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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XXXIX - The Eighties and Nineties

AMID all the disturbances and convulsions of that time the development of Glasgow somehow went steadily on. It was the time, as we have seen, of the rise of the great cotton spinning and weaving industry which was to remain a staple of Glasgow business for several generations, till another American war, the civil conflict of 1863 between the States themselves, put a stop to supplies. In view of his services to this industry, Richard Arkwright was made an honorary burgess and guild brother of the city in 1784. [Burgh Records, 1st Oct., 1784.] Cuthbert Gordon, also, the inventor of the process for making cudbear, was, on the petition of the dyers and manufacturers, recommended to parliament for recognition and encouragement. Besides his original invention, it appears, he had "produced in cotton the colour known by the name Nankeen, from the most common to the highest red, which has hitherto defied all Europe, the Hindoo and golden yellows, blues and greys of a variety of shades, and a beautiful red, superior to madder and nearly equal to that of the India red, even in its wild and uncultivated state." [Ibid. 15th Jan., 1784.]

An inventor, in another field, who also excited attention in Glasgow, was Lunardi, the aeronaut. That famous balloonist made two ascents from Glasgow, in November and December 1785. As a preliminary his balloon was exhibited, at a charge of one shilling, in the middle space of the cathedral, between the choir and the nave, and the ascents were made from St. Andrew's Square. On the first occasion he descended in the neighbourhood of Hawick, and on the second in the parish of Campsie. [Senex, Old Glasgow, p. 238.]

When in the city on that occasion, Lunardi would have the pleasure of listening to the "music bells," newly rearranged in the tolbooth steeple, on which Joshua Campbell, musician, and John Gardner, mathematical instrument maker, had lately been engaged. The bells were played like a musical-box, by means of a barrel, pegged on its revolving surface, and a different set of tunes was arranged for each day of the week. [Burgh Records, 5th Oct., 1785.] These were the bells which brought Glasgow the reputation enshrined in the rhyme

Glasgow for bells, Linlithgow for wells,
And Fa'kirk for bonnie lasses!

In the following year a change that was destined to take place in social customs was marked by the establishment of the first licensed distillery in Glasgow, that of William Menzies, first of a family which from that day till this has been engaged in the industry. Previously there were only three distilleries in Scotland, Burns's "dear Kilbagie" and two others. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 382.] Formerly, while claret was the drink of gentlemen and ale of ordinary folk, the more potent spirit in request was French brandy. The distilling of whisky, like the making of cudbear, was an industry imported from the Highlands, and the spirit was destined to grow in use till it became recognized as the national beverage of Scotland.

An industry introduced to Glasgow in the same year, which on the other hand owed its origin on a great scale in Scotland to an Englishman, was the smelting of iron in the blast furnace. From early times, iron had been smelted in small quantities in the ovens known as bloomeries; of which traces are to be found on many of the Scottish moors. The bloomeries were succeeded by the larger furnaces at Furnace on Loch Fyne and Taynuilt on Loch Etive, started by an English company in 1754. These furnaces were lit only every twenty years, when the woods of the respective neighbourhoods had grown enough to furnish the necessary charcoal. The ore they smelted came from England, and the iron they produced was sent back there. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 294.] Down to the year 1760, when George III. became king, nearly all the iron used in Scotland was imported from Sweden and Russia, and the Glasgow Nailerie, or Smithfield Company, with its slit mill on the Kelvin and its workshop near the Broomielaw, made only small articles, such as spades and hammers. It was only in 1760 that the first Scottish blast furnaces were established. These were erected on the Carron in Stirlingshire by Dr. John Roebuck, a Sheffield man who had studied medicine at Edinburgh and Leyden, and carried on a chemical laboratory at Birmingham and a manufacture of sulphuric acid at Prestonpans. [Jupiter Carlyle, Autobiography, p. 365. Roebuck's partners in the enterprise were Samuel Garbett, a Birmingham merchant, and William Cadell, a Cockenzie shipowner.] They smelted partly Scottish and partly English ore, and after 1762 used pit coal for the purpose. They used their whole output for their own foundry products, and the cast-iron guns they made, known as " carronades," were used on every British battlefield of the time.

