Any one who acquired a toft in Glasgow was at liberty to sell it, but this privilege was limited. If he acquired it “by conquest or purchase” he could dispose of it as he thought proper; but if it came to him by inheritance from a father or mother he could not voluntarily dispose of it except in the case of extreme poverty. In that case, and it was the same in the royal burghs, he was bound first to offer it to the nearest heir, and this was done by a peculiar judicial process at three several head courts of the burgh. If the heir availed himself of the offer he was bound to provide the seller in food and clothing – “the clothing to be of a hew grysande or quhyte.”1 If again the property was seized for debt the creditor was bound to hold it for a year and a day, and within that time to offer it to the nearest heirs; and only if they declined to buy it, or to pay the debt, was he at liberty to sell the land – returning, in that case, the surplus of the price, if any, to the debtor.2
One of the earliest examples of a sale of land in Glasgow on account of poverty occurs in the deed already referred to, granted in 1280 by Robert de Mithyngby to Reginald de Jrewyn, Archdeacon of Glasgow. It proceeds on the narrative of the granter being compelled to make the sale in consequence of his extreme poverty and necessity – the fact of his poverty having been certified “by men worthy and sufficient.” It bears that the land had been offered to the granter’s nearest relatives and friends, at three principal head courts, and at other courts of Glasgow, “according to the law and custom of the burgh,” and it acknowledges receipt of a sum of money “paid to me in my urgent necessity.” The granter gives warrandice “against all men and women.”3
Besides the possession of a toft, residence was necessary to confer the privileges of a burgess, and every burgess was bound to render the services of watch and ward. He might, however, become free from these and from other burgal obligations by renouncing his freedom and the privileges of a burgess, and this was occasionally done.4 After selling his property the granter in all cases ceased to be a burgess, and in the royal burghs, as I have already mentioned, he was at liberty “to go where he will.”
Among the oldest transferences of property in the Glasgow chartulary is one which is interesting from the circumstance that the land is conveyed not to any individual, but direct to one of the lights in the Cathedral. It is dated in 1293, and bears that Odardus, son of the deceased Ruchard Hangpudyng, had pro salute anime sue, predecessorum et successorum suorum ac ceterorum Christi fidelium, given, granted, and confirmed “to the Light of the blessed Mary in the great church of “Glasgow,” a certain piece of land – seisin being given to John of Boyewyl, vicar of the choir of Glasgow, “then procurator of the said “Light, per intol et uttol.” Another peculiarity of this old deed is, that it does not proceed in name of the real granter. It proceeds in the name of “Oliverus et Ricardus Smalhy prepositi, et ceteri prepositi ac cives, congregati in placitis burgi que tenebantur apud Glasgu,” and it is they who certify, through the said Oliver, that Odardus has made the gift. Other examples occur of deeds of the same kind where the property is transferred without the signature of the granter, and without the deed proceeding in his name, there being only the declaration of a notary that the transfer had been made. In one of the deeds the notary declares that the transaction had taken place in the church of Glasgow, in presence of the sub-dean, the vicar of Kilpatrick, and two burgesses of Glasgow;5 and another bears that the transfer had been made in presence of the notary and twelve of the citizens and two of the town’s officers – ville servientibus.6
The old records contain also some curious notices as to infeftments. The usual mode was by earth and stone, and by hesp and staple,7 but an instance occurs where, in addition to this, the bailie, in token of possession, shut up the procurator of the purchaser in the principal house of the lands – in signum possessionis inclausit dictum Willelmum Small in principali domo sive messuagio dictarum terrarum.8
The rural properties belonging to the see were held by a very simple tenure. They were to a large extent possessed by a class – generally poor – called rentallers, wo, although technically holding only by will of the bishop, were, as a rule, treated as proprietors, and allowed to transmit the possession to their descendants, or, if held by a female, to her husband, and in some cases to transfer it to a third party. The rents which they paid were small, and in some instances the returns were in service instead of money. Thus a possession called Columby in the barony of Carstairs is given to James Livingston and William James, William, and Isable “resevand the Archebischop of Glasgow present and to cwm als aft tymes he pleises til repair to the said place of Columby til hospitality on the said archebischops expenss: the said James, William and Isable and their successors fyndant fyre weschelle and tyn with sax furnist beddis, stable for viii horss with hay feirand tharto, and fewale, vpon thair expenss.”9 The barony of Carstairs was one of tyhe earliest possessions of the see, and it is known that Wyschard, the warrior-bishop, built a castle there towards the end of the thirteenth century. No trace of it remains, but it is not improbable that it was at this place of Columby.
When the right to one of these rental possessions came by succession, there was always a reservation of the liferent of the new rentaller’s father and mother. There was also in the diocese a peculiar custom known as that of “Sanct Mungo’s Wedo,” by virtue of which the widow of a rentaller was entitled, while she remained single, to possess the lands during her life.10
The rentallers possessed no written title. Their names, with the different transmissions of the possession, were merely entered in the rental book of the diocese, and this appears to have been always done by the archbishop himself. The record, which has been preserved, extends from 1509 to 1570, and the volume is holograph of the three prelates respectively, the period of whose possession of the see it embraces.*