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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s


By James McGrath

The Cathedral from the south The built-up area of medieval Glasgow comprised two nuclei: the market cross around which commerce and the civil administration gravitated, and, about half a mile up the High Street, the cathedral and its environs. Between and around these areas lay the common lands used for pasturage and farming.

The Centre

Trongate, 1770 In 1560 the burgh retained this dumb-bell shape. The area around the High Kirk declined for a while after the Reformation but slowly began to recover. Its fine buildings were seen as integral to the burgh's prestige. However, the real core of the burgh was the southern nucleus at the Cross. Here were the main markets and the tolbooth (the seat of civic government) with Trongate stretching westwards, Gallowgate eastwards, and Saltmarket and the Briggate leading to the river and the old bridge.

Glasgow from the south Over the next two centuries, as Glasgow's population grew, so too did its built-up area (although new building lagged behind so that the old medieval quarters around the Cross became increasingly densely packed and unpleasant to live in). Expansion was achieved by selling off many parts of the burgh's commons for building purposes, exemplified by the diminution in the 18th century of the Old Green - situated close to the present-day Clyde Street - to accommodate westwards developments towards Jamaica Street, and by some judicious land purchases.


Glasgow 1761 Among the most significant of these purchases was that of Gorbals and Bridgend, confirmed in 1665. This represented Glasgow's first real encroachment on the "south-side" of the River Clyde. Gorbals increased the burgh's taxable base. It also possessed deposits of coal that were equally important to the fast-growing burgh, although by 1691 these were exhausted and attention turned to areas further afield, including Carntyne and Provan. The same purchase brought the lands of Linningshaugh, which came to form the New Green, our present day Glasgow Green. Close by lay Barrowfield, the future Calton, a thriving weaving and leather-working community which competed with Glasgow's manufacturers. It was purchased in 1724.

Western Expansion

Glasgow from the west The other important purchase in this period was that of the substantial lands of Ramshorn and Meadowflat in 1694. This area stretched west from High Street to St Enoch's burn and embraced the lands that encompassed much of the town's 18th century westwards expansion and, eventually, George Square. None of these areas was actually brought into the "royalty" or full jurisdiction of the burgh until the mid-19th century.


Partick Castle Like most Scottish burghs Glasgow had no walls. Ditches or small palisades, supplemented by march stones, delineated the burgh's boundaries and secured the burgesses' livestock. The city "ports" (its gates) were used as collection points for tolls or for securing quarantine during time of plague, rather than for defensive purposes. The relative lack of a clear boundary between the burgh and its hinterland (the rural "landward" areas) underlined the fact that, apart from burgess trading privileges, there was no real difference in the life styles of those who lived within and those who lived outwith the burgh. Like their neighbours, the burgesses farmed crops and tended livestock.

Neighbouring Villages

Provan Hall Setting aside the neighbouring burghs of Renfrew and Rutherglen, there were several small villages within the immediate sphere of Glasgow's influence. Gorbals and Barrowfield were absorbed by Glasgow in this period, but Govan and Partick remained separate. The latter two settlements had grown around the junction of the Rivers Kelvin and Clyde. The graveyard in Govan Old Parish Church testifies to a sizeable community during this period but curiously Govan, given its possible role as the original site of the Christian mission from which Glasgow sprang, hardly impinged on the affairs of its burgeoning neighbour during these two centuries. Not so Partick - formerly the site of the Catholic archbishops' residence, it remained important because its mills on the banks of the fast-flowing Kelvin were an important supplement to those on the slower-moving Molendinar Burn within the burgh, and crucial to the economic infrastructure of the growing city. They included the old wheat mill, brought under the burgh's full control in 1738, and the mills further up-stream, both malt and fulling, which were bought by Glasgow's Incorporation of Bakers in 1771 and whose ruins can still be seen on the banks of the river.

The villages and much of the area around the burgh belonged to the "barony of Glasgow", the temporal lands and accompanying jurisdictions which had provided revenues to the Catholic archbishops. After the Reformation of 1560, these lands reverted to the crown. A re-conveyance of 1591 (in favour of Walter, commendator of Blantyre) lists the properties involved. In addition to the villages already mentioned and areas further afield, the barony comprised a fascinating roll-call of small farms or hamlets that would in time become suburbs and districts of Glasgow. Among them were "Meikle Govane, Westscheill, Govane Scheillis, Haggis ... Gorbillis, Borrowfield ... Little Cowcaldenis, Brumehill, Rammishorne, Dalmarnok ... Stobcors... Partik... Hyndland, Kirklie ... Balschagrie, Gartnavill, Balgray, Woodsyde, Garroch, Garbried, Ruchhill, Keppo [Keppochill], Possilis, Over and Nether Cowtstoun [Colston?], Lambhill ... Haghill ... Cadder ... Quhytinsche [Whiteinch] ... Auchinarne, Robrestoun [Robroyston] ... Halhill ... Daldowie ... Karmyld [Carmyle], Dalbeith ... Scheddilstoun [Shettleston] ... Provand".

In 1667, the Town Council of Glasgow purchased the last named from Sir Robert Hamilton of Silvertonhill, providing another interesting list of what were then probably simply farmsteads: "Ballanerk [Barlanark] alias Provand, containing Easter Cunschlie [Queenslie?] ... Gartcraig ... Hewgonfield, Ballarnock [Balornock] ... Riddrie, Rachesie [Ruchazie], Craigend, Garthomlock, Cardowane, Garsheugh [Gartcosh?]". These lands were exploited for coal and as a general asset that was subsequently sold off in various parcels to meet civic debts, notably to meet the hefty fines imposed after the Shawfield riots of 1725. Now known chiefly as post-Second World War housing estates, they would eventually be swept up again by the expanding city in the 20th century. The house, Provan Hall, remains to this day, surrounded by the housing estate of Easterhouse.

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