Classification and Statistics

Settlement Type: town
Population (2011): 52270    
(2001): 49664
(1991): 48762
(1981): 47900
(1971): 31784
(1961): 4924
(1951): 1279
(1881): 1064
(1871): 1193
(1861): 1561
(1831): 3080

Tourist Rating: One Star
Text of Entry Updated: 26-JUL-2019

Latitude: 55.9462°N Longitude: 3.9914°W
National Grid Reference: NS 757 743
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The name Cumbernauld comes from comar nan allt in Gaelic or "the confluence of the streams", in this case the Red Burn and Bog Stank, a half-mile (0.8 km) east of Cumbernauld Village. The New Town occupies a prominent and wind-swept position on a hogback aligned SW-NE, lying to the southwest of the original village, between the River Kelvin and Bonny Water to the north, the Red Burn to the southeast and the Luggie Water to the south. The Town Centre was constructed along the summit ridge of this hogback, giving fine views to the Kilsyth Hills to the northwest and Moffat Hills to the southeast, with the Pentland Hills beyond. The underlying geology is the Carboniferous Upper Limestone Formation, laid down in a shallow coastal environment between 318 and 326 million years ago.

Established under the powers of the New Towns Act (1946), the Master Plan for Cumbernauld was drawn up by English architect Sir Hugh Wilson (1913-85), who served as Chief Architect and Planning Officer for the Cumbernauld Development Corporation (CDC) from 1956-62. Wilson was inspired by the compact structure and architecture of the 13th C. hill-top town of San Gimignano in Italy. His vision was to develop the town as a whole with a grand civic centre as its focus, rather than providing neighbourhood facilities. However, the CDC were not responsible for churches and schools; the former were planned by the individual religious denominations and the latter fell within the remit of Dumbarton County Council. Cumbernauld was designed principally for cars, but with a network of footpaths laid out across its residential districts. However the failure to implement any sort of public transportation system represented a missed opportunity. As the town grew, walking was not feasible for many residents and a bus service was instituted in 1962 but the circuitous streets made for lengthy travel times. The CDC did not just provide housing for rent; by 1967 it was offering plots for private development and was also selling houses to their tenants long before right-to-buy legislation was enacted in 1980. The boundaries of the New Town were extended in 1973 to the northwest, crossing the M80 motorway (or the A80 as it was at the time), to accommodate an increase in the projected population. This brought a change in the plan, with at least some local facilities having to be provided in these areas which are lower density and mostly private housing. Further growth took place with more private housing built in the first decade of the 21st C.

In 1967, The American Institute of Architects awarded Cumbernauld the prestigious R.S. Reynolds Memorial Award for Community Architecture, with judges describing the town as the "most significant current contribution to the art and science of urban design in the western world." However, over time enthusiasm for the brutalist architecture declined and the structures deteriorated, with part of the Town Centre having to be demolished. Cumbernauld was disappointed to be named "Scotland's most dismal town" in the Carbuncle Awards of 2001 and again in 2005, although was voted the most improved town in Scotland in 2010.

The Cumbernauld Development Corporation employed its own artist, Brian Miller (1934 - 2011), who was responsible for sculptures and murals around the New Town. In 2010, his work was joined by the 10-m (32-foot) high sculpture Arria, by Andy Scott (b.1964), which overlooks the town from beyond the M80 motorway.

The first company to come to Cumbernauld was the American adding machine manufacturer Burroughs which opened at Wardpark in 1958. This factory was soon producing computers but closed in 1987. Wardpark remains a site of industrial production and is now also the location of a film studio. The economy today makes use of the town's position in the centre of Scotland and easy access to the motorway network (via the M80); making it both a distribution centre but also resulting in it serving as a dormitory town for Glasgow.
References and Further Reading
Smith, Robin (2001) The Making of Scotland. Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh
Smith, Adam (2015) Cumbernauld Through Time. Amberley Publishing, Stroud
Taylor, Jessica (2010) Cumbernauld: The Conception, Development, and Realisation of a Post-War British New Town. Unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh College of Art / University of Edinburgh

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