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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Buildings and Cityscape


By Stephen T Driscoll

Barony Church crypt As the burgh of Glasgow increased in size the burial grounds at the medieval churches came under increasing pressure, not least because after the Reformation burial within churches was discouraged. Evidence from the Glasgow Cathedral excavations indicate that the practice of burial within the Cathedral did continue until late in the 19th century, but on a more limited scale than was seen in the late Middle Ages. A conspicuous feature of the post-medieval churchyard was the creation of lairs or family burial plots. This practice may have originated in the medieval period, but became more conspicuous after the Reformation. Indeed the railings and markers of lairs are often among the most notable features seen at old Scottish churchyards, where they survive most often against the perimeter walls of the churchyard as at the Cathedral.

Grave slabs At Govan Old Parish Church there is considerable evidence of the reuse of medieval grave stones during the 17th and 18th centuries. Here the majority of the surviving cross-inscribed grave slabs of 11th century date have been appropriated to mark lairs of the leading families in the parish. Many of these reused stones simply bear the initials of the lair owner, but names of individuals and of estates also appear.

Cathcart Old Parish Church Simple inscriptions are characteristic of the gravestones of the 17th century and generally indicate only the name of the owner and his spouse. In the later 17th century and the 18th century new forms of burial monument are introduced including the vertical headstone. At Govan these are associated with the artisan class, in contrast to the gentry who preferred horizontal slabs including the reused medieval slabs. The vertical headstones utilised classical motifs, incorporated trade symbols and extended inscriptions which not only contained biographical details but also religious and sentimental epitaphs. The old churchyards at Cathcart and Rutherglen also exhibit examples of the early post-medieval monuments. In addition to some splendid 19th century monuments Cathcart has a conspicuous inscription to the Polmadie Martyrs (not contemporary with the Covenanting period). At Rutherglen the most remarkable survivals are a pair of booths flanking the entrance, presumably to control access to church services.

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