Old Streets and Buildings, Part 1, pp.124-131.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

To the south of the castle was the Stable Green, so called from its being near the castle stables, and from which one of the ports of the city took its name. It is described in an_20181012_214044.JPG instrument in 1510 as “the Stablegreyn beyond the city gates.”1 It was in the Stable Green that the family of Lennox acquired their first residence in the city, by the purchase of a house in 1509 by Earl Matthew, afterwards provost of Glasgow, from the rector of Stobo. It was in this house that the earl’s widow, the granddaughter of James II., resided after her husband had been killed at Flodden. Here also her descendant, the unfortunate Darnley, resided with his father during his recovery from the effects of poison; and it was here that Queen Mary visited him not long before his murder. There has been preserved a stone on which are sculptured arms, as shown in the cut, which formed part of that house. The arms are those of Sir John Stewart, second son of Alexander, high-steward of Scotland, from whom the family of Lennox was descended.2 The house which formerly stood to the south-west of the Cathedral, called Darnley’s Cottage, was a comparatively modern building.3

The “Place of the Vicars” was on the north side of the Cathedral. We learn this from an instrument in 1508, in which a tenement with garden and pertinents is described as “lying on the north side of the church of Glasgow between the great garden of the archbishop and the place of the vicars.”4

Near the Stable Green, on the west side of Castle Street, stood St. Nicholas Hospital, founded by Bishop Muirhead about the year 1460, the revenues of which, though very small, are still, after the lapse of four hundred years, administered by the Magistrates and Town Council of Glasgow. The original endowment was for twelve indigent old men, and a priest to perform divine service in the hours of canonical endowment. The other revenues which still remain were derived from some small ground rents bequeathed by Martin, chancellor of the Cathedral in 1501. In 1795, when Brown wrote his History, the hall and chapel of the hospital still existed, but were in ruins and used as a cow-house. Nisbet in his Heraldry describes the chapel as “of fine aisler work of a Gothic form, and the windows supported by a buttress between each of them.” He adds that over the door were the arms of Bishop Muirhead – three acorns on a bend, surmounted by the salmon, and a crozier behind the shield. This chapel remained till so late as 1808, when it was pulled down. Nisbet also notices a manse opposite the hospital, built by the bishop as a residence for the priest, on which also were the bishop’s arms. Farther to the north, and near the Stable Green port, stood another hospital, known as the Back Almshouse. It was founded by Roland Blackadder, sub-dean of Glasgow, for the benefit of indigent persons coming casually to the city. This hospital appears to have become united to the foundation of Bishop Muirhead. In 1590 there is a deed of bequest by which John Painter, master of the Sang school, leaves three pounds “to the twelve poor men in the free almshouse called St. Nicholas Hospital, and twenty shillings to the four poor men of the back almshouse.” And in a minute of council in 1606 the two hospitals are called “the Bishop of Glasgow Almshouses suituat besyde the castell of Glasgow.” From one of the minutes of the Presbytery of Glasgow, 25th November, 1595, we learn that at that time these almshouses were surrounded with trees. By this minute the presbytery ordains the four ministers of Glasgow, with the master of work, and others, “to sicht the treis at the almoushous gif it be expedient for the weal of the almoushous that the samin be cuttit and gif swa be fund that the same be applyit to sum wse of the said almoushous.” The presbytery also appears to have had the nomination of the parties to be admitted to the benefit of the foundation.5

In a minute of council in 1589 is preserved a description of this “hospitall besyde the stabil grene,” which is interesting as a portrait of one of our oldhouses, now that so much of the ancient city has disappeared. The minute records a visit of inspection by “the bailleis.” It first mentions “the ʒaird dyk, the north syd therof, weill dykit and kaipit with stane, and ane haill hedge on the south syd thereof.” The “heich chalmer of the said hospitall” is described as “well loftit and jestit, twa windois within the samyn, staincherit with irne; ane stand bed fixit in the wall of the said chalmer, weill burdeit; ane pantrie dure and ane saig dure… without has ane sufficient gude dure, and foir ʒett, weill wallit and lokit, with ane raill galrie stair, and ane turlies upon the northmost windo thereof. Item fand the laich hous thereof with sex stand beddis of aik sufficient, with ane paintrie lokfast, and ane mekill kist standand within the same claspit with irne on every nook. Item fand the coilhous dure sufficientlie lokit and bandit, weill wallit, and kapit round about. item the haill hous of the said hospitall sufficient in ruiff, tymmer, sklait, and waterfast. Item fand ane doubill foir ʒett bandit, without ane lok, with the walls of the cois weill kapit about.”6

All that has been saved of the endowments of these ancient foundations is a capital of £380 and about £15 yearly from grain rents and old houses.

