J & J Cleland & Co.

28 Virginia Street (After 1826 became 71 Virginia St. Demolished c1975)

The listing in the Glasgow Directory (1791) of John Cleland, wright in Grahamston, is the first reference to these cabinet makers. It was from Grahamston, about a mile from the commercial centre of the city, that John Cleland and Son, Cabinet Makers and Joiners, advertised a range of household furniture and looking glasses in the Glasgow Advertiser of 20 August 1792. By 1799, the firm had moved to 28 Virginia Street.

In 1800 James Cleland assumed control of the business from his father and took on William Jack as partner. Between 1803 and 1811 Cleland and Jack advertised extensively in the Glasgow press and continued to develop their commercial interests, which included building and property leasing. They employed a range of specialist craftsmen including carvers, gilders, bronze-workers, turners, japanners and upholsterers in addition to straightforward cabinet makers. David Jones notes it was James Cleland who signed the preface of The Glasgow Book of Prices for Manufacturing Cabinet Work, launched on 14 August 1806, on behalf of the masters. Edinburgh had issued its own a year earlier.

Interesting that during this period we have in Virginia Street James Cleland in charge of the wrights and a little later Edward Khull from 65 Virginia Street in charge of the city’s printers. It would appear Virginia Street had not just been a ‘des res’ for the city’s merchants and Lord Provosts, it’s financial banking centre but would also house the leaders of artisan trades such as Carpentry(wrights) and Printing as the street transitioned from mainly residential (with strict deed burdens) to mixed use in the early 1800s.

Another significant local firm, who were no doubt major competitors of Cleland & Jack, was John Reid & Co. who moved from Argyll Street to newly-built premises on Virginia Street in 1801. Their warehouse stock amounted to 1,200 individually-specified items of domestic furniture. It is in this warehouse that a tragic fire would break out at the foot of Virginia Street in July 1812 leading to the loss of life as artisans tried in vain to save furniture as the fire took hold.

It is this centralisation of craftsmen that no doubt influenced the Black Bull Inn site being chosen as a suitable location for the Mann Byars department store c1847. This would later lead to the ‘clustering’ of similar enterprises. Marks & Spencer opened its first small Glasgow store nearby in 1919. Later expanding into the site of the earlier Reid & Co operation. The warehouse was situated on the west side of Virginia Street on the site now occupied by the 1930s white art deco building built for M&S prior to their move next door. In the 1960s M&S required more space and moved east yet again into the Mann Byars & Co. location on Argyle Street that Glaswegian’s would recognise today. M&S’s earliest example of a local marketing ’promotion’ at any of its stores nationwide comes from the Glasgow, Argyle Street store in 1925. 

– “we’re offering a special promotion on a popular brand of toffees, ‘Blue Boy’ toffees” 

Glasgow sideboard table with ‘boxes framed up with the table ends’, creating a three sided stage.
Bonhams, Edinburgh*

The interior view of 81 Trongate in R Chapmans print below shows a similar sideboard with boxed frame creating a three sided stage. Blair & Jones highlight that this characteristic is particular to Glasgow and Ulster. Another distinction made is that Glasgow sideboards were of more generous proportions than their Edinburgh counterparts, at 7 feet measuring a foot longer. This could imply Glasgow interiors in comparison were more spacious during this period. Another difference worth noting between the two cities was that in their respective Book of Prices when it came to ‘gaming’ (card) table designs Edinburgh offered two. Glasgow had eight!

Pollock House by William Adam b1752. Photographer unknown

By 1815, when Cleland & Jack was supplying a large quantity of furniture and upholstery for the Maxwells of Pollock, on the south side of the city, the description ‘joiners’ was omitted from their trade card.

Cleland & Jack, Glasgow: writing table*

A consistent feature of the known activities of Cleland, Jack, Paterson & Co. was their ability to keep abreast of current fashion. Almost as soon as James Cleland joined his father in business, as was noted in a Memoir of 1825, between 1788/90 he was away on an adventure to London. On his return, armed with the latest designs and ideas, he claimed that the cabinet-making firm flourished to become one of the most successful businesses in Glasgow.

An advertisement of 10 May 1811 announced the firm’s imminent move to 81 Trongate, premises which had been occupied by the draper’ firm Whitelaw & Boyd and which were described in their letting advertisement as ‘without exception the largest and most commodious of any in the city’. The opening of the new warehouse on 24 February 1812 coincided with the appointment of a new partner, Robert Paterson, and the adoption of the name Messrs Cleland, Jack, Paterson & Co.
James Cleland left the business in 1814 when appointed Superintendent of Public Works for Glasgow.

James Cleland’s successors continued to cultivate a modem image, as their press advertisements testify’:

CABINET & UPHOLSTERY WAREHOUSE 81 TRONGATE CLELAND, JACK, PATERSON & CO. respectfully announce to their numerous Friends and the Public that one of their Partners is at present in London, selecting the Newest and most Fasionable Patterns of every Article in their line. Among the different Goods, they are in daily expectation of receiving a Superb Collection of French Paper Hangings and Decorations.

Glasgow Herald, 27 January 1815

This status is supported by the discovery of invoices which identify furniture at the William Stark designed Hunterian Museum (b1807), Scotland’s first public museum, located just off the High Street in what was then Museum Square.

