Theres’s a post-apocalyptic feel to Salisbury Place. Roofs have burned and collapsed, splintered furniture and ruined clothes litter the street. Boards cover windows, metal shutters hide doors.
The reality is mundane: a few years ago the local council earmarked Salisbury Place for demolition. One family at a time, it emptied. Now Salisbury is out of place, caught between eras, its current buildings now unsuitable for housing, its land not yet ready to be rebuilt upon. When director Peter Mullan needed a location that resembled the lower-income housing of Glasgow in the 70s, he came here. His 2010 film, Neds, used Salisbury Place as a backdrop.
I discovered Salisbury Place three years ago, when the exodus had already begun. Passing by, I could see rows of boarded up windows and secured doors. But occasionally visible was light escaping from a kitchen window. A few residents remained—survivors of a local apocalypse.
I was subject to rehousing some years ago. My family moved early in the process. Later, we heard horror stories of the people who stayed. Abandoned houses—or mostly abandoned in this case—are quickly devoured by scavengers. Tiles are pulled from roofs and pipes are ripped out, then sold. Empty houses are set alight for entertainment, with no thought given to the few who live nearby. Imagine walking home at night past rows of boarded-up windows and doors, not knowing who might be lurking in the dark of those empty houses, unsure if someone has already endangered your life by pulling apart your gas and electrical systems. As expected, Salisbury Place has similar stories .
Sound fell away as I entered Salisbury. The engines of Dumbarton Road’s traffic, the clanking of renewal works in Dalmuir Park, all faded out, and I was surrounded by silence. This made me tense and, as I listened for sounds of life, I realised that I also couldn’t hear my own footsteps. I’d become stealthy through fear, concerned about disturbing some drug deal or virgin sacrifice. Then it dawned that making noise might be a good thing. If I was walking towards trouble, it was probably better to make noise and hope that those involved move away.
I reached Salisbury’s end and ascended stairs to return past the next row of houses. From that extra height I could see into the flats whose roofs had burned down long ago, puddles now growing on ash-covered floors. On the pavement, where kids played and neighbours gossiped, lay shopping trolleys, broken metal shards and charred strips of wood.
I stopped for one last set of photos and thought I detected movement inside a house. Tension returned. I looked at the time: 11.59am. Who would be preparing to murder me at such an early hour? I raised the camera to my eye and, as I prepared to click, every streetlight flickered on. I nearly shat myself. Thankfully, having just checked the time, I realised the lights must be set to activate at noon. A strange time for them to switch on, admittedly, but the only other answer was that the street was preparing to consume me. I snapped a few more shots and made a hasty exit.
Salisbury Place stood strong while being set alight, but soon it’ll fall. Men with machines will arrive and will beat Salisbury until its walls collapse. The rubble will be cleared until the land is flat. And then construction will begin once again, this housing quickly forgotten.
Which, when you’ve looked at it long enough, is probably for the best.