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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter III - The Transference of Church Property under Mary and Moray


A VERY important change directly brought about by the Reformation in Glasgow was the transference to private ownership of the vast estates which had formerly belonged to the Archbishopric. It is a common idea that these lands and properties were simply seized by rapacious individuals, who transferred them to their own use without other right or equivalent than physical force or King's favour. This idea probably originated in the declamations of John Knox, who had hoped to see the greater part of the property of the Church of Rome transferred to the use of the preachers of the Reformed faith. [Knox's History of the Reformation, p. 276.] This had been done in England under the strong hand of Henry VIII., and it was not unnatural to suppose that events might follow a similar course in the northern kingdom. Matters, however, did not fall out so favourably, and for this the methods and temper of Knox were themselves largely responsible. What he succeeded in doing was not so much to reform the Church as to abolish it, and it was a bitter discovery for him to make afterwards that the little party of Protestant preachers which he distributed over the country ["Previous to September, 1559, eight towns were provided with pastors; and other places remained unprovided, owing to the scarcity of preachers" (Letter, Knox to Locke, Cald. MS. i. 472, quoted in McCrie's Life of Knox).] was regarded as only one of the many claimants to the reversion of the Church's property,

On 22nd December, 1561, the Privy Council ordered a return .to be made of the revenues of all the bishoprics and religious houses in the kingdom. On the basis of this return a third part of the rents of all ecclesiastical benefices was appropriated to the use of the queen's household, and of that sum, the Knoxian ministers were to receive half. [Privy Council Reg. i. 412.] The remaining two-thirds of the benefices were appointed to remain with the Roman clergy. Regarding this order Knox fulminated from the pulpit in characteristic style. "The Spirit of God," he declared, "was not the author of that order, by which two parts of the church rents were given to the devil, and the other third part was to be divided between God and the devil. Oh, happy servants of the devil, and miserable servants of Jesus Christ, if after this life there were not hell and heaven!"

From the date of the Church's overthrow, however, and at an ever-increasing rate as the old clergy died out, the lands of the Churchmen and religious houses were destined to pass to other ownership. On 15th February, 1561-2, the Privy Council ordered that all the revenues of chaplainries and friars in towns and burghs, as well as the rents of friars' lands elsewhere, should be dealt with by such persons as the queen might appoint, and used in support of hospitals and schools and for such other purposes as the queen, with advice of her council, might direct. At the same time, to this end, the magistrates of Glasgow and other burghs were directed to maintain and use for the common good such religious houses belonging to the friars as had not been demolished, till the issue of further orders from the crown. [Privy Council Register, i. 201-203.]

The first of these further instructions, so far as Glasgow was concerned, was issued in a letter under the queen's privy seal on 13th July, 1563, which is still preserved in the archives of the University. For the royal intervention on this occasion it has been suggested that the University owed something to the famous Latinist, George Buchanan. [George Buchanan, Glasgow Quatercentenary Studies, 1906, pp. 33-39.] In this letter the schools and chambers of the pedagogy, or college of Glasgow, are described as only partly built, while the provision for its poor bursars and teachers had ceased, so that what remained appeared rather the decay of a university than an established institution. The queen, therefore, founded within the college and university bursaries for five poor "bairns," to be called "bursaries of oure foundatione." At the same time, for furnishing the bursars with meat, clothing, and other sustenance she granted the manse and kirk room of the Friars Preachers within the city, along with thirteen acres of land outside, ten marks of rent formerly drawn by the friars from tenements within the city, ten marks rental from the Netherton of Hamilton, ten bolls meal from certain lands in Lennox, and ten marks from the lordship of Avondale. The master of the college and University was authorized to uplift and apply these revenues and properties till the queen should take further order in the matter "at the quhilk tyme we mynd to dote the landis and annuellis forsaidis thairto, and als to mak the said college to be provydit of sic sessonable levyng that thairin the liberale sciences may be plainlie techit as the samyn ar in utheris colleges of this realme, sua that the college forsaid sal be reputit oure foundatioun in all tyme cumyng." [Glasgow Charters and Documents, i. pt. ii. pp. 129-131, No. 58; Mien. Univ. Glasg. i. p. 67; Privy Seal Reg. xxxi. 138.]

Thus, by the goodwill of Mary Queen of Scots, the monastery of the Black Friars, on the east side of High Street, passed, with other property, into the possession of the University.