Portrait by Allan Ramsay; William Hunter (1718-1783); Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/william-hunter-17181783-138870
George Washington Wilson (Scottish, 1823 – 1893) 
Glasgow – The Hunterian Museum., about 1865
Albumen silver print 
84.XD.1157.1546 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. No copyright.

Blair & Jones note that a pair of invoices in Glasgow University Archives collection reveal that the interior of the museum was furnished by the firm Cleland & Jack of Virginia Street between May 1808 and September 1809. The first invoice from Cleland & Jack, addressed to ‘The Managers of the Hunterian Museum’ itemises a quantity of furniture including twenty-four ‘Bamboo’ chairs, writing tables, pembroke tables, ‘bason stands’ and a carpet, supplied between May 1808 and February 1809. None of the items from this bill appear to have survived. Items surviving from the second, more extensive invoice include eight ‘Roman’ chairs, one large circular library table and two writing tables with rising tops. The ‘eight Roman chairs covered with fine Crimson Moreen brass ornaments and strong brass castors’ were supplied in September 1809 at a cost of £5 each.

Interior of the Hunterian Museum, showing Cleland & Jack’s ‘Roman’ chairs in situ. Print from Dr William Hunter’s bookplate, n.d.*
Pair of ‘Roman’ chairs supplied by Cleland Jack, September 1809*

Blair & Jones state in their article that prior to the identification of the Hunterian pieces the only illustration of the type of furniture produced by Cleland & Jack had been an engraving in R. Chapman’s The Stranger’s Guide or A Picture of Glasgow, 1812, showing one floor of the firm’s retail warehouse at 81 Trongate (see below).

Apparently Glasgow wrights were not as particular as their Edinburgh counterparts to label and document their furniture that would assist in establishing their provenance at a later date. As in most things Glasgow was workman like. It’s possible that the scale of these commercial enterprises meant that the artisan’s hand was removed from the branding.

Interior view, display floors of Messrs. Cleland, Jack, Paterson & Co. 81 Trongate, Glasgow. From R Chapman, The Picture of Glasgow a Stranger’s Guide, 1812

*NOTE: The history on the Hunterian furniture and associated pictures are sourced from ‘Furnishing The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow Style, 1809. By Celine Blair and David Jones.

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James Cleland (1770 – 1840)

A Thomas Annan photograph of a portrait of Dr James Cleland (1770-1840). The painting was by William Ross. Copyright Glasgow City Council

James Cleland was born 28 January 1770 in the Trongate, Glasgow. He was educated at Glasgow High School and completed his training in London. In 1791 he returned to Glasgow and joined his father’s business as a cabinet maker and trunk maker at 28 Virginia Street. In the Post Office directory for 1799 the firm is listed as J & J Cleland. Later the younger Cleland would branch out and became a successful property developer and civic citizen.

I believe his father John bought and built in the grounds of the Virginia Mansion when John Dunlop of Rosebank decided to extend Virginia Street. But that would place the Virginia Street timeline circa 1796 not 1791 as some records would suggest. The location would be in the vicinity of current day 65 Virginia Street and the vacant lot/carpark.

circa1974 location of I suspect 28 Virginia Street. Now a car park

Sadly the surviving Glasgow Post Office Directories are not complete during this period. There is a John Cleland wright listed in the 1789-91 directory as working ‘oppofite to Grahameftone’. I suspect this is James’ father. There is also listed a ‘Matthew Cleland, mafon, St Andrews entry by the salt market’. I suspect this is his uncle. In addition, a business listing is for ‘Cleland & Low’ manufacturers, shop Gallowgate No.11. may be associated with the family business. But by 1799 the next available directory there is no mention of Matthew, but his father’s business is now ‘J&J Cleland, cabinet and trunk makers, Virginia Street. The Gallowgate manufacturing business is now listed under William Cleland, Allan’s new land.

Why do I think Matthew is a relation? The more I learned about James and what he achieved the more I was intrigued by understanding how James was able to make the leap from a wright’s son making cabinets and trunks to Glasgow’s Clerk of Works so effortlessly involved not just in the administration of building works but getting actively involved in their construction as he did for example with St David’s Kirk, The Ramshorn.

He famously shut himself away for three days to amend the drawings of Thomas Rickman for The Ramshorn and it was he who would design the infamously narrow front door that was lampooned in his day in the Northern Looking Glass. For him to be so prodigious and successful he not only had to have faith and confidence in his abilities he also must have had a sound understanding of the fundamentals of building and an awareness of the technical developments of his day. How did he acquire this so quickly? Having a mason uncle would certainly help. And that is where Matthew possibly would play an important role. But in investigating this I also came across some other familial connections with masonry.

Reading the ancient families of Cleland, his father John Cleland is listed, born 1745, died 1822. Listed is his father’s brother Matthew who married Marion Naysmith. daughter of the famous Glasgow mason Mungo Naysmith, Deacon of the Incorporation of Glasgow Masons. And there is the link I was looking for. Through familial associations James Cleland would have had access to the best contacts, knowledge and advice that Glasgow masons would have to offer. Not only that, being associated through marriage with the mason responsible with building one of Glasgow’s finest Georgian buildings, namely, St Andrew’s Parish Church (b1756) would have opened doors socially to the young James Cleland. Notwithstanding that his father’s business was producing furniture of the highest quality. It would grace not just the Maxwell’s of Pollock House but also Scotland’s first public museum, the Hunterian.

