Do It At Dundee
Posted 11 January, 2010 13:04 by Karla Baker
What better way to start 2010 than by giving myself the day off? Today’s entry has been written by my colleague Chris Fleet and looks at an interesting and unusual map of Dundee which was recently discovered in the Bartholomew Archive Printing Record.
This spectacular panoramic photograph and map of Dundee harbour caught our attention during recent conservation. Merely one of the thousands of publications by Bartholomew, this particular item encapsulates many aspects of 1930s Dundee. The worldwide recession in the interwar years hit Dundee hard, with a major slump in textiles and related industries, and over a third of the labour force unemployed.
Amongst the various attempts to encourage new work and employment was a publication by the City of Dundee Development Corporation, accompanied by its inviting Do it At Dundee gold plaque.
This was a carefully written propaganda exercise, promoting executives and industrialists to move to the city, with pictures of its parks, golf courses, and state of the art port facilities.
The striking panoramic view from Dundee Law was in fact done by Bartholomew blog veterans Valentines (see Now you don’t see them, now you do) the famous Dundee photographic and postcard company, with the accompanying map by John Bartholomew & Son Ltd.
Bartholomew had been producing plans for Dundee Harbour Trust for at least two decades, and this map was reduced from a larger scale plan of the harbour they published in the same year at 1:2,500. Although the Ordnance Survey revision of 1921 would have provided basic cartography, there is much updated and additional information: company names and street names, depths of water on the wharves, loading capacities of cranes, harbour lights, and even underground sewers. 7,208 copies were printed on 10 December 1931, with water coloured blue, roads in sienna, and buildings in grey.
On the back is an attractive colour-coded plan of Dundee proposing new developments – regenerating the former industrial sites, planning new roads and outlying industrial estates, along with a large expansion of residential areas outwards from the city centre.
In 1911, over 60% of Dundee households lived in 1 or 2 roomed houses, and slum clearance and better housing was a key priority. From 1919 to 1939, over 8,100 local authority houses were built, many in new suburban districts such as Logie, Beechwood, and Craigiebank or Craigie Garden Suburb. This map is in many ways a blueprint for post-war Dundee, encouraging the residential and industrial expansion north of the Kingsway ring road, and even anticipating the new Proposed Municipal Airport (albeit some three decades before its eventual opening in 1962).
Both plans bore the stamp of James Hannay Thomson, the Dundee Harbour Trust General Manager and Engineer, who successfully encouraged a transition away from Dundee’s failing textile industries towards new manufacturing at this time. He also was able to recognise the future importance of transportation of raw materials by roads, and not just by sea – a difficult issue, given the historical investment in the harbour and its immense value as a source of income and employment. Although they took time to locate in Dundee, multinational companies such as Dayco, Holochrome, National Cash Register, Timex, and Michelin provided much needed post-War employment, and the 1960s maps of Dundee show a surprisingly similar form to this map of 1931.
The importance of this map rests particularly on its promotional role, in presenting Dundee as an attractive, clear and organised geographical space for potential development, in conjunction with a well-argued supporting text. It serves as a useful reminder that for the history of towns from Victorian times into the post-War period in Scotland, some of the most useful and regularly updated maps were drawn and published, not by Ordnance Survey, but by Bartholomew.