This letter of the queen was followed, a month later, by an act of the bailies of Glasgow, ordaining certain burgesses to pay to the Principal Regent of the Pedagoguy of Glasgow 28 bolls of malt for the yearly rent of 13 acres and 3 roods of land "belonging in times past to the Friars Preachers, and conveyed to the College by the grant of Queen Mary. [Mun. Univ. Glasg. i. p. 6g; Charters and Documents, i. p. 20, No. 331.]

Among the "various tenements within the city" referred to in the queen's letter, one had been the subject of an interesting transaction nearly two years previously, a transaction which shows the straits to which the Friars Preachers in Glasgow, in common with the occupants of many other religious houses throughout the kingdom, had been almost at once reduced by the upheaval of the Reformation. A charter granted by Andrew Lecke, prior, and John Law, superior of the Friars Preachers in Glasgow, describes the dispersion of the order and the aid rendered to the friars in their extreme necessity by John Graham, son of James Graham, burgess of Glasgow, without which aid they could not have sustained life. In consideration of this the prior and superior grant to John Graham and his wife " the great tenement occupied by the said John, with the gardens belonging thereto (the cemetery thereof excepted) to be held by these and other heirs of the said friars in conjunct infeftment for payment annually of four merks, subject to the provision that if the friars were replaced and their order restored, they should be repossessed of the gardens, but that the tenement should be retained by the said John for payment of three merks annually." [Great Seal Register, 1546-1580, P. 449; Charters and Documents, i. p. 19, No. 328.] This charter was confirmed by Queen Mary under the Great Seal in 1567. [Ibid. No. 1790.]

The further orders of the queen with regard to the possessions of the friars and minor clergy of the Church in Glasgow were contained in a charter under the Great Seal dated 16th March, 1566-7. Under the preamble that it was incumbent on the queen to provide for the ministers, hospitals, the poor and orphans, the charter conveyed to the provost, bailies, council, and community of Glasgow the whole possessions, real and movable, within the city, belonging to any chaplainries, altars, and prebends there or elsewhere, as well as the manor-places, orchards, lands, annual-rents, emoluments, and duties which formerly belonged to the Dominican or Preaching Friars and to the Minorites or Franciscans of the city. The charter next proceeded to state that many of the prebendaries, chaplains, and friars had, since the Reformation, given away their endowments, and that many persons had, by brieves from chancery, reclaimed properties given by their ancestors to the Church. All such alienations, by which the first purpose of the founders was infringed, were now rescinded, and the properties handed over to the city. The whole possessions thus transferred were incorporated into one body, to be known as "the Queen's Foundation of the Ministry and Hospitality of Glasgow" and the proceeds devoted to the support of the Reformed church in the city and to hospitality and other similar purposes. No injury was to be done to the chaplains, prebendaries, and friars who were in possession at the change of religion. These men were to enjoy their endowments during their lives. But in effect the charter conveyed to the magistrates and community of Glasgow the whole possessions within the city of the friars and minor clergy of the Roman Church.

The possessions of the Archbishopric were the subject of other and different dispositions.

Though the head of the house of Hamilton had, as we have seen, superseded the Earl of Lennox as bailie of the barony and regality in 1545, and had seized the Bishop's Castle on the flight of Archbishop Beaton in 1559, he does not appear to have permanently alienated any of the real estate in his jurisdiction.

Further, on 19th September, i56o, by a decree of the Court of Session, the see of Glasgow had been declared vacant, but that decree evidently did not affect the temporalities of the archbishopric. The rental book of the diocese, printed in Diocesan Registers, shows that the archbishop's steward continued to enter tenants and transact business till 15th October, 1570. The complaint of Beaton's steward, already quoted, must have referred only to a temporary seizure of the property by Chatelherault, or to seizure of the revenues. In 1564, at the end of his lease, and upon the order of the Privy Council, Chatelherault yielded up his bailieship, [Privy Council Register, i. 290.] apparently without any dilapidations having taken place.

