The City Ports and Military Defences, pp.162-175.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

Although in some of the old charters properties are described as infra muros civitatis Glasguensis, it is certain that at no time was Glasgow a walled town. The expression “infra muros” meant simply within the ports or gates. Eneo Silvio describes the towns in Scotland in the fifteenth century as all unwalled; and John Major, who taught for some years in the University of Glasgow, writing in 1521, speaks of Perth as being the only properly walled town in the kingdom. Our burgh records afford sufficient evidence, that as regards Glasgow, at any rate, while there were several ports, there were no walls. At a time when pestilences prevailed in Paisley and elsewhere, there are repeated entries enjoining that the ports be kept secure. But behind the houses which formed the boundary of the city there appear to have been only back yards and gardens, separating them from the open country beyond, and we find repeated orders enjoining the inhabitants to keep their back premises sufficiently fenced, so as to prevent any one entering the city except by the gates or ports.

By an old ordinance “twa honest men of the town” were appointed to take charge in turn of each of the ports. This fell into desuetude, and the order was renewed in 1588, on the occasion of a pestilence breaking out in Paisley.

In 1574 there is an entry in the council records ordering “the four ports to be kept daylie continewalie, and at ewin the portaris to deliver the keyes to ane of the baillies.” And again, “Ordains the Rattonraw, Drygate, and Grayefriar portis to be made sure and lokit, and stand lokit, and keyis thairof deliverit to the baillies, and nane to repair thairthroucht without the special license of the provest and baillies.”1 An unlucky wight who disregarded this injunction is thus dealt with a few weeks after the date of the order: “Robert Thomsone is fund in the wrang and amerciament of Court for the lifting of the myd tre of the Port beside the Castelyett, it being lockit, and the porter at his denner, at his awin hand, and entering thairat, it being lockit, and dwme gevin thairupoune.”2 As regards other inclosures for the protection of the city, these are dealt with by ordinances such as this:- “31 October, 1588. It is statut that everie persone repair and hauld clois thair yairds endis and bak sydis, swa that nane may repair thairthrow to the toun bot be the common ports, vnder the pane of fyve pundis to be taiken of ilk persone quha contravenis the same.”

The Stable Green Port, as already mentioned, was near the wall surrounding the Castle garden. On the opposite side of the Castle, across the street called the Wyndhead leading to the Cathedral, was the Castle Yett Port, or Castle Port. A part of the wall connected with this port remained till near the end of the last century, with an old tower that formed its termination on the south. This tower was removed to make way for that unsightly building the Barony Church. Besides a port at the eastern termination of the Drygate there was another, which is referred to in a deed in 1410 as “the Subdean port of Glasgow between the Gyrtheburn and the street called the Dreggate.” The Gallowgate or East Port stood, as already mentioned, immediately to the west of the Old Saracen’s Head Inn. The south end of the barrier or traversing wall joined the face of an old two-storey thatched house. The north end rested on an angle of the old churchyard wall of Little St. Mungo. This port was taken down in 1749.3 The West Port stood originally a short distance westward from the cross, near the mouth of the Old Wynd. Having become ruinous, it was in 1588 ordered to be transported “to the Stockwalheid.”4 At the foot of the Saltmarket was a port called in some of the charters the Porta Inferior, and in others the South Port or Nether Barras Yett. The street leading from it to the old bridge, now called the Bridgegate, is called in one old writ via extra portam Australem que ducit ad Cludam; and in another, via quo ducit a Porta Australi ad magnum pontem lapideum trans Cludam.5 The original port was a considerable way back from the river, but in 1644 it was by a minute of council ordered to be taken down and “buildit of new nearer the water.” In this minute it is called “the Salt mercat port.”6

Besides these ports others are referred to in the burgh records, and regulations are also made as to keeping certain closes and vennels closed by gates at the lower ends, some of them to be locked day and night, and others to have a wicket by which the inhabitants are to have leave to pass. The following entry occurs in October, 1588: “It is statut that Lindsayis port, the Stinking vennall, and the Grayfrier port to be all closit; the Scuile Wynd to be likwayis closit and keepit daylie, as vse was, be the maister of the scule; the wickit of the Grayfrier port to be patent to the nichtbouris besyd, and they to be ansuarable for the same; and the Rottin Raw port to be lockit nicht and day.”

