-the seventeenth century

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


The crowns of Scotland and England were united in 1603 and in the decades that followed the attempts by the British monarchy to impose its religious ideas on the country were violently opposed and resulted in terrible bloodshed (see picture). During these `Covenanting Times` (named after the various documents called the National Covenants), Glasgow took measures to defend itself and the inhabitants were ordered to carry guns and be prepared to counter any attack by government troops. While these matters of state and religion provided an almost never-ending series of disputes and panics, Glasgow`s growth and subsequent overcrowding led to other crises. In 1652 a serious fire destroyed eighty tenement `closes` (the shared entrance doorways in a building) and after another fire in the 1670s the council gave notice that stone, not timber, should be used for the exterior walls of new buildings. Diseases took their toll too, and the bubonic plague caused many deaths in 1574, 1584-5, 1605-06 and 1646-7.

By 1660 the city`s population had reached 14,678 and many were involved in trading with European countries such as Ireland, France, Holland and Norway. Apart from importing iron, wood, salt and beef and exporting goods such as coal, malt, barley and clothes, ships were used to carry re-exported goods to other countries such as Irish tallow to France. The importance of this trade was that it laid the basis for the city`s subsequent role as a world-wide shipper. However, at this stage of Glasgow`s trading activities, there were few exports of locally-produced items as manufacturing was yet to become important to the city. Trade brought prosperity to Glasgow and in 1656 Thomas Tucker reported to Oliver Cromwell that this town, seated in a pleasant and fruitful soil, and consisting of four streets handsomely built in form of a cross, is one of the most considerable burghs of Scotland, as well for the structure as trade of it.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

The Martyrs` Tomb lies in the shadow of Cathcart Old Parish Church, the building on the right. The tomb marks the grave of three Covenanters, Robert Tome, Thomas Cooke and John Urie, who were shot by government troops in May 1685.
Unfortunately the River Clyde`s shallowness in Glasgow precluded the building of a decent harbour and although a quay was built at Broomielaw in 1662, the bulk of the city`s goods were landed at Port Glasgow, much farther downstream. The east coast town of Leith was the country`s principal port (due to its proximity to mainland Europe) but from the end of the sixteenth century the Clyde`s importance for trading was increased dramatically as west coast ports were able to develop trading links with the Americas. Subsequently, tobacco trading with Virginia was established by the `Tobacco Lords` and this began the process whereby Glasgow was to gain its undoubted success as one of the world`s greatest trading and manufacturing cities.
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The eighteenth century
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The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
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