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Old Streets and Buildings, Part 2, pp.131-140.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

For many years the convent shared, along with the chapter-house of the Cathedral, the merit of sheltering under its roof the more important assemblies of the university after its foundation in the middle of the fifteenth century. In the century following the prior and convent made an attempt to vindicate for their precincts the privileges of a sanctuary. The question came to be tried in a suit arising out of a sudden quarrel between two of the citizens, in which one of them wounded the other. The aggressor, according to the representation of the friars, “fled into the said place and sanctuary for girth, traisting to haif bruikit the privilege of the samyn.” But the friends of the injured man “be fource and way of deid tuke him furthe of the porche kirk dure thereof, delivered him to the provost and baillies of the said citie and chalmerlane of the castell thereof, qua hes and wythaldis him, and will not restore him againe to the fredome and privelege of the said sanctuary without thai be compelled: to the grait hurt of the freedome and privelege of Halie kirk.” Their suit was unsuccessful, and the court assoilzied the defenders, on the ground that the convent had failed to establish their alleged right.

The friars had a grant in 1304 from Robert, bishop of Glasgow, authorizing them to introduce into their convent the water of the Deanside or Meadow well – a spring which was then and for long afterwards in great repute – “Fontem quendam qui dicitur Meduwel in loco qui dicitur Denside scaturientem in perpetuum conducendum in claustrum dictorum patrum as usus mecessarios eorundem.”1

The whole property of this community was transferred to the university in 1568. In 1578 there still remained “a tenement of howssis perteining sumtime to the saids Friers Predicatouris”2 – possibly the one fronting the High Street, shown in Captain Slezer’s view – but with this exception the only part of their buildings which appears to have survived the Reformation was their conventual church. It remained, though in a ruinous state, till the year 1670, when, as already stated, it was destroyed by lightning,3 and what was afterwards known as the College Church – also now removed – was built upon its site.

The well-known pile on the same side of the High Street, farther up, till recently occupied by the college, is not of very ancient date. The building of it was begun only in 1632. Glasgow was the second of the universities of Scotland, and was founded in 1450. It had the papal privilege of a Studium Generale – the then technical term for a university – and a foundation by the Pope. It took for its model the famous schools of Paris and Bologna – adopting the same mode of teaching and examining, and prescribing the same text-books. The pope in making the grant professed to be actuated by the fitness of the city “on account of the healthiness of its climate and the plenty of “victuals, and of every thing necessary for the use of man.”

The first building, called the Schools, in which the masters taught, was a house which had belonged to the parson of Luss, and which was afterwards called “the auld Pedagogy.” It was situated in the Rottenrow, and is supposed by Professor Innes to have been in existence and used as a chapter-house before the papal foundation. It included a dwelling-place for students of arts, which was named Collegium, in which they had chambers and a common hall. This old building remained till the middle of the present century. The accompanying view of the ruins is taken from the north.

But the faculty did not long remain there. In 1459 they acquired from James, the first Lord Hamilton, a portion of the land in the High Street on which the present buildings were subsequently erected. The grant was in favour of Master Duncan Bunch, principal regent of the faculty of arts of the Studium of Glasgow, and it conveyed a tenement in the High Street, near the Place of the Dominican Friars, together with four acres of land in the Dove Hill, contiguous to the Molendinar Burn, on the condition that twice in every day, at the close of their noontide and evening meals, the regents and students should rise and pray for his own soul and that of Euphemia his wife, countess of Douglas and lady of Bothwell; and that if a chapel or oratory should be built in the college, the regent and students should also there assemble, and on their bended knees sing an ave to the Virgin with a collect and remembrance for himself and his wife.4 To this ground an addition was made in 1475 by “the annexation and union of Sir Thomas Arthurlee’s place or manor to the pedagogy.”

