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Glasgow in the middle ages

Glasgow was probably founded in the 6th century when St Mungo built a church at place called Glas Gu. (It means green place). A fishing settlement at the green place eventually grew into a small town. Glasgow was given a bishop in 1115, indicating it was a fairly important settlement by that time.

The church in Glasgow was replaced by a cathedral in 1136. The cathedral burned in 1172 but it was rebuilt. Then in the years 1175-78 (the exact date is not known) the king gave Glasgow a charter. (A charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights).

IN 1451 as a sign of its growing importance Glasgow was allowed to have a university. The Papal document that founded the university described Glasgow as a ‘place of renown, where the air is mild and victuals are plentiful’. A grammar school was founded in Glasgow in 1460. Meanwhile in 1454 Glasgow was made a royal burgh. Then in 1492 Glasgow was given an archbishop.

Glasgow in the 16th and 17th Century

Glasgow grew rapidly during this era. By the 1600 century Glasgow probably had a population of 7,000. By the 1700 it was about 12,000. In 1626 a new tollbooth was built. It was demolished in 1812 except for the steeple. In 1649 a writer called Glasgow ‘one of the most considerable burghs of Scotland as well for buildings as for the trade’. Hutchesons ‘hospital’ for old men and orphans opened in 1650.

Plague struck Glasgow in 1646. There was also a disastrous fire in Glasgow in 1652 and another fire in 1677. However each time the plague struck Glasgow recovered and it continued to grow and prosper.

In 1674 the first cargo of tobacco arrived in Glasgow. It soon became one of Glasgow’s most important imports. Once colonies were founded in North America and the West Indies Glasgow benefited from its position on the west of Scotland.

However Glasgow, like all towns at that time, was dirty and unsanitary. Some attempt was made to improve things in 1685 when the authorities forbade people to leave piles of dung outside their houses. (There was, of course, a great deal of horse dung as well as dung from animals on their way to market or the slaughterhouse).

Glasgow in the 18th Century

By the beginning of the 18th century Glasgow probably had a population of about 12,000 and it grew rapidly. By the end of the century the population of Glasgow had reached 84,000. By the standards of the time it was a large town.

As Glasgow grew new streets were laid out. In the 1720s Candleriggs and King Street were built. In 1751 the West Port or gate was demolished and the main obstacle to westward growth was removed. Virginia Street was built in 1753 and Jamaica Street was built in 1763. Queen Street followed in 1777 and St Enochs Square in 1783. Buchanan Street was built in 1786 and St Georges Square in 1787. In the 1790s Hutcheson Street and Glassford Street were built. During the 18th century a new suburb grew up at the Gorbals. Meanwhile Pollock House was built in 1752. The Royal Exchange was built in 1775. A second bridge over the Clyde was built in 1772.

In the 18th century Glasgow was famous for its fine linen. In the late 18th century cotton spinning became a major industry in Glasgow. Meanwhile Glasgow gained its first newspaper in 1715. Pollok House was built about 1752. It was given to the city in 1966. A second bridge over the Clyde was built in 1772 and the castle was finally demolished in 1792. Glasgow gained its first (not very effective) police force in 1788 and the Royal Infirmary was built in 1794. Meanwhile the Monkland Canal opened in 1793.

Glasgow in the 19th Century

In the 19th century Glasgow continued to grow very rapidly. By 1871 it had reached a population of half a million. This was despite a very high infant mortality rate. (Up to half of all children born died before their 5th birthday). Poor people in Glasgow lived in dreadfully overcrowded conditions. Most of them lived in one or two rooms in tenements.

Nelson’s Monument was built in 1806. The first museum in Glasgow, the Hunterian, opened in 1807. It is named after Dr William Hunter who left his collection to the university in 1783.

The Botanic Gardens were laid out in 1817. Also that year St Andrews the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow was built. Argyle Arcade was built in 1827. Necropolis cemetery was laid out in 1833. Many rich merchants were buried there in elaborate tombs.

Glasgow Green was laid out as a park between 1815 and 1826. Kelvingrove Park was laid out in 1852. In 1862 Queens Park opened. Alexandra Park followed in 1870.Meanwhile the Custom House was built in 1840. St Georges Cross was built in 1837. A Corn Exchange where grain was bought and sold was built in Hope Street in 1843 and Glasgow School of Art was founded in 1845. The Athenaeum was built in 1847. Glasgow Academy was formed in 1846.

