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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Industry and Technology


By Duncan M Dornan

View of the City of Glasgow For most of this period the lack of suitable roads and bridges was a barrier to the development of transport vehicles and therefore economic progress. Most people moved themselves and their goods around on foot or at best on horseback.

Broomielaw Bridge Good bridges were often built in advance of good roads. This was due both to the greater risk to travellers posed by a watercourse and also to the fact that bridges are of obvious benefit even in the absence of built roads. Glasgow Bridge was built in 1345 by the Bishop and though rebuilt twice was only finally demolished in 1856. Roads around Glasgow were poor and the Act of 1669 set up the opportunity for statute labour to be used for road building and repair. However this was largely ignored until a further Act of 1718 allowed judges to fine counties not meeting their duties and even this only really had an impact in the area immediately around Glasgow.

Stirling Coach From mediaeval times military and royal journeys made some use of carriages, but ordinary people did not. The first vehicles to be used were sledges which were dragged along the ground behind a horse. In time these developed to tumbrels, crude carts in which the axle turns with the wheels. Stage coaches were introduced slowly to the area around Glasgow and, although Lord Seaton brought a carriage to Scotland in 1560, the first public service between Glasgow and Edinburgh wasn't until 1749. The Glasgow to London service became daily in 1779, an arduous journey lasting between ten and twelve days at speeds fluctuating between five and twelve miles per hour and requiring stops of at least thirty minutes every ten to twelve miles to change the horses. This nonetheless reflected a general improvement in roads which simultaneously encouraged wider use of carts for commercial and private purposes.

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