Scotlands History


Between 1770 and 1850 Scotland changed radically - from a rural society based on subsistence agriculture into an industrial, urban nation.

Agriculture was transformed by improvement but tenant farmers then had to pay much higher rents, so many farm workers were displaced into the towns. By 1850 almost one third of the population had moved into urban areas, despite the worst housing in Europe. There was major overcrowding as housing stocks failed to keep up with demand.

The wealthier moved out, for example to the New Town of Edinburgh, and into airier, more elegant suburbs in other cities.

Working families trapped in single rooms waited a long time for the Act of 1855 which ‘obliged local authorities to provide adequate privies’ and to close houses ‘unfit for human habitation’

A further Act of 1875 finally paved the way for large-scale urban renewal, but slum clearance and house-building for poorer sections of the population were still being tackled well into the 1970s.

  • An old photograph of Close 46 in Glasgow.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

An ariel map of the town of Wick showing the outlines of houses, the town centre and the river

Mapping Wick

Explore the town of Wick with this interactive map and learn more about housing in Scotland.