The Fairfield building has special significance in the history of Govan. At a time when shipping was the sole means of overseas trade and communication, Govan (the “shipbuildingest burgh in the world” in 1901) emerged as the elite workshop for the construction of metal propulsion ships. It produced the finest, largest and most beautiful ships of the era. The Fairfield shipyard was the jewel in the crown and these offices were the nerve centre of the yard.
Designed by John Keppie and built to a style and specification that reflected the status of what was then arguably the most prestigious shipbuilding concern in the world, it has been described as architecturally the finest shipbuilding office in Britain. It has iconic significance not just for Govan but also for Glasgow and for Scotland’s shipbuilding heritage.
Built on Govan Road between 1889 and 1891 the new block of offices was functional, with ship and engine drawing offices on the first floor, feeding drawings to the engine works, to the west, and to the mould loft, to the east, where the lines of the vessels were drawn out full-sized. The ground floor was occupied by managers’ offices, and by a boardroom, which was also used to entertain clients, for instance at launch parties.
The offices were the public face of a great commercial concern, building the most complex products of the age, floating palaces capable of resisting all that the sea could throw against them, and supporting the lives of hundreds of people for several days, while travelling across the Atlantic at rather more than 20 miles an hour.
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