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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XVII - Campbell of Shawfield and his Compensation


AFTER the first run of the great tobacco trade with Virginia, which followed the Union, had brought the promise of wealth to Glasgow, the city fathers seem to have seen their way to the spending of money on a considerable scale. Between the years 1721 and 1723 quite a number of large developments were undertaken. Chief of these, perhaps, so far as the comfort of the townspeople was concerned, was the causewaying of the streets. Previously these thoroughfares—wynds and gates and vennels—must have been anything but easy for traffic, mere earthern surfaces with stones of any size thrown into the ruts. Only on the bridges, and at one or two special points of heavy traffic, had anything in the way of a causeway been attempted, and hitherto, at the rare intervals when work of this sort fell to be done, an expert had to be brought in. Thus, in 1578, a "calsay maker" was borrowed from Dundee, the Provost and bailies undertaking to return him to that town at the following Michaelmas. But now the magistrates proceeded vigorously with the work, and ultimately made a contract with two "cawssiers" to pave and maintain all the public thoroughfares of the town. The contract was for fifteen years, at £1000 Scots (83 sterling) yearly for the first four years, and 1000 merks (£55 sterling) yearly for the remaining eleven. [Burgh Records, 13th Jan. 1722, 7th March, 1728.]

Another important work was the repair of the High Church. Evidently the building had fallen sadly out of repair. Some of the stonework had fallen down, the walls required pointing, and the roof leaked. There were holes in the floor of the inner church or choir, the lintels of doors had given way, and three of the "lofts" or galleries required to be renewed. Moreover, the gateway to the churchyard required to be widened "for the conveniency for the corpse entering." A complete overhaul was undertaken, and the city accounts for some time record large payments for lead and other materials used in the work. [Ibid. 25th March, 1721.]

The increase in the town's river traffic, again, passing up and down from Port-Glasgow, called for more accommodation at the harbour, and the Town Council set about an extension of the quay from the Broomielaw to the Dowcat or Old Green. The consent of the Trades House, and, strangely enough, with more reluctance, of the Merchants House, was obtained for the expenditure of £10,000 on the work. The money was to be taken out of the excise duty of " two pennies on the pint "of ale consumed in the town, for which the grant to the Town Council had been continued by Parliament, and on the strength of which so many expensive enterprises were undertaken. In this case, no doubt, the expenditure was really wise and necessary enough, though three years later, when the "two pennies on the pint" were seized by Government for the payment of the compensation to Campbell of Shawfield for the malt tax riot, the magistrates must have looked at the undertaking rather ruefully. [Ibid. 22nd June, 1722.]

More ambitious still, and perhaps hardly so necessary, was the making of a complete new thoroughfare from Trongate to Briggate. For this purpose large purchases of property had to be made, and for some time the Town Council minutes contain constant references to the making of bargains with the owners of houses and ground required for the formation of the new street. Considerable attention was paid to the details of the buildings to be erected in this new thoroughfare, and in its time King Street, running southward opposite Candleriggs, was probably the best built part of the city. [Burgh Records, 29th April, 1720, et seq. In forming King Street and building St. David's Church at the head of Candleriggs, the Town Council of 1720 showed a fine sense of town planning. They were creating a noble street avenue with a notable architectural feature closing the vista. The same idea was carried out at a later day when the vista of Buchanan Street was closed with St. Enoch's Church, and the vista of George Street with St. George's. This idea was evidently overlooked when St. Enoch's Church was demolished a few years ago.]

In King Street, entered by spacious ornamental gateways, stood the covered markets, that on the east side for butcher-meat and those on the west side for fish, mutton, and cheese respectively. With their pump wells, and other conveniences, these markets, according to Gibson (History, p. 149), were "justly admired, as being the completest of their kind in Britain."