In 1563 the possessions of the University in the High Street were still farther increased by a grant from Queen Mary of the manse and “kirkroom” of the Friars Preachers, with thirteen acres of land in the Dove Hill, with certain rents from tenements in the city and elsewhere.5 The occasion of the grant is stated to be the ruined state of the university and college – its schools and chambers standing half-built, and the endowments of its teachers and the provision made for its poor scholars having ceased.

The new buildings were begun, as I have mentioned, in 1632, and by 1656 the structure had been completed, with the exception of the court, in which the professors’ houses were. The prefixed bird’s-eye view of the college is from the curious work of Captain John Slezer, Theatrum Scotiæ, already referred to, and it may be accepted as a correct representation of what it was about the year 1660.6 Captain Slezer’s work was not published till 1693, but the view must have been taken some time previous to 1670, as it represents the old church of the Blackfriars, which was destroyed in that year.

Previous to the new erection the general chapters of the university met, as already stated, sometimes in the Cathedral and sometimes within the precincts of the Friars Preachers. The first general chapter, held in 1451 for the incorporation of members, met in the chapter-house of the Cathedral, while the faculty of arts held its congregation in the crypt at the altar of St. Nicholas.7 On the 25th October, 1637, we find the faculty holding a meeting “at the castell of Glasgow” – the archbishop being at that time chancellor.8

In 1577 James V. issued a new erection or foundation, which more amply endowed the university, and in several respects changed its original constitution and character.

Within the precincts of the college in the High Street many of the students resided, as they had done in the old premises in the Rottenrow. They occupied apartments in the different courts, and dined at a common table. At first they appear to have paid no rent for their rooms, but after 1712 a charge was made of each room, varying from four shillings sterling to ten shillings for the session, according to the situation.9 The students appear to have furnished their own rooms. Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, who studied at the university in 1743, says: “I had my lodging this session in a college room which I had furnished for the session at a moderate rent. John Donaldson, a college servant, lighted my fire and made my bed; and a maid from the landlady who furnished the room came once a fortnight with clean linens.”10

The accompanying view of the inner court of the college is interesting from its having been taken on the occasion of the rejoicings which took place in Glasgow in 1761 on the coronation of George III. The smoke behind the steeple proceeds from a bonfire kindled in the High Street before the college gate. On this occasion the court was decorated with pictures supplied by the Foulises, who had at that time their studio within the college buildings. The illustration is copied from an engraving executed in their academy, and published at the time. It is farther interesting as showing the costume of the citizens of Glasgow in the middle of the eighteenth century. The above view of the Colleges from a drawing made by Mr. Leitch in 1845.

Besides the garden behind the college, called “the great yard,” there was constructed in 1704 a “Physic garden;” but to these gardens all of the students had not access – an unjust partiality having been shown by confining the privilege to “the sons of noblemen who are scholars.” To each of this favoured class the faculty allowed “a key to the great garden and Physic garden, providing the said privileged persons promise to allow no other the use of the said key.”11 About this time the students appear to have been in the habit of acting plays, but eventually this was prohibited by the faculty under the pain of expulsion. In many other respects the faculty exercised a strict discipline over the students. On one occasion a student was fined for cutting the gown of another student on the Lord’s day. On another the faculty deals with a student for challenging another to fight with swords. The wearing of swords by the students was strictly prohibited, and on one occasion a student is severely rebuked for having been “found by the Principal on Tuesday last with a sword girt about him in the toun,” and the sword is impounded. Another student is reprimanded for being “found drinking in an ale-house with some touns people at eleven of the clock at night,” and threatened with expulsion if it be repeated Cases of riot and insubordination are frequent, and these are summarily dealt with by the college authorities. One singular piece of mischief practised by the students was to give in the name of some fellow-student, whom they wished to annoy, to be publicly prayed for in the church by name. This went so far that the professors had to interfere. A number of students were summoned before them and reprimanded, and one of them was expelled.12

