Once upon a Time in Glasgow

Glasgow School of Art

George Square, and the Growth of the City,
page 2 of 9

Street, Holland Street, Pitt Street; the victories of the fleet in Nile Street and St. Vincent Street ; the army in Wellington Street, Hope Street, Corunna Street; the famous bankers in Brown Street and Carrick Street; provosts in Dunlop, Cochran, and Wilson Streets; the local lairds in Gordon Street, opened up opposite Aitkenhead’s house; Oswald Street after him of Shieldhall; and in Renfield Street, that being the old name of the big house at Renfrew, before it became “Blythswood,” which was a name transferred to it from the Bridgegate when the Campbells left their old house there in 1773. Bath Street was named after the baths of the enterprising Harley, who had his great byres as well as his baths on its line. He feued nearly the whole of Blythswood hill and holm, opened up streets, and would have cleared an immense fortune if he had been able to hold on. But an adverse fate overtook him, as well as that other early speculator, Hamilton Garden. Dundas Street, as well as Port-Dundas, were named after Lawrence Dundas, chairman of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Ingram Street commemorates William Ingram, principal founder of the Chamber of Commerce.

The land on the west of the Square was feued from the city of Glasgow in 1789 at 1s. 8d. per square yard, and building followed briskly. At the beginning of the century the sides were nearly as well filled up as they are now. Denholm, who wrote his history in 1804, says, “The buildings here are very elegant, particularly those upon the north, which for the beauty of the design and taste displayed in the execution, surpass by far any other either in this city or Scotland.”

There never were better houses erected in Glasgow than some of the “mansions” built during the period from 1745 to 1799. From the time when the Bishop’s Castle and the manses of the old clergy were erected, there were few self-contained houses. The “Blythswood mansion” was built by Provost Colin Campbell (1688) on the south side of the aristocratic Bridgegate, close to the old Merchants’ House. Behind it was the orchard reaching almost to the river. From “Silver Craigs,” near to it, Walter Scott, the famous “Beardie,” great grandfather of Sir Walter Scott, received his wife, Jean Campbell. In Blythswood provosts succeeded each other for more than a century. It has passed away, “No. 113” being all that stands in its place. It was the solitary glory of the period. Thirty years after, in 1711, its rival, the “Shawfield mansion” was built by another Campbell — Daniel Campbell — at the West-Gate,* just in the march between old and new Glasgow, now the foot of Glassford Street, that street being named after its last proprietor, Glassford of Dougalston. Within it the Pretender held his court in 1745, his horses being stabled on the opposite side, a little farther east, and here he received from the magistrates and merchants the £5,500, the restricted levy upon the city. It is memorable as the scene of the Shawfield riot in 1725, on account of the obnoxious malt tax promoted by Campbell. The Government had to pay £9,000 for the damage done in this riot. This helped him to purchase the island of Islay, for which he left two years after. In the peace and prosperity that followed Culloden, other citizens began to think of mansions for themselves. Of some of these there is an excellent account in a paper by J. Oswald Mitchell in the

* In these days there was a perpetual scare alternating between the plague and the “Hielan Men.” To keep out these a constant guard was kept at the gates. What is now Argyle Street was then named Westergate, sometimes St. Thenaw’s gate, as leading to her Chapel, St. Tennoch’s or St. Enoch’s; and Saltmarket, in former times, was the Walcargate, or Walkergate, from the Walkers of Cloth, who had their stances there, Stockwell ought to have been Waterport Street.


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