These dilapidations only began after the defeat of Mary at the Battle of Langside. By M'Ure and by most of the later annalists of Glasgow, as well as by Mr. James Ness in his History of the Incorporation of Bakers, it has been stated that at the banquet to which he was entertained on returning from the battle, Moray took occasion to thank the bakers of the city for the material help they had afforded by supplying his forces with bread, whereupon Matthew Fawside, deacon of the Bakers' Incorporation, took the opportunity to suggest that a permanent token of his gratitude might be afforded by a grant of a piece of the bishop's lands on the Kelvin, with the right to erect a mill. It has been argued [Correspondence by Mr. Joseph Bain, Dr. David Murray, and Mr. James Ness in the Glasgow Herald in May, June, and July, 1893.] that in 1568 the Regent was not in a position to make this grant, as Archbishop Beaton was still legal owner of the land. Sir James Marwick suggested that what the Regent did was to promise the site when the land should become crown property, as it would on the archbishop's death or forfeiture. In any case, as is pointed out by Marwick, there is evidence that the bakers did at that time build themselves a mill on the Kelvin. This evidence is contained in a decreet before the bailie of the regality on 16th November, 1569, at the instance of Archibald Lyon, tenant. of the mill in Newton on Kelvin, against the Baxters of Glasgow, finding them in the wrong in " bigging up of ane dam to thair mylne newlie biggit be thaim upone the wattir of Kelvyne, benetht the said Archibaldis milne," the result being that Lyon's mill was left in back water, without the current necessary to supply power. [Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. p. i, and p. 24, No. 348. On loth August, 1554, Archbishop Beaton admitted Archibald Lyon as rentaller of his waulk mill on the Kelvin, with power to change the waulk mill into a wheat mill, Lyon being bound to grind all the wheat which the bishop consumed in his house and pay four merks yearly (Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. No. 324).] Apart from the assignment of the thirds of all benefices already referred to, [Antea, p. 22.] this grant of land and mill-building rights to the Glasgow Incorporation of Bakers appears to have been the first alienation of the real estate belonging to the archbishopric.

Another of the archbishop's possessions which the Regent made no scruple to touch was the Castle of Glasgow itself. In May, 1568, he committed the keeping of the stronghold to Sir John Stewart of Minto, and for the purpose assigned him five chalders of malt, five chalders of meal, two chalders of horse-corn, and two hundred merks (iii 2S. 2d. sterling) out of the revenues of the bishopric. Sir John and his servants were at the same time expressly relieved from any responsibility for these intromissions, though " James sometime archbishop was not yet denounced rebel and put to the horn. [Privy Council Register, xi. p. 302.]

But the Regent Moray's example was soon followed by local dilapidators. Under the kindly rule of the archbishops the inhabitants of Glasgow had been allowed to use as common pasture and for casting peats certain lands, such as the Easter and Wester Commons, the Burgh Muir, and Garngad Hill. About the year 1568 the magistrates appear to have taken possession of these lands, and proceeded to dispose of them in plots to individual inhabitants. On 6th April, 1569, William Walker, the archbishop's agent, wrote to his master in France, that he had been "in great troublis" which had changed the colour of his hair from black to white. The magistrates, it appears, had demanded that he should become a burgess; this he had refused to do, and in consequence he found it impossible to procure justice from the provost and bailies. In particular, he tells how "at the borrow muir of Glasgow on the Southe syde of the towne, and als Garngad hill on the north part of the toune, ar distribuit be provost, baillies, and communitie of the towne to the inhabitaries thairof, every ane his awin portioun conforme to his degrie, and hes revin it oute, and manuris it this zeir instantlie, but I walde have na parte thairof quhill (until) it plies God and zoure Lordship to make my parte, be ressoun I knewe thai hade na power to deill zour Lordship's lands withoute sum consent of zoure Lordship or sum utheris in zoure Lordship's name."  [MacGeorge's Old Glasgow, p. 165.]

The act by which further dilapidations of the archbishopric were to be legalized was not long delayed. On 16th August, 1569, the Privy Council ordained that, as the archbishop had failed to appear and answer such charges as might be brought against him, he should be denounced as a rebel and put to the horn, and that all his movable goods should be escheate and brought to the king's use. [Privy Council Register, i. p. 638.]

Moray himself seems to have gone no further, however, in alienating the real estate of the bishopric. On 23rd January, 1569-70, he was shot in Linlithgow by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh. Six months later, on 12th July, the Earl of Lennox, grandfather of the infant James VI., was appointed regent, and he forthwith became engrossed in active measures to strike a decisive blow at the cause of his daughter-in-law, Queen Mary.


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