By the 19th century, Glasgow was notorious for having some of the worst slum housing in the country. Some of the worst conditions were be found in the unlicensed common lodging houses, which were privately run, overcrowded and insanitary.
In 1843 the city introduced licensing for these establishments, in a bid to prevent overcrowding and ensure that infectious diseases were notified. There was little enforcement of the rules though, and the Model Lodging House Association, a voluntary body formed later that year, set up their own houses providing more hygienic standards.
North Woodside Lodging House was one of seven built by the City improvement Trust between 1871 and 1884 . A four storey building at 51 North Woodside Road, it had dormitories on each floor, with each resident having a cubicle with a bed, a small cupboard and a stool with a top that lifted to give more storage space. Opened in 1879 and the first Superintendent was John Simpson from Alloa – he was employed at a salary of £100 p.a. plus free accommodation, gas and coal and lived on the premises with his wife and family.
The reasons for people choosing to live in these establishments were varied. For some it was an alternative to the poorhouse, if they could afford the few pence per night required to stay there. Others simply felt unable to cope with running their own household. It also appears that in some cases men lived there on account of overcrowding at home. One person researching their family history found the female members of her family along with the younger children living in Lyon St in the 1881 census, while the adult males from the family were living in the lodging house.