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The History of Glasgow
Chapter XIII - Establishment of the Burgh of Glasgow


THOUGH the always growing number of people, both clerics and laics, connected with the cathedral and the affairs of the barony, would continue to be accommodated in the vicinity of Rottenrow, there must have been from very early times a community of fishermen, craftsmen and traders occupying dwellings on the lower ground near the banks of the River Clyde, on whom the former class as well as the agricultural and pastoral population of the surrounding district would depend for the supply of commodities. As this commercial and industrial class increased in numbers and importance they must have felt hampered in their pursuits by their relation to the burgh of Rutherglen as the chief market place of the district. A change was desirable, and the bishops eventually secured trading rights for their own people and exemption from outside interference.

It is to the period of the first David's reign that the origin of the royal burghs, with their communities enjoying the exclusive privilege of trade and the right of self government, is usually ascribed. [If the rise of burghs in this country could be traced back to their earliest inception it would probably be found that they began as units of a military and political organization in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria while it had its northern boundary at the Forth. Recognized in the twelfth century as a legislative assembly and judicial tribunal the Curia Quatuor Burgorum was then composed of representatives from the four burghs of Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh and Stirling. As far back as the ninth century, when the designation burgh signified a fort, and before commerce became prominent, there existed a powerful Danish confederation known as the Five Burghs, composed of the cities of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Stamford. The Five Burghs belonged to the Mercian kingdom, and it is not improbable that Northumbria, its not too distant neighbour, was stimulated by the force of imitation or rivalry into the establishment of its four chief strongholds in the north on a similar basis. Neither the original kingdom of Scotia, north of the Forth, nor Cumbria, was at first connected with this confederation ; and indeed a somewhat similar combination, known as the Hanse, was established north of the Grampians as early as the time of King David. But in the fifteenth century if not earlier the whole burghs throughout the country began to meet in general conference, and latterly the Curia Quatuor Burgorurn was merged in the Convention of Royal Burghs. The extant records of the Convention begin only in 1552, and Glasgow was represented at their meeting held in that year.] Possessing some features of the municipal organization which characterized the cities of the Roman Empire, these burghs were mainly formed on the model of those which, in the tenth and the eleventh centuries, had come into existence on the continent of Europe, and had been introduced into England after the Norman conquest. Of the total number of eighteen Scottish burghs which claim to have been founded before the end of King David's reign, no fewer than seven—viz. Rutherglen, Lanark, Dumfries, Peebles, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Roxburgh—grew up in the district which he first ruled as earl. Each of these burghs was placed on the royal domain, in close proximity to the king's castle, and they probably mark the sites which Earl David used for residence and the exercise of justice even before he succeeded to the throne. The inhabitants of Scottish burghs, termed burgesses, were originally crown tenants paying to the king for their holding a yearly rent called burgh maill ; and though the seven burghs in question might not, strictly speaking, be regarded as royal burghs till after the king's accession, the inhabitants may even before that time have been paying their mauls to the earl's bailies, and enjoying the privileges of free burgesses. Besides their individual holdings, burgesses had usually a considerable tract of land held in commonty and used for pasturage or cultivation. But the privileges of the burgesses were not confined within these limits. Often they had the exclusive privilege of buying and selling and of levying custom over a wide extent of country, and many of the early charters provide that goods belonging to the burgesses themselves should be exempt from custom throughout the kingdom. Wool and hides seem at first to have been the staple commodities of commerce, and the subsequent processes of manufacture through which the raw material passed gave employment to craftsmen in the burghs. There are several old burgh laws giving burgesses a monopoly in articles of commerce.

There are no extant charters to burghs of an earlier date than the reign of William the Lion, nor, except in the case of Rutherglen, is there any reference to a charter having been granted to a burgh by King David. [Antea, p. 52. Dr. George Neilson has adduced good grounds for holding that Dumfries, one of the seven towns named in the text, did not become a royal burgh till the reign of William the Lion (Transactions of Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1913-4, pp. 157-76).] There is, however, reason to believe that the older burgh laws were in operation in David's time, and, indeed, the earlier charters contain much that was received as common burgh law. Though in later times the theory held good that a royal burgh could be erected only by the sovereign it is probable that several, if not all of the burghs in Earl David's domain took form and exercised burghal privileges previous to 1124. Records of burghs are not so complete as are those of the religious houses, and in consequence our knowledge of their origin is more imperfect. Of the four Border abbeys—Kelso, Jedburgh, Melrose and Dryburgh—which were founded by David, it is known that at least the two former were in existence before he was king.

