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The History of Glasgow
Chapter XXIII - Burgh Court—Sales of Heritage—Bridge over Clyde—Steeple and Treasury of Cathedral—Taxation of Benefices


DURING the first hundred years of its existence as a burgh, Glasgow had a favourable opportunity for increasing in trade and commerce to the limited extent attainable at that early period. Its overlords, the bishops, usually held high positions in the state, and were possessed of sufficient influence at court to secure the community against external encroachment or undue interference, while the peaceful condition of the country allowed the internal organisation to develop. The inhabitants were not slow in adapting themselves to usages and procedure which in the experience of older burghs had been found beneficial ; but there was one important distinction in the position of Glasgow. In royal burghs, though the sovereign is believed to have originally appointed the magistrates, the burgesses themselves were from an early date allowed to exercise that privilege. In Glasgow it is probable that the bishops from the first elected the magistrates, though, as in the earliest elections of which any record is extant, from leets primarily selected and presented by the burgesses, a system which was continued till the seventeenth century. Apart from this peculiarity, and the practice of the burgesses paying rents or burgh maul to the bishop instead of to the sovereign, administration and procedure in Glasgow were similar to those which prevailed in royal burghs.

One of the old burgh laws imposed restrictions against burgesses disposing of their heritage to the prejudice of their heirs. In the event of an owner requiring to part with heritage he was not entitled to sell it to a stranger till it was offered to the nearest heirs and they declined to become purchasers. [Ancient Laws and Customs, i. p. 55.] An illustration of the operation of this law in Glasgow occurs about the year 1268, when a burgess named Robert de Mithyngby, "compelled by great and extreme poverty and necessity," sold his property to Sir Reginald de Irewyn, then archdeacon of Glasgow. This was done with consent of the seller's daughter (his heiress) and brother, who both in the burgh court expressly consented to the transaction; " which land," it is also stated, "was offered to my nearest relations and friends, in the court of Glasgow, at three head courts of the year, and at other courts often, according to the law and custom of the burgh." In addition to the price paid by the purchaser he was liable in a yearly rent to the bishop and his successors, but the amounts are not stated. Of this property, which must have been situated in a street running east and west, as it had the land of Peter of Tyndal on the east and that of Edgar, the vicar, on the west, possession was given to the archdeacon in presence of the "prepositi" and bailies and twelve burgesses. "Prepositi" at that time occupied positions of authority in the burgh which it would be difficult to define. Perhaps the bailies were graded and the "prepositi" might be the first in rank; but they must not be confounded with the modern "provost," whose office did not come into existence in Glasgow till about the year 1453. [Sir James Marwick has fully discussed the subject in his Introduction to Glasgow Charters, pointing out that the term frequently occurs in royal charters, and that it had a wide application in varying circumstances. Thus the prepositus might be a cathedral dignitary, the second officer in a monastery under the abbot, the head of a religious college, a judge, or an official in a town or in an incorporation or guildry (Glasg. Chart. i. pt. i. pp. xvi, xvii).] Among the witnesses were Sir Richard de Dundovir, Alexander Palmer and William Gley, designated " prepositi," being the earliest magistrates of the city whose names appear in any known record. To the original writing the .common seal of the city was appended, and Father Innes notes that it was " on white wax, almost entire, and showed the head of the bishop, with mitre, namely St. Kentigern." [Reg. Episc. No. 236; Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. pp. 17-19. The document from which these particulars are obtained must have been one of those taken by Archbishop Beaton to Paris at the time of the Reformation. In his Trans-script of Charters supplied to the town council of Glasgow in 1739, Father Inner gives the date of the document as "circa 1280 vel 1290," but as Archdeacon Irewyn who acquired the property is referred to in Bishop John's charter of 11th June, 1268 (Reg. Episc. No. 218) as then deceased, the transaction must have been completed before that date. In the copy printed in Gibson's History of Glasgow (p. 303), which seems to have been taken from another transcript, the date is 1268.]

In the year 1285 another burgess, constrained by poverty, sold to the Abbot and Convent of Paisley a property described as lying in the Fishergait, 5rope pontem de Clyde, [Reg. de Passelet, p. 399• Adam of Cardelechan was the name of the burgess, and, for authentication of the charter granted by him in favour of the abbot and convent, there were appended his own seal, together with the common seal of the burgh and the seal of the official of the court of Glasgow.] thus establishing the important fact that by that time the river was spanned by a bridge. Fishergait corresponds with the modern Stockwell Street, where the first stone bridge was erected. The bridge referred to in 1285 was doubtless constructed of timber, and may have been there from a much earlier period. The bishops had valuable lands on the south side of the Clyde. Two hospitals were erected there, and for ready access to these it was desirable that something more convenient than a ford should be provided. One of the hospitals was used for the reception of lepers. An old burgh law required that those afflicted with leprosy should be put into the hospital of the burgh, and for those in poverty the burgesses were to gather money to provide sustenance and clothing; [Ancient Laws, i. p. 28. ] and another act refers to the collection of alms "for the sustenance of lepers in a proper place outwith the burgh." Perhaps in Glasgow special care was bestowed on lepers, as Joceline of Furness, writing in the twelfth century relates that St. Kentigern cleansed lepers in the city of Glasgow, and that at his tomb, likewise, lepers were healed.' The precise date of erection is not known, but the hospital may have been established as early as the twelfth century. The other hospital, that of St. John of Polmadie, was governed by a master, keeper, or rector, was used for the reception of poor men and women, and was in existence at least as early as the time of King Alexander III.; but neither of this hospital nor of that which accommodated the lepers, is there much information procurable till a later date.

