From the dark ages Govan has been an important place situated next to the River Clyde. Its history is complex and intriguing from very early times, from the Govan Sarcophacus and Hogbacks now situated within Govan Old Parish Church, to it’s relationship with Doomsterhill and Partick’s royal burgh.
The ecclesiastical history of Govan dates back to the early monastery founded by Constantine around 565 AD. It was not until around 1147 that the name of Govan was historically recorded when King David 1 gave to the Church of Glasgu, "Guven" with its 'marches free and clear for ever'. It was during this period that the church in Govan was made a prebend of Glasgow Cathedral in or around 1153.
In the middle ages Govan was primarily an agricultural village, but as drift coal mining in the 16th century became more prominent in the Craigton and Drumoyne areas, Govan's flourishing industries grew. By the 18th century Govan was known for it’s handloom weaving industry along with it’s associated skills of bleaching, dying and spinning village. The Govan Weavers Society was formed in 1756 as a guild of master weavers, holding their annual parade in June which today is known as as Govan Fair Day.
In 1759, the Clyde Navigation Act was passed due to the increase in trade with the Americas and the task of deepening the river began. Glasgow’s merchants realised that there was a desperate need to get ships further up the shallow River Clyde. Exploiting the natural resources of the river, Govan grew steadily from then on.
By the 1790’s the agricultural and then the industrial revolution began, having a profound effect on Govan. The population grew from 2,500 in the early 19th century to over 90,000 one hundred years later. The reasons for this were shipbuilding and immigration from the highlands of Scotland and Ireland, looking for work in the shipyards. In 1841, Robert Napier laid out his shipyard and the first of the Cunarders was launched. In 1864, in recognition of its importance as a centre of commerce and industry, Govan, was granted Burgh status and became the fifth largest Burgh in Scotland.
Changing economic conditions after 1945 led to a dramatic decline in the shipbuilding industry. Many of the yards were forced to close and today only one remains operative - the yard that was formerly Fairfield's. The influence of Govan's shipbuilding industry is a profound one that is still felt today. All around Govan today you may see the remains of the built heritage, the legacy of the yard owners, and the yards and docks themselves- visible reminders of the burgh's great industrial heritage. This is especially evident within Elder Park, with its library, Lady Elder's Statue and other monuments.
Recently, there have been efforts to restore the area to its former significance. Current regeneration activity through the Townscape Heritage Initiative and the Govan Central Action Plan focus’ on Govan Cross , the vibrant heart of the Govan community through its history.