Many more buildings were erected in Glasgow in the 19th century. The Stock Exchange was built in Buchanan Street in 1875. Also in 1875 the Fish Market was built. Mitchell Library was built in 1877. The City Chambers were built in 1888. Queens Cross Church was built in 1897 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). The same man also built the Glasgow School of Art Building in 1909.

Transport also improved in Victorian Glasgow. In 1845 the first horse drawn buses began running in Glasgow. From 1872 they were replaced by horse drawn trams. After 1898 the trams changed to electricity. (The first electricity generating station in Glasgow was built in 1893). Queen Street station was built in 1842. Buchanan Street station was built in 1849. Central station followed in 1879. Glasgow gained an underground railway in 1896.

In the mid-19th century Glasgow was described as ‘possibly the filthiest and unhealthiest of all the British towns’. There were outbreaks of cholera in Glasgow in 1849 and in 1854. The first time 3,777 people died. The second time 3,885 died.

But conditions in Glasgow improved in the later 19th century. In 1859 Glasgow gained a piped water supply. In 1893 the first electric streetlights were switched on in Glasgow but they only slowly replaced gas. Also in the late 19th century a network of sewers was built in Glasgow.

Major industries in Glasgow in the 19th century included shipbuilding, Cotton, engineering, carpet making, pottery and glass. In the late 19th century the port’s facilities were greatly improved by building docks and new quays. The tonnage of ships built in the city rose from 20,000 in the year 1850 to 5,000,000 in 1900. In 1888 an International Exhibition of Science and Art was held in Glasgow.

Glasgow in the 20th Century

In the 20th century amenities in Glasgow continued to improve. Kelvingrove art gallery opened in 1901. The Kings Theatre in Bath Street was built in 1904. However in the 1930s Glasgow suffered severe unemployment. Shipbuilding was one of the industries hardest hit by the depression, although it revived with the coming of the Second World War. On the other hand the first serious slum clearance in Glasgow began in the 1930s and in 1938 the Empire Exhibition was held on the site of Bellahouston Park.

During the Second World War Glasgow suffered from German bombing along with other towns in Clydeside. However, Glasgow escaped severe damage.

From the 1950s employment in Glasgow changed. In the 1930s most jobs were in manufacturing but in the 1960s and 1970s the situation changed so that most jobs were in service industries.

In the 1960s and 1970s, like many cities, Glasgow embarked on a program of slum clearance. Large areas of the central city like Gorbals were demolished. Some people were re-housed in flats. Others were re-housed in ‘over spill’ towns such as Glenrothes, Irvine, East Kilbride, Cumbernauld and Livingstone.

Other houses were demolished to make way for the M8 motorway. The last trams in Glasgow ran in 1962. In 1965 a road tunnel under the Clyde was built. In 1970 Kingston Bridge was built.

In the last part of the 20th century Glasgow turned to art and its heritage to attract visitors and provide jobs. The Hunterian Art Gallery opened in 1980. In 1983 the Burrell Collection went on display in a museum in the grounds of Pollock House. The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre was built in 1985. The Clyde Auditorium was added in 1997.

The McLellan galleries were severely damaged by fire in 1985. They were refurbished and reopened in 1990. Then the Gallery of Modern Art was built in 1996. Meanwhile in 1988 a Garden Festival was held in Glasgow. In 1990 it was made a European city of culture. Also in 1990 the Royal Concert Hall was opened. In 1996 a Festival of Visual Arts was held in the city. In 1999 Glasgow was designated the UK city of architecture and design.

In the 1980s and 1990s the traditional manufacturing industries of Glasgow went into a steep decline but the service industries grew. Industries such as retail, finance and tourism flourished. Glasgow School Museum of Education opened in 1990 and St Mungos Museum of Religious Life and Art opened in 1993. Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre was built in 1999 and the Clyde Maritime Centre opened the same year.

Glasgow in the 21st Century

In the early 21st century Glasgow flourished. The IMAX cinema opened in 2000 and the Clyde Arc Bridge opened in 2006. Most recently Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Today the population of Glasgow is 588,000.

