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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Trade and Communications


By John R Burnett

Between 1175 and 1178 King William the Lion granted to the Bishop of Glasgow the right to have a burgh with a market on Thursdays. The burgh and its market were founded together: the burgh was a group of buildings, but in commercial terms it was also a central place for the exchange of goods. The market was thus central both to the existence of the burgh, and to economic life in its locality. All produce from the area – the burgh and regality of Glasgow – was required to be sold at the market and buying and selling could take place only on market day. Its main function in the Middle Ages was to make daily life possible through the sale of food and, to a lesser extent, clothing and hardware.

The market cross was established down the hill from the cathedral, on the edge of the damp ground beside the river. At first the market must have been small, for the only ways of getting produce to it were by carrying it, or bringing it on horseback or perhaps on a slype or sledge. Goods were sold from stalls in the street and each type of article was sold in its own specific area. The customs collected at the market went to the bishop who later allowed the burgh to collect the money and take the profit after a payment had been made to him. When the burgh was able to afford to build a tolbooth, which was partly to serve as a place where market customs were paid, it was sited west of Glasgow Cross.

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