The Early Church, pp.31-37.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

Of the early church and of the local history of Glasgow during the long dark period between the time of Kentigern’s patron, King Rydderch, and the accession of David in the beginning of the twelfth century, during which the kingdom was passing through so many changes, we have almost no record. It was a period of great confusion and change. For some time the district fell under the dominion of the Angles. Then the Britons regained their liberty. Towards the middle of the eighth century we find the Picts and Angles in alliance against the Britons and Scots, and in 756 the Britons of Alclyde passed a second time under subjection to the Angles. Early in the ninth century Kenneth, king of the Dalriad Scots, taking advantage of the weakened state of the Picts, caused by an invasion of the Norwegians and Danes, invaded Pictavia and subdued it, and became its king. After various vicissitudes, and after the death of the last of the kings called of Alclyde, the district re-appears as an independent kingdom under the designation of the Britons of Strathclyde, and then, for the first time, the people appear under the name of Cumbri or Cumbrians. In the year 900 the greater part of the kingdom north of the Forth and the Clyde became established in the male line of the Scottish descendants of Kenneth Macalpine, and became known as the kingdom of Alban or Albania – Orkney and Shetland, with the Isle of Man, being claimed by the Norwegians. South of those provinces there were, on the east coast, the northern district of Northumbria, and on the west the district occupied by the Britons of Strathclyde, including the site of Glasgow. The kingdom of Northumbria came to an end in 954, when it was incorporated into the kingdom of the Angles. About the same time Edmund, king of the Angles, subdued Cumbria, and gave it to Malcolm. king of the Scots. The mixed population of Picts and Scots now became to a great extent amalgamated, and under the influence of the Scots, now the dominant race, became identified with them in name. Early in the following century Lothian was ceded to the Scots after a great battle with the English, and the Tweed became on that side the boundary of the Scottish kingdom. Scotia, as a territorial designation, first appears in the year 1034, superseding the previous name of Alba, but in the year 1092 Cumbria south of the Solway Firth was wrested from the Scots. After this the name of Cumbria or Cumberland was transferred to the English portion – the Scottish part, including the districts extending from the Solway to the Clyde, being comprised under the name of Gallovidia or Galloway. On the death of Malcolm Cænmore, in 1093, he left the he left the kingdom for the first time with the same southern frontier which it ever after retained.

In the beginning of the twelfth century the bishops of St. Andrews were the sole bishops in Scotland. There was no bishop then in Glasgow. Of the immediate successors of Kentigern in the church we have no record, and of the state of religion in that district during the dark period which preceded the restoration of the see by David I. we have little information. The Britons of Strathclyde, on regaining their freedom from the dominion of the Angles, obtained from Ireland, about the year 720, a bishop named Sedulius. Previous to this nearly the whole, probably, of the Strathclyde Britons, as well as the entire nation of the Picts, had conformed to Rome, and there is evidence of Sedulius having been at Rome in 721. But the movement towards Rome was resisted by the Columban community till the year 717, when they were expelled from Iona. They were the last to disappear of the Celtic communities, and they were replaced by monks who adopted the canonical observance of Easter and the coronal mode of tonsure. The breaking up of the monastic church and the introduction of a secular clergy followed. Early in the ninth century the supremacy exercised from Iona came to an end. In Ireland it was transferred to Kells, and in Scotland to Dunkeld, but the supremacy of the Columban Church remained, and the Abbot of Dunkeld was placed at the head of the Pictish Church.