Immediately contiguous to St. Nicholas Hospital stood the manse of the prebendary of Morebattle, which after the Reformation was acquired by the Incorporated Trades of Glasgow, and became the Trades House. On the other side of the Hospital stood the manse of the prebendary of Barlanark and lord of Provan. These manses, which remained till quite recently, were in all probability two of those which were erected by order of Bishop Cameron as residences for his canons. James IV. was a canon of the Cathedral, and held the appointments of prebendary of Barlanark and lord of Provan.

Besides the hospitals just mentioned there was an hospital for lepers on the south side of the river. In 1494 it was called “hospitale leprosorum degentium prope pontem;” and in 1555 it is described as “the Leper house of St. Ninian beyond the bridge of Glasgow.” It is said to have been founded by a lady of the family of Lochow about 1350.* It had a burying ground and chapel near it. An entry in the burgh records supplies a graphic picture of these poor lepers – describing their peculiar enforced costume, and the precautions prescribed against contact with them. It is as follows:- “It is statut and ordainit that the lipper of the Hospital sall gang only upon the calsie syde, near the gutter, and sal haif clapperis, and ane claith upon thair mouth and face, and sall stand afar of qll they resaif almous, or answer, under the payne of banisching thame the toun and Hospitall.”7

So terrible does this disease appear to have been, and so much dreaded, that when a member of a family was stricken the others sought to have them separated from the family circle. An example of this occurs in the records of the Presbytery of Glasgow, where a husband denounced his leper wife, requiring, apparently, the sanction of the church in order to effect the separation. The entry in the presbytery books is very curious: “Anent ye lamenting gevin in be James Mitchell in baulvin, twiching ye disease of marioun Layng his spous in Leprosie, to his great grief qr throw nether he nor his servands can have with hir, swa diseasit, sic familiaritie and pleasantnes as is requirit.” The presbytery refers “the tryal thereof to the minister of Campsie, and neighbours to the said marioun,” and to report.8 The result is not stated; but no doubt, if it confirmed the “lament” of the husband, the poor woman would be ordered to the almshouse beyond the bridge. This leper-house was an old foundation. We find James IV., during a visit to Glasgow in 1491, giving alms to the unfortunate inmates. In his household accounts there is this entry: “Item to the sick folk at the brig of Glasgw be the kings command ij s.”

While the temporal wants of the inmates of the several hospitals were no doubt well attended to, the presbytery was careful of their spiritual interests. By a minute of 5th June, 1593, they “ordaine the puir folk of the Almshouse to be summoned to this daye viii dayes to compeir before them to give the confessioune of their faithe.”

In process of time houses extended from the Cathedral along the Rottenrow – called in the old charters via Rattonum – and eastward along the Drygate. In early times there was a mint in Glasgow, and it is supposed to have been in the Drygate, though no trace of it remains. It existed as early as the reign of Alexander II., as appears from coins of that reign which have been preserved;9 and from the minute description given by McUre of coins of Robert III., of which, he says, specimens existed in his day, there can be no doubt that in that reign also coins were struck in Glasgow; but of these last none are now known to exist.

From the Drygate and Rottenrow houses gradually extended down the east side of the steep part of the High Street, but till a comparatively recent period there is no record of houses on the west side of that street. The houses on the east side had most of them gardens with fields extending down to the Molendinar Burn – then an open limpid stream – which acquired its name from the mill of the bishop’s manor. One of these possessions in the High Street is described in a charter of 1463 as the tenement of John Wilson, with a garden and fields extending to the burn – “cum orto et aggeribus tendentibus ad rivolum de Malyndoner jacen. in civitate Glasguen, in publico vico principale.”

At the foot of the New Vennel was a bleaching green, so large that it came to be used for pasturing horses and cattle. But to this abuse the magistrates put a stop, ordaining that “all hors or kyne that beis fund theron be poyndit.”10

To almost all the old houses gardens were attached. Gardening was much cultivated in Scotland. It was a favourite amusement of James I., as it had been of David I., and the monasteries, as well as most lands near cathedrals, were distinguished for good gardens and orchards. And the gardens in Glasgow were not mere “kail yards,” for they were of such extent and importance as to be the subject of a special teind duty. “The tiends of the yairds of Glasgow” were those which were exigible from the gardens attached to the houses of the ancient city, and some of these gardens were not deemed unfit for even a king to walk in. There is a charter in 1649 by Charles II, to Janet and John Cleland, of a tenement on the south side of the Drygate, with the gardens, upper and lower, attached to it – the conveyance being burdened with the payment of a certain yearly sum to the rector and other members of the Academy and College of Glasgow; and in this charter the king reserves to himself and his successors the right to one chamber and a stable in the back part of the tenement, with the liberty of walking and recreation in the gardens whenever they resided in Glasgow. The words are, “Cum potestate spaciandi, ambulandi, et nos delectandi in horto sive hortis, vocatis gairdenes, durantibus nostrorum residentiis in dicto burgo Glasguensi.”