He rose to become a leading figure in the Age of Improvement. He was a remarkably able man and his public spirit combined with his energy in promoting schemes for the improvement of the city made him one of the outstanding figures in Glasgow during the first three decades of the 19th century. To get an idea of what James Cleland achieved for Glasgow the following is a list of his more well known accomplishments:

  • 1794: Appointment to public office as collector to the Incorporation of Wrights.
  • 1800: Appointed a member of the Town Council.
  • 1803: Baillie of Glasgow. It was at this point that he became involved in architecture and building.
  • 1804: Authorised to superintend the building of a new toll-house.
  • 1807: His plan for the building of a new grammar school was adopted.
  • 1809: Appointed Convenor of the Trades House.
  • 1814: Appointed Superintendent of Public Works, a post held for 20 years.
  • 1814: Removal of Town Council from Tolbooth to the Justiciary Buildings.
  • 1817: Cleaning and landscaping of Glasgow Green into a public park. Completed 1826.
  • 1831: Appointed a Justice of Peace for Glasgow.
  • 1835: Cleland Testimonial Building by David Hamilton. A statue was not deemed an appropriate monument for the innovative and influential Cleland. £4,600 was raised to fund the build. (It would later become known as the George Hotel and feature in Taggert, Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.)

In addition to the above he was also published and in some circles this is where he is of more renown as the ‘Father of modern Statistics’. In 1816 he published Annals of Glasgow which provided a history of the city’s public services, societies and institutions. It was republished in 1820 as The Rise and Progress of the City of Glasgow. Glasgow was the first UK city to carry out a modern census under Cleland’s guidance and set the benchmark for others to follow.

Cleland published:

  • 1816: Annals of Glasgow, Glasgow.
  • 1820: Rise and Progress of the City of Glasgow, Glasgow.
  • 1832: Enumeration of the Inhabitants of Glasgow, Glasgow.
  • 1836: Historical Account of Bills of Mortality of the Probability of Human Life in Glasgow and other large towns, Glasgow.
  • 1837: Description of the Banquet in honour of the Right Honourable Sir R. Peel, Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, 13 Jan. 1837, Glasgow.
  • 1840: Description of the City of Glasgow, Glasgow.

His first essay in the realm of statistics was in the 1790s when he published a small pamphlet entitled ‘Tables for Showing the Price of Packing-Boxes of Sundry Dimensions and Thicknesses’ which was used widely by tradesman and established Cleland’s interest in the standardisation of weights, measures and prices. His awareness of the deficiencies of parish records led him to his ‘Letter to His Grace the Duke of Hamilton, respecting the Parochial Registries of Scotland’ in 1813. This was sent out widely to all the presbyteries of the church and to Members of Parliament. In this he can be seen to becoming interested in the collection of detailed statistics of the structure of the country.

In 1816 he published the ‘Annals of Glasgow’ which provided a history of the City’s public works, societies and institutions. It showed his concern with issues such as population growth, commercial matters and the condition of the poor. This was republished in 1820 as ‘The Rise and Progress of the City of Glasgow’. In 1819 he carried out a classified census of the population of Glasgow, the first modern census in the United Kingdom.

Cleland was for the time a superb statistician. He could tell you how many executions took place in Glasgow between 1767 and 1820, the breadth of the River Clyde at the west end of the Broomielaw, or the number of livestock slaughtered in Glasgow from 1 June 1817 to 1 June 1818.
Answers: 52 including 12 for murder and 5 for forgery; 140 feet; 12,716 bullocks, 8752 calves, 43,273 sheep, 45,062 lambs.

In 1836 he followed this up with ‘An Historical Account of the Bills of Mortality, and the Probability of Human Life in Glasgow and Other Large Towns’. Cleland’s pioneering approaches to census taking and demographic statistics were adopted by the British Government officials for the national censuses of 1821 and 1831. His contribution in this field was widely recognised in Britain and Europe as a result of his numerous publications, public lectures and membership of learned societies.

For his achievements in statistics he was awarded an honorary LL.D from the University of Glasgow in 1826. He also founded the Cleland Gold Medal at the University. He retired in 1834 and lived his remaining years in the building built in his honour. He was a member of the Society of Civil Engineers of London; a Fellow of the Statistical Societies of London, Manchester, and Bristol; a corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; and a short period before his death, he was elected an honorary member of the Société François de Statistique Universelle.

It would appear he opened a family business ‘Clelands & Co.’statuaries at 5 Cathcart Street, Hutchesontown. His sons James & Alexander worked there as noted in the directory of 1830. Previously this address was listed as their marble works. But that is not to say the family dispensed with their roots. William Cleland is listed as joiner and cabinet maker 142 Upper Nile Street. It would appear that like at Virginia Street the Clelands kept their residence and business enterprise in close proximity.

Cartoon of the day lampooned Cleland’s narrowing of the doorway like a window & mocked him for designing such a “neck-breaking stair” for the Thomas Rickman designed St David’s (b1824-46), Ramshorn Kirk.