In June, 1639, “it is statut and ordanit that ane dyk be buildit at the Stockwallheid, and ane port put thairin; and to build ane dyk from the lithous [dye-house] to the custome hous, with ane port thairin, lykwayes ane betwixt the bridge and Johne Holmis hous, in ane cumlie and decent forme.”


The dyke last mentioned in this minute was the Water Port. It had two gates – one between the dyehouse and the custom-house, and the other between the custom-house and the house of John Holms at the east end of the bridge, next the Bridgegate. The “custome house” was a small toll-house at the north-west end of the bridge, at which were received the dues on goods brought into the city from the south side of the river. A view of the Water Port, but probably not a very correct one, is given in Capt. Slezer’s view of the bridge. Its exact position, however, is shown in an old map or plan made in the year 1760, the accuracy of which may be the more relied on that it formed a production in a law suit between the magistrates and Mr. William Fleming, afterwards of Sawmillfield, relative to a saw-mill belonging to the latter. It shows the small “custome house” at the north end of the west parapet of the bridge, with the dykes on each side – one resting on the “lit house” and the other on the house at the west end of the Bridgegate. It shows also that there was then no water under the northmost arch, and that the bank extended to about the centre of the second arch. By that time, indeed, the bank was so high and the ground had become so consolidated that a road passed under one of the arches. This fact we learn from the deposition of one of the witnesses in Mr. Fleming’s case, who speaks of the slaughter-house as bounded by a road “leading from the foot of the Saltmarket Street through one of the arches of the bridge to the Broomielaw.”

The Brig Port, which has been frequently confounded with the Water Port, was of much older standing than the Water Port. It is mentioned in the burgh records so early as 1588, but where it stood or at what time it was removed I have not been able to ascertain. To Mr. William Brown, late of Kilmardinny, I am indebted for the annexed most interesting and hitherto unpublished view of the old bridge, taken by his father, Mr. James Brown. The date of the drawing is probably somewhere about the year 1776, by which time the two northmost arches had been built up, but the bridge had not yet been repaired and widened.7 The illustration is specially interesting as being now printed from the original copperplate etched by Mr. James Brown himself. Whether the port or arch which forms so striking an object in this view is the original Brig Port I do not know. Mr. Brown was an accomplished draughtsman, and the etching may be accepted as a faithful representation of what the old bridge was twenty-five years before the end of the last century.


I have mentioned that before 1776 the bridge had become so insecure that carts and heavy carriages passed the river by a ford. The order by the magistrates was that only “coaches and chaises” should pass by the bridge, and Mr. Brown’s drawing is valuable as confirming this. It shows the coaches crossing the bridge and the carts crossing by the ford above. It shows also that there was a ford below the bridge as well as the one above it mentioned by Mr. Reid, and this is confirmed by a minute of the town council (24th November, 1767), which mentions “the foords above and below the bridge of Glasgow.”

The only evidence I can find of any attempt to fortify the city was during the civil war, when the magistrates, for the protection of the town, ordered a trench or ditch to be made around it. The first notice of this which appears in the council records is under date 15th November, 1645, where “it is ordainit be the Committee of Estaites that fyve hundrethe bollis of meill be advancit for the vse of the people that cumis in to help to cast up the trinche about this citie, quhilk is to be payit out of som sowmes of monye the Provest is to receave for the vse of the publict; and becaus the meill can not be commodiouslie gottine, the said Provest Baillies and Counsell hes concludit to pay to everie man that cumis in to wirk, in satisfaction of the peck of meill ilk man sould have, conform to the act and ordinance of the said Committee.” In the following year there is an entry showing that the presyteries in the neighbourhood were required to furnish men for this work: “24 March – ordains Jon. Johnston to go to the Presbiterie of Lanerk and get answer from them anent ther sending of men, or moneys to hyre men, to work at the trinch. As als ordains to wryte to the rest of the Presbiteries for ther deficiencie.” And on the 9th of May in the same year the council “ordains the haill inhabitants of this burghe to come out ilk Mononday of the weik to the works.” It is further declared that those who fail shall be “countit disaffectit to the caus in hand, and punishit be the Sub Governour according to the wull of the Magistrats.” And again, on the 8th of August in the same year, “ordains that the Magistrats tack up ane list of the haill horses in the toune, and caus ane competent numbir of thame serve weiklie at the trinche.”