But the faculty claimed a much larger power over the students than dealing with such cases of discipline. They asserted an absolute jurisdiction, extending even to criminal charges, to the exclusion of that of the magistrates of the city; and they put in practice what they claimed, for they had a prison of their own in the steeple to which delinquent students were consigned. On one occasion a student – John Satcher by name – was committed to this prison for sending a letter to the principal “conceived in very insolent terms.” Thereupon some of the other students broke open the prison door and released John, who, as the faculty minute bears, forthwith “threw off his gown and withdrew himself from the college till this morning, when he was seized and put into his former place of confinement.” Subsequently the culprit “acknowledged his great offence,” and having “humbly begged pardon of the principal and all the masters” he was reponed – the ringleader of those who had broken the prison door being subjected to a fine of eighteen shillings sterling.”13 The faculty also exercised the discipline of corporal punishment. One of their edicts in 1667 is that if any students occupying rooms within the college shall be “found guiltie of breaking the glass windowes or doing anie other detriment to the hous, they shall be furthwith publicklie whipped and extruded the colledge.”14

But these were small matters. A case occurred when a student, Robert Bartoune, was charged with murder, and the faculty did not hesitate, even in that case, to assert its jurisdiction and proceed to exercise it. The court was held in “the laigh hall of the universitie,” on the 18th of August, 1670 – Sir William Fleming of Farme, rector, presiding, with the dean of faculty and three regents as assessors. The indictment was given in by “John Cummyng wryter in Glasgow, elected to be Procurator Fiscal of the said universitie, and by Andrew Wright Cordoner in Glasgow neirest of kine to umquhill Jonnet Wright,” whom Bartoune was charged with having murdered in her own house “by the shoot off ane gun.” The punishment demanded at the hands of the faculty was that of death. The panel having pled not guilty, “an inqueist of honest men” (fifteen jurymen) was impannelled and the case proceeded to trial. A curious incident is recorded in the course of it, namely, that the jury, before giving in their verdict, demanded that the university should hold them skaithless in case they should afterwards be challenged for having taken part in the proceedings, “in regaird they declaired the caice to be singular, never haveing occurred in the aidge of befor to ther knowledge, and the rights and priviledges of the universitie not being produced to them to cleir ther priviledge for holding of criminall courts, and to sitt and cognose upon cryms of the lyke natur.” The recor and his assessors answered that the objection to the jurisdiction came too late, after they had agreed “to pase upon the said inqueist in initio;” but notwithstanding “for ther satisfactioune and ex abundanti gratia,” the court agreed to hold them free “of all coast danger and expenses.” The verdict was not guilty, and it is not unlikely that a sense of the responsibility which would have attended a different result did not fail to influence the jury.15

The magistrates, however, did not always recognize the jurisdiction thus claimed by the university. On one occasion (in 1711) when some students had been caught misconducting themselves in the city, the magistrates had them apprehended and brought before them, and compelled each of them to pay a fine before he was released. The university resented this, and demanded the restitution of the fines, under protest that if the magistrates refused they would be held liable “for all expenses and damadges that the said Masters of the University may be putt to in vindicating their right and jurisdiction over any of the scholars committed to their charge.”16 The result is not stated.

The burgh records also contain some curious notices as to the relations subsisting between the town and the university. The sons of burgesses appear to have enjoyed certain privileges and exemptions, and the magistrates were tenacious in asserting them. Among others, under the date 16th November, 1626, notice is taken of an undue exaction made “by the Principal and Regents on the town’s bursars quha are urgit to gif ane silver spune at their entrie.”