The magistrates even went considerably afield with their expenditure. It happened that a congregation of dissenters at Atherton in Lancashire had enjoyed the privilege from the lord of the manor of a site for their meeting-house since the year 1645. In the late rebellion, however, they had raised three hundred men for the Government, and had taken part under General Wills in defeating and capturing the Jacobite force at Preston. For their zeal in this matter they had been deprived of their chapel by the present owner of the ground, and were compelled to build a new meeting-house for themselves. As they were "chiefly of such as live upon their daily labour, and many under the charity of others," they were "under necessity of requesting the help and assistance of friends and fellow Christians." "In view of their steadiness and firmness for his Majesty's Government," the magistrates agreed to subscribe the sum of ten pounds sterling towards the new chapel. [Ibid. 8th June, 1723.]

By far the heaviest expense of all, however, was incurred in the buying of the Walkinshaw estate of Barrowfield already referred to. [Ibid. 9th Dec. 1723.] If the city had been able to retain possession of that estate, on which the thickly populated quarter of Bridgeton is now built, as well as the still larger estate of Provan further north, the "Common Good" of Glasgow might have been enormously more wealthy at the present hour. But as in the case of the old Archbishop's lands about the burgh, which had come into its possession in Queen Mary's time, the Town Council seems to have been unable to make these estates pay their way. From first to last Glasgow has somehow found the possession of a country estate to be merely an expensive luxury which sooner or later it has deemed it desirable to get rid of on the best terms possible. The moiety of the estate of Gorbals has been perhaps the one exception.

In the early twenties of the eighteenth century, it will be seen, the spirit of those in charge of the public affairs of Glasgow was courageous and enterprising. That spirit, as well as the spirit of the ordinary citizens, received a check, first from the obstacles thrown in the way of the rising tobacco trade by Government, at the instigation of the English merchants, and next by the malt tax riot and the heavy burden it threw upon the town's revenues in order to pay compensation to the owner of the Shawfield Mansion. [The compensation ..... was over five times the amount of the town's ordinary annual revenue.—Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 20.] It looked as if the community, recently so obviously on the high road to prosperity, were about to be crushed under a succession of misfortunes.

Campbell of Shawfield, it must be confessed, makes anything but a handsome figure in the story of Glasgow at that time. From first to last he was self-seeking and grasping, never missing a chance to enrich himself at the expense of his constituents, and doing little or nothing to support and defend the interests of the city which had honoured him by sending him to Parliament. We have already seen how he exacted an exorbitant fee for his services in securing repayment of the town's expenditure on Jacobite prisoners, and how he demanded immediate payment of the large debt of Walkinshaw of Barrow-field, which had been taken over by the Town Council. Most crushing of all was the huge compensation award of £6o8o for the damage done to his house by the malt-tax rioters, which he allowed to be saddled upon the city. Still later, when, at the election of 1727, a "double return" was made, and the city unequivocally showed that it wished John Blackwood to be its parliamentary representative, Shawfield obstinately refused to give way, and secured the annulment of Blackwood's election by order of the House of Commons. [Burgh Records, 29th Jan., 28th Mar. 1728; 21st Jan. 1729.] In view of these facts, it is not difficult to believe that the rumour was well founded which attributed to Shawfield the furnishing of information to Glasgow's English rivals which stopped the progress of the city's tobacco trade for a dozen years.

The immense award of £6o8o damages to Daniel Campbell upset the whole finances of the city, and had far-reaching consequences upon the fortunes of Glasgow. By that addition the town's debt was increased to the then enormous sum of £14,000 sterling, [Burgh Records, 13th Dec. 1726.] and the city fathers might well look with something like dismay on the prospect of toiling through the bog of embarrassments which lay before them. It is interesting to note the means they took to clear themselves.

In the first place, in order to be rid of the uncertainties of the repayment of Campbell's £6080 out of the Excise of 2d. in the pint, with the expenses, deductions, and uncertainties likely to arise in dealings with a Government office, they resolved forthwith to borrow and pay up the whole sum. [Ibid. 10th, 13th and 31st Dec. 1726.] By this means the debt was funded, and the town was left to collect the 2d. in the pint for its own behoof in the most economic way possible.