Northern Looking Glass, 12 December 1825. Glasgow University Library, Special Collections
St George’s Tron. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David Dixon – geograph.org.uk/p/2035806

St David’s was not the only Church in the vicinity that James Cleland took an interest in. In the early 1800s St George’s Parish Church (b1808) was intended to cap the western aspect of St Vincent Street. It was James Cleland who instigated a change of location to the current Nelson Mandela Place, capping the western aspect of George Street. I’ve not been able to establish a reason for the move. At the time James Cleland was still residing at 28 Virginia Street. Although he would later move to 15 (later renumbered to 130) Upper Nile Street on the corner of Bath Street which is nearby the new church’s location. In his final years he resided at the top of Buchanan Street in the David Hamilton designed Cleland Testimonial Building which was unusual for the day for having internal toilets.

Cleland Testimonial Building b1835 by David Hamilton
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Anne Burgess – geograph.org.uk/p/5196326

James Cleland passed away on 14th October 1840 and was laid to rest in the crypt he designed in St David’s at the top of Candleriggs.

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The World’s First Comic

Publication date (11 June 1825 – 3 April 1826)

First page of Vol. 1., No. 1: Glasgow Looking Glass
June 11th, 1825

The Northern Looking Glass

The Glasgow Looking Glass was the first mass-produced publication to tell stories using illustrations, and as such may be regarded as the earliest comic magazine. The fortnightly publication provided satirical snapshots of Glasgow society, British culture and Nineteenth century fashions and local west coast weather. Innovations included use of the term “To be continued” and the use of speech bubbles. It appeared some seven years earlier than anything similar like Punch and comics from France. It’s innovation being so far ahead of its time some argue this explains why it has been overlooked in the historical context.

The Glasgow Looking Glass was published fortnightly by Glasgow lithographic printer John Watson and its principal strip illustrator was William Heath. The fourth issue contained History of a Coat, its first comic strip. After the fifth issue, the title was changed to The Northern Looking Glass to reflect broader Scottish concerns. Running for fourteen more issues. The copies held in Glasgow University Library’s Special Collections appear to have been hand-coloured.
Reference: Sp Coll Bh14-x.8

The format of the magazine evolved rapidly. The first seven issues were produced by lithography, the illustrations in later instalments were etched. By number 9, letterpress printing was introduced for the final page.

There was a choice of impressions available for each issue, at varying cost. At the lower end of the scale, a ‘common’ impression cost one shilling. By the end of the magazine’s run, a ‘beautifully coloured’ copy cost six shillings. This was a luxury that only the well-to-do could have afforded.

‘Northern Looking Glass’ illustrator, William Heath, wishes everyone Happy New Year. 9th January 1826 (Sp Coll Bh14-x.8)

It is believed that its creator, William Heath, had to stop publication after running up debts in the city. The demise was apparently due to the success of the publication, rather than its failure, as the owner indulged in the good life, joined the popular drinking clubs, made enemies, and had to flee to London.

It’s interesting to see environmental issues of the burgeoning industrialisation being raised so transparently.

Consumption of Smoke: Present/Future
From Vol. 1, no. 8: Northern Looking Glass
17th September 1825

If you step back and look at the ‘Looking Glass’ one would have to be well placed, well liked and confident to satirise their own.  Heath & Watson would not have gotten away with it by themselves without the patronage and dare I say protection of someone like merchant Thomas Hopkirk Esq and his familial connections. 

I was unable to find any evidence in Glasgow Directories of Watson & Hopkirk names being linked in a formal business title. However, in 1821, John Watson established his business at 169 George Street, Glasgow. Thomas Hopkirk was listed as a ‘Merchant’ at the same address. Similarly, when Watson moved to 230 George Street (1826/7) Hopkirk was again listed separately, still as a ‘Merchant’, at the same address.
It would suggest patronage or an informal arrangement between the two men.

I was reading Schenck’s Lithography directory of Scotland.   While my copy does not acknowledge Thomas Hopkirk I did by chance see online that Schenck has agreed to amend and include a citation on any future work.  While I agree with his original premiss that Hopkirk was not a professional printer and thus not worthy of inclusion he misses the point entirely.  To simply imply he was a publisher would sell Hopkirk short.  Thomas Hopkirk Esq was a gentleman in every sense and wouldn’t have gotten involved in the day to day.  His other interests bear this out.  However, when you look at those interests, Botanical Study / Looking Glass / Cartography the common theme is the need for replicable accurate prints.  I suspect he was a most accomplished amateur lithographer.

One of my favourite cartoons is of Cleland’s ‘miss step’ with the Ramshorn and its narrow entrance. Cleland hardly put a foot wrong in his civic duties but the Ramshorn doorway is one. Why his name isn’t up there along with William Harley. They both definitely merit more kudos in Glasgow for their civic labours. Local history needs to reflect these endeavours far more fully & transparently.  And so its intriguing to note that another Cleland, his son John Cleland, introduces lithography into Virginia Street and one of the streets first known associations with printing.

Schenck doesn’t do Glasgow any favours when he concedes that between 1820-30 Glasgow was ‘virtually identical’ to Edinburgh.  And then goes on to explain the increase in the west was simply due to the railways and industrialisation.  Glasgow was not alone in possessing those.  Nothing then to do with skill base, education, literacy levels or penny libraries driving demand.  With the geographical advantage and head start that Edinburgh began with in printing  it is quite instructive to see how exponentially Glasgow exploited lithography.  Second only really to London.   I believe the Mechanics Institute (the UKs first) doesn’t get enough recognition. It was pivotal in terms of ‘education for all’.