The credit of procuring the erection of a burgh at Glasgow belongs to the energetic Bishop Joceline. By a charter which bears no date, but which, from the names of the witnesses, including that of David, the king's brother, is judged to have been granted between the years 1175 and 1178, [At the time this charter was granted the king was holding court at Traquair, then apparently a place of some importance. Though now occupying a sequestered corner in the county of Peebles, Traquair at one time, as is. shown by the extant fragments of thirteenth century Exchequer Rolls, gave its name to the shire.] William authorized Joceline and his successors to have a burgh at Glasgow, with a market on Thursday, and with all the freedoms and customs which any of his burghs throughout his whole land possessed. The king also enjoined that all the burgesses resident in the burgh should have his firm peace through his whole land in going and returning, and no one was to be allowed to trouble or molest them or their chattels, or to inflict any injury or damage upon them. [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. pp. 1, 2.]

It will be observed that in the Glasgow charter there is neither specification of territory within which custom or toll was leviable, as in the Rutherglen and Ayr charters, nor grant of lands as in the latter charter. There was not even the creation of a burgh, merely authority to the bishop to establish one, though when so established all the privileges pertaining to a royal burgh were to be secured. The reason for this distinction in form was obvious. Rutherglen and Ayr were situated on the king's domain, while Glasgow and its surrounding lands belonged to the bishop. It rested accordingly with the bishop to assign the area to be possessed by the burgesses, and with regard to the territory throughout which custom and toll were to be leviable it was probably intended that the king's customs leviable in the barony should continue to be collected by his bailies of Rutherglen and accounted for to the royal treasury; but, as will afterwards be seen, the place of collection was, in 1226, restricted to Shettleston, and eventually the officers of other burghs were strictly forbidden to take toll or custom within the bishop's territory. [Ibid. pp. 12, 27.] King William's charter was addressed to the bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, sheriffs, officers, and all good men of his whole land, and though these expressions were to a large extent mere words of style they sufficiently authorized the officers of the bishop and those of the king's burgh of Rutherglen to adjust all necessary details for getting the new burgh into working order. In all essential respects, such as the holding of a weekly market, the enrolment of burgesses and the appointment of bailies and officers, the new burgh was successfully organized ; and it may be noted that in the Papal Bull which was granted to Bishop Joceline on 19th April, i179, Pope Alexander specially took under his protection the burgh of Glasgow, with all its liberties, and confirmed the charter which King William had granted. [Reg. Episc. No. 51.]

Even before the date of the charter the class who subsequently became burgesses must have been in possession of a considerable tract of land for the raising of crops, pasturage of animals and supply of fuel and building material, and the area so occupied, with perhaps some extensions, would naturally become the recognized property of the community. At a later date when the whole territory of which the bishops remained overlords was specified in rentals, the burgesses areentered as possessing a 16 merk land, for which they paid a yearly rent of 16 merks or £10 13s. 4d. Scots, thus placing the community, as regards the occupation of land, in the same category as the other rentallers throughout the barony.

An old burgh law provided that each burgess should give to the king five pence for each rood of land that he possessed, and latterly burghs were allowed to collect and apply such rents to their own uses in consideration of a fixed yearly sum payable to the crown. The rents thus collected were called Burgh Maill, but in the old Glasgow accounts there is no trace of revenue derived from that source. In title deeds there are occasional references to the bishops exacting "ferms" and "burgh maill" from individual holdings, and therefore it appears that in Glasgow such rents were paid to the bishops or their chamberlains direct, without the intervention of the bailies of the burgh.

From the first the burgh market must have been the chief source of municipal revenue. "Ladle" duty, the levying of which was not abolished till 1846, was probably the earliest exaction. In a decree of 1576 it is stated that the magistrates had been in the practice of uptaking a ladleful of each sack of corns or victual coming to the market "past memour of man." [Glas. Chart. i. pt. ii. p. 166.] Complying with the old law whereby it was stipulated that all merchandise should be presented at the markets and market crosses of burghs, [Ancient Laws, i. p. 61.] one of the earliest requisites in the new burgh of Glasgow must thus have been the erection of a market cross. The site chosen was at the convergence of what long formed the four chief streets of the older part of the city,—High Street and Walkergait or Saltmarket, Gallowgait and Trongait, and it is probable that even in 1175 the booths and primitive dwellings of the burgesses had already begun to be placed on these lines. For the convenient collection of market dues the Tolbooth,—the booth for the collection of toll or custom,—immediately adjoined the cross. The tolbooth was also convenient for the transaction of other branches of municipal business, and in this way the name in course of time became applicable to its usual adjuncts, the jail, council hall and court-house. Adjoining these premises likewise stood the old chapel of St. Mary already referred to.

It is not till nearly a hundred years after the foundation of the burgh that the names of any of the magistrates appear on record, but in a charter supposed to be granted in or before 1268, [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. pp. 17-19. As to date see ch. xxiii. postea.] relating to proceedings in the burgh Court, three of the witnesses are designated, in the Latin, Prepositi. The old burgh laws contain many provisions as to the Prepositi, a designation which in Sir John Skene's sixteenth or early seventeenth century edition is variously translated aldermen, "burrowgrefis" and bailies, and though in later times, when most burghs had a provost at the head of the municipality, Prepositus is correctly translated provost, the early Prepositi were really the bailies of the period. At the first court after the feast of St. Michael in each year the Prepositi were to be chosen, through the counsel of the good men of the town, or in other words the bailies were to be chosen by the whole body of burgesses assembled at the head court which was held after Michaelmas yearly. That a similar mode of election was practised in Glasgow is quite probable, though the bishop, either from the beginning or under some subsequent arrangement, was entrusted with the final selection from a leet presented to him.

