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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter V - Land Purchases and Municipal Trading


IN the troubled years which followed the Revolution Glasgow does not appear to have prospered very greatly. The population, which in 1688 numbered 11,943, was no more than 12,766 twenty years later, when a census was taken. [Denholm, Hist. of Glasg. 1804, says the population had been 14,600 in 1660.] Rising pleasantly on its sunny brae-face from the river bank, with gardens about its houses, scenting the air with apple-blossom in spring, and with cornfields around, rustling golden in autumn, it was really a garden city. East of the Molendinar, on the riverside, the New Green, painfully repurchased from its many smallholders, was being brought into condition by cropping and grazing, while the Old Green, which stretched westward from the Molendinar to St. Theneu's or St. Enoch's Burn, was being encroached upon by buildings like the Merchants Hospital and industries like the rope-work, which gave its first name to the present Howard Street—Ropework Lane. [Burgh Records, 5th Dec., 1696; 17th April, 1697.] In the hundred years since 1588, when the West Port was moved from the spot which is now the foot of Candleriggs to the head of the Stockwellgait, the crofts on the south side of St. Theneu's Gait, or Trongate, had been slowly built upon. Just outside the port on the west side of the Stockwellgait stood the tower of the Halls of Fulbar, which was only taken down at the end of the nineteenth century, and farther west, by the side of St. Theneu's Burn, stood the ruin of St. Theneu's Chapel, the site of the later St. Enoch's Church. On the north side of Trongate the Long Croft, which extended from the back of the High Street houses westward to the Cow Loan, which is now Queen Street, had also been considerably built upon. There the Candleriggs, with the "soaperie" of the Whalefishing Company near its head, [The Soaperie was burned in 1777 and the business given up.—Cleland's Annals, ii. 367.] had been opened up, and Hutchesons' Hospital, with its acre of garden behind, stood on the site of the present Hutcheson Street. Beyond the Cow Loan to St. Theneu's Burn, which crosses Argyll Street at the foot of Mitchell Lane, lay the Pallioun Croft, so called, it is said, from the pavilions or tents of the Regent Moray's army which encamped there before the battle of Langside; and along the thoroughfare, as far as the little bridge over St. Theneu's Burn, stood certain malt kilns, whose owners were accused of throwing their straw into the roadway, and choking the "syre" or gutter.

On the south side of the river the town had acquired in 1650 the Gorbals part of Sir George Elphinstone's barony of Blythswood. [Regality Club Publications, iv. 1-60.] Eastward along the Gallowgate lay the estates of a number of well-known Glasgow families, Dowhill, Clay-thorn, Barrowfield. On the north-east the great estate of Provan had been acquired in 1667, as we have seen, rather with a view to controlling the supply of water from Hogganfield Loch to the town's mills than for the purpose of extending the city. The town also included the beautiful Rottenrow and its sequestered old manses, with their sunny gardens sloping to the south on the Deanside brae. This "tennandry of Rotten-row," between forty and fifty acres in extent, had been the first extension of the burgh's boundaries, granted to the Magistrates by James VI. in 1613 as a reward for their preservation of the Cathedral and bridge. [Glasgow Charters, ii. pp. 284-91.] The ground was mostly in private possession, but the magistrates drew from it certain rents and feu-duties.

Between this "tennandry" of Rottenrow and the Long Croft and Pavilion Croft, and extending westward over the sites of the present City Chambers and George Square, stretched the lands of Ramshorn and Meadowflat. Again and again these lands had had their crops eaten and destroyed by troops quartered in the city. As late as November, 1693, the town paid the tenant £100 16s. for corn eaten and carried off the ground by the English regiment commanded by Sir John Lanier. The owner of the acres, Ninian Hill of Lambhill, was probably sick of such troubles, and he offered the land to the burgh at twenty-two years' purchase, the rent being estimated at ten merks per boll of crop. The Magistrates, in considering the offer, displayed a praiseworthy zeal for the preservation of the town's amenities. They feared that the land might be purchased by someone who "might perhaps improve the samine to the prejudice of the burgh." They accordingly agreed to acquire it at twenty years' purchase, a sum of 20,300 merks, with a gratuity of fifteen guineas to "Lambhill's lady." The transaction, curiously, was carried out with the funds of "the three hospitals," the Merchants', the Trades', and Hutchesons'. who were to have the land divided equally among them; but in the end, partly for the reason that the estate had belonged previously to George Hutcheson of Lambhill, the founder of Hutchesons' Hospital, the entire property was acquired for that trust, burdened with a feu-duty of £4. payable to the burgh and certain conditions preventing it from being "improved " to the prejudice of the town.  [Burgh Records, 13th Sept., 17th Nov., 1693; 7th Feb., 12th May, 1694 31st Aug., 1696; 1st Oct., 1709.]

