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GLASGOW BRIDGE. Part I. – (1285-1758)., James D. Marwick (Jan., 1895), pp.15-29.

“A BRIDGE over the Clyde at Glasgow is referred to in a charter dated in 1285, and it is said that in 1345 Bishop Rae constructed the bridge which was known as Glasgow Bridge. It consisted of eight arches and was erected, according to tradition, at the Bishop’s own expense – with the exception of the third arch from the northern side of the river, the cost of which was defrayed by Marjory Stewart Lady Lochow, then resident in Glasgow.1 It is to be observed, however, with reference to that tradition, that, if the bridge was erected in 1345, Lady Lochow cannot have taken any part in its construction. She was the second daughter of Robert, Duke of Albany (son of King Robert II.), and Regent of Scotland, who was born in 1316, and was himself only twenty-nine years of age when the bridge is said to have been built.2 His daughter Marjory cannot therefore have been Lady Lochow at that time. She was married to Sir Duncan, afterwards Lord Campbell of Lochow, but was dead in 1442, in which year her husband founded the Collegiate Church of Kilmun – the burying place of the Argyle family – for the weal of the souls of his wife Marjory and of their eldest son Celestine.3 It would seem then either that the bridge was not constructed so early as 1345, or that Lady Lochow’s benefaction must have been bestowed at a later period on its repair or extension. It is to be noticed, also, that Bishop Rae died in 1367, seventy-five years before the time at which Lord Campbell of Lochow commemorated his wife’s death. There seems, therefore, to be reason to doubt that the bridge was erected so early as is stated, and this doubt confirms the observation of Professor Cosmo Innes, in his preface to the Chartulary of Glasgow, that “we should require some evidence of such an undertaking being completed in a time of so great national depression.”4 If, however, the supposed date of the erection is postponed till the bishopbric of Bishop Glendonwyng of Bishop Lawdre, Lady Lochow’s connection with it becomes possible. Bishop Wardlaw, who succeeded Bishop Rae, died in 1387; Bishop Glendonwyng, who succeeded Bishop Wardlaw, died in 1408 while making preparations to rebuild of stone the timber steeple of the Cathedral which had been burned down during his episcopate; his successor, Bishop Lawdre, died in 1425, after building a part of the chapter house and the steeple with the battlements of the tower. The two last named bishops, it will be observed, were ambitious of enlarging and beautifying the Cathedral, and may naturally have desired also to provide improved bridge accommodation over the Clyde.5

The view of the old bridge [here] represents it as shewn in an engraving published by Foulis in 1761, and reproduced in Dr. Macgeorge’s Old Glasgow, published by Messrs. Blackie & Son in 1880. The view is from the south side of the river, and takes in the spire of the Old Merchant Hall in Guildry Court.

… At the bridge thus referred to, which is said to have been only twelve feet wide, and till altered in 1776 had a very steep ascent to its centre, custom dues were levied, but the amount drawn was evidently insufficient for its maintenance or was otherwise applied, for on 8th April, 1571, a deed of gift was obtained from James VI. and the Regent Lennox, and in it the importance of the bridge and the necessity for having it repaired are set forth. “Considering,” it says, “na thing within our said citie sae precious nor necessar, bayth for the weill of the inhabitantes thairof, decoratioun of the same and common weill of the haill cuntre as the Brig of Glasgow, ower Clyde, quhilk throw the oft inundationis, greit fludis and stormis that has occurit and discendit doun the watter in tyme of frost, and specialie this last winter, the said brig hes bene sa troublit, dung down and dampnageit with greit trowpis of yis,6 that gif the samyn be not spedelie redressit and ordourit to the formar estait with small tyme, is sall grow to sic poynt as finallie greitar inconvenient sall follow to the disproffeit of our haill realme.” It therefore authorised the magistrates to uplift, during the pleasure of the Sovereign, a tax upon all herring or other fish brought to the bridge and transported therefrom, and to employ the monies so raised in executing the necessary repairs…7

At this time [in 1584], apparently, the town statutes prohibited the carriage across the bridge of certain articles, the weight of which was probably considered greater than the structure could bear with impunity. Accordingly, on 22nd January, 1584-85, 11 persons were convicted of drawing “sparit cartis with full hogsheids enlang the brig,” and five person for “rowing of full hogsheidis and drauing of sparit cartis inlangis” the bridge…8

… On 24th May, 1595, the council having inspected a little house which had been erected on the east side at the south end of the bridge found the erection to be prejudicial to the town. They therefore ordered the officers of the burgh and of the barony to see the building removed, and, if necessary, to demolish it themselves…9 On the 14th [June] five carters were convicted of “laying of staines af cartis” on the bridge, and also of “leiding of staines wpoun karris10 dayelie inlangis’ the bridge. Each was subjected to a penalty of 20s., imprisoned during the will of the bailie, and ordained not to repeat the offence under a penalty of £10 (15 marks)… on 2nd May [1601] five members of the Council were appointed “to confer with him”! Anent the promised present…11 On the 18th of the following July the two “over portis,”  – the Kirk port and the Rottenrow port, – were ordered to be taken down and the timber and deals applied in repairing and making a little house on the bridge end, previously authorised to be erected for the use of the town and relief of the customer and his servants.12 On July 7th, 1602, the Convention of Burghs adjourned till the following convention a complaint by Renfrew against Glasgow for uplifting from the inhabitants of the latter burgh sixpence on every thousand herrings coming to the bridge.13 On 6th July, 1603, accordingly, the consideration of the complaint was resumed by the convention, and, after hearing parties Glasgow was ordained to desist from uplifting the duty, for authority to levy which no evidence was shown.14