What little I’ve read about the Scottish enlightenment,  it’s clear that Glasgow played more than simply a supporting role. The picture of the Foulis Academy painting exhibition in the old college quadrangle blew me away when I saw it for the first time. That’s even before I knew that the pioneering Foulis Academy predated the founding of the Royal Academy in London by fifteen years. The scale & bravado of it so un-Glaswegian. Similar to how the merchants of old greeted each other… ‘kissed in the continental style’. How times change.

Engraving by David Allan. Exhibitions of the Foulis Academy’s (1753-1775) painting in the inner court of the University of Glasgow. On the right in the foreground is a tribute to Raphael’s Transfiguration and the picture hung on the tower follows Rubens’ Daniel in the Lions’ Den, the original of which was at Hamilton Palace.

Thomas Hopkirk the younger of Dalbeth (1785 – 23 Aug 1841)

unknown artist; Thomas Hopkirk of Dalbeth (1785-1841); Glasgow Botanic Gardens; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/thomas-hopkirk-of-dalbeth-17851841-138133

Thomas Hopkirk was born near Glasgow in 1785. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1800, and later became a botanist. In 1813 he published Flora Glottiana: a catalogue of the indigenous plants on the banks of the River Clyde, and in the neighbourhood of the city of Glasgow, followed in 1817 by Flora Anomoia: a general view of the anomalies in the vegetable kingdom. He prepared many of his own botanical illustrations. His work was cited by Charles Darwin.

Dedication ‘to James Hardie Esq with best respects’

In the Glasgow PO Directory of 1817, Thomas Hopkirk is shown as a Merchant, at 49 Wilson Street. A Justice of the Peace, it is certainly possible that his interest in botanic illustration, may have first stimulated a curiosity in lithography.

Hopkirk was closely involved in the foundation of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens (1817) with the support of a number of local dignitaries and the University of Glasgow. He donated thousands of plants from his own garden.  The Gardens were originally laid out on an 8 acre site at Sandyford at the western end of Sauchiehall Street (at that time, on the edge of the city). The Royal Botanical Institution of Glasgow owned and ran the Gardens and agreed to provide the University of Glasgow with teaching aids, including a supply of plants for medical and botanical classes.

In 1812 he was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society and he received an honorary degree from Glasgow in 1835. He moved to Ireland after 1830, working with the Irish Ordnance Survey, and he died in Belfast in 1841.

unknown artist; Mrs Thomas Hopkirk of Dalbeth; Glasgow Botanic Gardens; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/mrs-thomas-hopkirk-of-dalbeth-138132

At some point, probably around 1834 or 1835, Thomas Hopkirk and Agnes Farlane moved their family from Glasgow to Belfast. The family investments, mostly in America, had disappeared and Thomas had been offered a job with the Geological Survey of Ireland. Whether he did not like the job or his health took a turn for the worse is not known, as apparently Thomas only worked a few days with the Geological Survey. About the same time Thomas Hopkirk moved to Belfast, his brother James, the barrister, moved to Canada.

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Printing, Ice & Lager

One soweth, another reapeth...

James Harrison (1816-1893)

Another Australian connection – Before they each immigrated to Australia, I believe Edward Khull jnr employed James Harrison at 65 Virginia St. circa 1833-34.

James Harrison was born at Bonhill near Renton on the River Leven, Dumbartonshsire, Scotland, 17th April 1816, the son of William Harrison, a salmon fisherman, and Margaret McGregor. After the family moved to Glasgow, James served an apprenticeship with the printer David McClure.

From about 1828 James Harrison was apprenticed to David McClure from the age of 12 for a 10 hour day, six days a week in his print works at 43 Argyle Street, Trongate the same address Khull had used previously between 1810-12.

(father? of Andrew McClure d1885 engraver & lithographer, his son Frank would go on to be made lithographer to Queen Victoria. The firm was est. 1835 Trongate and was the first in the UK to utilise steam power for a lithographic press.)

James Harrison to further his formal education attended evening classes at Anderson University in philosophy, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, mathematics and phrenology and later the Glasgow Mechanics Institute specialising in chemistry while still apprenticed to McClure.

On leaving McClure’s employ he joined the firm of Edward Khull. Did he assist with the construction of the steam powered printing press used at Virginia Street? He appears
to have the ingenuity and mechanical aptitude as Khull jnr I suspect was not quite as innovative.

On corresponding with Harrison’s great grandson in Australia he states that apparently the reason for moving from Glasgow to London was the rates for printing – four pence per thousand words in Glasgow versus six pence in London.  Also Edward Khull jnr’s well documented abrasive nature couldn’t have helped any decision to remain. He spent a year in London as a composter 1835-36 before emigrating in 1837 at the age of 21. So the timeline would appear to place Harrison at 65 Virginia Street at this crucial time when Khull jnr would have been building Glasgow’s first steam powered printing press.

Geelong Advertiser Building. photographer unknown.

After arriving in Sydney Australia on the Persian in 1837 he founded the Geelong Advertiser newspaper in 1840, now the 2nd oldest in Australia, and was a member of the Victorian Legislative Council(1854-6) and the Victorian Legislative Assembly (1859-60).

His personal life was also active, marrying three times and fathering 12 children.

Harrison pioneered refrigeration at Geelong in Victoria in 1854. He liked to fish and wanted to keep his catch fresh before making landfall. His role as a printer was crucial for his serendipitous ‘eureka’ moment. Metal type needed regular cleaning with sulphuric ether. Scrubbing away, Harrison noticed that ice crystals formed when the ether evaporated as he blew on the raised letters. Ether evaporates very fast due to its high volatility. This vaporization takes latent heat thus cooling the surface. This is a key component of any refrigerant.