This vicarious purchase of Ramshorn and Meadowflat was only one of several curious financial transactions of the Glasgow Magistrates and Councillors at that time. On the plea of difficulty in paying the town's debts, letters were procured from the King to the Privy Council authorising the Magistrates to continue the levy for the use of the burgh of the two pennies excise duty on each pint of ale and beer brewed or sold in the town, for the space of thirteen years. [Glasgow Charters and Documents, ii. 249-51.] Apparently the city fathers saw in this grant the opening of a golden fountain. They promptly decided that "it could not be expected that such ane great gift might be obtained without expence and charge and the gratifieing of persons in public trust." They accordingly directed that the city treasurer be provided with a thousand pounds sterling, besides ten guineas already sent to him in Edinburgh, for the payment of gratuities to certain persons who had been instrumental in securing the grant for the city. As they did not actually possess the thousand pounds they proposed to give away, they proceeded to borrow that sum, and gave bonds to nine individuals who lent them the money. [Burgh Records, 25th Sept., 1693.]

Of similar character was the transaction, already recorded, which was carried through a little later with the Darien Company. Though the Town Council subscribed for £3000 of stock in the undertaking, the entire sum does not appear to have been called up, and meanwhile the magistrates availed themselves of the Company's offer, and borrowed £500 sterling for the payment of the city's debts. [Ibid. 5th Oct., 1696.]

At the same time the merchants of Glasgow had been making their way into new avenues of trade. At the time of the Revolution one of the chief industries of the town was sugar refining. Since 1667, when the first factory, the Wester Sugar-house, was built in Bell's Wynd and Candleriggs, the business had been considerably exploited. The Easter Sugar-house was built on the south side of Gallowgate in 1669, and was followed by the South Sugar-house in Stockwell Street, and another in King Street. [Trans. Glasg. Arch. Society, 1st Series, i. 354.] These sugar-houses not only supplied the greater part of Scotland with their commodity, but enjoyed the privilege of distilling spirits from their molasses, free from all duty and excise. [Gibson's Hist. of Glasgow, 246; Chambers's Donz. Annals, iii. 126.] When it was proposed to set up an additional sugar factory in 1701, there was projected, in connection with it, a work "for distilling brandy and other spirits from all manner of grain of the growth of this kingdom," and it was added " the distillery will both be profitable for consumption of the product of the kingdom, and for trade for the coast of Guinea and America, seeing that no trade can be managed to the places foresaid, or the East Indies, without great quantities of the foresaid liquors."  [Donz. Annals, iii. 127.]

Tobacco also had begun to bring to the city a stream of wealth that was to flow for a hundred years. The trade was hampered at first by the curious communal by-law that all cargoes must first be offered to the Magistrates and Council, and that no bargain must be made for their purchase wholesale by an individual. Thus, on 10th January, 1674, the city fathers deputed the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener to "sight" a cargo offered to the town by William Johnstone and William Bouk, which included forty hogsheads of Virginia leaf tobacco, twelve barrels roll and cut, at thirty-six pounds per cent. "guid and bad." [Burgh Records. As shewing the other commodities then being imported, the cargo also included eight casks of casnutt sugar at £16 16s. per cent., four thousand pounds weight of ginger at £18 per cent. and a ton of unground logwood at £120 per ton.] On 10th January, 1677, the Magistrates granted liberty to Hugh Buick, writer in Edinburgh, to sell four hogsheads of Virginia, which he had offered to the town, to whom he pleased. And on 29th August, 1681, an offer was made by Richard Bucklie of no less than 105 hogsheads of Virginia leaf tobacco, with some leaf tobacco in bulk, and three barrels roll tobacco. In this case the prices were, for the hogshead tobacco 24s. sterling per hundredweight, for the bulk tobacco 20s., and for the roll tobacco 30s., in other words from about 22d. to 4d. per pound. On certain suspicions Bucklie was ordered to store his cargo in Glasgow, and give his oath as to whether he had offered or sold any of the consignment elsewhere.