On his leaving Glasgow Bishop `William Wischard was succeeded by his nephew, Robert Wischard, archdeacon of Lothian, who was elected apparently in 1271 and was consecrated by the bishops of Dunblane, Aberdeen and Moray, in the end of January, 1272-3. In the peaceful days which preceded the War of Independence the new bishop devoted much attention to the completion of the cathedral. Arrangements seem to have been made for the erection of a bell-tower or steeple and a treasury, and Maurice, lord of Luss, by a charter granted at Partick, in August, 1277, sold to the bishop all the timber necessary for the work, giving the artificers and workmen free access to his lands and woods for cutting down and removing the timber, all horses, oxen and other animals employed on the work being allowed free grazing during the time they were on his grounds. It has been conjectured that the steeple and treasury for the erection of which preparations were made in 1277 were the two western towers of the cathedral, but we

have no information as to the progress of the work, and the precise date of the erection of the towers is uncertain. Later on the bishop obtained supplies of trees from Ettrick Forest and other places for building in various parts of his diocese; but it was alleged that instead of using some of these for the woodwork of the cathedral they were employed in the construction of instruments of war for the siege of Kirkintilloch castle, then held by the English. [Burton's History of Scotland (1897 edition), iii. p. 429; Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p. 182; Bain's Calendar, ii. No. 1626; Dowden's Bishops, p. 306.]

In the early years of Robert Wischard's episcopate much anxiety prevailed in ecclesiastical circles with regard to the revaluation of church benefices for the imposition of taxation. For the general purposes of the church, for meeting the demands of Rome and her papal legates, as well as in bearing a proportion of expenditure for national requirements, funds had hitherto been raised on the basis of a valuation supposed to have been in existence as early as the reign of William the Lion, and the clergy strenuously resisted all attempts to vary it according to the progressive value of livings. The modes adopted in levying contributions were also sometimes objectionable. Thus, in 1254, Pope Innocent IV. granted to Henry III. of England a twentieth of the ecclesiastical revenues of Scotland and in 1268 Clement IV. renewed that grant and increased it to a tenth. The money was required for a crusade which was then being organised; but when Henry attempted to levy it, the Scottish clergy resisted and appealed to Rome, and it is believed that the English king did not succeed in raising much of the tenth in Scotland. Another demand was made in 1266, six merks being asked from every cathedral church and four merks from every parish church, to pay the expense of a papal legate who had been sent to England to compose the quarrels between Henry and his barons, but both king and clergy resisted the claim.

In the year 1275 Baiamund de Vicci was sent from Rome to collect the tenth of ecclesiastical benefices in Scotland, for relief of the Holy Land, and as he was collecting not through the English king but for the Pope direct the clergy did not object so much to the imposition as to the introduction of a new basis of assessment. They insisted for their ancient valuation, as the approved rule of proportioning all church levies, but notwithstanding their intreaties the Pope adhered to his resolution of having the tenth of the benefices according to their true value. Known in this country as " Bagimont's Roll," the valuation of 1275 was long detested by churchmen; but as time wore on and livings increased in value, it had its turn of favour, and in an act of parliament passed in 1471 it was stipulated that collections made for the see of Rome should be conform to the "use and custome of auld taxation, as is contained in the Provincial bulk, or the auld taxation of Bagimont."

Ancient valuations of church benefices for many parts of Scotland have been preserved, but neither any ancient valuation nor even that of "Bagimont" in its original state exists for Glasgow diocese. In the printed Registrum Episcopatus a copy of " Bagimont his Taxt Roll of Benefices," as contained in a sixteenth century transcript, is given, but in that shape it is regarded as evidence for nothing earlier than the reign of James V. [Origines Parochiales, vol. i. pp. xxxiv-xxxix. ] Yet such as it is the Roll furnishes the earliest valuations we now have of Glasgow benefices, and an abstract may here be given. The thirty-two prebends possessed by the canons composing the chapter of Glasgow cathedral were of the cumulo yearly value of £4,796. The parsonages and vicarages, so far as remaining in connection with the diocese, but excluding several churches which had been transferred to monasteries or other religious houses, such as Rutherglen, which then belonged to Paisley Abbey, are

grouped in deaneries and the cumulo amount in each deanery is as follows:—Peebles, £786; Teviotdale, £666; Nithsdale, £1,353; Annandale, £346; Rutherglen, £906; Lennox, £50; Lanark, £900; Kyle and Cunningham, £533; Carrick, £260. The total valuation was about £ZZ,000, [Reg. Episc. i. pp. lxii-lxx. Shillings and pence are omitted; and it may be mentioned that there is a discrepancy of a few pounds between the amount of the sums stated and their summation in the print. The bishopric, which is not noted in Bagimont's Rcll, is valued in another list at ii,7oo (lb. p. lxxi).] and the levy of a tenth of that amount would accordingly form a substantial contribution from the diocese.


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