This trench does not appear to have been completed. The work was renewed at the time of the rebellion of 1715, the projected size of the ditch being twelve feet wide and six feet deep. Barricades were at the same time erected, and there are repeated entries on the subject in the burgh records of that year. Under date 29th October, 1715, there is a minute bearing “that in this tyme of common danger the toun is put to vast charges and expences in fortyfieing the toun, and many other wayes which they cannot evite, and that it is the advyce of his Grace the Duke of Argyll, General and Commander in Chiefe of his Majestys forces in North Brittan, the toun should be put in a better posture of defence by drawing lynes of intrinchment about the toun in case of an attack against it be the rebells and that the same be done with all expedition;” therefore the treasurer is authorized to contract a loan to the extent of £500 sterling. Then follow numerous entries of payments for barricading the different ports, for barricades “at the Gallowgate and St. Tennochs burn,” for stopping the passage at Buns Wynd, and for wages and tools to the men working on the trenches.

The “lynes of intrinchment,” however, if they were ever completed, which is doubtful, must have been of a very imperfect character, and for purposes of defence probably useless. There remains no trace of them now. In the formation of them, so far as they went, a good many gardens attached to the houses appear to have been invaded, for in the burgh accounts of 1715-16 there are repeated charges for the value of “kaill plants and Leiks quhilk were destroyed by the Trenches.”

As a rule the Scottish people were all trained to arms. An act of James I. (1426), which was passed in a time of perfect peace, enacts that all merchants should import some armour and arms with their cargoes. In Glasgow – encouraged by the bishops and by the men of rank, many of them soldiers, who officiated as provosts – the people were early trained to military habits. Previous to the Union they had their “weapon schaws.” There were “buttis” in the Gallowmuir for “exerceiss when schutting,”8 and where for a long time regular drillings were held; and repeatedly the city raised troops and sent them to the field. A detachment of the citizens was led to Flodden by their provost, Mathew, Earl of Lennox, who was slain in that battle. In the reign of Queen Mary the citizens took part with the then Earl of Lennox against the Earl of Arran, afterwards Duke of Chastelherault, and an engagement took place at the Butts in the Gallowgate, near where the infantry barracks were afterwards erected. In this encounter – known as the Battle of the Butts – Lennox was defeated and about three hundred of the citizens were slain; and the regent having entered the town gave it up to pillage. So unmercifully was this carried out that the very doors and windows of the houses were pulled down. The citizens had their revenge at the battle of Langside. A considerable body of them were in the army of Murray, and so much satisfied was the regent with their services that he conferred on several of the corporate trades substantial marks of his approval. Some of them had grants, with increased privileges and immunities; and the bakers had a charter for the erection of the well-known mills on the Kelvin, which came to be so valuable a property.

The burgh records contain many notices as to drillings and the raising of armed levies, and of “stents” imposed on the town to meet the expense. In 1589 the magistrates, on the requisition of James VI., raised a company of “fyftie hagbutteris to await on his Majesties service “in the north.”9 A stent was imposed for their support, and it was ordained that “the saidis hagbutteris be gratifeit with the soume of an hundreth markis by and attour the soume of money sett doune for ane daily wage to them, being ten shilling a day according to the then value of money – a liberal allowance for those times. The citizens generally had arms, and when occasion called for it the magistrates furnished them with ammunition – for example, in 1609, when a certain sum was “debursit of comand of the baillies for poulder to the young men of the toun that tyme quhan the Dwik of Wertenbrig came to this toun.”