The next move took place three years later. By that time the Town Council had apparently become convinced that the management of their newly-acquired country estates of Provan and Barrowfield was not likely to prove profitable. They accordingly advertised these estates for sale " by the publick prints." After an offer by William Stirling, merchant, London, to acquire the Provan estate at twenty-four years' purchase of the advertised rental, and a feu-duty of one-third of the rent, or thirty-one years' purchase for an absolute right, the Town Council disposed of the property to a syndicate of five merchants at twenty-six years' purchase and a feu-duty of one-third of the rent. After deduction of the teind the purchase price was £64,495 12s. Scots (£53774 12s. 8d. sterling), [Burgh Records, 1st to 19th Aug. 1729. See supra, p. 17.] while the annual feu-duty was £1240 6s. Scots (103 6s. 11d. sterling).' The Town Council further definitely ordered that the money received was to be applied entirely to the payment of the town's debt.

In the following year, as already mentioned, Barrowfield was sold outright to John On for the sum of £10,000 sterling. [Ibid. 27th Aug., 29th Sept. 1730. The new laird of Barrowfield was a notable Glasgow citizen. He was a bailie in 1719, and Rector of the University in 1734, and he gave £500 sterling to the College library.—Senex, Old Glasgow, p. ii.]

At the same time the lands of Wester Common were disposed of to James Rae, merchant, for a yearly feu-duty of one hundred merks and an unnamed capital sum which, on the basis of the sale of Provan, would amount to 7800 merks, or £433 6s. 8d. sterling. [Ibid. 18th June, 1730.]

At the same period another money transaction, this time of somewhat doubtful character, was carried out by the town. A certain William Mitchell, merchant in London, had bequeathed a sum of £2000 sterling for the erection of a free school and the help of some poor people in Glasgow. His will directed that, three months after his death, the money should be invested in land near Glasgow. The testator probably had in view the directions given by George and Thomas Hutcheson in the previous century for the investment of their bequests, and, had his wishes been carried out, it is possible that his charity might have been not less valuable than that of the Hutchesons at the present hour. But the money was lodged with the Town Clerk and applied in payment of several bonds due by the town, and, instead of investing it in land, the magistrates and council hit upon the plan of deferring that proceeding, and meanwhile merely granting a bond to make the money forthcoming at some unspecified time, and to apply the interest in all time coming to the purposes specified by the testator. As a result the capital sum still remains £2000, and the interest, some £113, 1s paid to indigent persons qualified as burgesses of the Merchant and Trades rank. [Burgh Records, 27th Aug. 1730.]

Still another means of securing a sum of ready money was suggested by the proposal of two residents in Port-Glasgow, John Lyon and Hugh Milliken, to take a "tack," or lease, of the city's interest in that place. They offered, in return for the revenues of Port-Glasgow and the Royal Fisheries Close in Greenock, with the thirlage of sixteen pence payable by the inhabitants on every boll of malt brewed in the Port, to pay a fixed annual sum, build a new quay and breastwork, pay the stipends of minister and schoolmaster, keep the city's property, dwelling-houses, and warehouses in good repair, and meet all other ordinary expenses usually payable by the Town Council. Nothing came of the proposal at the time, but two years later it was carried out, and the town's interest in the Port was put up to auction, and leased for three years to Robert Boyd, a Glasgow merchant, for 1810 merks yearly. [Ibid. 18th June, 1730; 4th January and 13th July, 1732.]

By these means Glasgow's debt was paid off, and the finances of the city were restored to a healthy condition. At least one other useful purpose was served by the emergency. The Town Council was freed from the details of estate management which had threatened to engross its time and energies, and was left to devote itself to the more legitimate functions of government. No longer worried with the adjusting of fences and signing of leases, it could devote its attention to the keeping of the peace and administering of justice, and with these objects in view proceeded to appoint a bailie of Provan, an appointment which remains till the present day one of the most esteemed in the gift of the Town Council. [Ibid. 4th March, 1731. The bailieship of Provan is to-day an honorary post which is filled by the Town Council annually in November. The person appointed is usually a retired councillor who has rendered notable service to the city.]


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