Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The History of Glasgow
Chapter XVI - King William's Burghal Legislation

IN the collections of ancient statutes an attempt has been made to distinguish those attributable to the reign of King William; and of the legislation so marked a few chapters, specially applicable to burghs, contain provisions substantially identical with clauses in the charters of that period granted to various individual burghs. By one of these laws the merchants of the realm were authorized to have a merchant guild, with liberty to buy and sell in all places within the liberties of burghs, so that each one should be content with his own liberty and that none should occupy or usurp the liberty of another. [Ancient Laws, i. p. 60.] This seems to mean that the merchants within the trading liberties of any particular burgh were entitled to form themselves into a fraternity, and it was in this way that merchant guilds were constituted in actual practice. In Glasgow the provisions of the general law were not incorporated in any burgh charter till 1636, long before which time the merchants had been classed together, first perhaps as an ordinary association and latterly as a guildry with a dean at its head. [Glasg. Prot. No. 1662; Glas. Rec. i. pp. 95, 96.]

By another statute it was ordained that no prelate or churchman, earl, baron or secular person, should presume to buy wool, skins, hides or such like merchandise, but goods of that sort were to be sold only to merchants of the burgh within whose sheriffdom and liberty the owners dwelt. To secure the due observance of this provision all merchandise was to be offered to the merchants at the market and market cross of the burgh, and such king's custom as was exigible was thereupon to be paid. By a separate law, perhaps of later date than that of William, all dwellers in the country, as well freeholders as peasants, having marketable wares for sale, were directed to bring such to the king's market within the sheriffdom where they happened to dwell. Under this statute, if in operation before 1175, the market to be frequented by dwellers in Glasgow barony would be that of Rutherglen, and it is known that, whether under the statute or not, officials of the burgh of Rutherglen collected the king's custom in the barony both before and for some time after the founding of the burgh of Glasgow. But the Glasgow market, possessing in other respects all the privileges conferred by statute or burghal usage, would be exclusively resorted to by the barony traders, and though local customs would be exacted there it is probable, from what is known of subsequent practice, that the king's custom would be gathered elsewhere.

With regard to foreign trade it was ordained that no merchant of another nation should buy or sell any kind of merchandise elsewhere than within a burgh, and such trading was to be conducted chiefly with merchants of the burgh and ships belonging to them. Foreign merchants arriving with ships and merchandise were not to "cut claith or sell in penny worthis," but were to dispose of their goods wholesale to merchants of the burgh. Such provisions can scarcely have been of much benefit to Glasgow till a long time after the beginning of the thirteenth century, and they are not imported into the early charters of the burgh. But, as was shown in the negotiations which Glasgow subsequently had with Renfrew and Dumbarton, the merchants of the burgh were acknowledged to be entitled to the privileges conferred not only by the general law adopted in William's reign but also by the implied terms of the burgh's own charters. Thus in an action of declarator by Glasgow against Dumbarton, decided by the Court of Session in favour of Glasgow, on 8th February, 1666, it was pleaded that, as a necessary and essential point of the freedoms conferred by King William's charter of 1175-8, the burgh had the right and privilege of merchandizing, sailing out and in with ships, barks, boats and other vessels upon the Clyde, and arriving, loading and unloading goods at places convenient within the river. [Ancient Laws, i. pp. 60-62, 183 ; River Clyde (1909), p. i. King William's statutes above referred to are summarised and renewed in a charter by King David II. to his burgesses throughout Scotland, dated 28th March, 1364 (Convention Records, i. pp. 538-41).]

Engrossed in the Register of Glasgow Bishopric, in thirteenth century handwriting, are a few ordinances corresponding with privileges granted by King William to some of the royal burghs, but none of these provisions have been embodied in the Glasgow charters, the general law being considered of sufficient application. The enactments referred to provide (1) That no one residing outwith a burgh should have a brew-house, unless he had the privilege of "pit and gallows," and in that case one brewhouse only; (2) no one residing outwith a burgh was allowed to make cloth, dyed or cut; (3) no one travelling with horses or cows, or the like, was to be interfered with if he pastured his beasts outwith meadow or standing corn; and (4) no bailie or servant of the king was to have a tavern in the burgh or to be allowed to sell bread or bake it for sale. [Reg. Episc. No. 536; Ancient Laws, i. 97-98.]

