Little is recorded of the early history of the site which belonged in the 16th century to the Montgomeries of Eglinton Castle. It remained undeveloped until the 19th century when ornamental policies were developed around two new houses, Birkinshaw Cottage and Birkinshaw House. These residences, about which little is known, occupied sites in the north and centre of the grounds which now comprise Rouken Glen Park.
In 1858, Alexander Crum acquired Birkinshaw Estate which then seems to have included both houses. Crum was one of the partners in Merchants' Bank, Glasgow. His family had been closely associated with the city of Glasgow for many years, and attained a high position in commerce at the end of the 19th century. The Crum family were heavily involved with the development of the local dye and calico industry at Thornliebank.
Alexander Crum proceeded to enlarge Birkinshaw House in 1858 and again in 1879, renaming the house and estate Thornliebank in 1879. At this later date, Birkinshaw Cottage was incorporated into a new stables complex for Thornliebank House. The layout of the surviving 19th-century parkland planting, the Glen walks, and new approach drives from Rouken Glen Road (A726) and from the south, date from this period, as is evident on the 2nd edition OS 1:2500 map of 1897. The walled garden is probably also associated with the 1879 developments, but this has not been confirmed.
Alexander Crum died in 1893. In 1904, the estate was sold to Mr Archibald Cameron Corbett who subsequently became Lord Rowallan. Two years later, in 1906, the land and buildings were gifted by him to the citizens of Glasgow.
Following the adoption of the grounds as a public park, Thornliebank House was used initially as a museum and tearoom but the house was demolished in 1963. Various amenities were introduced into the park in the years following its opening. These include the boating pond and boathouse in 1923, a bandstand long since demolished and replaced by the children's adventure playground, the sports pavilion and the present-day garden centre and car park. The garden centre and car park are in separate ownership.