On a later date “it is ordainit that thair be electit thrie score of young men apt to be tranit up in handlinge of thair armis and to begin on Tuisday next; and the dreiller to have for his panes fourtie shillings (3s. 4d.) ilk day for his cuming out of Edr. till he be dischargit, with his hors hyre home and field.”10 This was the year in which Episcopacy was abjured, and in which the famous Assembly was held in Glasgow. In the following year the “provest bailzies and counsell concludit that thair be sent out ane hundreth men to the border to the common defence;”11 and by a subsequent order “all inhabitants within the toun wha are myndit to carie musquattis are commanded to have in redines ilk persone twa pund weght of powder, twa pund leid, and five fadom of match.” At the same time fifty additional men are ordered to the Border.

To meet these several expenses the magistrates, among other resources, “ordainit that publicatioune be made throw the toun be sound of drum that the inhabitants of this burghe bring thair haill silver plait to be bestowit in defence of the Commoun Cause in hand, conforme to the ordinance of the Committee at Edr.”12 And in the following year – which was the year of the meeting of the Long Parliament – the provost “is appoyntit to go to Edinbrughe with the silver and gold “wark, the lint money and the contributions collectit for the commoun cause.”13 In the same year “a perfyt catallog” was ordered to be made up “of the haill names of the persons within this burgh able for weir,” and certain days were fixed for drilling. Three years later, as the troubles thickened, every one capable of bearing arms was called out. In that year – 1643 – Charles I. issued a proclamation for “putting of this haill kingdome on ane present postoure of war,” and the magistrates of Glasgow ordered that “in everie ane of the four quarters of the toun everie man be in readiness at all tymes with sufficient armes and that they use and exerce the same;” and directions are given as to this and officers appointed.14 A subsequent order “ordains ane proclamatioune to be sent throw the toune commanding all maner of persones betwixt sextie and sextein to be in readiness with thair best armes, and to this effect to cum out presentlie with their several capitaines, with match, powder, and leid, and also to provyde themselfs with twentie dayes provisioune to march according as they sall get ordours under the paine of death.”15 A series of other warlike orders follow in rapid succession. All the ports are appointed to be guarded during the day as well as at night, and the officers of the burgh are appointed “to weir in tyme cuming everie man his sword and halbert.” The master of works is ordained to send to Holland for “sex scoir sword blads;” and “eight tun of beir” is ordered to be supplied “for outreiking” a ship of war called “the Kings Eight Whelpe” conform to an order of the Committee of Estates. It was a stirring time, and the affairs of the unhappy king were getting sorely complicated.

It will be recollected that the Committee of Estates in Scotland concluded a secret “engagement” with Charles in the Isle of Wight, by which, in consideration of his undertaking to subscribe the Covenant, the Committee agreed to commission and army to aid the king. In pursuance of this engagement the Committee proceeded to levy an army, and Glasgow was called upon to furnish a contingent. But Glasgow did not approve of this questionable alliance with the Cavaliers, and a majority of the magistrates, backed by the kirk-session, refused compliance, alleging as a reason that they were “not satisfied in their consciences concerning the lawfulness and necessity of this present “Engadgement.”16 But they suffered severely in consequence. They were thrown into prison, and deprived of their offices. Four regiments of horse and foot were sent to Glasgow, with orders to quarter solely on the disaffected magistrates and council, and on the members of the kirk-session; and so strictly was the order executed that each individual had to find board and lodging for ten, twenty, and in some instances as many as thirty soldiers. The defeat of the Engagers by Cromwell, his visit with his troops to Glasgow, when he lodged in Silvercraig’s house in the Saltmarket, his disputes with the clergy, and his interview with Zachary Boyd, the minister of the Barony parish – whose invectives against himself he punished by inviting him to dinner and inflicting on him a prayer of three hours’ duration – are incidents well known.

