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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Buildings and Cityscape


By Charles McKean

Old Houses opposite the Barony Church Renaissance Glasgow comprised two towns with the University in between. The upper town clustered around the Cathedral like a country town, whereas the mercantile town downhill was truly urban. The upper town comprised grand houses and humble cottages interspersed with gardens and orchards. Only the Provand's Lordship, the manse for the adjacent St Nicholas Hospital (altered 1564 and the 17th century), survives of the manses for Cathedral dignitaries. It contained kitchen and cellars at ground floor, large reception rooms and bedchambers on the first floor and further chambers above. There were also the town houses of regional noblemen of which by far the grandest was the Duke of Montrose's courtyard lodging in the Drygate. The Upper Town's principal houses had decayed or vanished by the later 18th century.

Maxwell Tenement It was a different matter downhill. Buildings facing the four main original streets, High Street, Trongate, Gallowgate and Saltmarket, were three or four storied stone tenements containing flatted houses where merchants, their families and apprentices worked, lived and slept, with timber galleries facing the street, and booths and storage cellars on the ground floor. Smaller houses clustered along the rigs behind. After a fire had devoured the timber frontages in all four streets radiating from Glasgow Cross in June 1652, the Council required that new houses be built of ashlar stonework, facades facing the street sitting upon a stone arcade. A typical flat now comprised a large, very well lit business chamber (possibly with a box bed) with a family chamber and kitchen behind.

Silvercraigs' Land Rebuilding after a further fire in the Saltmarket (1677), comprised both tall, handsome arcaded blocks of flats (Gibson’s Land) by the Cross, and two storied individual buildings of, usually, a lavish very well lit apartment above a floor of stores. The architecture was Dutch in inspiration, new-built Glasgow won admiration: Daniel Defoe found the streets the fairest and most regular he had seen.

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