Another early ordinance directed that for the administration of the burgh laws and customs, "in ilk burgh of the kynrick," there should be appointed twelve of "the lelest burges and of the wysast of the burgh," a provision under which councillors, usually nominated by magistrates elected by the community, were assigned a position in municipal government, though neither as regards numbers, nor mode of election, was there any hard and fast line observed in the different burghs. According to statutes of the first half of the thirteenth century, at first enacted for regulating the Guild of the merchants of Berwick, but soon adopted as authoritative among the Scottish burghs in general, the town was to be governed by twenty-four good men, together with the mayor and four bailies (prepositis)[Ancient Laws, i. pp. 34, 54, 81; Historical MS. Commission, Berwick on Tweed (1901), p. 14; Scott's History of Berwick, pp. 465-9.] So numerous a body of councillors as twelve or twenty-four would be superfluous in most burghs, and it may be supposed that each would adapt the number to its own requirements. In the case of Glasgow it is not till the middle of the sixteenth century that extant records supply anything like full knowledge on municipal procedure, but the mode of election then observed is quite reconcilable with the likelihood of elections having been -regulated by the ordinary burgh laws in use for the time.

As supplementary to the trading facilities afforded by weekly markets, special privileges were enjoyed during the time of annual fairs, for the holding of which authority was frequently conferred on burghs. A few years after the burgh of Glasgow was established, probably between the years 1189 and 1198, King William authorised Bishop Joceline and his successors to have a fair at Glasgow, for eight full days from the octaves of St. Peter and St. Paul (7th July), with the sovereign's firm and full peace, and with all the liberties and rights granted or belonging to any fair in any of his burghs. By another charter granted ten days before the beginning of a fair, the date being 27th June, with the year not stated, the same king gave his firm peace to all who should come to the fair, for repairing thither, there standing and thence returning, provided they did what they ought to do justly and according to the laws of his burghs and his land. [Glasgow Charters, i. pt. ii. pp. 6, 7.] The fixing of this fair was in keeping with medieval custom, fairs being usually appointed in connection with saints' days or other religious festivals, or in commemoration of the dedication of churches. The cathedral church of Glasgow, built by Bishop John, was consecrated on 7th July, 1136, and it was probably the practice in Glasgow as in other places, for tradesmen and merchants to bring their wares for sale to a convenient space in the vicinity of the church on the anniversary of that event, when large crowds were likely to be collected from the surrounding districts. [Glasgow Charters, i. pt. i. p. 8.] The day of St. Peter and St. Paul was 2gth June, and the octave of that festival fell on 7th July and continued for eight days thereafter. This practice was observed till the year 1744, when the magistrates and council, taking into consideration that "the Sabbath intervening in these eight days stops and interrupts the course of the fair," resolved that in future, instead of the fair beginning on a fixed day in the Calendar it should begin on the first Monday of July and finish on the following Saturday. No subsequent regulation on the subject has been passed, but the transition, in 1752, from the old to the new style, operated indirectly in producing a change, and the fair, established upwards of seven centuries ago, is still held in July, but now begins on the second Monday of the month. [Glasgow Memorials, pp. 205-6.]

For the period prior to the latter half of the sixteenth century there is little information obtainable with regard to the Fair, but at the time when the extant Council Records begin it seems to have been the practice to hold an open-air court of the burgh upon the "Fair-even," and there to make all necessary arrangements. The spot appropriated for holding this court adjoined the Place of the Grey Friars a little to the west of the High Street, a piece of rocky ground called variously Craigmak, Craigmacht or Craignaught. [The prefix seems to have been derived from a ridge of whinstone running through the ground, and perhaps "mach," a field, might account for the second part of the place name.] Here, on 6th July, 1574 (being the earliest July of which any Town Council minute is preserved), the court was held at "Craigmak," and the provost, bailies, council and community ordained every booth-holder to have within his booth a halbert, jack and steel-bonnet, in readiness for his taking part in quelling any disturbances that might arise, "conforme to the auld statute maid thairanent." The proclamation of the Fair took double form, as in 1581, when the officer of the barony proclaimed the peace of the fair on the Green and the burgh officer did the same upon the market cross. By these announcements all the king's lieges, frequenting the fair, were charged not "to do ony hurt or trublens ane to ane uther, for auld debt or new debt, auld feid or new feid, bot leif peceablie and use their merchandice and exchange under Goddis peace and our Soverane Lordis protectioun." [5 Glasgow Rec. i. pp. t8, 88; Glasgow Memorials, pp. 204-5.]


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