On 3rd July, 1611, the Convention had under consideration a complaint by Rutherglen against Glasgow for exacting a custom at the bridge with a ladleful of beer and malt on the market day, when (1) Glasgow was assoilzied from the complaint as to the ladle custom “in respect of ane decreit of the lords given thairanent producit by Glasgow,” and (2) Rutherglen was ordained to pay to Glasgow annually £3 for its custom at the bridge during the continuance of the impost…15 On 21st December, 1613, King James granted a charter, under the Great Seal, to the magistrates, councillors, and community, of certain lands which had formerly belonged to the subdeans of Glasgow, and which lands were given as a reward for the great expenses and charges disbursed by the inhabitants in repairing and renewing the Metropolitan Church, and daily upholding the bridge and preserving it from the strong current and flooding of the river…

On 28th June, 1633, an act of parliament was passed in favour of the burgh confirming its charters. It proceeded on a narrative, among other things, of the expense which the community had borne in making the river navigable for ships and boats “to the advancement of the common weal of the kingdom,” and in “beitting, repairing, and upholding the bridge, which was a very profitable means for the establishment of commerce…”16

On 16th October, 1636, King Charles I. granted to the magistrates and community a charter under the Great Seal by which he confirmed all their previous charters and privileges…

… On 20th August, 1642, some work on the bridge was in progress, and an act of council ordained it to be finished, after which the old Trongate port and flesh market were directed to be taken down and a new flesh market erected…17

… This fall in the rent [in 1646] was doubtless occasioned by the existence in the town of the plague which, according to the representations by the whole tacksmen of the mills, ladles, tron, and bridge on 12th December, had deprived them of their duties…18 On 21st August some persons had removed stones from the bridge and the bailies were directed to inquire who had done so; the dean of guild and master of works were at the same time appointed to look to its condition…19 On 11th September the tacksmen of the customs of the bridge and the grass of the Green for the year to Whitsunday, 1657, represented that in consequence of the English troops20 having come to Glasgow at the fair of that year, and of their having consumed the whole grass of the Green, and of little custom having been collected at the bridge for a long time afterwards, he was unable to pay his bond to the town. Under the circumstances the Council allowed him a deduction of 200 marks…21 On 2nd September, 1654, an order to the master of works “to gather together in one place the haill staines that is fallen aff the brige” seems to indicate considerable dilapidation of the structure…22 M’Ure in his View of the City states that the bridge remained entire till 7th July, 1671 – the day on which Glasgow fair was held – when, about twelve o’clock, the southermost arch fell…23



1 To commemorate her benefaction it is also said that her bust was placed in a niche of the arch, and remained there till the middle of last century.
2 Douglas Peerage i. 46-48
3 Douglas Peerage i. 87-88
4 p. xxxix.
5 Assuming the claims put forward on behalf of Lady Lochow to be well founded, it may be mentioned that besides her eldest son Celestine, to whom reference is made in the text, there were two other sons of her marriage with Lord Campbell, viz.: (1) Archibald, the father of Colin, second Lord Campbell, who in 1457 was created first Earl of Argyle, and (2) Colin of Glenorchy, ancestor of the Earls of Breadalbane.
6 Yis = ice.
7 Charters and Documents relating to the City of Glasgow, 1175-1649, No. lxii., pp.146-7
8 Council Records, i. 116.
9 Glasgow Charters, No. xcii. part ii. P.164
10 Karris = sledges or hurdles.
11 Council Records, I. 220. An act of the Privy Council, dated 5th February, 1618, recites a petition then presented to it by the magistrates and council, in which it was set forth that in 1601 the bridge “quhilk is ane of the moist remarcable monumentis within this kingdome” had become very much decayed and was at the point of ruin – the pillars, pends, and underprops being so shaken and “brugille” by the inundation, force, and violence of the river as to have become altogether loose, to its apparent overthrow that divers parts of the river beneath the bridge were so “ovirblowne” with sand as to be unnavigable by boats and vessels of small burden, by which the commodities of the city were for the most part brought to and from it. [Privy Council Records xi. 304-5.]
12 Council Records, i. 224.
13 Convention Records, ii. 151.
14 Convention Records, ii. 161.
15 Convention Records, ii. 315.
16 1633, c.79. Acts of Parliament v. 87-89.
17 Council Records, i. 439.
18 Council Records, ii. 108. The visitation of the pest at this time happened after the taking of Newcastle by the Scottish Army in October, 1644, and rapidly spread with deadly results over the country during the following year. It had reached Glasgow before November, and on the 5th of that month quartermasters were appointed, and the infected were either shut up in their houses or sent out to the muir at some distance from the town. It seems not to have entirely disappeared till October, 1647.
19 Council Records, ii. 120.
20 These were the troops of the Commonwealth of England. After the defeat of the Scotch army at Worcester on 3rd September, 1651, the management of Scotland practically fell under the main direction of Cromwell, and it was united to the Commonwealth by act of parliament. A small army distributed in garrisons preserved the peace of the country, and the troops referred to in the text were those of the garrison of Glasgow. The courts of the country were re-organised and administered strict justice, the affairs of the church were entrusted to a commission, and during the whole period of Cromwell’s protectorate Scotland prospered under a strict but beneficent rule.
21 Council Records, ii. 243.
22 Council Records, ii. 296.
23 View of the City of Glasgow, p.15.
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