Yet again, on 15th May, 1691, complaint was made to the Town Council that a certain William Corse and his partners had bought from a stranger, who was not a freeman of any burgh, a ship's load of tobacco, without making an offer of it to the town. As a result the said William and his partners in crime were cited to appear before the magistrates to be fined and otherwise punished. [Burgh Records.]

Restrictions and impediments of this kind placed in the way of trade and industry by a communal town council made commerce on a large scale, of course, impossible. [Ibid. 19th April, 10th April, 21st Sept., 1695.] The activities of the city fathers were salutary and valuable while they were devoted to the duties of domestic government, the safeguarding of person and property, the provision of education, the securing of amenities, the settlement of disputes, and the like. The magistrates were within their province when they suppressed a practice which had grown to be a nuisance, that of parties masquerading and serenading through the streets in the nighttime, creating disturbance, and offering "insolencies" to the guards and other persons. [Ibid. 12th Sept., 1691.] They were providing for a known want in allowing Margaret Hamilton, cook, to continue during her lifetime her employment of serving the town's inhabitants with meat and drink—keeping "ane taverne and ane cookerie"—otherwise apparently the town's first restaurant. Margaret agreed to pay fifty merks for the privilege, and was granted the same rights as the widow of a burgess. [Burgh Records, 23rd May, 1691.] They honoured the city's notable tradition of musical culture by engaging Mr. Lewis de France to "teach the inhabitants in toune to sing musick." Mr. Lewis agreed "to take onlie fourtein shilling per moneth, for ane hour in the day, from these that comes to the schooll, and fourtein shilling for wryting the threttein comon tunes and some psalmes, the schollars furnishing bookes." He also "condescended" to teach such poor in the town as the Magistrates should direct. [Ibid. 24th Sept., 1691.] For this the Magistrates agreed to pay him £100 Scots yearly, and to prohibit the teaching of music by any other public school. They were no doubt supplying a felt want when they granted a certain Mr. John Pujolas the sum of £5 sterling to help the printing of a French grammar, and agreed to pay him £100 yearly for the encouragement of his teaching of French. [Ibid. 29th Nov., 1690.] They were within their province in ordering a register of deaths within the city to be kept. The first registrar received for remuneration the sum of thirty shillings Scots weekly. [Ibid. 15th Oct., 1692.] And they might be excused the little luxury of having the seats of the council in Kirk strewn with flowers, and a similar provision made for the table in the council chamber. The flowers were got from the garden of the Merchants Hospital in Briggate, and cost the Magistrates no more than twelve shillings Scots yearly. [Ibid. 4th Oct., 1691.] It is true, the Magistrates provided mills for grinding the corn of the burgesses. But they were sufficiently well advised not to carry on the business themselves, but to lease the mills to individuals whose interest it was to cultivate the approval of their customers. In succeeding years the rental of these mills continued to increase, and in 1691 it amounted to 8750 merks, with fifty bolls of ground malt. [Ibid. 2nd June, 1691.]

These activities might all be regarded as within the purview of civic legislation and administration. It was only when the city fathers went outside this natural province, and proceeded to interfere with trade, that they became a hindrance to the development of the town's prosperity. In no case do they appear to have exercised their option to purchase goods brought to the city in wholesale quantities, but the restrictions as to price which they used their option to impose, must have discouraged enterprise and sent commerce elsewhere for a hundred and fifty years.

Notwithstanding these obstacles, however, the Glasgow merchants had begun to think of trade in larger terms. Walter Gibson's ventures to France and America were examples of this. So far the chief trade of Scotland had been with Holland, Denmark, and Norway. For that reason the shipping was mostly from the east coast ports. Leith, Montrose, and the little harbours round the Fife coast were the scenes of the country's main export and import trade. Hence James V.'s description of Fife as "a rough Scots blanket fringed with gold."

But Glasgow was awakening to possibilities in other directions. The founding of Port-Glasgow as a civic harbour on the open estuary of the Clyde in 1668 was an evidence of this; and everything may be said to have been ready for the great event which happened presently, and which threw open to Glasgow merchant enterprise the whole trading possibilities of the New World across the Atlantic.


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