To the early part of the eighth century may be ascribed the introduction of the Deicolæ, otherwise Keledei, or God-worshippers, who came to be called Culdees.* They were an ascetic order, who led a solitary life of devotion and self-mortification, and who became associated in communities of anchorites or hermits. Jocelin of Furness, in his Life of Kentigern, relates that the saint joined to himself a great many disciples, whom he trained in the sacred literature of the divine law, and educated to sanctity of life by his word and example. He says they were content with sparing diet and dress – possessing nothing of their own, and living in separate huts or cottages. “These solitary clerics,” he adds, “were called in common speech Calledei.” But, as Mr. Skene points out, in assigning the Kallidei of Glasgow to the time of Kentigern, Jocelin is guilty of as great an anachronism as when he assigned to him Servanus as a teacher. When Jocelin wrote, however, there did exist bodies of Keledei in Scotland, and in his description of the characteristics of the Culdean clergy, before they became canons, he is no doubt reporting a genuine tradition. The Kaledei of Glasgow really belong to the time of Servanus and Sedulius, bishop of the Britons, and this connection with the real Servanus may have led to the history of this period being drawn back, and both the Kaledei and Servanus associated in popular tradition with the great apostle of Glasgow.1 These Kaledei or Culdees were in the ninth century brought under the canonical rule along with the secular clergy.

The “Scottish Church” first appears under that name in the end of the ninth century, when it became amalgamated into one body. At this time the kingdom of the Picts still existed, and by a king of that dynasty the church with its possessions was “freed from servitude under Pictish law and custom” – freed, that is, from all secular exactions. The supremacy, after Iona had been deprived of it, had been, as I have said, transferred to Dunkeld, and now it was transferred to St. Andrews, and the church placed under one head, who was designated Bishop of Alban.2 The last of the bishops of Alban was Tuthald. He died in 1107, when the old Celtic Church came to an end, and the see of St. Andrews, then the only bishopric in Scotland, remained for a considerable time vacant. The old church was superseded by the bishoprics founded in the earlier years of King David’s reign, and by the establishment of the ordinary cathedral staff of canons, deans, and other functionaries. The process of assimilating the native church to that of Rome was begun by Queen Margaret, and resumed by her sons Alexander and David. Alexander filled up the vacancy in St. Andrews, under the bishops of which were placed all the Culdee establishments which remained in the kingdom, including that of Glasgow. Alexander also created the bishopric of Moray, and revived that of Dunkeld.

In the southern districts David, who ruled as earl, was carrying out the same policy, and among others he reconstituted the bishopric of Glasgow, at which place, as stated in his “Notitia,” “the confusions and revolutions in the country” had destroyed all traces of the church. A record of the proceedings for the restoration of the see, and for ascertaining the possessions of the church, is contained in this Notitia – a remarkable document, of which a copy is preserved in the Chartulary of Glasgow. A Notitia such as this was the admitted and approved mode at that time of establishing the property and privileges of churches before charters came into general use. The date of the document is fixed by Father Innes as circa 1116, but Mr. Skene – probably with more accuracy – places it in 1120 or 1121. It records an investigation by the good men of the country, directed to be made by David, who is designed in it as Prince of the Cumbrian region – regione quandam inter Angliam et Scotiam sita. It relates the foundation of the church and the ordination of Kentigern as bishop of Cumbria. It mentions the death of the saint, and that he was succeeded by many bishops in the see, but that the confusions and revolutions in the country had at length destroyed all traces of the church and almost of Christianity. The restoration of the bishopric by David is then stated, and the election and consecration of John, who had been tutor and afterwards chancellor to the prince, and who has been commonly called the first bishop of Glasgow. This is followed by a record of the possessions of the church “in all the provinces of Cumbria which are under his [David’s] dominion and power.” The district thus designated extended from the Clyde on the north to the Solway Firth and the march with England on the south, and from the western boundary of Lothian on the east to the river Urr on the west, and it included Teviotdale, which had remained a part of the diocese of Durham while the Lothian churches north of the Tweed were transferred to St. Andrews, but which was now reclaimed as properly belonging to Glasgow.3

