Airdrie (Gaelic An Àrd Ruigh/An Àrd Àirighe) is a town within North Lanarkshire, Scotland. It lies on a plateau roughly 400 ft (130 m) above sea level, and is approximately 12 miles (19 km) east of Glasgow. Airdrie, along with its neighbour Coatbridge, forms the area known as the Monklands. As of 2006, it had a population of 36,853.
In those days travelling was often dangerous. Horses were still very rare and could only be afforded by the rich. Low lying ground was usually extremely difficult to navigate because of the numerous bogs, forests and burns - not to mention the possibility of ambush by a footpad or robber. Hence, it became much more practical to travel on the high ground (the "High Way") where one could avoid the mud and the robbers. These roads (tracks) became known as the King's Highway.
Definitive evidence of the existence of Airdrie as a tenantry was only made clear in 1503. The old Monks road was via Cliftonhill (an area now in neighbouring Coatbridge), Airdrie House (now the site of Monklands Hospital), Aitchison Street, High Street, Hallcraig, Flowerhill and Colliertree. It was along this road that the first houses in Airdrie were built. Development was slow and it was only around 1650 that evidence of the number of inhabitants was known at around 500 for the Airdrie area.
Airdrie first came to prominence for its weaving industry. Airdrie Weavers Society was founded in 1781 and flax was being grown in sixteen farms in and around the burgh. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, coalmining was in progress and around thirty colliers were employed. Weaving continued to flourish making up a substantial part of the population of over 2,500 around the turn of the 19th century. The rapid pace of population growth continued and by 1821 there were 4,862 inhabitants. At this time the number of houses being built increased dramatically and in 1821, by a private Act of Parliament, Airdrie became a free and independent Burgh of Barony. Due to the fact it was "independent", it had all the powers of a Royal Burgh.
Voting in the early part of the nineteenth century was rather hit or miss as not only locals but residents outside the burgh were allowed to vote. It was not popular at any rate with only thirty-eight attending the election meeting. In 1821 the first election of a town council took place and by August it had appointed an assessor, procurator fiscal, master of police and a town crier.
In 1824 it was decided to build the Town House, which is now a local landmark known as the “town clock.” In 1832 the Town House was used as a hospital due to the cholera outbreak of this year. It was originally designed by Alexander Baird.
By 1850, the population had grown to 12,418.
An evolution of the rise in population and industry prompted for more accessible water supplies. Until the mid 1800s, various wells were put in place feeding from surrounding streams in the area. These served to provide many houses with private wells. By 1846 Airdrie and Coatbridge Water Company was founded to construct (along with Forth and Clyde Canal Company) the reservoir at Roughrigg.
Around the mid 1800s, several local newspapers began appearing and notably the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, which is still the most popular local paper today. Also at this time, football and cricket began to emerge as popular sports. Owing to the formation of the Football under Association rules and through this beginning, Excelsior (the local football team until then) became Airdrieonians F.C. in 1878. Race meetings were also held in the town (1851 - 1870) but this land became the golf course for the newly formed Airdrie Golf Club in 1877 (which later moved site to and Glenmavis in 1884).
Education posed a major problem with severe overcrowding in the few schools available, therefore three new school boards were established. Fees were routinely charged within the schools with the belief they should be self-supporting until the Act of 1889 when some of the infant classes in schools were relieved of this burden. Airdrie Academy was built in 1895 and by 1919 all school boards were dissolved and Lanarkshire Education Authority took over responsibility for education throughout Lanarkshire.
Airdrie Public Observatory, one of only four public observatories in the UK - all in Scotland, was founded in the first library building in 1896, and is still operated in the present building by ASTRA, a Scottish space-flight society and registered charity.
By the turn of the century and certainly by 1910, variety shows were becoming popular in the area and by 1911 the Pavilion in Graham Street was built which after initially being used as a music hall started showing cinematographic pictures. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1917 but was rebuilt in 1919 (closed in 1970 for re-development). The New Cinema was opened in 1920 in Broomknoll Street but has since closed. The town had no suitable venue for larger functions so in 1912 the Sir John Wilson Town Hall was opened (following a generous offer from Sir John Wilson covering the total cost of 13,500 GBP). This still stands and is used for major events in the town.
Airdrie Public Library, the first public library in Scotland, was eventually built on its present site in 1925 after years of moving from one site to another.
Conditions in the town did not really improve until well after the Second World War but in 1949 a major pharmaceutical company (Boots Pure Drug Co. Ltd) and Banner Textiles Ltd were attracted to the town (between them employing 1200). With this impetus, new companies began to consider Airdrie as a viable option for business and in 1958 Pye Scottish Communications Ltd opened employing over 1000 people. The emergence of industrial estates was also prevalent around this time. (Newhouse; Chapelhall; Brownsburn) A well known building in the town is Airdrie Arts Centre - opened in 1967, it is still a popular venue for concerts and plays.
The 1970s saw the opening of Monklands Hospital, which replaced the one on Airdrie House estate that had been closed in 1962 and demolished in 1964.
Airdrie is represented by several tiers of elected government. North Lanarkshire Council, the unitary local authority for Airdrie, is based at Motherwell, and is the executive, deliberative and legislative body responsible for local governance. The Scottish Parliament is responsible for devolved matters such as education, health and justice, while reserved matters are dealt with by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The area that the Airdrie and Shotts constituency now envelops has had a prominent place on the front benches of the House of Commons at Westminster with high profile ministers and members of Her Majesty's Government.
For the purposes of the Scottish Parliament, Airdrie forms part of the Airdrie and Shotts constituency. This has slightly different boundaries than that of the UK Parliement constituency of the same name. The current member of the Scottish Parliament for Airdrie and Shotts is Karen Whitefield, who has held the seat since the instatement of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.