AT its height Fairfields in Govan employed thousands of people and was one of the greatest shipbuilders in the world.

It designed, built and fitted out a wide range of vessels and was a major warship builder for the Royal Navy.

As well as battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers it built many transatlantic liners including record breaking ships, fast cross-channel mail steamers and ferries for locations across the world.

These included ships for the Bosphorus crossing in Istanbul and some of the early ships used by Thomas Cook for developing tourism on the Nile.

Closer to home, it also built the Clyde paddle steamer Jeanie Deans.

All these vessels were designed in the drawing office of the imposing red sandstone Fairfields headquarters in Govan which have been transformed into Fairfield Heritage Centre.

The drawing office is normally out of bounds to the public but they will get a chance to see the former heart of the shipyard operation during Glasgow's Doors Open Festival.

Charles Randolph founded Fairfield as Randolph & Elliott by building engines and machinery in Tradeston in 1834.

In 1852, hugely talented engineer John Elder joined the company and seven years later the firm decided to start shipbuilding in a small yard in Govan.

In 1864 they acquired Govan riverside farmland known as Fairfield and created a shipyard, engine works and a dock where ships could be fitted out creating the standard for the rest of the world.

The Fairfield Titan, which was built for the yard in 1911, had a lift capacity of 200 tons and for many years was the largest crane in the world.

The shipyard went through many changes over the decades and in 1968 was made part of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders which collapsed in 1971 when a strike and work-in received national press attention.

Eventually the former Fairfield yard was sold to the Norwegian Kvaerner group and passed to BAE Systems which still operates it.

The Govan Road HQ was no longer needed and lay empty for around eight years falling into a state of dilapidation.

Pat Cassidy of Govan Workspace said: "The building was in a terrible condition and was sending out a very negative message about Govan. In 2008, owners Clydeport asked if we wanted to consider it for business use."

The biggest challenge faced by the group was the state of the building which had water pouring through the roof and suffered structural problems.

However it was eventually converted into Fairfield Heritage Centre and co-ordinator Abigail Morris has been researching the history of the yard and the people who worked in it.

She said: "At its height, Fairfields employed many thousands of people so was extremely important to the people of Govan.

"It was partly responsible for the way the area was developed in terms of housing, it was the centre of the community and very symbolic for the area.

"Fairfields has been a symbol of excellence and still instils pride. People get quite emotional when they come here knowing their grandfather worked at Fairfields.

"It has touched many thousands of people who visit from all over the world. Some are trying to trace their family history and some started their careers there and went to work abroad as they had a very good quality apprenticeship."

Although the vast majority of workers at the yard were men, there were also roles for women who traced out the plans the draughtsmen made and were French polishers onboard.

Life for the men of the yard was not easy and conditions far removed from what exists in the shipyards of today.

Ms Morris said: "It was a tough existence because work was hard and they were working in freezing cold conditions.

"They didn't have the protective clothing they do today. For example they wore cloth caps and not hard hats.

"It was also very physical work and sometimes the men worked long hours but the jobs were sought after as it was a good trade with the more skilled men well paid."

Today the former shipyard HQ still plays an important role in shipbuilding with BAE regularly sending apprentices to the heritage centre to learn about the important history of their industry