The Restoration brought still more troublous times, and Glasgow again had its share of the suffering. Among other acts of oppression the citizens were disarmed by an order of the Privy Council requiring them to bring in their weapons, accompanied by a warning that “all who neglects to doe the samyn sall be looked upon as dissaffected to the present government and punished accordinglie.”17 But the people complained loudly of being deprived of their accustomed arms in times so unsettled, and so great did the outcry become that two years later the magistrates made an attempt to get the arms back. Their minute bears that “taking to their consideratioune the great danger sundrie of our nighbours may fall in regard of the last proclamatioune emittit anent the inbringing of armes, and that many of our nighbors and com-burgesses may not now frielie trauell abrodd as they wont to doe without carieing of some armes, it is therfor concludit that the Provest sall ryd to Edinbrughe and petitioune the Lords of his Majesties Privie Counsall for granting liberty to our honest nighbors for carieing armes when they goe abroad.”18 It does not appear what success the provost had in his mission. Probably none, for it was well known that the city was at that time far from being well affected to the Stewart dynasty, and the covenanting leanings of so many of the citizens gave great offence. The laws against such were rigidly enforced, and soldiers were quartered on those of the inhabitants who were suspected of having entertained the “outed” ministers, or of frequenting conventicles.19 The magistrates and principal citizens were also compelled to subscribe a bond “that they their wyfes bairnes servants and coaters sall not be present at any such conventickles or disorderly meetings, but sall live orderly conforme to the Acts of Parliament.” This bond was subscribed by the Provost Campbell, three of the bailies, and the whole council, and by several merchants and tradesmen. The total number who subscribed, however, was only 153. The Privy Council on this occasion sat for some time in Glasgow, and, to the scandal of the citizens, transacted business on Sunday in the fore hall of the college during the hours of divine service, while those of the inhabitants who refused to sign were being plundered by the soldiers. Claverhouse chased into the city a number of persons whom he found attending a preaching near Strathaven, and massacred a considerable number of them near the Gallowgate Port. Of the Presbytery of Glasgow fourteen ministers were ejected from their livings. Several persons were hanged in the streets merely because they refused to conform to Episcopacy, and guards were placed at the city ports on the Sabbath mornings to prevent any of the citizens from attending services in the fields. Many of the townspeople were present at Bothwell Bridge, and the minister of the Barony parish, Mr. Donald Cargill, was executed at Edinburgh for complicity in that affair.20

On the occasion of the Duke of York coming to Glasgow, Provost Bell, a zealous royalist, announced the fact, and appointed “the haill counsell to attend vpon the magistrates for waiting on him; that the handsomest of the younge men of the toune be warined to beir partizains in their hands to wait wpon him, and ordaines the inhabitants to put out baill fyres at the heid of ilk closs at such tymes as they be warned by ringing of the bells.”21 The magistrates appear to have spared no trouble or expense on this occasion, for we find from a subsequent minute that their outlay amounted to 4001 pounds 12 shillings scots, a considerable sum in those days. On this occasion the duke lodged in Provost Bell’s house in the Bridgegate.

On the abdication of James II. [VII.] the city, as might be expected, was not slow to show its Protestant leanings. It raised a regiment of 500 men, and sent them to Edinburgh under the command of the Earl of Argyll. It got the name of the Scotch Cameronians, and became afterwards the 26th Regiment of Foot.

At the outbreak of the rebellion of 1715 the city again raised a regiment of 500 militia, and sent them to the camp at Stirling; and at the same time 300 stand of arms were sent to Glasgow from Edinburgh Castle for the use of the town. Soon afterwards we find the magistrates supplicating the Duke of Argyll “to give orders for removing of the 353 rebel prisoners who are lying on the touns hands, and in custody in the Castle prison, and easing the toun of the burden of them and of their maintenance.” The Castle Prison could not have been very secure at that time, as one of the reasons urged for the removal is that “these prisoners require a guard of about ane hundred men always upon them, without which they might have opportunity to escape.”

In connection with the civil wars there is a curious entry in the burgh records regarding the son of one of the burgesses who had been engaged against the king’s troops:- “13 January, 1694: the said day ordaines the Mr. of Wark to pay to Adam Todd four dollars to help to pay the cure of James Todd his son who was deadlie woundit at Killicrankie.” The four dollars were well expended if the services rendered resulted in the cure of a person in such circumstances.

