This is a very successful conversion of a private estate into a public park. The integrity of the 19th-century design is still well-preserved, particularly the dramatic qualities of the picturesque Glen providing a foil to the more benign parkland layout.
Type of Site
An early 20th-century public park developed within the grounds of a medium-size, 19th-century, country house estate. The design embodies both 19th- and 20th-century elements.
Location and Setting
Rouken Glen Park is situated off the A726 to the south-west of Rutherglen. The setting is mostly urban, lying as it does on the south-western extremities of Glasgow. There is housing to the north and east and an industrial estate to the north-west. Deaconsbank golf course lies to the west. A railway line cuts through the southern tip of the old policies. The park is largely enclosed by the perimeter planting which precludes outward views except on the west where a woodland path provides views into Deaconsbank Golf Course.
Despite the great development that has taken place in the area, the estate policies have remained remarkably intact. Today's boundaries have changed very little from those of the 1st and 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1856 and 1897.
Birkenshaw Cottage, once a separate building with its own landscape, was incorporated into the new Stable Court for Thornliebank House in the later 19th century. In the first instance the architect was Charles Wilson; the later extensions were designed by Alfred Waterhouse. The house was demolished in 1963 and all that survives is the gothicised Garden Terrace. The Walled Garden, built in the later 19th century, is of ashlar blocks lined with brick. There was originally a glass-house range on the north-wall but this is no longer extant. There is the remains of a Cornmill on the Auldhouse Burn. To the south of the landscape the path crosses over a man-made Waterfall and Weir. The Boating Pond was constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine and Company in 1923. The contemporary Boathouse is now a restaurant which opened in 1997. The Sports Pavilion is stylistically similar, but the date of the building is presently unknown. The park Entrance Lodges and Bandstand are no longer extant. The Garden Centre is a modern addition to the park and was opened in 1996.
Drives and Approaches
The 19th-century estate drives and paths continue to be used as the main circuit routes within the park. Several new walks have been created this century, namely those around the boating pond in the south of the park, and to the sports pavilion on the park's north-eastern edge.
Paths and Walks
Paths at higher and lower levels follow the course of the Auldhouse Burn which flows through the rocky gorge comprising Rouken Glen. From the park, steps set into grass banks or cut out of the rock lead pedestrians alongside or down between mixed deciduous tree-covered banks which have an understorey of Rhododendron, snowberry (Symphoricarpos rivularis) and large-leaved bamboo.
Wooden footbridges link the paths across the burn. In the 19th century, the walks were laid down with a coarse hoggin which partly remains. Some paths are bordered with boulders and rustic timber handrails for extra picturesque effect. These and the more robust stone walls with their heavy moulded copes - vestiges associated with Thornliebank House - are significant 19th-century design elements which contribute to the Glen's distinctive character.
A manmade waterfall or weir provides a dramatic interlude at the head of the Glen. This can be approached from the south end of the boating pond or from the paths flanking the Auldhouse Burn. A large pond above the weir is surrounded by willow, Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and Great hairy willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum).
As a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) the Glen is important because it shows good examples of rocks formed between 331 million and 328 million years ago which were laid down as layers of silt and sand in a much more tropical climate than that of Rouken Glen today.
Rouken Glen Park incorporates the pocket designed landscape around Birkinshaw Cottage and the more expansive policies of Birkinshaw House. Both landscapes were reformed in the later 19th century to provide a parkland setting for Thornliebank House.
The site of the house is marked by a visitor shelter, and the grassy terrace on which Thornliebank House once stood still gives a sense of how the grounds would have been viewed and enjoyed from the house.
The land is flat at the north end of the park and then slopes sharply to the Rouken Glen. The open area of ground here is enclosed by belts of trees, which include species of lime, beech, Horse chestnut, and sycamore. The ground to the west of the Glen is now managed as a meadow. Ash and birch grow in the open grassland area. The character is varied and undulating and there are cup and ring marked rocks at the south end.
To the north of the boating pond a putting green has been introduced. The edge planting includes whitebeam, elm, and beech.
To the north and east of the house site the planting has a more traditional parkland feel. A group of conifers marks the area around the house and includes species such as Blue cedar and Wellingtonia. More recently a selection of False cypresses (Chamaecyparis sp.) have been planted in this area. Other trees have been planted as specimens rather than in groups. These specimens include lime and oak. Many trees have been planted in the recent past including mixed groups of natives and exotics, among which are cherry and rowan.
When Rouken Glen was turned into a park, a curling pond on the southern extremity was enlarged and turned into a boating pond. The pond has boulder edges and is surrounded by a tarmac path. The north side of the path is planted with Escallonia and dwarf conifers amongst taller evergreens.
The walled garden lies in a secluded corner of the park south-west of the former stable block. It seems to have been both an ornamental and productive garden which could be approached directly from Thornliebank House by a path along the river escarpment before entering a shrubbery and reaching the grassy viewing terrace. This grassy bank permitted views down and through the ornamental railings which enclose the garden on its south side.
The walled garden is a mass of formal beds edged by box or rocks and planted with summer annuals such as marigold, Petunia, candytuft and Begonia. Pergolas provide structural height within the walled garden and have climbing roses trained up them. There are formal beds on the grass terrace outside the walled garden to the south.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
Telephone0131 668 8600
Access contact details
This is a municipal site, open daily for general public use.
East Renfrewshire CouncilCouncil Headquarters, Eastwood Park, Rouken Glen Road, Giffnock, G46 6UG
The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
A very successful conversion of a private estate into a public park. The integrity of the 19th-century design is still well-preserved, particularly the dramatic qualities of the picturesque Glen providing a foil to the more benign parkland layout.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Early to late 19th century as a private estate and from 1906 as a public park.
Little is recorded of the early history of the site which belonged in the 16th century to the Montgomeries of Eglinton Castle. It remained undeveloped until the 19th century when ornamental policies were developed around two new houses, Birkinshaw Cottage and Birkinshaw House. These residences, about which little is known, occupied sites in the north and centre of the grounds which now comprise Rouken Glen Park.
In 1858, Alexander Crum acquired Birkinshaw Estate which then seems to have included both houses. Crum was one of the partners in Merchants' Bank, Glasgow. His family had been closely associated with the city of Glasgow for many years, and attained a high position in commerce at the end of the 19th century. The Crum family were heavily involved with the development of the local dye and calico industry at Thornliebank.
Alexander Crum proceeded to enlarge Birkinshaw House in 1858 and again in 1879, renaming the house and estate Thornliebank in 1879. At this later date, Birkinshaw Cottage was incorporated into a new stables complex for Thornliebank House. The layout of the surviving 19th-century parkland planting, the Glen walks, and new approach drives from Rouken Glen Road (A726) and from the south, date from this period, as is evident on the 2nd edition OS 1:2500 map of 1897. The walled garden is probably also associated with the 1879 developments, but this has not been confirmed.
Alexander Crum died in 1893. In 1904, the estate was sold to Mr Archibald Cameron Corbett who subsequently became Lord Rowallan. Two years later, in 1906, the land and buildings were gifted by him to the citizens of Glasgow.
Following the adoption of the grounds as a public park, Thornliebank House was used initially as a museum and tearoom but the house was demolished in 1963. Various amenities were introduced into the park in the years following its opening. These include the boating pond and boathouse in 1923, a bandstand long since demolished and replaced by the children's adventure playground, the sports pavilion and the present-day garden centre and car park. The garden centre and car park are in separate ownership.
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
Site of Special Scientific Interest
- Boating Lake
- Boat House
- Kitchen Garden
- Key Information
Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces
Open to the public