In the Muniments of the University are to be found many other interesting notices of student life, and of the customs of the college. One of the latter was that the students at one time prayed publicly by rotation in the classes. This practice was, probably, in many cases exercised injudiciously, and it ceased soon after the beginning of the eighteenth century, in consequence of a resolution by the faculty that it should be gradually discontinued. The minute bears that in order that it may be worn out by degrees, and with the less noise, the faculty recommends it to the several masters that at these times when the students used to pray they put it only on those of greatest gravity and sobriety, and sometimes themselves to do it at these turns, and sometimes altogether to omit it.”17

In 1634 Charles I. addressed an autograph letter to the Archbishop of Glasgow requiring him to see that the members of the college repair together to divine service in the Cathedral in their gowns, according to their degrees, forenoon and afternoon, and that they occupy seats to be specially appropriated to them. When Beton at the Reformation carried with him to Paris the ornaments and jewels belonging to the Cathedral, he took among them a silver staff, the history of which is interesting. It is thus described in an “Inventur of the Guddis and inspreth pertening to the College of Glasgow,” circa 1614: “Item in the Principal his studi ane silver staff callit the rectors staff, of five pund sevin unce ane quarter unce veight, quhilk Mr. James Balfure deane of Glasgow, Rector of yeir of God 1560, gave to the bischop of Glasgow, quho carijt the same with all the silver warke and hail juels of the Hie Kirk to Paris with him. Notwithstanding the said staff, be the travels if Mr. Patrick Sharpe Principal, was recoverit, mendit, and augmentit the yeir of God CIƆ. . XC [1590] as the dait on the end of the staff bears.”18 The staff which the dean thus improperly gave to Beton, and which was recovered in 1590, was the present college mace. The “augmentation” of it must have been considerable, for while the original weight was five pounds seven ounces and a quarter, it now weighs eight pounds one ounce. It was in modern letters: Hæc virga empta fuit publius Academiæ Glasguensis sumtibus A.D. 1465: in Galliam ablata A.D. 1560, et Academiæ restituta 1590.

A great part of the old buildings of the college has been destroyed, and the portions which remain have been converted to other uses, but it is to be hoped that the front to the High Street will be spared as one of the landmarks of Glasgow, and that in its new premises the university will continue to deserve the character given to it by James Melville. “I daresay,” wrote Melville in his diary, “there was no place in Europe comparable to Glasgw for guid letters during these yeirs for a plentiful and guid chepe mercat of all kynd of languages artes and sciences.”

In one of the wynds running west from the High Street was the Grammar School. It was founded by Simon Dalgles (Dalgliesh), official of Glasgow in the middle of the fifteenth century; and from a notarial instrument in 1508 we learn that, founding on the terms of the original grant, the chancellor of Glasgow claimed to be master of the school by virtue of his office, with the right to appoint and remove the teachers. But Sir John Stewart of Minto, the provost, on behalf of the burgesses, disputed his right and claimed the power of admitting all masters to “the mural schools and buildings assigned for the instruction of scholars.”19 Of the result of the dispute there is no record. In 1578, as appears from an entry in the burgh minutes, the Grammar School was covered with thatch. The later building was erected in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and while it was being built the scholars met in the High Church.20 Over the door of the school were the arms of Glasgow, with this inscription: “Scola grammaticor. a senatu civibusque Glasguensis bonar. liter. patronis conditu.”

1  Lib. Coll. N. D.
2  Munimenta Universitatis, vol. i. p. 120.
3  Law’s Memorials.
4  Munimenta Universitatis Glasguensis, vol. i. p. 9.
5  Ibid., vol. i. p. 67.
6  See cut, p. 133.
7  Professor Innes.
8  Munimenta, vol. iii. p. 379.
9  Ibid, vol. iii. p. 513.
10  Autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, Edin. 1860, p. 99.
11  Munimenta, vol. ii. p. 421.
12  Ibid., vol. ii. pp. 373-379.
13  Munimenta, p. 415.
14  Ibid., p. 340.
15  Munimenta, vol. ii. p. 340.
16  Ibid., p. 400.
17  Ibid., vol. ii. p. 375.
18  Munimenta Universitatis Glas., vol. iii. p. 523.
19  Lib. Protocoll., No. 342.
20  Presbytery Records, 11th March, 1601.
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