Source: A Brief History of Glasgow by Tim Lambert



All Glasgows museums are free entry. The open top hop-on hop-off city tour bus visits most of them and is a good to get orientated around the city at the same time. The top deck gives some great views of much of the city’s architechture above street level. Bus route and information at

If staying at any of our apartments around Glasgow Green be sure to visit the Peoples Palace and Doulton Fountain. Whilst there be sure not to miss Glasgows replica of the Doge’s Palace. Formerly a carpet factory built 1880 and working until 1971. Check out information on all Glasgow museums at

If staying at Garnethill Gem apartment be sure to visit the Tenement house at the west end of Buccleuch St. The ex-home of an elderly Glasgow lady the home is in its original condition with gas lighting and cast iron range for heating and cooking. The house is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. See for further information.

If a fan of Charles Mackintosh then a visit to the School of Art in Garnethill is a must along with a tour and lunch at his House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. Check for Mac tour information. Whilst in Bellahouston park you can also the Burrell Museum and Pollock House and look for the highland coos (cows) within grazing in the park.

The river Clyde has built Glasgow and for Glaswegians of old a trip “doon the water” was as regular as fish and chips. Today the worlds last remaining ocean going paddle steamer , The Waverley sails from the heart of the city doon the water to Gourock, Dunoon and beyond. A must do experience.

Daytime entertainment


History and culture apart there are always lots of things going on in Glasgow both day and night.

Sports wise Glasgow is probably most famous as the home of both Rangers and Celtic football (soccer) clubs. Apart from football there also many other sports regularly taking place in the city. From basketball and track cycling at the Emirates Arena, swimming at Tollcross pool to ice hockey at Braehead arena as well as many, many more.

If you don’t mind getting your feet wet then why not visit and experience wake boarding on the forth and Clyde canal in the heart of the city. Great fun for all ages and I am now 60 🙁 . If you like outdoor water then you can even try white water kayaking or open water swimming at on the canal in the very heart of the city.
Check for the very latest events.


Glasgow is a shoppers paradise. Outside London, Buchanan St is the busiest shoppers street in the UK with over 91million people a year shopping here. At the top of Buchanan St is Buchanan Galleries a modern mall with restaurants for lunch or dinner. Sauchiehall St runs east from the top (north) end of Buchanan St. At the bottom (south) of the street their is the House of Fraser department store. Probably the most prestigious store in the city. Argyll St runs east-west at the bottom, south end of Buchanan stree and runs east to Trongate. The three streets of Sauchiehall St, Buchanan St and Argyll St form Glasgows Style mile for shoppers. If you want to shop check out Glasgow Style Mile
Be sure not to miss Princes Square mall or the Argyll Arcade at the bottom of Buchanan St.
For a more local and craft based shopping experience head west to Byres Rd via the underground. Here you will find lots of smaller shops, bars and cafes both on Byres Rd and in Ashton Lane which runs parallel to the east.

Check out whatsonglasgow or People Make Glasgow for the very latest in whats going on.

Night time

Eating out

The key ingredients to a good night out are food, entertainment and a wee refreshment (or three).

The food in Glasgow is as diverse as its people. Like any web connected city its easy to scan the web for a list of best places to eat and you can certainly do that by either clicking here or here. Here are a couple of other of my personal favourites. For Scottish try Stravaigin in Gibson St just down from Glasgow Univ or Ubiquitous Chip again in the west end in Aston Lane just behind Byres Rd. If in the city centre and for a special occasion then try Rogano or Arisaig in the Merchant Square or The Fish People Cafe  at Shields road underground station for some of the freshest fish in the city and its only a few minutes walk from both Kinningpark apartments and just a couple of stops on the underground from Garnethill. For me the best traditional fish and chips is at Catch which is a little out of the city at 186 Fenwick Rd Giffnock G46 6FX. Terrific and only about 5 miles from city centre on the south side.

If staying at any of the apartments around Glasgow Green then be sure to try the food and the beer at West Brewery just across from the People’s Palace on the Green. German licensed brewery and great food. Be sure to have ask about a tour of the brewing process downstairs from the main bar.

If Italian takes your fancy then try Massimo’s on Bath St/Elmbank St or Battlefield Rest or Barbarossa on the south side.
When it comes to entertainment then the Glasgow patter and sense of humour is unique. Mix all this with one of the best music scenes in the country and of course a wee refreshment (or three) and you are in for a good night out.