His genius was realising this physical property could be leveraged and if harnessed correctly under compression could make the production of ice commercially viable. The path to success was not easy. In fact it was dangerous. He blew himself up at least twice, needing hospitalisation on one occasion. He was assisted by blacksmith and fishing buddy John Scott.

He was granted a British patent in 1856 and was co-founder of the Sydney Ice Co. in 1860, with Sir Peter Nicol Russell (1816–1905). The 3.5hp machine could manufacture 3,000kg of ice per day.

Pilsner (lager), an obscure brew, colonised Europe in the late 1850s. James Harrison whose ice making machine (with Siebe & Co. steam engine engineers of Mason Street, London) made it possible to control temperature during the brewing process is credited with enabling the worldwide spread of the drink we take for granted today. From 1857-61 his machines were in use from Truman’s Brewery London to Europe, Peru, Argentina, Calcutta and Sydney. The basic design of the machine did not change for quarter of a century implying just how innovative the design was. The development cost for the prototype was apparently £1,200.

The Siebe-Harrison refrigerating machine exhibited 1851
A steam engine drove ether evaporation by removing air from above the ether. This cooled the ether, which in turn cooled a strong brine solution. The cooled brine was circulated around the vessels containing the water to be frozen. This circulation of a cooling fluid is still the principle on which fridges work today.

In 1870 he began to develop an idea of refrigeration for ships. He’d known the shipping time of over two months from Australia to Europe was prohibitive to the trade of fresh perishable produce. Australia had an abundance of mutton & beef from its large cattle ranches. But the potential market for this produce was restricted by geography.

In 1873 he won a gold medal at the Melbourne Exhibition by proving that meat kept frozen for months was perfectly edible. Shortly after, Harrison invested all his funds in an historic first; sailing frozen Australian meat in the Norfolk to Britain. On the 34th day, halfway to London the cooling system was compromised. All 20 tons of meat had to be thrown overboard. His choice to utilise a cold room instead of utilising a refrigeration system had proven fatal. He arrived in Britain a broken man.

Moving to England in 1873, Harrison was London correspondent for The Age for many years. Harrison corresponded with Darwin, Faraday and Huxley, warned vegetarians about “pumpkinheadedness”, championed women studying medicine, wrote of vaccination and inoculation, butter versus margarine and a universal language.

Harrison received medals of commendation from exhibitions in London (1863) and Melbourne (1873) where he showed his refrigeration machines. He also won a prize from the Geelong and Western District Agricultural and Horticultural Society for his “Self-acting beer preserver” in 1863.

Little did Harrison know that his invention would lead to not just a global trade in meat but that staple of western cuisine… the frozen TV dinner.

Harrison suffered pleurisy in 1891, returned to live outside Geelong and, though frail, trudged often into town to send copy to The Age. On September 3, 1893, he died in bed, an unfinished article beside him.

In Harrison’s lifetime, eight of his ten patented inventions were commercially successful, though when he died in 1893, he left a modest estate. His headstone reads: One soweth, another reapeth.

He deserves recognition for his impact to humanity. The world’s refrigeration industry commemorates Harrison’s birthday — April 17.  The increased shelf life of not just fresh produce such as food but also medicine, vaccines, blood, organs all rely on being chilled to preserve their usefulness. Harrison’s inventions with their commercial viability opened the world up to new possibilities.

The entrepreneurial spirit evident to him in Georgian Glasgow must have been formative. His inventions may not have been Clyde built but their foundations were certainly set in the print works & educational institutions of his youth.

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Gold Bullion & Glasgow’s First Steam Powered Printing Press

Printing in Scotland

The introduction of printing presses in Scotland proceeded slowly. Beginning in Edinburgh in 1507, then forty-five years later St Andrews in 1552, Stirling in 1571 (for a brief period), Aberdeen in 1622, and Glasgow in 1638. They were apparently one or two man workshops, and it was not unusual for a printer to move from one place to another with their equipment.

Printed by George Anderson , Glasgow 1638

The significance of the first printing press in Glasgow was as a result of the General Assembly meeting in the city requiring the documentation of their decisions to be recorded & disseminated. The year was an extremely important one. In 1638 the General Assembly abolished episcopacy in Scotland; this would lead to civil unrest.

Stereotyping & Type-Making In Glasgow

A reference in the Hunterian Museum suggests Mr. Andrew Duncan, University Printer, introduced Stereotyping to Glasgow in 1818, and, after stereotypers Messrs. Hutchison & Brookman, and also Edward Khull snr operated in the city.

Book Societies began to be established around this time in Glasgow. They operated similar to that of Circulating Libraries, with the difference being that the books belonged to the readers themselves. (chiefly of the working classes.) The periodical Book Publishing ‘Numbers Trade’ which, till about 1796, was hardly known in Scotland flourished in Glasgow, surpassing that of any other Scottish town. By a Report drawn up for Parliament, it appeared that there were in Scotland 414 book hawkers, technically termed canvassers and deliverers, who, on an average of seven years, collected £44,160 per annum in sixpence and shillings; Glasgow accounted for 31%.