In addition to the forty shillings, yearly, which he had previously given from the ferms of the burgh of Rutherglen, for the lights of the cathedral, King William, in the time of Bishop Joceline, had from the same source bestowed three merks yearly for the sustentation of the dean and subdean. To this latter grant other three merks were added, in the time of Bishop William, so that the dean and subdean might be decently provided with surplices and black capes conform to the statute of the church; and by a charter, granted between the years 1200 and 1202, the king charged his prepositi of Rutherglen, on behalf of himself and of Alexander, his son, to pay the six merks yearly to the clerics within the church of St. Kentigern. [Reg. Episc. No. 92.] In connection with these church grants it may also here be noted that Robert of London, son of the king, gave out of his lands of Cadihou a stone of wax, to be delivered at Glasgow fair, yearly, for the lights of the cathedral. [Ibid. No. 49.]

Bishop Joceline died at his old abbey of Melrose on 17th March, 1198-9, and was buried there, in the monks' choir. Then followed, within the short space of eight years, the placing of no fewer than four of his successors. Hugh de Roxburgh, chancellor of Scotland, though elected, was probably not consecrated, as he did not survive Joceline as much as four months. William Malvoisine, who also was chancellor and held the office of archdeacon of St. Andrews, next succeeded. He was, by command of the Pope, consecrated by the archbishop of Lyons, in that city, on 24th September, 1200, but he was translated to St. Andrews on 20th September, 1202. Florence, a nephew of King William, being son of his sister Ada and of Florence III., count of Holland, seems to have been elected in 1202. In the following year he was designated bishop elect and chancellor of the king, but he was never consecrated, and he resigned before December, 1207. The next bishop, Walter, chaplain of the king, was elected on 9th December, 1207. He was, by leave of the Pope, consecrated at Glasgow on 2nd November, 1208, and held the bishopric for the fairly long period of twenty-four years. [Dowden's Bishops of Scotland, pp. 299-301]

In the latter years of King Richard of England, with whom he always remained on terms of friendship, William had in vain endeavoured to recover Northumberland and Cumberland, and after John succeeded to the English throne, in 1199, these attempts were renewed with no better success. Another subject of contention arose in consequence of English schemes for the erection of a fortress at the mouth of the Tweed, all of which were frustrated by the Scots, but though, in 1209, armies had been raised on each side, the two kings were in no warlike mood, and an amicable arrangement was adjusted through the mediation of their barons. Troubles, however, were not wholly extinguished in some of the outlying districts of the country. In the extreme southwest peace had been maintained since the settlement with Roland, lord of Galloway, in 1185, but the northern counties were not yet pacified. In 1196-8 three successive campaigns against rebels in the earldom of Caithness resulted in the complete overthrow of Earl Harald and his insurgent forces; and in the year 1211 a similar result was secured in the Ross district by the defeat of Guthred MacWilliam, a Celt who claimed the Scottish throne through descent from Malcolm Canmore.

King William died at Stirling in 1214 and was buried at Arbroath in the abbey which had been founded by himself in honour of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

"Oure Kyng off Scotland Schyr Williame
Past off this warld till his lang hame,
To the joy off Paradys,
(Hys body in Abbyrbroth lyis)
Efftyre that he had lyvyd here
King crownyd than nere fyfty yhere."
[Wyntoun, ii. p. 228. See also the remarks of a contemporary of the king in Melrose Chronicle, p. 155,]

