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The History of Glasgow
Chapter XIV - Early Streets and Buildings—Possessions of Religious Houses


By general assent Rottenrow is regarded as the oldest street in Glasgow, and the opinion that it occupied the line of a Roman highway may also be accepted as sound. The Roman road from the south, through Clydesdale, approached Rottenrow by the street, which having crossed the Molendinar Burn by a bridge was, in contrast to other lanes which led to fords, named Drygait, or in its Latinised form, Via Arida. The precise route of the Roman road westward, after leaving Rottenrow, is not definitely known, but that it passed through Partick is probable, both on account of its destination being in that direction and from the fact that the westward continuation of Rottenrow is called in early title deeds the way which led to "Partwich." [Lib. Coll. etc. p. 258.] This Partick road must either have crossed, or, for a short distance northward, joined the track long known as the Cow Lone, and in modern times called Queen Street, with its continuations of Buchanan Street and Garscube Road. The cattle which daily left the town and took their way along this old track reached the outskirts of their destination at Cowcaddens, [In the earliest preserved report on perambulation of the town's marches (i June 1574), the Cow Lone is called "the passage that passis to the quarrell and muir and the commone pasturis " (Glasgow Rec. i. p. 13). A short distance north of Rottenrow the road divided Little Cowcaddens on the east from Meikle Cowcaddens on the west. These lands were in the possession of the Bishop's rentallers, and being described as a 6s. 8d. land and a 13s. 4d. land respectively, may be regarded as together extending to about 52 acres. Little Cowcaddens, separated from the Subdean's lands of Provanside by Glasgow burn, on the south, had the rentalled lands of Broomhill on the north. MIeikle Cowcaddens had the parson of Erskine's lands of Blythswood on the south, the boundary being somewhat on the line of the present Sauchiehall Street, and the rentalled lands of Woodside on the west. On the north were Summerhill and Wester Common, belonging to the community, and embracing the quarries and pasture land to which the burgesses had access by the Cow Lone and its continuation. Philologists are divided in opinion as to the origin of the name Cowcaddens, which appears in the Bishops' Rental book as "Kowcawdennis" in 1510, "Cowcaldens" in 1552, and elsewhere in varying forms. Available information seems too scant for arriving at a satisfactory definition.] adjoining which, on the north, was the Summerhill, where one of the burgh's open-air courts was annually held. Here the magistrates and community were wont to assemble on the first day of a week about the middle of June, and to pass resolutions on their common affairs, while the more active exercise of "wapinschawing" was sometimes combined with the day's proceedings. At the east end of Rottenrow, where it joined the Drygait, these streets were intersected by the roadway leading northward to the cathedral and beyond, and southward to the market cross. To the north there were probably several buildings occupied by churchmen and their dependents, but towards the south, where sufficient open space was left for accommodating the Black and Grey Friars when these bodies were planted in Glasgow, the built area must for a long time have been small in extent. South of the market cross was the Walkergait (an early name for the present Saltmarket Street): it was obviously so called from its being regularly traversed by the weavers and other workers in cloth who frequented the Waulk Mill, which derived its water power either from Camlachie Burn or Molendinar Burn, or from both combined, below the point of their confluence. At the foot of Walkergait the Bridgegait turned off to the crossing over the River Clyde which led to the old village of Gorbals.

From the north end of the bridge which is known to have been erected at this spot before the end of the thirteenth century, but how much earlier cannot be ascertained, a street called at first Fishergait, and latterly Stockwell Street, was frequented by fishermen who got water supplies from a "stock" or wooden well which gave name to that thoroughfare. Westward from the market cross was the important street called, alternatively, Lady-gait, from the chapel of the Virgin Mary which stood on the north side, or St. Tenews-gait, from its leading to the Chapel of St. Tenew, and latterly Trongate, from the tron or weighing place erected on its south side not far from the market cross.

One other street, that of Gallowgait, extending eastward of the cross, probably completes the list of the main thoroughfares in the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century. The last mentioned gait passed through a considerable stretch of land which it divided into Over and Nether Gallowmuir, and at its east end approached a piece of ground called "the Gallow Aiker" which, towards the end of the sixteenth century, was in the possession of the "marshall of the barony and regality of Glasgow." [Glasgow Prot. No. 2411.] As the name implies, and documents substantiate, it was in this district that there were carried out on malefactors the sentences pronounced in the exercise of the "pit and gallows" jurisdiction [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. p. 393.] conferred by implied or expressed grant in the charters to the bishops as lords of the regality, or to the magistrates of the burgh.

Ports or gates were placed at the entrances to the principal streets, with the view not only of facilitating the collection of burgh customs but also of keeping out unwelcome visitors, especially in times of pestilence. In the upper part of the town were the Rottenrow port, North or Stable-green port and Drygate port, the last-named being erected at the bridge over the Molendinar burn. In the streets branching from the market cross, and at short distances from this centre (thus indicating the restricted area over which buildings extended), ports were placed in the Walkergait, Trongait and Gallowgait. Occasionally ports were removed to new sites so as to include building extensions, but latterly, under changed conditions, the ports became unnecessary for their original purposes, and were one by one removed as obstructions of street traffic. [The foregoing particulars as to streets and ports perhaps suffice at this stage. Fuller information will be found in the topographical chapters of Glasgow Memorials.]

