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The History of Glasgow
Chapter I - Prehistoric Condition of Glasgow Area—Sites of Early Dwellings


BY a gradation of ancient sea beaches which can be traced along the Clyde valley in the vicinity of Glasgow, the occurrence of successive upheavals of the land is fully established, and it is obvious that during some part of the remote period immediately preceding the last of these elevations the estuary of the Clyde at Glasgow was several miles wide, covering not only the lower districts of the city but extending to the base of the Cathcart and Cathkin Hills, and probably receiving the waters of the river not far from Bothwell. That this district was then inhabited by man seems to be placed beyond reasonable doubt by the discovery of canoes in the Trongate and other localities far above the present level of the river, but all of them covered by strata of transported sand and gravel.

One canoe was unearthed in 1780, when excavations were being made for the foundation of St. Enoch's Church; another was found at the Cross, when similar preparations were in progress for the erection of the Tontine buildings; one was got in Stockwell Street, near the present railway crossing ; and another was dug up on the slope of the Drygate. All these canoes were formed of single oak trees roughly scooped out, fire having been employed to burn out the interior, and were altogether of the most primitive kind of construction, 1 a description which likewise applies to a number of other canoes that were found on the lands of Springfield and Clydehaugh on the south side of the Clyde. These latter canoes, discovered during operations for the widening of the harbour between 1847 and 1849, seem to have been deposited at a much later period than those found in higher ground. No change in the relative positions of land and sea had apparently taken place between the time when they were swamped or settled down in the channel of the river till they were again exposed to the light of day. The St. Enoch's Square canoe was 24 feet below the surface, and there was found within it a polished stone hatchet or celt, one of the instruments which may have been used in its construction, though it seems as much adapted for war as for any peaceful art.2

During long ages which succeeded the final settlement of sea and land level, the Clyde, running through a tract of

1 A fifth canoe, discovered in 1825 when opening a sewer in London Street, was built of several pieces of oak, and exhibited unusual evidences of labour and ingenuity (Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, p. 35)

2 Ibid. A sketch of the celt, given by Mr. Wilson, is here reproduced. All the canoes discovered in the higher grounds on the north side of the river were destroyed, and no sketch of their appearance or record of their dimensions has been preserved. Representations of two of the canoes found at Clydehaugh, as shown in Scottish History and Life, are here reproduced : No. 1 measured 14 feet in length, 4 feet 1 inch in breadth, and 1 foot 11 inches deep; No. 2 was so feet long, 3 feet 2 inches broad, and 1 foot deep.

For fuller information and interesting speculation on the prehistoric subjects alluded to in the text reference may be made to Ancient Sea Margins, by Dr. R. Chambers, pp. 203-9; Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, pp. 3I-37; Macgeorge's Old Glasgow (i88o), pp. 248-62; John Buchanan's narrative in Glasgow : Past and Present (1856), iii. pp. 555-79; Transactions of Glasgow Archceological Society, 1st Series, I. pp. 188-90; II. pp. 525-30. In the last of these Archaeological Society's papers Mr. J. Dalrymple Duncan gives an account of the discovery at Point Isle in 1880 of a canoe which crumbled to pieces in the hands of those who attempted its removal.

country with no proper river channel, must have been continually changing its course, and in the tidal area, specially, not only the bed of each changing channel, but likewise the land on either side would by silting process be gradually raised. But the bulk of the sediment would collect wherever the water had its course for the time, and so soon as the accumulation became higher than the adjoining ground, the former channel would be deserted and a new one chosen. Many of these river variations can still be identified, and it is believed that such a change is sufficient to account for the Springfield canoes being found seven feet below the natural bed level of the river and one hundred yards to the southward of its bank, as these existed before the artificial deepening which was commenced in 1758 and the widening carried through by the Clyde Trustees in 1847. Such flooding effects and silting process are also regarded as sufficient to account for the covering by stratified sand of the beautiful Roman bowl of Samian ware which, in 1876, was discovered in the Green, about 4½ feet below the surface.

It was not till comparatively modern times that the river, in its passage through that part of the valley which is now city territory, permanently settled into its present course, and even after embankment, deepening and other artificial operations and appliances were adopted, the lower lying grounds, such as Glasgow Green and the Broomielaw area, were subject to ever recurring floods, which kept them to a large extent in a more or less swampy condition. The havoc caused to grain crops by such floods would not often be turned to so providential a purpose as on the occasion when the scornful king's barns with their stores of wheat were carried away by the river and deposited on the banks of the Molendinar to feed the brethren of St. Kentigern's monastery. [St. Kentigern (Scottish Historians), pp. 69, 70.] Nor would many floods be so disastrous as that of 1454, altogether of the most primitive kind of construction, [A fifth canoe, discovered in 1825 when opening a sewer in London Street, was built of several pieces of oak, and exhibited unusual evidences of labour and ingenuity (Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, p. 35)] a description which likewise applies to a number of other canoes that were found on the lands of Springfield and Clydehaugh on the south side of the Clyde. These latter canoes, discovered during operations for the widening of the harbour between 1847 and 1849, seem to have been deposited at a much later period than those found in higher ground. No change in the relative positions of land and sea had apparently taken place between the time when they were swamped or settled down in the channel of the river till they were again exposed to the light of day. The St. Enoch's Square canoe was 24 feet below the surface, and there was found within it a polished stone hatchet or celt, one of the instruments which may have been used in its construction, though it seems as much adapted for war as for any peaceful art.

