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The History of Glasgow
Chapter XVII - Glasgow and Dumbarton—Royal Mint


ALEXANDER II. was only in his seventeenth year when he came to the throne, but being apparently well guided, alike by his ,own discretion and the prudence of his advisers, his rule marked the beginning of that course of prosperity which earned for the combined reigns of himself and his successor the distinction of being called the golden age of Scottish history. But during the first three years, at a time when King John of England was continuing the struggle with his barons, the latter offered the northern counties of England to Alexander in return for his assistance, and through the revival of this old contention complications were threatened. Scottish armies were led south and frontier hostilities lasted for some time, but through the changed conditions brought about by the granting of Magna Carta and the subsequent death of John, a settlement, which included the abandonment of the county claims, was adjusted with John's successor, King Henry, whose sister Alexander married in 1221. On this subject Wyntoun says:

"Betwene Alysandyr the secownd Kyng
That Scotland had in governing,
And the Kyngis off Ingland,
That in hys tyme war than rygnand
Fra that he fyrst maryd wes,
Wes ay qwyete, rest, and pes.
KYNGIS OFF PES for-thi thai twa,
Alysander and Henry, cald war swa."
[Wyntoun, ii. pp. 238-9.]


The continued peace with England gave the Scottish king the opportunity of bestowing more attention on home affairs, and one of the first advantages thereby secured was the complete subjugation of the district of Argyle, part of which had formed the ancient Dalriada, and had never hitherto been thoroughly subject to the Scottish crown.

Between the lands of Glasgow barony and the district of Argyle, thus united to the kingdom, lay the earldom of Levenachs, otherwise Levenax, a name latterly softened to Lennox, originally taken from the river Leven to the lands through which it flowed, and in time extended to the wide district embracing Dumbartonshire with a considerable portion of the shire of Stirling and other adjacent lands. The first owner of this territory is said, but on doubtful authority, to have been one Arkyll who lived in the time of Malcolm Canmore, and it was supposed that his son or grandson, Alwyn, was the first earl. Both the first earl and his son and successor were named Alwyn, but the precise dates of possession are uncertain. When the succession opened to the second earl he was in minority, and till he came of age for military service the earldom was held by King William's brother, David earl of Huntingdon. [Lindores Chartulary, p. i; Scots Peerage, `Lennox,' vol. v.; Reg. de Passelet, p. 167.] One interesting bit of information connected with the administration of the earldom about this time is preserved in the Register of Glasgow Bishopric. By charters granted between 1208 and 1214 the second Earl Alwyn and Maldouen, his son and heir, granted to the church of Glasgow and to Bishop Walter and his successors, the church of "Kamsi," with the land which he gave to it at its dedication, and with the chapels adjacent to the church, common pasturage throughout the whole parish and other easements, all in free and perpetual alms. The charters are accompanied by a minute description of the bounds of the parish, but these limits have been altered by subsequent disjunctions. [Reg. Episc. Nos. 101-3.] Campsie became the prebend of. the chancellor of the cathedral, but at first the bishop's title to its possession was not clear. During Earl David's wardship he had granted Campsie church to the monks of Kelso, and their claim was only surrendered in consideration of their receiving payment of ten merks yearly from the benefice. [Reg. Episc. No. 116; Origines Parochiales, i. p. 45.]

Whether or not the castle of Dumbarton had been in the full possession of earlier owners of the earldom is not definitely known, but from about the beginning of the thirteenth century it has been vested in the crown. By a charter dated 28th July, 1238, King Alexander granted and confirmed to Maldouen, son of Alwyn, the earldom of Levenax which his father held, with all its pertinents, except the castle of Dunbretane, with the land of Murrach, and with the whole harbour, and whole water and fishings on each side of the water of Levyne as far as the land of Murrach extended ; which excepted possessions, it was added, had been retained by the king with consent of Earl Maldouen. By this time the important step had been taken of erecting the town of Dumbarton into a royal burgh, and lands had been bestowed on the burgesses, thus accounting so far for the exceptions referred to, and also leading to the conclusion that the retention of territory and privileges had been in operation some years before the date of the charter. Previous to this time the burgesses of Glasgow had enjoyed the privilege of trading throughout both Lennox and Argyle, but after the new burgh of Dumbarton came into existence its burgesses seem to have objected to a continuation of such conditions. It was on 8th July, 1222, the same year in which Argyle had been subdued, that King Alexander constituted Dumbarton a burgh royal and conferred on its inhabitants such liberties as had been granted to Edinburgh, with the privilege of a weekly market and freedom from payment of toll for their goods in any part of the kingdom. By another charter, granted in the following year, the king charged dwellers within a wide district, probably as much as was then included in the shire of Dumbarton, to come to the burgh with their merchandise and there present the same to the market, conform to the laws and customs of burgh. The exaction of toll and custom duty from dwellers between the Water of Kelvin and the head of Loch Long [These bounds refer to land, not to waterway. 'Neither the shire nor the earldom embraced territory at the mouth of the Kelvin. Immediately west of the Kelvin, at its confluence with the river Clyde, were the lands of Govan within Glasgow barony, and beyond these was a stretch of riverside grounds within the barony, afterwards the shire, of Renfrew. But notwithstanding the obvious meaning of the charter the representatives of the two burghs, in their Clyde litigations of the seventeenth century, both of them oblivious of the primitive trading practices which prevailed four hundred years before their time, thought that the toll and custom which the burgh of Dumbarton was authorized to exact was leviable for traffic on the river Clyde.] was authorized, and parts of the lands of Murraich were bestowed as common good. By a third charter, granted in 1225-6, the king authorized the burgh to have a yearly fair, enduring for eight days, with all the customs and liberties enjoyed at the fairs held in the burghs of Roxburgh and Haddington. [Reg. Mag. Sig. vii. No. 190.]