Following the example of Carron, and encouraged by the existence of iron ore and coal in the district, Thomas Edington in 1786 founded the Clyde Ironworks at Tollcross, to the east of Glasgow. [Mitchell, pp. 295 and 382.] These furnaces were followed by others at various places, including Govanhill to the south of the city, and were the beginning of the great iron industry of the West of Scotland, which brought wealth and employment to the whole region, till the business was ruined by the disastrous General Strike of 1926. Dlushet's discovery in Lanarkshire of the rich deposits of black band ironstone, an ore which almost smelted itself, and the invention in 1829, by James Beaumont Neilson, manager of Glasgow Gaswork, of the hot-blast, which turned the waste gases and heat of the furnaces to further account, made this iron industry the greatest in the world, and for a century, till the tops of the furnaces were closed, in order to save the gases, the flare at night made a striking feature of the landscape. Alexander Rodger, the "Radical poet," celebrated the effect in his spirited lines, addressed to the owner of Clyde Ironworks, in his time:—

The mune does fu' weel when the mune's i' the lift,
But oh, the loose limmer tak's mony a shift,
Whiles here and whiles there, and whiles under a hap—
But yours is the steady light, Colin Dulap!
Na, mair—like true frien'ship, the mirker the night
The mair you let out your vast columns o' light;
When sackcloth and sadness the heavens enwrap,
'Tis then you're maist kind to us, Colin Dulap.

Still later, Alexander Smith, in his fine poem, "Glasgow," described

The roar and flap of foundry fires
That shake with light the sleeping shires.

In Clyde Ironworks were cast many of the cannon used at Waterloo.

Those were the years in which Glasgow became notably an industrial city. After 1775, when James Watt and his partner, Boulton, became able to supply steam engines freely for mills and general manufacturing purposes, the owners of Glasgow factories in constantly increasing numbers adopted steam as their motive power. With the consequent growth of an industrial population the severance between the interests of town and country began which has been a feature of social and political life from that day till this. The tendency was seen almost at once in the attitude of Glasgow towards the proposed Corn Law. That law was, to begin with, a tax by Government for the raising of revenue. But it was also intended for the encouragement of land reclamation and agriculture, then in a very backward state. Unfortunately another of its consequences was to raise the price of bread to the industrial workers, and, as this was the aspect which immediately concerned them, they resisted the proposal to the utmost of their power. In Glasgow, in 1786, the Chamber of Commerce drew up a reasoned protest against any alteration of the law which would tend to raise the price of grain, and the Town Council sent the protest to its member of parliament, as well as to all the royal burghs of Scotland and to the Convention of Burghs. [Burgh Records, 10th Oct., 1st Nov., 1786.] From that time onward the subject formed a bone of contention between the agricultural and industrial classes of the kingdom, in which Glasgow took an active interest, [Ibid. 19th Jan., 1791.] until in the middle of the next century the industrial interests were strong enough to secure the repeal of the Corn Laws altogether. [Green, Short History of the English People, p. 841.]

Another sign of a cleavage between the social classes came into evidence in the city about the same time. The incident showed clearly the growth of a class consciousness, and was an obvious attempt of the craftsmen in the community to assert themselves and to seize control of the government machine. The attempt was made quite constitutionally, through the machinery of the Trades House. The leader of the attempt was a certain William Lang, of the Hammermen craft, and he handed the Lord Provost a resolution of a majority of the Trades House, with letters demanding official answers from the magistrates and council. The resolution began by recalling that the duty upon ale and beer had been granted to the city subject to supervision and control by the Merchants House and Trades House. It asserted the right of the Trades House, therefore, not only to modify the levying of the tax, but to control the spending of the revenue which the tax produced. Based upon this claim it asserted a right to inspect the books of the Town Council, and exercise certain powers of direction.

The attack was of course opposed and resented by the city fathers. They pointed out that the duty on ale had been re-granted again and again to the city without any renewal of the original stipulations, which had therefore lapsed. As for the right to inspect the books and accounts of the city's affairs, while they were willing to give that satisfaction to any private burgess who might demand it, they knew of no right of the Trades House or any other body to make the demand. To grant that demand would be subversive of the legal authority vested in the magistrates and council as administrators for the community, and they therefore declared their resolve to use their utmost endeavours to support, in a legal and constitutional manner, their just rights and privileges against the "unwarrantable and unprecedented attack" made by a majority of the Trades House. [Burgh Records, 6th Feb., 1787. The duty on ale and beer was worth fighting for. In 1790 it was farmed out by the Town Council for 2400 (Ibid. 26th Nov.). It continued to be levied till 1839 (ibid. 4th Jan. 1833, note).]