In 1745 the citizens of Glasgow and their neighbours were very forward in support of the government. About 3000 militia turned out, and from these was organized a regiment of 650 men, under the Earl of Home as their colonel. of which about 500 were Glasgow men, and the remainder chiefly from Paisley. They were marched to Stirling early in December, and were employed to guard the passes of the Forth.22 In the Glasgow Courant of 12th February, 1746, they are mentioned as a regiment which made “a very fine appearance, notwithstanding it had been raised and marched in nine days.” On Friday the 27th of December, 1745, the Prince himself came to Glasgow, and took up his quarters in the fine residence of Mr. Glassford, afterwards removed to make way for Glassford Street. Writing to Mr. Maule the secretary of the Duke of Argyll, Provost Cochrane says, “On friday the clans with the Prince came to the town. They attempted to huzza two or three times as he went to his lodgings, but fell through it, our mob with great steadiness declining to join in it. Our people of fashion kept out of the way; few or none at the windows; no ringing of bells, and no acclamation of any kind. He appeared four times publickly in our streets, twice in all his mock majesty, going and coming from a review at our green, without the least respect or acknowledgment paid by the meanest inhabitant. Our ladies had not the curiosity to go near him, and declined going to a ball held by his chiefs.”23 One exception to this was the notorious Miss Walkinshaw. Of a good family, which was ruined by its adherence to the Stewarts, she became fascinated with the Prince, and, regardless of her reputation, she accompanied him abroad and lived with him there. She is said to have been handsome, but she had no elegance of manners, and like himself she became a drunkard. They often quarrelled, and sometimes fought.24

Dr. Thom, of Liverpool, writing in 1851, supplies an interesting reminiscence of the unfortunate Prince in Glasgow. “Well do I recollect,” he says, “Mr. William Walker, who died I think in 1820, taking me in 1815 to a spot in the Saltmarket two or three doors from my father’s shop, and mentioning that under the then piazza, close to where we were, he had stood and seen the rebel army pass up from the review on the Green. The Pretender rode at their head. He was pale, and, in Mr. Walker’s apprehension, looked dejected. He said he had a distinct recollection of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ after the lapse of seventy years. He saw the rebel forces, when they had reached the Cross, turn to the left and march along the Trongate on their way to Shawfield House, at the bottom of the present Glassford Street, then the residence and head-quarters of the Chevalier.”25

The want of all sympathy on the part of the citizens of Glasgow, and the marked keeping aloof of the ladies, is said by Provost Cochrane to have “fretted” the Prince – not the less so that, as Gib, who acted as steward of his household, mentions, he dressed more elegantly when in Glasgow “than he did in any other place whatsomever.”26 On the occasion of this visit of the rebel army, Glasgow was subjected in a contribution amounting in value to £10,000, which was subsequently repaid by the government.

1  29th October, 1574.
2  30th November, 1574.
3  Glasgow Past and Present, vol. iii. p. 674.
4  28th December, 1588.
5  Lib. Coll. N.D., pp. 34, 35, 220.
6  Minutes of Council, 14th Sept. 1644.
7  The contract with Shaw, the mason, to widen the bridge was concluded in October, 1775, and as in May, 1778, there is a minute of council as to causewaying the bridge, the work was probably completed in that year.
8  Burgh Records, 21st May, 1625.
9  12th and 19th April, 1589.
10  8th Sept. 1638.
11  10th April, 1639.
12  15th June, 1639.
13  5th Sept. 1640.
14  Minute of Council, 2d October, 1643.
15  31st August, 1644.
16  Minute of Council, 23d May, 1648.
17  Minute of Council, 22d April, 1665.
18  4th May, 1667.
19  Minute of Council, 25th June, 1674.
20  27th Feb. 1681.
21  1st Oct. 1681.
22  Cochrane Papers, Maitland Club, p. 117.
23  Cochrane Papers, p. 66.
24  Ibid., p. 113.
25  Glasgow Past and Present, vol. i. p. 198.
26  Cochrane Papers, p. 110.

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