Court photos show 1950s Glasgow life

You might expect the pictures contained within Sheriff court Records to be graphic or disturbing, showing the details of crimes and their victims. Of course, this is often the case – but sometimes the pictures can instead give us a glimpse into social or local history.

In a payment case for damages for injuries occurring in a Glasgow washhouse or ‘steamie’ in 1959 we found this wonderfully candid shot. This photograph provides a snapshot into the working of such a wash house. The large washing machines can be seen in the background, with basins on the right, airing cabinets on the left, and tables for folding in the foreground. It definitely shows what a chore hand washing used to be and how much we take our home washing machines for granted! Such an everyday shot of a very ordinary place would usually not have been a typical subject for a photographer. As the photographer here is trying to capture the machine layout and not the women, they are mostly unaware they are being photographed which creates a lovely action shot.

A Glasgow steamie in 1959
Women at work in a Glasgow “steamie” or wash house in 1959.

 

In another Glasgow Sheriff Court case from 1957 we found a couple of attractive images of St Enoch’s Square in Glasgow. This case was to recall an order made by the Corporation of the City of Glasgow to discontinue the use of the centre of St Enoch’s Square as a parking place. The case was brought by the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, The Automobile Association, and The Royal Automobile Club, who were representing their members, all agreed that removing parking places from the square would only move the problem of inadequate parking facilities in the city elsewhere. The Automobile clubs eventually lost their case and it was prohibited to park in St Enoch Square. These images again capture an everyday snapshot of people going about their business unaware their picture is being taken.

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Jennifer Homewood, Archivist