was designated Scotland’s first New Town in 1947. It was one of five planned for Scotland in the aftermath of the Second World War. The others were Cumbernald, Livingston, Irvine, Glenrothes and Stonehouse. Stonehouse was never constructed, but the others were, and planning began in earnest for the new town at Glenrothes with the first meeting of the Glenrothes Development Corporation on 20 June 1949.

New Town, new name

The name, Glenrothes, was an innovation in itself, making the settlement the only Scottish New Town to have a completely original moniker, rather than one already in use prior to its construction. The Fifeshire Advertiser of 27 December 1947 – 18 months before the meeting – unveiled the name, which had been suggested by Fife County Council. It reported that the Convener of the Fife Planning Committee, a Mr Woodburn, had called it “a good Scottish name”, and said it was one that he hoped “will receive the approbation of all those who have taken an interest in the matter.”

However, Woodburn was concerned that the limits of the town hadn’t been sufficiently well defined at that time, and he pointed out in a letter that “the plans for the new town require my approval, and if it is finally decided to proceed with the new town of Glenrothes, I shall see to it that the built-up part of the town is confined to the area north of the proposed Kinglassie-Balgonie road…”

Neighbourhoods out of fashion

As with many New Towns, the developers were keen to mix areas of housing, business, commerce and green space, rather than providing siloed neighbourhoods. Many of the homes were owned by the Development Corporation, which allowed it to maintain a degree of control over the way they were maintained.

When construction got underway and the first residents moved into the town, it continued to be managed by the Glenrothes Development Corporation. However, Fife County Council relocated to the town, and it, then Kirkcaldy District Council, took over in the mid-1990s.

The population grew quickly, from a standing start to around 12,000 people within the first 15 years, then to almost 30,000 by the end of the 1960s, at which point it began to level off. Much of the early employment in the town was provided by the coal industry, and it has lately had success in reinventing itself as a centre for high technology.


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...and on this day in 1858

Edinburgh engineer James Jardine dies

Engineer James Jardine was the first person to calculate mean sea level, which is the average height of water at a particular point. From this, it’s possible to make accurate calculations on land of the height of hills, depth of valleys and so on. It’s also used in flight so that planes can determine their altitude.

Water would be a recurring theme throughout his life. He worked on Eyemouth harbour and collaborated with Thomas Telford to improve Edinburgh’s drinking water supply. This necessitated the construction of a new reservoir outside the city centre, which also allowed for the complete draining of the loch that sat below Edinburgh Castle and had previously been the city’s main water supply. The land that was uncovered is now Princes Street Gardens. Elsewhere in the city, he worked on the digging of railway lines and the construction of Dean Bridge.

Jardine died in Edinburgh, aged 81.



The Battle of Methven

English forces attacked Scottish troops at Methven in contravention of an agreement that had been struck with the Scottish king.


The German fleet is scuttled in Scapa Flow

Following the signing of the Armistice at the end of the First World War, the crews of the German fleet in Scapa Flow sank their own vessels.

Engineer Robert Napier is born

Dumbarton-born Robert Napier set up an engineering firm that produced ship engines for Cunard and the Admiralty.