[Ibid. A sketch of the celt, given by Mr. Wilson, is here reproduced. All the canoes discovered in the higher grounds on the north side of the river were destroyed, and no sketch of their appearance or record of their dimensions has been preserved. Representations of two of the canoes found at Clydehaugh, as shown in Scottish History and Life, are here reproduced: No. 1 measured 14 feet in length, 4 feet 1 inch in breadth, and 1 foot 11 inches deep; No. 2 was 10 feet long, 3 feet 2 inches broad, and 1 foot deep.

For fuller information and interesting speculation on the prehistoric subjects alluded to in the text reference may be made to Ancient Sea Margins, by Dr. R. Chambers, pp. 203-9; Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, pp. 3I-37; Macgeorge's Old Glasgow (i88o), pp. 248-62; John Buchanan's narrative in Glasgow: Past and Present (1856), iii. pp. 555-79; Transactions of Glasgow Archceological Society, 1st Series, I. pp. 288-90 II. pp. 121-30. In the last of these Archaeological Society's papers Mr. J. Dalrymple Duncan gives an account of the discovery at Point Isle in i 880 of a canoe which crumbled to pieces in the hands of those who attempted its removal. ]

During long ages which succeeded the final settlement of sea and land level, the Clyde, running through a tract of

country with no proper river channel, must have been continually changing its course, and in the tidal area, specially, not only the bed of each changing channel, but likewise the land on either side would by silting process be gradually raised. But the bulk of the sediment would collect wherever the water had its course for the time, and so soon as the accumulation became higher than the adjoining ground, the former channel would be deserted and a new one chosen. Many of these river variations can still be identified, and it is believed that such a change is sufficient to account for the Springfield canoes being found seven feet below the natural bed level of the river and one hundred yards to the southward of its bank, as these existed before the artificial deepening which was commenced in 1758 and the widening carried through by the Clyde Trustees in 1847. Such flooding effects and silting process are also regarded as sufficient to account for the covering by stratified sand of the beautiful Roman bowl of Samian ware which, in 1876, was discovered in the Green, about 41 feet below the surface.

It was not till comparatively modern times that the river, in its passage through that part of the valley which is now city territory, permanently settled into its present course, and even after embankment, deepening and other artificial operations and appliances were adopted, the lower lying grounds, such as Glasgow Green and the Broomielaw area, were subject to ever recurring floods, which kept them to a large extent in a more or less swampy condition. The havoc caused to grain crops by such floods would not often be turned to so providential a purpose as on the occasion when the scornful king's barns with their stores of wheat were carried away by the river and deposited on the banks of the Afolendinar to feed the brethren of St. Kentigern's monastery. [St. Kentigern (Scottish Historians), pp. 69, 70.] Nor would many floods be so disastrous as that of 1454, described by one of our chroniclers as "ane richt greit spait in Clyde, the xxv and xxvj days of November, the quhilk brocht doun haile houssis, berms and millis, and put all the town of Govane in ane flote quhill thai sat on the houssis." [Ane Schort Memoriale of the Scottis Corniklis (Auchinlek MS.), p.18.]

But apart from such extreme occurrences the floods experienced so recently as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as described by personal observers, were so serious that one may conceive how little inducement there was for the early inhabitants to plant their habitations near the river before a way was discovered for keeping it within reasonable bounds. If, therefore, the banks of the Molendinar were inhabited by man in these prehistoric times, his dwellings must have occupied the higher grounds, and it is significant that in the earliest account we have of the comparatively modern days of St. Kentigern it is that part of the city which is referred to. Joceline, the biographer of St. Kentigern, writing in the twelfth century makes mention of a cemetery which had been "long before" consecrated by St. Ninian, and this ancient cemetery was evidently identified as having occupied the site of the Cathedral and its adjoining burying ground.

Cathures, which Joceline gives as the former name of Glasgu, is understood to bear the interpretation of a fort or encampment, and may well have been applied to the site of those dwellings placed on the higher grounds, between the Molendinar and Glasgow Burns, and occupied by a primitive community which had probably grown up and prospered under the protection of some powerful chief. In later times this district, traversed by an old Roman road and including the inhabited area bearing the archaic designation of Ratounraw, was possessed by rentallers who were subject to a special bailliary jurisdiction of unknown origin. Early churches were often planted in such places, and there, as a general rule, is

to be found the nucleus of the village, the town and the city.

With the coming of St. Kentigern the real beginning of Glasgow as a city has aways been associated, and notwithstanding irregularities in progress and the untoward vicissitudes of the intervening centuries, it may safely be assumed that by the time we have the benefit of the few fragments of twelfth century writings which are still extant, inhabited dwellings had begun to spread over the lower grounds near the margin of the river. Keeping within the bounds of the two streamlets, the Molendinar on the east and Glasgow Burn on the west, the banks of the former seem to have attracted the bulk of the earlier settlers, but rentallers of croft land lying along the foot of Glasgow Burn are also traced, and here, according to ancient tradition, were laid the earthly remains of St. Kentigern's mother on the spot where the chapel bearing her name was reared. The ruins of St. Tenew's Chapel were still in evidence till well on in the eighteenth century, and though the circumstances connected with its foundation must remain in obscurity, seeing that any accounts we have of St. Mungo's birth and parentage are mainly legendary fable and that we have little or no reliable information on his domestic affairs, there seems to be no inherent improbability in the substantial correctness of the traditional story. Another chapel, likewise of unknown antiquity, was planted in the more populous district just referred to, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


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