Professor Innes** truly observes that there is no more instructive record for ecclesiastical antiquities than this Inquisition regarding the possessions of the church of Glasgow. Some people talk loosely of the Scottish Church having been endowed by the state, or at least by the crown, but such was not the case. With certain trifling exceptions in our own day – so small as not to be worth mentioning – the church in Scotland has never received any endowment either from the crown or from the state. If David was a “sair saunt for the crown,” the see of Glasgow certainly experienced little of his bounty. It was endowed, as all the other parishes both in England and Scotland were endowed, by the private voluntary liberality of the great landowners, and it is a remnant of these grants, and that a very small one, which now forms the endowment of the Church of Scotland – a church whose doctrine had been from time to time modified or reformed, but which, in historical continuity, and in a strictly legal sense, is identically the same church as that on which the endowments were first bestowed. In the case of Glasgow the probability is that the valuable possessions with which the Inquest of David*** dealt consisted of donations which had been made to the first bishops and their early successors, for it is extremely improbable that during the long dark periods of confusion and anarchy which preceded the reign of David the church received any accession of property.4 And these possessions consisted not of mere tithes, nor of the dues of churches only, but of broad lands and numerous manors, scattered all over the south of Scotland. The object of the Notitia, accordingly, was not to confer on the see of Glasgow any new possession, but to ascertain, by careful investigation, and by the verdict of the Inquest, what were the properties which at the time legally belonged to the church, and to confirm the title by a royal charter.


Previous to the Reformation the see of Glasgow possessed the baronies of Glasgow, Carstairs, Ancrum, Lilliesleaf, Ashkirk, and Stobo, besides Eddleston, called in the Inquisition Penteiacob. What came to be called the Regality of Glasgow embraced the city and a large district adjoining, comprising the Barony Parish, the parishes of Cadder and Govan, and a large portion of the parish of Old Monkland. But under the benignant rule of the church the lands were let for small returns. At the Reformation the whole money rental of the archbishops, as given up in the Book of the Assumption of Thirds (1561), amounted to only £987, 8s. 7d. Scots, which, according to the value of money at that time, was equal to about only £200. Besides this there were of meal 32 chalders 8 bolls; of malt, 28 chalders 6 bolls; of bear, 8 bolls; of horse corn, 12 chalders 13 bolls; and lastly of “salmond,” 14 dozen.

Before leaving the Inquisitio – that important old document by which, to use the words of Professor Innes, “the full light of history first falls on Glasgow,” it may be interesting to give a short account of the Register in which it is preserved. When Beton, the last of the archbishops, fled from Glasgow he took with him the ancient muniments and Registers of the diocese, including two volumes of the original Chartulary. These two volumes, with many other papers now lost, were deposited by him in the Scots College at Paris. At the French Revolution they were removed for safety, and eventually they were brought to Scotland by the Abbé Paul Macpherson, who left them in the hands of Bishop Cameron, by whom again they were transferred to the custody of Bishop Kyle in Aberdeenshire. There exist several copies of the Glasgow Chartulary, but the first in importance is the ancient Register – one of the volumes referred to – which is quoted by Father Innes and other antiquarians as the as the Registrum vetus Ecclesiæ Cathedralis Glasguensis. It is an octavo volume of vellum, and the early portion of it, consisting of 67 leaves – the portion which contains the Inquisitio of David – is undoubtedly in a handwriting of the twelfth century. It is valuable, therefore, as being a contemporary copy.5 I have given a facsimile of the commencement of the Inquisitio, which, apart from its intrinsic value, is interesting as a specimen of the handwriting of the period.

1  Celtic Scotland, ii. p. 260.
2  Celtic Scotland, ii. p. 320.
3  Celtic Scotland, vol. ii. p. 375.
4  Professor Innes, Preface to Origines Parochiales, p. xxiv.
5  Professor Innes, Pref. to Reg. Epis. Glasg. p. xii..
*  There’s a small piece in February’s Journal in ‘Scots Lore‘ regarding the Culdees.
**  This is Professor Cosmo Innes, who’s ‘Black Book of Taymouth‘ I have already uploaded to Scanned Images. I’ve also uploaded my copy of his ‘Sketches of Early Scotch History‘ (1861).
***  There’s a translation of the Inquest of David to be found in ‘Scots Lore‘.