Edward Khull

Of German origin, Edward Khull snr, hammerman and printer was made Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow by purchase 18 December 1815. In 1819 he became a partner with John Blackie, whose premises he had shared from 1815, becoming the printing department of Blackies as the firm diversified from publishing into printing.

Born in Glasgow, John Blackie ( 1782-1874 ) was originally a weaver but was persuaded that money could be made in the ‘Numbers Trade’. The firm known, after 1890 , as Blackie & Son Ltd was founded on 20 November 1809 by John Blackie snr, in partnership with two friends, Archibald Fullerton and William Somerville and was known as Blackie, Fullerton & Co. as publishers and booksellers.

From Black Boy Close in 1811 (to 37 Queen Street by 1826) the firm was already beginning to publish its own books and in 1819 with Khull’s printing works added at 8 East Clyde Street, operated as Khull, Blackie & Co. The bookselling side of the business continued separately in Edinburgh as Fullerton, Somerville & Co. When Khull left the partnership in 1826 he retained his equipment, but for a time continued to occupy the lower floors of the Blackie offices, moving only in 1830. In 1827 John Blackie, snr, next entered into partnership with Hutchison & Brookman, printers and stereotypers, of Saltmarket, Glasgow.

Khull’s eldest son Edward Khull jnr entered his father’s trade becoming a merchant Burgess and Guild Brother hammerman 1 July 1828. Khull jnr applied to be University Printer following the year long tenure of Hutchison and Brookman in 1831; as on other occasions, the Senate delayed in filling the vacancy until 1833. Khull remained in office for 13 years until 1846. Succeeded in 1848 by George Richardson.

George Richardson started printing in the High Street in 1829, he had printed for the University for almost twenty years before his official appointment, his workshop was a very small one. It only had hand presses, no cutting equipment, and long runs were sent out to other machine printers. His regular employees numbered four or five
journeymen and three apprentice compositors, and one apprentice pressman. One man who had trained as a compositor and pressman was allowed within the trade rules to do both jobs. Richardson was a strict employer, but, even so, he kept his regular staff on through the slack summer months. His restricted workshops were in sharp contrast to those erected by University Printer Duncan at
Villafield in 1818. When Richardson died in 1872 his whole plant was valued at only £213 17s. 10d. plus stock of paper at £15 13s. 5d.

Businesses of Edward Khull & Son

  • 1798: Argyll Street, ‘Napier & Khull’
  • 1803-08: Post Office Court Trongate, ‘Niven, Napier & Khull’
  • 1810: 43 Trongate, ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1812-15: 5 Saltmarket, ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1816-19 East Clyde St. ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1819-26: 8 Clyde St. ‘Khull, Blackie and Co’
  • 1827-30: 8 Clyde St. ‘Edward Khull & Son’
  • 1831-36: 65 Virginia Street. Edward Khull University Printer, stereotype founder and steam-press printer
  • 1836-46: 25 Dunlop St. Edward Khull
  • 1847-48: Canterbury Place. Edward Khull

A 19th Century copy of ‘The Evangelical Expositor or a Commentary on the Holy Bible’, by the Reverend Thomas Haweis, volume I, printed by Edward Khull and Co. for W.Sommerville, A.Fullerton, J.Blackie and Co. Booksellers, East Clyde Street, 1818, bound in black leather with a brass clasp

William McGavin
Engraved by Henry Edward Dawe, published by Khull, Blackie & Co, published by A. Fullarton & Co, after painting by John Campbell
mezzotint, published 1 December 1824
NPG D38087
Glasgow Post Office Directory 1844. https://digital.nls.uk/directories/ . No Copyright

The concern of Edward Khull and Co., exclusive of compositors & printers etc. employed 81 canvassers and couriers, who operated all over Scotland. Two-thirds of the books sold were religious (bibles). The book Numbers Trade was of use in diffusing knowledge and it was said ‘improving’ the morals of the working class, as a person who could not accomplish payment in one lump sum, could more easily afford a subscription in twenty or forty instalments.

It has been calculated that since the commencement of the Numbers Trade 400k + Family Bibles, and several million books were sold in Scotland, which, in all probability, would not have been possible otherwise.

1826 Edward Khull Snr – Contemporary Anecdotes of 8 Clyde St

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’

Clyde Street, near the old Slaughter House, was Mr. Edward Khull’s snr printing-office. Mr. Khull was of German extraction. In appearance he was pleasant, and always seemed cheerful.

The press-room was in the sunk flat. Many eyes used to peer in through the windows from day to day, the numbers frequently darkening the room. The case-room, stereoroom, warehouse, and counting-house were in the first and second flats.

Mr. Khull possessed a fair share of shrewdness and humour, and was well liked as an employer. Often he was visited by tramps seeking work. He sometimes thought they were untaught compositors or pressmen.

One day a tramp waited on him seeking a job at the press. Mr. K. was suspicious of his being able to ink or roll a forme, or even to pull a bar. He thought he would first see how he would damp a ream of paper. The paper was stripped of its wrapper, and
put on the end of the damping-trough stand. Mr. K. ordered him to damp the ream. In a second or two he lifted it and then dropped it into the trough. Khull shouted, “Oh, ye impostor,” and in a twinkling the tramp bolted.

