This subject naturally takes us back to the inns of Glasgow in the olden days. Amongst those the Saracen’s Head inn, in Gallowgate, undoubtedly takes the premier place. Strange as it may appear, before the year 1754 there was not an inn worthy of the name in the whole city of Glasgow. Of taverns and ale-houses, many of which had a wild, roystering reputation, there was no lack, houses from which the young bloods oft issued, like Falstaff and Prince Hal, “hearing the chimes o’ midnight;” but of houses intended for the accommodation of strangers there were none to be had superior to those kept by stablers, whose projecting sign-boards generally exhibited the quaint and sufficiently-elastic legend, “Entertainment for man and beast.” This is partially accounted for by the statement that the Glasgow people were so hospitable in receiving and entertaining strangers that no inn could prosper. This is very creditable to us. Even Edinburgh, the capital, was no better supplied, a fact sufficiently humiliating to us native Scots, when we are brought, in our quiet, historic moments, to remember that England, our neighbour, had sweet, dainty inns even as far back as the time of Chaucer.
Southern Side of Square
North British Station Hotel (Left). Royal Hotel (Right).
Photographed for this Work by Messrs. Brinkley & Stevenson, Regent Gallery, Glasgow.
To remedy in some measure this state of affairs, the Magistrates and Council resolved, in 1754, to give encouragement to one Robert Tennent, gardener and vintner in Glasgow, in his intention of building an inn that should be creditable to the city. They gave him full permission to use for his projected building the stones from the ruins of the Bishop’s Castle at the Cathedral! This was “The Saracen’s Head.” It was built on the site of the ancient “Saint Mungo’s Without the Gates,” on the north side of Gallowgate. A portion of this grand old edifice, built with the stones from the Bishop‘s Palace, may still be seen between the Great Dovehill (Dewhill) and Saracen Lane — No. 187-207.