City of Glasgow

Welcome to Glasgow

In the late 6th century, one man's pious journey to find the spot where a century earlier St Ninian is said to have dedicated a burial ground, provides the semi-mythical, semi-historical origin of what would become Glasgow (taken from the Celtic "glas" and "cu", meaning "dear green place").  This man was St Kentigern, popularly St Mungo.  He built a church on the site of that burial ground in the Clyde Valley where he was later buried and later still his tomb became the focal point for the construction of the impressive late romanesque and early gothic cathedral that takes the name of the city that grew around it.

Glasgow University

From a place of solemn piety, the Glasgow area came to real political prominence in the late 9th century after Viking raids on the west coast destabilised the Kingdom of Dumbarton, which had its primary fort on Dumbarton Rock.  The kings of Dumbarton were finally overrun in 866 AD by the army of Olaf the White, the Norse king of Dublin, and power shifted inland.  The new capital was to be in the heart of the Clyde Valley, at the junction of the Clyde and Kelvin Rivers.  The site selected is called Govan and is one of the oldest districts in Glasgow.  The name is presumed to come from the Celtic "go - bann" meaning "small peak" possibly in relation to the court hill that was built there to suit the ritualistic judicial requirements of the new Brittonic kings, or perhaps because of an even earlier prehistoric burial mound that was then converted into this open air court.  In any case, archeological evidence tells us that in the centuries that followed Govan, as the capital of the new Kingdom of Strathclyde, experienced great prosperity.  Outside Iona no archeological site in Scotland has provided a greater wealth of pre 12th century grave markers and stone crosses: a collection of which is on display at Govan Parish Church.

Provand's Lordship built 1471 (the only house to survive from the medieval city)

When King David I incorporated the Kingdom of Strathclyde into his expanding Scottish kingdom in the 12th century he was determined to undermine the local Brittonic aristocracy.  As a result, it was the site of Kentigern's tomb that was chosen as the new political centre in the region, and accordingly, Govan fell into decline.  It was at this time that major work on Glasgow Cathedral began.  Although the first stone was laid in the presence of the king in 1136 AD it was not completed until the 15th century.  It is testament to the growing importance of the site and the cult of St Kentigern that even Edward I of England took time out from hammering the Scots to visit the tomb during the Wars of Independence in the 13th century.  Work also began next door on the Bishop's Palace, which stood on the site of what is now Glasgow's Museum of Religion.  From here the new religious lords exacted taxes and wielded power over the growing populace.  Across the street the Provand's Lordship (Glasgow's oldest house, built in the 15th century) shows what life might have been like for one of the town's wealthier inhabitants at the time (it was built for the Lord of Provan, a clerk of the Cathedral).  In 1451, the Cathedral was to become the site of Glasgow University, before a purpose built university building was built on High Street.  In the 19th century it moved to Gilmore Hill where the current Neo Gothic building has become one of Glasgow's most recognised landmarks and symbols.

The Old Fishmarket also know as"The Briggait"


Although there was widespread rioting in Glasgow in 1707 when the terms of the Act of Union (with England) were made public, later that century there were those who would take advantage of Scotland's new found access to England's, now Britain's, colonies.  Early investment in the tobacco trade in Virginia made extraordinarily wealthy and powerful "Tobacco Lords" out of Glasgow's local elite, who came to dominate the trade by the 1740's.  As well as dealing with domestic supply, they made vast sums re-exporting tobacco from Virginia to the rest of Europe, before US independence, in 1783, allowed US producers to bypass Glasgow and trade direct.  Nonetheless, the Tobacco Lords' legacy can still be seen in some of the spectacular neoclassical mansions they built for themselves to the east of George Square, in Glasgow's Merchant City.

Glasgow Central Station

Glasgow was changed beyond recognition by the Industrial Revolution.  It started with water driven mills for the production of textiles, as some fascinating early industrial artifacts along the side of the River Kelvin in the West End pay testament, and later with coal and iron ore, the bulk of which was destined for export.  Export required shipping, and this was where Glasgow really took off.  By the mid 19th century there were 4 miles of quays along the side of the river Clyde producing 85% of Britain's vessels in terms of tonnage.  By the 20th century Glasgow was producing around 80% of the world's passenger liners, including some of the largest of their day, as well as military craft for the Royal Navy.  Unsurprisingly then, Glasgow also became the centre of Britain's munitions manufacturing industry.  It also produced machine tools, sowing machines, as well as 25% of the world's locomotives, amongst other items.  The "Workshop of the World" and the "Second City of the Empire" were two names given to Glasgow with ample justification. Next>>>

Related topics:
A Brief History of Scotland