Though we have no contemporary warrant for setting down the precise lines of streets or the extent of the built area in the end of the twelfth century, there is some ground for supposing that the town had by that time assumed the form here indicated. And even if so fully developed a position had not yet been attained, there can be little doubt, from the evidence adduced by early title-deeds, that the formative process was well advanced and that at a very early period the inhabited area of Glasgow was laid out in the way described.
It happens that the title-deed of a property in the burgh, supposed to date between the years 1179 and 1199, has been recorded among the charters of Melrose Abbey. By this document Bishop Joceline gave to his former church of St. Mary of "Maylros," and to the monks serving God there, in free and perpetual alms, that toft ["Toft," a dwelling with a piece of land attached.] in the burgh of Glasgow which Ranulph of Hadintun built in the first building of the burgh. [Illud toftum in burgo de Glasgu quod Ranulfus de Hadintun edificavit in prima edificatione burgi " (Glasgow Charters, i. pt. ii. p. 5). This quotation is of special interest on account of its allusion to the beginnings of Glasgow as a burgh. The Bishop had recently obtained the king's authority to have a burgh, with a weekly market and privileges such as other burghs possessed. When Bishop John was about to set the municipal machinery of St. Andrews in motion he obtained the services of Mainard, a burgess of Berwick, where he had acquired a knowledge of burgh usages, and it is not unlikely that Ranulf had come from Haddington to Glasgow in a similar capacity (Glasgow Memorials, p. 68).] Another writing, authenticated with the common seal of the burgh and transcribed into Melrose chartulary, sets forth that on 8th October, 1325, an "inquest" had found that Thomas of Hall was rightful heir of certain lands in the town of Glasgow and that possession had been given to him, subject to approval by the abbot for his interest. It may therefore be inferred that by this time the monks had leased or feued their Glasgow property and that it had come into the possession of Thomas of Hall by inheritance. In another document, dated 10th May, 1454, a tenement on the south side of the street of "St. Tenew" is described as bounded on the east by the land of the lord abbot of Metros, being presumably the twelfth century toft and identifiable with a property belonging to the Hall family, and described as a tower or fortalice and orchard lying on the south side of Argyle Street and west side of Stockwell Street, the site. of which, in the sixteenth century, was disposed of in building lots. [See Glasgow Memorials, pp. 2, 3, 68-70, where the identification is more fully explained. From the Rental of Melrose Abbey lands it appears that a yearly sum of 20s. was derived from Glasgow, and this may have been the rent or feu-duty exacted from Ranulf's toft. (Melrose Regality Records—Scottish History Society, 2nd Series, vol. 13, p. 241.)]

One of the witnesses named in Joceline's charter to Melrose was Hugh, abbot of Neubotle, and it was possibly at the time of that grant that the bishop gave to the church of St. Mary of Neubotle, and to the monks serving God there, a full toft in the burgh of Glasgow, in free and perpetual alms. To this charter Arnald, abbot of Melrose, was a witness. [Reg. de Neubotle, No. 175.] The monks of Neubotle subsequently acquired other properties in the burgh, and these are supposed to have formed part of a toft which, with the fishing of one net in the river Clyde, Bishop Joceline gave to the Knights Templars. The Knights by a charter, granted between the years 1175 and 1179, gave to William Gley, their man (homini nostro) the toft and fishing, to be held by him and his heirs of the Templars for payment of twelve pence yearly. [Reg. Episc. No. 41.] It seems to have been part of this property which, by an undated charter, authenticated with the burgh seal, William Gley, designated burgess of Glasgow, transferred to the monks of Neubotle. The ground thus conveyed is described as lying in the town of Glasgow, between the land which Gley bought from the executors of John Alison and the land of William Scloyder, and the granter bound himself to warrant the property to the monks according to the law of the burgh. The rent payable to the Bishop was tenpence yearly. Under proceedings in the burgh Court, in 1295, the monks acquired from Gley's successors a property described as lying in the Fishergait, between the land of William Scloyder on the south and the land of John Williamson, called Bradhy, on the north. [Reg. de Neubotle, No. 177.] Assuming, therefore, that these properties were included in the Templars' toft, they may, at least to some extent, be identified with the property on the west side of Stockwell Street, over which, in the sixteenth century, the Knights of St. John, as successors of the Templars, were still exercising their separate jurisdiction. [Glasgow Memorials, p. 67.]

In connection with these twelfth century grants it may be mentioned that in early times it was customary for the heads of religious houses to possess dwellings in the more important towns throughout the country. Many of these holdings were originally Crown gifts, the object being to enable the great church lords to accompany the Sovereign in his frequent changes of residence, as well as to secure responsible and improving tenants in the new burghs. [Cosmo Innes, Early History, p. 35.] By royal grants the Bishops of Glasgow owned a toft in each of the burghs of Montrose, Dumfries, Forfar and Stirling. [Reg. Episc. Nos. 33, 50, 74, 77.] King William gave to the monks of Aberbrothock a toft in each of his burghs and residences, and it is not improbable that Glasgow, which of old had its chapel of St. Thomas, likewise contained a dwelling for the accommodation of the monks of the great northern monastery. But to conclude the list of known possessions of the class referred to it has to be noted that the Abbey of Paisley had at least three properties in the city, one called the Monks' House at the corner of High Street and Rottenrow, another is described in the Abbey rental as the " ynnis before the Black Freris," and the third consisted of a tenement in Stockwell Street. [Paisley Abbey. Appx. p. clv; Registrum de Passelet, pp. 399-40f, 433-4. The Monks' House was sometimes called "the hous at the Wynd-heid."]


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