During the visit of William de Malvoisin to Lyons for his consecration he seems to have asked information for his guidance in the management of his bishopric, and a letter he received on the subject from John de Belmeis, a former archbishop of Lyons, has been preserved. At the outset of his letter the ex-archbishop expresses his belief that Bishop William will find, on his return journey, men much more wise and prudent than he was to afford the desired information, especially while passing through the city of Paris "where there is no doubt you can find many who are skilled both in divine and human law." But he proceeded to explain the plan he himself had followed, in accordance with the example of his predecessors and the experience of his own times. The see of Lyons, said the archbishop, "has the very ample jurisdiction which you call `barony'," and there was a seneschal to whom was entrusted the responsibility for legal business, and who dealt not merely with pecuniary causes but saw to the punishment of crimes and serious offences, in accordance with the custom of the country. " But," adds the archbishop, "if the nature of the offence inferred either the penalty of the gibbet, or the cutting off of members, I took care that not a word of this was brought to me." It was the seneschal, with his assessors, who decided about such matters, though it was the archbishop who gave them authority to take up and decide them, and whatever revenue was derived from causes of that kind was carried to his account, after deducting the perquisites of his seneschal, who was entitled to a third of the proceeds for his trouble. On another branch of Bishop William's inquiry, the late archbishop stated that clerics, and especially such as had been advanced to holy orders, were strictly prohibited from prosecuting in a secular court cases of robbery or theft, or if they could not avoid that they were on no account to proceed to single combat, or the ordeal of red-hot iron, or of water, or any procedure of that sort. [The ordinance by King William as to the "judgement of bataile or of water or of bet yrn," in this country, is referred to antea, p. 51. Facsimiles (one third of original height) are here given of pages of Glasgow Pontifical Book, preserved in the British 11luseum. No. i facsimile shews, in ritual of hot-iron ordeal, the consecration of the iron. No. 2 shews (on foreshortened page to left) in ritual of hot-water ordeal the adjuration of the water, and (on full page to right) direction as to immersion of the accused man's hand. The photographs for these facsimiles have been kindly lent by Dr. George Neilson who procured them in illustration of his Rhind Lectures on Scottish Feudal Traits.]

It is long after this time before any direct information is obtainable as to the mode of government followed in Glasgow barony, unless something may be learned from King Alexander's confirmation of the Bishop's lands in free forest, in 1241; but according to fifteenth century practice, a bailie and his deputes are found exercising somewhat similar authority to that assigned to the seneschal of Lyons and his assessors in 1200, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that a like system may have prevailed in Glasgow during the intervening period.

No prohibition against duelling by churchmen, such as that enjoined abroad, seems to have been in operation in this country till a few years after the date of the archbishop's letter. By a Bull obtained on 23rd March, 1216, at a time when Malvoisin, then bishop of St. Andrews, was in Rome, and directed to all the faithful of Christ throughout the province of York and the kingdom of Scotland, Pope Innocent III. stated that it had come to his ears that a certain baneful custom, which should rather be called an abomination, as being utterly in defiance of law and of the credit of the church, had from of old established itself within the kingdom of England and of Scotland and was still wrongfully adhered to, namely, that if a bishop, abbot, or any cleric, happened to be challenged for any of the grounds of offence in respect of which a duel was wont to take place among laymen, he who was challenged, however much a cleric he might be, was compelled personally to undergo the ordeal of duel. The Pope, therefore, utterly detesting the custom, as offensive to God and the sacred canons, commanded that no one thenceforward, under pain of anathema, should presume to persist in the practice. But this papal fulmination did not alter the law of the land, and twenty years after its date the bishops and clergy of England are found seeking to procure from the kings of England and Scotland exemption from liability to wager of battle. [Reg. Episc. No. I io ; Statutes of the Scottish Church : Scottish History Society, vol. 54, pp. 288-93; Neilson's Trial by Combat, pp. 122-6.]

So far as statutory law was concerned the burgesses of royal burghs seem to have had greater protection from the call to battle than the clergy could claim. There was nothing to prevent two burgesses of the same town settling their quarrel by an appeal to arms, but if a rustic, or non-resident burgess, challenged a resident burgess, the latter was not bound to fight, and was entitled to defend himself in the burgh court. If, however, the challenge came from the resident burgess the outside party had to defend himself by battle, and in such a case that had to be fought outside the burgh. [Other privileges are noted in Edinburgh Guilds and Crafts (Scottish Burgh Records Society), pp. 12, 13.]

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus