The Castle, and the Manor Houses of the Bishops, pp.116-124.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

Another of the old landmarks of Glasgow – of which unhappily no trace now remains – was the bishop’s castle or palace, which stood near the western entrance of the Cathedral, and the ruins of which remained till the end of the last century. It is mentioned in an old charter as early as 1290. At first a mere place of strength, it was extended into a palace with gardens and courts, and we have already seen that it was in “the inner flower garden” that the archbishop, in 1553, received the provost and council of the city, when they waited upon him for the purpose of his nominating the bailies for the year. Of its early history we have no record. A great tower and some other portions of the structure are known to have been built by Bishop Cameron towards the middle of_20181012_042531.JPG the fifteenth century. A smaller tower was built by Archbishop Beton, a short time before the battle of Flodden, and by the same prelate the castle was surrounded by a protecting wall, on several places of which, Nisbet tells us, were “the arms of Beton quartered with Balfour, and below the arms a salmon with a ring in its mouth.”1 When the castle was demolished the greater part of the architectural ornaments were no doubt destroyed, but a few sculptured stones were saved. One of these, evidently one of those described by Nisbet, was till recently to be seen built into the front wall of an old house in North Woodside Road, which was pulled down in 1869. This stone is now, or was recently, in the possession of the clergymen of the Roman Catholic church of St. Joseph. The arms, it will be observed, are those of the archbishop as described by Nisbet: Quarterly, 1st and 4th azure a fess between 3 mascles, or, for Beton; 2d and 3d argent, on a chevron sable an otter’s head erased of the first, for Balfour – the archbishop having been descended from the heires of Sir John Balfour of that ilk.

A handsome gatehouse and arched gateway were added to the castle by Beton’s successor, Bishop Dunbar – the last but one of the Roman Catholic prelates who occupied _20181012_042625.JPGthe see, and who died in 1547. Over this gateway was an elaborate sculpture, or rather series of sculptures, on two separate stones, the one over the other. These stones have also fortunately been preserved. Like the one already mentioned they were removed by one of the citizens, and about the year 1760 they were built into the back part of the tenement No. 22 High Street, where they remained till quite recently. On the upper stone are the arms of Scotland with the supporting unicorns; and this portion I have no doubt was erected by Dunbar himself, for it bears the initial of the reigning sovereign – “I. 5” (James V.), who died in 1542 while the archbishop was still living. On the lower stone are two shields. On the one is sculptured the paternal arms of Dunbar. He was of the family of Mochrum, descended from Randolf, Earl of Moray, and the arms are those of that noble family:- or, three cushions within a double tressure flory and counter-flory gules, with a mullet for difference. Underneath this shield is the salmon with the ring in its mouth. On the lower shield are the arms of James Houston, sub-dean of Glasgow, being hose of Houston of that ilk, viz., or, a chevron chequé sable and argent between three martlets of the second, with a rose in chief for difference. On each side of these shields is an ornamental pillar. The sub-dean was a friend of the archbishop, and a person of great influence in Glasgow, and the probability is that this part of the sculpture was erected by him after Dunbar’s death. These interesting sculptures were recently presented by Bailie Millar, the proprietor of the tenement, to Sir William Dunbar, the lineal descendant of the Dunbars of Mochrum, for the purpose of being built into his new mansion in Wigtonshire – a fitter resting-place, perhaps, for the old stones than the back tenement in High Street, though it is to be regretted they were not retained in the city. the engraving is from a photograph taken immediately before their removal. These stones, and an oak panel in the possession of the Archæological Society of Glasgow, are, so far as I know, all that remain of the old castle.

Within this castle of Glasgow the bishops, in the palmy days of the see, kept a splendid court, and entertaining, as they did, princes and other visitors of rank, their expenditure must have been considerable. After the Reformation the castle presented a very different aspect. Yet, although the building was ruinous, and the archbishops poor, they still exercised a limited hospitality, but it was little they could afford to do in that way. We have one interesting peep into the interior towards the middle of the seventeenth century – Sir William Brereton being our informant. “Going into the hall of the castle,” he says, “which is a poor and mean place, the archbishop’s daughter, a handsome and well-bred proper gentlewoman, entertained me with much civil respect, and would not suffer me to depart until I had drank Scotch ale, which was the best I had tasted in Scotland.”2 This was in 1634. The archbishop was Patrick Lindsay, a descendant of an old branch of the Earls of Crawford – a quiet gentlemanly man by all accounts. In 1638, when matters came to a crisis, he was deposed and excommunicated with the other bishops by the General Assembly, when he left the castle and withdrew into England, where he died in poverty. But it is pleasant to know that his handsome and hospitable daughter was well married.

