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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Buildings and Cityscape


By Irene Maver

Projected Improvement Glasgow's population boom between the 1770s and 1830s meant, inevitably, that as more people lived and died in the city, there was a greater need for burial places. From 1767 the substantial extension to the Ramshorn churchyard represented a significant sign of shifting patterns of mortality. The growing demand for family "lairs", or burial places, had necessitated the development of the North-West Burying Ground immediately adjacent to the old churchyard.

Merchants' Park The Ramshorn was located in Ingram Street, which, from the 1780s, symbolised the architectural aspirations of Glasgow's fast-expanding "New Town". Yet in keeping with prevailing attitudes in Scotland about the commemoration of death, the graveyard was far from ostentatious. The Town Council, as owners of the ground, imposed restrictions as to the height and appearance of the gravestones. The lairs for wealthy merchants like John Glassford (1715-1783) and David Dale (1739-1806) were marked with unadorned wall-plaques. The Ramshorn conspicuously lacked the elaborate landscaping and monumentalism that came to characterise later Glasgow cemeteries, notably the Necropolis.

Watching and Warding While the Ramshorn became the preserve of the wealthy, poorer Glaswegians tended to be buried in the High Church grounds, next to the Cathedral. However fear of grave robbers affected all of the city graveyards until the 1832 Anatomy Act regularised the availability of bodies for dissection. Prior to this time there had been strict laws prohibiting the procurement of corpses, which meant that anatomy schools were invariably deficient in "subjects" for teaching purposes. A macabre trade developed whereby bodies were illegally exhumed and sold to anatomists. The 1814 trial and acquittal of anatomist Granville Sharp Pattison (1791-1851), on the charge of removing a corpse from the Ramshorn, alerted the public to the questionable practices of the medical fraternity. Increasingly, devices like mortsafes were used to protect coffins in graveyards and up to the 1830s guards were even employed to watch over new interments.

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