Buildings gradually extended down the High Street to the Cross – at first a thin line of houses with probably frequent spaces between, and nothing behind them but fields and gardens, and the open country beyond. In an old charter this street is called “magnus vicus tendens ab ecclesia cathedrali as crucem fori;”11 and in a later deed (1433) it is called “the gat at strekis fra the mercat cors tyll the He kirk of Glasgu.”12 The first cross of the burgh stood at the junction of the Rottenrow with Drygate.

In an alley on the west side of the High Street, a little above the College, was the monastery or “place” and gardens of the friars called the Fratres Minores de Observatione, or Minorities, founded circa 1476 by Bishop John Laing and Thomas Forsyth, rector of Glasgow.13 No records of the foundation, nor of the extent of its property, are preserved, but in the Liber Protocollorum there is an instrument recording a grant to them by the chapter of Glasgow of a portion of the Ramshorn grounds adjoining the walls of their garden to the west for extending their buildings and garden.14 An unfortunate member of this fraternity – one Jeremy Russell – was burned for heresy in 1599.15

On the other side of the High Street, near where the old College Church was afterwards erected, stood the more important convent of the Dominicans or Friars Preachers, popularly known as the Black Friars. Their church, which was surrounded by a cemetery, was begun to be built some time before 1246 – probably in the preceding century. Although it did not probably come up to the description given of it by McUre, it must have been a fine old building. It was, McUre says, “the ancientest building of Gothic kind of work that could be seen in the whole kingdom, as was observed by Mr. Miln, the Architect to King Charles I., who when he surveyed it in 1638, declared that it had not its parallel in all Scotland except Whittairn in Galloway.”16 Of its general appearance a representation has been fortunately preserved in the bird’s-eye view of the college by Captain Slezer, which I have given in a subsequent page.17 This view must have been taken shortly before the church was destroyed by lightning in 1670.

The Place or Convent was in the High Street to the west of the church, and it was richly endowed. There are notices of it in Glasgow deeds as early as 1270. In one charter of that date there is bequeathed to the vicars choral of the Cathedral a house which is described as “proximior Fratribus Predicatoribus in villa Glasguensi inter ipsos fratres et domum Willelmi de Belledstane.” There are many deeds in the Chartulary relating to the property of the order, some of them curious and interesting. In 1301, when Edward I. was in Glasgow, endeavouring to bring the western shires of Scotland under his dominion, he was lodged in the convent of the Friars Preachers. It was probably the only place in the town capable of receiving the royal retinue, and like other buildings of the Dominicans it was no doubt richly furnished. Edward at this time was constant in his offerings at the high altar, and at the shrine of Kentigern, in the Cathedral, and the sums which he paid on these occasions are preserved, and also, in some instances, the occasion of the gifts. On the 23d of August, 1301, he offered seven shillings in honour of St. Bartholomew. Two days afterwards he offers the same sum in consequence of “good news which he had of the Lord Malcolm of Drumman, a Scottish knight, having been captured by the lord John of Segrave.” And on the 2d of September in the same year the occasion of his offering is “good news which he had of the Castle of Turnberry.”18

Among the endowments of the convent there is an old writ subscribed by two notaries, which mentions a chalder of meal as being paid “to the friers” furth of the lands of Balagan, with liberty of cutting timber, and also a right of fishing in Lochlemont (Loch Lomond).

1  Liber Protocollorum, No. 434.
2  The Earls of Lennox carried buckles on a border gules, and a progenitor carried roses. The stone is curious as showing both buckles and roses as ornaments exterior to the shield.
3  Liber Protocoll., preface, p. 19.
4  Ibid., No. 307.
5  Presbytery Records, 12th Feb. 1606.
6  Council Records, 30th December, 1589.
7  6th October, 1610.
8  Presbytery Records, 19th Nov. 1606.
9  Records of the Coinage of Scotland, by R. W. Cochrane Patrick, Esq., vol. i. p. xliii.
10  16th June, 1677.
11  Lib. Coll. N. D., p. 240.
12  Ibid., p. 166.
13  Spottiswoode.
14  Lib. Protocollorum, No. 560.
15  Appendix.
16  McUre’s History, 1st edit., p. 60.
17  Page 133.
18  Reg. Epis. Glasg., No. 548.
*  This same point is made in the ‘Scots Lore‘ article ‘Glasgow Bridge, part 1.