Before the Reformation the meetings of the town council appear to have been held in the castle, but after the flight of Beton they were removed to the Old Tolbooth at the Cross. Under date 28th September, 1576, there is an entry in the burgh accounts of a payment “for bringing doun of the counsal hous burds furth of the castell;” and another for the bringing of “furmes, coilles, and peittis fra the castell.” After this the building fell into disrepair. It was partially restored in 1611 by Archbishop Spottiswoode, who made it his residence. Ray, writing in 1681, speaks of it as “a goodly building,” and still in good preservation; but Morer, who wrote his “Short account of Scotland” in 1689, speaks of it as a building “formerly without doubt a very magnificent structure, but now in ruins.” For some time after this, however, it was occasionally used as a prison.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century a praiseworthy, but apparently fruitless attempt, was made by one of the burgesses to save the building from further dilapidation. Among the scattered leaves saved from the fire at the Exchequer in Edinburgh, is a representation to the barons by “Robert Thomson, merchant in Glasgow,” dated 1720, which sets forth that “the castle formerly possest by the archbishops is, throw its not being inhabited thes many years past, become wholly ruinous. And also that some bad men are become so barbarous and unjust as to carry off the stones timber sklates and other materials belonging thereunto, and apply the same to their own particular use, to the shame and disgrace of the  Christian religion – which the said Robert Thomson as living neer to the said castle thought it his duty to represent to your Lops.”3 About forty years afterwards, when the Saracen’s Head Inn was erected in the Gallowgate, the magistrates, who actively promoted that undertaking, by way of encouragement to the contractor allowed him to take the stones for building it from the castle. All that remained of it in 1789 was removed in that year when the present Royal Infirmity was erected. Even at that time, however, judging from drawings of it which are preserved, it must have been a picturesque building and the ruins of considerable extent. The annexed view is from an engraving published in 1783, after a drawing by a Mr. Hearne.


There is a tradition that the bishops had, not very far from the castle, a rural manor in a locality which was then a part of the old Bishop’s Forest, but is now almost in the heart of Glasgow, and which is traversed by the street in Anderston, on the east of Bishop Street, as what had been the bishop’s entry to his house. It was called the Bishop’s Walk. The name of the present street, and the name of the corn-mills on the west side of it – Bishop’s Garden Mills – give countenance to this tradition.


It is certain, however, that the bishops had, from very early times, a manor at Partick. Mention is made of it as early as the twelfth century in a charter by King David (1136), giving lands in “Perdeyc” to the church of Kentigern in Glasgow. In 1277 the grant already mentioned, by Maurice, Lord of Luss, of wood for the repair of the church, is dated at Partick, where he was no doubt at the time on a visit to the bishop; and a notarial instrument executed in 1362, entitled Compromisso in Arbitros inter Episcopum et capitulum, bears to be dated “apud manerium dicti domini Glasguensis episcopi de Perthik.” It may have been from a tradition of this residence that an old house, the ruins of which stood till recently on the right bank of the Kelvin, not far from the junction of that river with the Clyde, came to be called the bishop’s castle. But it was certainly not built by a bishop of Glasgow. Chalmers, in his Caledonia, referring to this house, says that Archbishop Spottiswood, who repaired the Cathedral and the archiepiscopal palace, built also in 1611 a castle at Partick as a country seat for the archbishops; and elsewhere he speaks of it as situated “on an elevated site on the west bank of the Kelvin, the ruins being called the bishop’s castle.” By this name it was no doubt known for nearly a century, but it is certain that the house referred to was built by George Hutcheson, one of the founders of the hospital of that name, as a residence for himself, and the contract for building it, dated in 1611, is still extant.4 The view which I have given of this well-known old landmark is from a drawing made in 1828. Of the old manor-house erected by the bishops, there remains no trace, but it is not improbable that Mr. Hutcheson may have built his house on the site of the bishop’s residence, and that, indeed, he may have used in its construction some of the stones of the old castle.