All this time Glasgow was not being overlooked in the bestowal of such advantages as could be derived from charters. Between 1224 and 1227 the king, in a series of three separate writings, confirmed the charters of his predecessor, and again in express terms renewed the powers and privileges of the burgesses. By a charter dated 13th October, 1235, the king directed that the bishops and their men should be quit of paying toll throughout the kingdom, as well within as without burghs, for their own goods and for all other things bought for their own use. The privileges here conferred seem to have been intended for the benefit of the whole inhabitants of the barony, and in this respect the charter differs from most of the other royal grants relating to trading and exaction of customs which were applicable to the burgh only. [Glasg. Chart. I. pt. ii. pp. 8-13. In the charter of 1235 "sui" is a misprint for "servi." These are the words :—"homines, nativi et servi " - men, natives or neyfs and bondmen.]

The full liberties of trading and exemption from toll and customs expressed in the burgh's charters appear to have been freely exercised throughout Lennox and Argyle before the burgh of Dumbarton was constituted in 1222. For some time previous to 1243, however, the burgesses of Dumbarton seem to have considered that the continuance of such freedom within their territory involved an infringement of their own privileges, and it is gathered from the terms of a charter granted by the king on 11th January, 1242-3, that the Glasgow men had been obstructed in the exercise of their rights. By the charter referred to the king confirmed previous grants and explicitly declared that the bishops and their burgesses and men of Glasgow might go into Argyle and Lennox, and throughout the whole kingdom, to buy and sell, and to exercise every sort of merchandise, without any hindrance from the bailies of Dumbarton, or from any others, all as such privileges had been exercised of old before a burgh was founded at Dumbarton. Peace and protection were also extended to all coming to or returning from the Fair and Market of Glasgow, and no one was to interfere with such traffickers or cause them injury or trouble. [Glasg. Chart. I. pt. ii. pp. 15, 16.]

The charter authorizing Bishop Joceline to have a burgh at Glasgow was granted in 1175, 1178, or an intervening year, and in connection with the apparent assumption that the burgesses thereby obtained trading privileges throughout the earldom of Lennox, it seems a significant fact that Earl David, the king's brother, was one of the witnesses, while it is highly probable that at that time he was in possession of the earldom of Lennox, for the date of his investiture was some time about 1178-82. In any case Earl David must have had the opportunity, whether he exercised it or not, of conferring on the earliest burgesses of Glasgow some degree of freedom in the earldom, and it may be that to this circumstance the privileges referred to in the charter of 1242-3 owed their origin.

At this early period any little trade which the merchants of Glasgow carried on beyond their own borders was chiefly by land, though in later times it was nearly always in connection with the waterway that any rivalries existed between the twa burghs. But the land controversy did not readily subside. In 1275 Alexander III. reminded the sheriff and bailies of Dumbarton that they knew well how, before the foundation of the burgh of Dumbarton, there had been granted to the bishop and his men of Glasgow authority to go to and return from Argyle with their merchandise, and the king then commanded that if the sheriff and bailies had taken anything from the bishop's men they should make restitution, and he charged them to desist from such interference in future. In this charter, which was ratified by Robert the Bruce in 1328, trading in the earldom is not referred to, but the object of the royal mandate must have been the protection of the Glasgow merchants while passing through the Lennox territory. [Glasg. Chart. I. pt. ii. pp. 17, 24.]

From the existence of coins struck at Glasgow in the reign of Alexander II. or III., and from the circumstantial account given by M'Ure of coins of Robert III. bearing the inscription "Villa de Glasgov," being in the hands of collectors in his day, it appears that in former times there was a royal mint in the city, though its establishment may have been more of a periodic than a permanent nature. Originally the moneyers employed. to strike coins accompanied the king from place to place, performing the work where and when necessary, and putting the temporary place of sojourn on the coin as the place of mintage. In this way the name of Walter, a moneyer, appears on Alexander's coins minted at Glasgow, Aberdeen, Montrose,

Berwick and Dunbar. During the reign of Alexander III., the practice of giving the coiner's name was discontinued, and accordingly the pieces mentioned by M'Ure bear the sovereign's name only. In these days mints were established, or at least were in occasional operation, in many provincial towns, but it may be that mintage at these places was practised only during visits of royalty.

[See Records of Coinage in Scotland, i. pp. xiv, xv, x1ii, xliii. The Alexander coins attributed to Glasgow are stamped with the letters GLA, and on that account it has been thought possible that they were minted at or near the royal castle of Glamis in Forfarshire, but it is generally held that Glasgow has the better claim. See The Coinage of Scotland, by Edward Burns (1887), vol. i. p. 147. The illustrations here reproduced in the following order are taken from vol. iii. of that work, viz., plate x, fig. 92c, 92d, 92e; plate xi, fig. 102; plate xii, fig. 118, 118A ; plate xiii, fig. 127, 128.

M'Ure says, "There has been a mint-house" at Glasgow, "as was in most of the considerable burghs; for some of the coins of King Robert the III. bear to have been stampt here, and have the king's picture crowned, but without a scepter, and Robertus Dei gratis rex Scotorum, in the inner circle Villa de Glasgow, and on the outter dominus protector, some of which are preserved in the cabinets of the curious, and some were found lately by masons among the rubbish of the office-houses, as Mr. Russel informs me, who is governor of the correction house" in Drygait (History of Glasgow, p. 83). The inscription "dominus protector" seems to refer to the Duke of Albany in the time of his regency. With reference to the coin said to be "without a scepter," the editor of the 1830 edition of the History notes that " there is one in the possession of a gentleman of this city with the sceptre " (Ib.).]


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