The bid for power which was thus stopped by the firmness of the magistrates and council apparently left no feelings of bitterness in its wake, for the difficult business of dividing the barony of Gorbals, which was undertaken shortly afterwards, was carried through without difference or acrimony. Hitherto that barony had been held in partnership by Hutchesons' Hospital, the Trades House, and the Town Council, the Hospital being owner of one half and the Trades House and the Town Council of one quarter each of the property. It was now determined to divide the property into separate possessions, and the division was carried out in very fair and able fashion. The minerals below the surface remained the common possession of the three parties in the same proportions as before. The superiority, with the existing feu-duties and casualties, and the rights of bailiary and justiciary of the whole, were retained by the city, which paid Hutchesons' Hospital and the Trades House £12oo sterling for their shares. The surface was then divided into four portions of equal value, for which the parties drew lots, Hutchesons' Hospital getting two portions and the Town Council and the Trades House one each. The transaction, which was first suggested in 1788, took several years to complete, but was finally settled by a decree arbitral in 1795. [Burgh Records, 10th Dec., 1788; 11th July, 1789; 1st June, 1792; 13th March, 1795. See also John Ord's Barony of Gorbals.] From that arrangement have come the names of those districts of the southern side of Glasgow known as Hutchesontown and Tradeston.

While this transaction was being arranged, the Trades House had been establishing itself in new quarters. The site chosen was in the street which had recently been laid out by John Horn, the builder, on the grounds of the old Shawfield Mansion, between Trongate and Ingram Street, and named Glassford Street after the last owner of that mansion, John Glassford of Dougalston. Previously the headquarters of the Trades had been in the ancient manse of the prebendary of Morebattle, in the old Kirkgate or High Street, immediately south of St. Nicholas Hospital. [Macgeorge, Old Glasgow, p. 11. Strang, Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 224 note.] This manse had been acquired shortly after the Reformation, and the bell in the belfry tower on its roof had rung for funerals passing to the High Churchyard for three hundred years. [Strang, Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 224.] At last, however, the time had come for the Trades House to have a meeting place more in keeping with its importance and dignity. For its purpose it employed an architect of European distinction.

Robert Adam was the most distinguished of four brothers, all architects, who built the Adelphi, and much improved the street architecture of London. It has sometimes been stated that Robert Adam was the pupil of Sir William Bruce, Bart., of Kinross, architect of the later part of Holyroodhouse and of the Merchants House in the Briggate of Glasgow. But Bruce died eighteen years before Robert Adam was born. Regarding the latter, Jupiter Carlyle, who was his contemporary, writes that, after studying at Edinburgh University, he "had been three years in Italy, and, with a first-rate genius for his profession, had seen and studied everything that was in the highest esteem among foreign artists. From the time of his return—viz. in February or March 1758—may be dated a very remarkable improvement in building and furniture and even stoneware, in London and every part of England." [Autobiography of Alexander Carlyle, p. 354.] Adam was appointed architect to George III. in 1762, became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and sat in parliament as member for Kinross-shire.

It was this celebrated architect whom the crafts of Glasgow employed to design the new Trades House, and the building which he erected in Glassford Street remains a very interesting and typical example of his work. The representatives of the trades disposed of their ancient almshouse and meeting place in the Kirkgate in 1790, and from 1794 have had their headquarters in the building of Robert Adam's design.

The Trades House, however, was by no means the only building erected in Glasgow by this famous architect. The laying out of new streets on the grounds of Ramshorn and Meadowflat suggested to a body of citizens the project of building a new and more commodious set of Assembly Rooms for the use of the community.' The plan, which had proved so successful in the case of the older Assembly Rooms at the Cross, was adopted. Following the astute device of the Italian, Lorenzo Tonti, two hundred and seventy-four subscribers were found to invest the sum of £25 each, on the speculative chance, for each subscriber, that his nominee would prove the longest liver, and would thus bring the entire property into the possession of his heirs. The foundation stone of the building was laid on iith March, 1796, by Gilbert Hamilton, ex-Lord Provost, and the architects were the brothers, Robert and James Adam. Only the centre part of the building was their work : the wings were added nine years later, from designs by Henry Holland, and for half a century these rooms in Ingram Street, between Hanover Street and Frederick Street, formed one of the rendezvous of the social life of the city. [According to Strang (Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 347), when the Assembly rooms were first opened in 1798 the company consisted of 370 ladies and gentlemen, and the Queen's assembly in the following year was attended by 460.] For fifty years after that they were the home of the Glasgow Athenaeum and Commercial College, and when the General Post Office at last acquired the site, the Adam part of the facade was removed to form one of the gateways to Glasgow Green. [The Glasgow Athenaeum, by James Lauder, p. 30; Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 171.]

Yet another Glasgow building of Adam design was the substantial residence of David Dale in Charlotte Street. It was in that house that Dale's eldest daughter married Robert Owen, the apostle of Socialism, who was to bring his father-in-law's great enterprise at New Lanark into conspicuous notoriety as the scene of his well-meant experiments in the formation of a new order of society. [Lugton's Old Lodgings of Glasgow; Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 65.] After serving as an Eye Infirmary for some years, the house still remains to represent the domestic style of the famous architect.

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