[The following passage from the Chambers The Gazetteer of Scotland appears on pages 462 and 466-68. — George P. Landow.]

The Trongate in 1849, by William Simson. Source: frontispiece, Renwick. Click on image to enlarge it.

Decorated initial G

lasgow is the largest and by far the most populous city in Scotland, and is situated in the Lower Ward of the county of Lanark, near the north-western extremity of that extensive shire, in 55° 52' 10" north latitude, and 4° 15' 51" west longitude, at the distance of forty-three miles west from Edinburgh, by the nearest road, twenty-two east from Greenock, thirty-four north from Ayr, twenty-seven southwest from Stirling, ninety-four and one-fourth from Carlisle, and four hundred and six from London. It occupies an exceedingly advantageous and agreeable site on the banks of the Clyde, just where it begins to be susceptible of navigation.

As already noticed, Glasgow occupies an advantageous situation on the banks of the Clyde. The ground here consists of a flat tract of land of several miles in length by a breadth of seldom more than half a mile, and in width of about only half that space. On its northern boundary the surface rises into uplands, and at the place where the town is situated it swells into a ridgy eminence. The ancient cathedral occupies a commanding site on the brow of this rising ground, and has been the site from whence the streets and houses have extended southwards to the river. The houses in this quarter are generally of a more ancient appearance than in any other part of the town, having a darker hue and the aspect of a respectable old age.

The street leading down to the base of the eminence is called the High Street, a character which it has lost by the erection of a street proceeding westward from its foot called the Trongate. This latter spacious thoroughfare is lined with houses of considerable altitude, and of so very handsome and picturesque an appearance, that, as a whole, the street is generally affirmed to have no equal, either in the British Isles or upon the Continent. Eastward from the foot of the High Street is a continuation of the Trongate, called the Gallowgate, or by modern pleonasm, Gallowgate Street, which is also a bustling thoroughfare, but meaner in appearance, and somewhat tortuous.

It is the chief access from the east into the city. Across the south end of the Trongate, opposite the foot of the High Street, of which it is a continuation, is an ancient street called the Saltmarket, which has of late undergone an almost total renovation, it extends south towards the Clyde. From its west side a very mean old thoroughfare called the Brig-gate, (Anylice Bridge Street) leads westward, being so low in situation as to be very frequently laid under water by the overflow of the river. The Saltmarket is broken off at some distance from the Clyde, so as to allow of an open space; at this part therefore, a view is obtained of the beautiful park or common, called Glasyoio Green, which perhaps forms one of the finest features in the general aspect of the city, not to speak of its great utility to the inhabitants. It is adorned by an obelisk to the memory of Nelson, and contains a drive or walk of about three miles in extent. From the head of the Saltmarket on its east side, bordering on the Gallowgate, a new street is opened, and in progress of being built, called London Street, and which is intended to introduce the London road. In stretching towards the west the Trongate has a variety of tributary streets, leading off on both sides, generally diverging at regular distances, and proceeding on the south to bridges across the river. In this manner on the south there lead off successively King Street, Stockwell Street, Dunlop Street, and Jamaica Street, with others further west; and on the north side Candleriggs Street, Hutchison Street, Glassford Street, Virginia Street, Millar Street, Queen Street, Buchanan Street, Mitchell Street, and others further to the west, of a more modern and less important character. These latter cross-streets generally terminate at their north end in Ingram Street, a spacious but dull street, parallel with the Trongate. Beyond it to the north is a congeries of handsome modern streets, terminating far to the west in Blythswood Grounds, a district of palaces, devoted exclusively as yet to the residence of the very wealthiest inhabitants.

The most densely populated part of the city is the district betwixt the Saltmarket and Stockwell Street. By the most creditable exercise of taste, the streets and lanes on this side do not go so near the river as to prevent a thoroughfare along its banks, the want of which is the only serious error in the construction of London. As in the case of Dublin, Glasgow possesses very commodious quays or ten-aces on each side of the river, with rows of handsome houses fronting the water. On the outskirts of the burgh are different suburbs, now considered part of the town, as Calton at the eastern part of the outskirts; Bridgeton, lying south-east from thence at the head of the Green, and now consisting of several new as well as old streets; Anderston, lying at the western extremity of the city, a suburb begun in 1725, by a proprietor of the name of Anderson; Hutehesontown, situated on the south bank of the river opposite the foot of Saltmarket; Gorbals, connected with the latter on the west; Laurieston, a further continuation of the same congregation of houses; and Tradeston, a still further extension towards the west. A part of those last named are fully as well built and as regularly laid out in streets as the other parts of the city; but they are chiefly inhabited by a secondary grade of inhabitants. Besides these suburbs, there are other more minute portions of the town, which receive peculiar appellations, generally from their first founders, and in mostly all cases, are as humble as those above mentioned.

The length of the town from the extremities of Bridgeton and Anderston is about three miles. As the river has a bend in this place, the town in general inclines to a semicircular shape with the hollow presented to the water. Glasgow is entirely built of freestone, and the houses are slated. From its local situation, as well as the bustle which ordinarily prevails, it bears a miniature resemblance to London, and such a similitude will yearly become more striking, in consequence of its rapid extension. That part of the town used as the quay for shipping and embarkation is on the south-western boundary, from the lowest bridge for half a mile down the right bank of the river. This place receives the name of the Broomielaw, an appellation significant of the original nature of the district.

Broomielaw Bridge, by Sam Bough, RSA, 1850. Source: Renwick, facing p. 152. Click on image to enlarge it.

About the period of the Reformation, Glasgow consisted of the High Street, the Drygate, Bridgegate Street, and several thoroughfares of lesser importance, and the number of its inhabitants is computed to have been about 4500. The change of religion, which redounded so much to the general advantage, was a severe injury to Glasgow, accompanied as it was by a dissipation of the temporalities of the church. For a century after the Reformation, the town languished in a style exactly commensurate with the religious system which was the original cause of its existence and the ground of its early prosperity. Accordingly, as will afterwards be shown, the increase of its population was not rapid. At the period of the Union, the city was bounded by the original ports, namely, on the east by the Gallowgate port, which stood near to St. Mungo's Lane; on the west, by the West Port, near the present Black Bull Inn; on the south, by the Water Port, near the Old Bridge; on the north, by the Stable Green Port, at the Bishop's Palace; and on the northwest, by the Rottenrow Port; the adjoining ground without the ports, and that upon which Bell Street, Candlerig Street, King Street, Princes' Street, &c. are formed, being then corn fields; and even, as we learn from Cleland, a number of the streets formed within the ports contained but few houses, and these chiefly covered with thatch.

The increase of Glasgow in point of population and magnitude since that period has been very steady, and particularly within the last forty years. By the exertion of a judicious taste, the town also has been prevented from suffering in appearance by the accession of a vast body of inhabitants in the lower classes of society. Though destitute of that romantic and magnificent appearance which Edinburgh possesses so largely, at such an expense and inconvenience to its citizens, Glasgow, taken as a whole, is a dignified and impressive city. Its streets are spacious, straight, substantial in material, and handsome, often elegant, in form. Its public buildings are handsome, and invariably well placed. Its pavement and police are excellent; and it derives advantages, such as fall to the lot of few large cities, from its noble sweeping river, and its beautiful and salubrious "Green."


Chambers, Robert. The Gazetteer of Scotland. Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1838. Internet Archive online version digitized with funding from National Library of Scotland. Web. 30 September 2018.

Renwick, Robert. Glasgow Memorials. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1908. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 23 November 2021.

Created 30 September 2018

Last modified 23 November 2021