While mentioning Partick, it is interesting to note that in one of the earliest charters, granted by Bishop Herbert in 1152, mention is made of lands in Partick “with the adjacent islands between Guvan and Perthic.” Of these islands no trace now remains. But there were till a comparatively recent period several islands in the Clyde below the mouth of the Kelvin, some of which may be recognized although now joined to the land. They are shown on Blaeu’s map, which was published in 1654. The above cut is a fac-simile of the portion of that map containing the islands. One was the Water Inch, lying immediately west of the mouth of the Kelvin. Another, farther down and much larger, was the White Inch, comprising the district which still bears that name. Still father down was the Sand Inch, and below the mouth of the river Cart was the New-shot Isle. There were other islands in the Clyde above the harbour. One, according to the map, was below the bridge, and another, called the Point Isle, was opposite the Green, a little below the Arns Well, but this does not appear on Blaeu’s map. It was in 1730 upwards of an acre in extent, and at that time it formed one of the principal salmon shots of the river. No trace of it now remains.

At a period still earlier than that of the manor at Partick the Bishops of Glasgow had a rural palace at their barony of Ancrum. Of this manor and barony they were the earliest possessors on record, and the lands are mentioned as belonging to the see as early as the Notitia of David in 1116. Here the bishops often resided, and from here they dated many of their charters. In a letter from Lord Dacres to Henry VIII. in October, 1513, shortly after the battle of Flodden, the bishop’s house is styled the Castle of Ancrum. Its remains form part of the present mansion of the Scotts of Ancrum.5

Besides these, the bishops possessed from the beginning of the fourteenth century another residence at Lochwood, about six miles eastward from Glasgow. The castle stood on the south side of a small lake called the Bishop’s Loch, and in the old charter it is called Manerium de lacu juxta Glasgu. It contained a chapel, and many of the episcopal charters are dated from this place. It is mentioned also in a curious instrument of protest, taken during the episcopate of Bishop Lindsay, which bears that while the bishop was residing at his Manor of the Lake, his seal had been lost by Robert del Barkour near the chapel of St. Mary of Dunbretan, and found and restored to him by James of Irwyn, a monk of Paselet. After the flight of Beton, the last Roman Catholic archbishop, Lochwood was taken possession of by the Duke of Chatelherault, from whom Robert Boyd of Bannheith obtained a grant of the lands, but his right appears to have been disputed. The archbishop was then at the court of France, as ambassador of Queen Mary, and one of his adherents in Scotland writes to him, under date 7th March, 1588: “Quhat sall becum of the Lochwood God knawis, for the Laird of Bannheith and the gudeman of Orbiston are contendand for it, althocht the best richt be ʒours.”6 By an act of parliament in 1600 Beton, in consideration of his services as ambassador, was restored to his archbishopric, notwithstanding his never having acknowledged the reformed religion. this restitution was made, however, without prejudice to certain feus which had been made of the episcopal lands, and under reservation of the stipends of the ministers, and of certain rents and duties which had been given to the college. There was exempted also from the restitution “the castell of Glasgow and cheising of the provest and bailleis of Glasgow, and provestrie and baillierie thereof.”7 But the bishop got back his Manor of the Lake, the rents of which he enjoyed for the remainder of his life. He did not return to Scotland, however, and died at Paris in 1603. The castle of Lochwood was afterwards demolished, and no trace of it now remains. In later times the place became the property of Mr. John Baird, of the Gartsherrie family.

The Bishops of Glasgow had still another residence – Castel Tarras, or Castel Staris, a locality now known as Carstairs, where, as I have already mentioned, Wyschard, the zealous supporter of Bruce, built a castle. He was called to account by Edward I. for having done so without his permission, but was afterwards allowed to complete it.

1  Nisbet’s Heraldry, iii. 2, p. 41.
2  Brereton’s Travels, p. 117.
3  Preface to Reg. Epis. Glasg., p. lviii.
– This is also quoted by C. Innes in his ‘Early Scotch History‘ (1861), p.66 footnote.
4  History of Partick Castle, by Laurence Hill, Esq., LL.B. Glasgow: privately printed.
5  Orig. Paroch., vol. i. p. 304.
6  Miscellaneous Papers, Maitland Club, p. 44.
7  Munumenta Universitatis, vol. i. p. 155.