When Glasgow’s new £29.5million bridge opens in Spring next year, those using it to cross the River Clyde will be 'recreating the walk of Strathclyde royalty' from their Partick estate to Govan.

The new Govan-Partick bridge towers over an area that, for at least 2,000 years, had a huge importance as a location where it was possible to ford the Clyde.

Connecting Water Row in Govan and Pointhouse Quay in Partick, the bridge will form a key part of the active travel route between the University of Glasgow's campus at Gilmorehill and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

More significantly, it will re-establish a link between two well-known Glasgow neighbourhoods - in Govan and Partick - that were spatially, socially and economically interconnected for centuries. 

READ MORE: Milestone for new Govan to Partick bridge as main span sails up the Clyde

And there is hope that, when the cable-stayed opening swing bridge opens next year, it will help restore importance to a River Clyde that has ceased to be associated with the economic and social heart of life in Glasgow, despite having a unique place in the history and development of the city.

"People have turned their back on the Clyde”, said Pat Cassidy, Managing Director of Govan Workspace and Trustee of Govan Heritage Trust.

“I mean houses have literally been built with their back gardens to the Clyde. The Clyde is just almost treated like a sewer as opposed to the majestic river that created Glasgow. 

“The peak of the Clyde was about 1913 and 100,000 people earned either directly or indirectly from industries focused on engineering or shipbuilding on the Clyde. The Clyde has had a staggering impact on Glasgow.”

The Herald:  John Hume, chair of Govan Heritage Trust at left and Pat Cassidy, Trustee of Govan Heritage Trust at right John Hume, chair of Govan Heritage Trust at left and Pat Cassidy, Trustee of Govan Heritage Trust at right (Image: Colin Mearns)

Between 2013 and 2019, Pat and his colleagues at Govan Workspace ran a free summer ferry between Govan and the Riverside Museum on the site of where the new bridge will be. 

Not only was he taken aback at the incredible popularity of the ferry - which revived a 300-year-old Clyde river crossing - but Pat admits he was left “astonished” by the number of grandparents bringing their grandchildren onto the ferry “just to experience the Clyde”. 

He told The Herald: “The Riverside Museum opened in 2011 I think and there was a contract for a ferry service between the museum and Govan. It lasted about a year and it failed but in 2013 we believed that there was a demand so we ran a ferry for a month as a trial and it was used by 16,000 people. 

“Lots of Govan people were going shopping in Partick and going to visit the Riverside Museum and lots of ‘westenders’ were coming over to discover Govan Old Church. We ran the ferry service proper from 2014 up to and including 2019 and then of course Covid prevented us from continuing. 

READ MORE: Govan Old: Dig uncovers early medieval 'Govan Warrior' stone

“We were carrying 35,000 people during the summer season in our 12-seater ferry and by far Govan Old’s visitors were coming via the ferry. But also people were coming to the Riverside Museum via the Subway to Govan and then taking the ferry across. 

“We actually carried in our 12-seater over that period over 200,000 people. It demonstrated for the city council that there was a demand for cross-river travel and for the cross-river link, and that was part of the business case for the new bridge.”

Having played such a large part in the regeneration of Govan over the years, Pat’s excitement at what the new bridge will mean for Govan is palpable.

“I think the bridge will be a tremendous link for Govan. Govan is a long way out from Glasgow city centre. Up until the 1960s there were lots of wee ferries that went backwards and forwards, particularly between Govan and Partick, so the communities continued to be closely linked,” he said.

The Herald: The bridge will link Govan and PartickThe bridge will link Govan and Partick (Image: free)

“People would be jumping on those ferries the same way you’d be jumping on to a bus. A friend of mine lived on Byres Road and worked in a school in Govan and he jumped on the ferry every morning in life. Those links were just natural links. 

“When the ferries stopped, then Govan was much more isolated. I think this link is going to have more impact and benefits for Govan than it will the other way round. That’s the way I see it.”

The new bridge will also be situated barely 200 metres from Govan Old Church, which stands on a religious site dating back to the sixth century and is the oldest known Christian settlement on the Clyde.

Having already witnessed seas of ‘westenders’ cross the Clyde to discover Govan Old for the first time on the free ferry, Pat is confident that the A-listed church - home to one of the largest collections of early medieval stones in Scotland -  will see a climb in visitor numbers.

He said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that Govan Old, which is more known now than it was then, is going to benefit from the bridge. We also have a shipbuilding museum along the road at Fairfield and I’ve absolutely no doubt that visitor numbers there will climb also. So it’s a big positive thing for Govan. 

“We also have a business centre at Govan Cross which does very well but I’m absolutely convinced that this will help keep it full most of the time, the fact that it will be linked so closely to the West End. We are also creating commercial lettable space at Govan Old, basically to sustain Govan Old. It’s an income that allows us to continue to operate Govan Old in the face of the increased running costs.”