On another occasion he was greatly annoyed by an apprentice who would not or could not learn to spell, despite all the efforts made to drive this very necessary branch of education into his head. At length came a climax. One day he presented such a dirty, inaccurate proof that his master could stand it no longer. Taking his spectacles from his nose, he thus addressed the offending devil—
“Laddie, ye’ll just gang hame the night, and tell your mother to boil down Fulton and Knight’s Dictionary in sweet milk, and take it to your supper; for it seems to me there’s nae other way o’ driving spelling into you!”

By-and-bye Mr. Khull’s son, Master Edward, appeared in the office as the young lieutenant. His leadership was not as it should have been for the aged father, whose face was soon seen no more in the place that was dear to him. In later life he lived with his son-in-law, Mr. George Penfold, druggist, whose place of business was at the corner of Miller and Argyle Streets, and his house at 75 Argyle Street.

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’
1819 ‘The Glasgow Geography’Published by E Khull & Co East Clyde St. Glasgow. The United States of North America. The map is taken from an earlier by Arrowsmith.

Edward Khull jnr
In 1834 when working from 65 Virginia Street, Khull Jnr announced that he had begun ‘Printing by Steam’, a process which would enable him to execute work with a facility not previously attainable in the west of Scotland and at the same time with that neatness for which his work had been noted. To proprietors of newspapers and to those interested he stated that he had made suitable arrangements for the safe and speedy conveyance of the ‘Formes’ from and to their respective offices if they wished to avail themselves of his ‘Steam Press’.

1834 Edward Khull Jnr – Contemporary Anecdote 65 Virginia St.

In 1834 Mr. E. Khull Jnr opened a printing-office near the head of Virginia Street. It consisted of three flats.

The ground one was taken up with the stereo-foundry, the next above with the pressroom and picking-room, and the third floor was the case-room, a well-packed apartment, many of the frames in which were double-manned.

In the centre of the floor was the desk of Mr. McPhail, the overseer, by no means a common individual. Smart and well educated, and full of humour, he seemed to be quite content with the Khull establishment. The apprentices had a nickname for him— ‘The Dandy.’

If a compositor, for instance, wished to know how to display a title page, he would step down from his three-legged stool, stand straight up before the man, put both hands on his ribs, his elbows sticking out at right angles from his body, put the heels of his two feet together so as to make his feet appear in line, to show the bookseller’s imprint at the bottom of the page, and tell the compositor to look at him and make the title as near as he could in harmony with the shape of the human form divine which stood before him one Mr. McPhail, after he left Khull’s, he held two good positions in Edinburgh.

Mr. Khull jnr had a very sharp temper, and his tongue seemed to be in complete harmony with it. The work he did was principally furnished by W. R. McPhun, then occupying a small shop in the Trongate opposite the Tron Steeple. It consisted principally of
Roman Catholic literature, and, one would think, not very profitable.

I used to hear of the compositors growling about the lack of fatness in this bookseller’s volumes or pamphlets.

Mr. Khull removed from Virginia Street to a large brick building of several flats adjacent to Dunlop Street Theatre, where his business gradually waned away, and ultimately he gave it up.

After this took place he started for Melbourne, and became there a bullion broker.

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’

James Cleland had some of his work printed by Khull. As did the botanist Sir William Jackson Hooker. It’s interesting that James Cleland son John disappears from the Glasgow printing scene around 1825. More research is required to possibly understand why. But it’s clear that by the 1830s his father is engaging Khull for his ’Annals’.
“Printed at the University Press, by Edward Khull, Virginia Street. MDCCCXXXIV.”

1837 Printers Dispute

A dispute arose in Glasgow between the Glasgow master printers & their apprentices regarding rules on apprentice numbers & wage rates: according to a printed circular,
dated 14 March 1837 and signed by Edward Khull on behalf of the Glasgow masters, the Glasgow Typographical Society had drawn up an approved scale of wages ‘prepared by the pressmen themselves and that it was never sanctioned by the
Masters’. The circular included a list of the men who ‘being Unionists, have quitted employment’. As well as naming the strikers, the list indicates whether each is an apprentice or a journeyman, and whether they had been working at press or case.

KHULL, Edward, printer to the University, stereotype founder, and steam-press printer, Dunlop st., house. Hazlewood, Dumbreck 1845-46.


The mid 1840s were difficult trading times, a period of long depression with poor harvests, high prices, failure of the potato crop, and violence in Europe. When factories closed there were bankruptcies and barricades at factory gates and the military were called out. Under this climate it’s no wonder that Khull was looking east to a better future.

About 1830 Edward Khull jnr had married Catherine Dennistoun, a distant relation of Alexander Dennistoun (Dennistoun area named after) who was a wealthy merchant. Encouraged by an introduction to Dennistoun’s clients in the Port Phillip District and a ‘power of a draft for £1000’ on Dennistoun Brothers of Glasgow, Khull sailed with his wife and four children in the Greenock built John Gray(b1842) for Melbourne.

He arrived in August 1848, stayed for two months with George Russell at Golfhill and was introduced to management of a sheep run. Embarrassed by the cost of his family’s upkeep in Melbourne and unable to find suitable work for his son, he bought 6200 sheep on Tallygaroopna from the attorney of the absent licensee, Sherbourne Sheppard, and occupied the run. When Sheppard returned from England in 1849 he forcibly ejected Khull and repossessed the property. On 6 April 1852 the case, Khull v. Sheppard, was heard in the Supreme Court and the jury returned a verdict for the defendant.

In January 1851 Khull had been appointed government printer. Soon after gold was discovered at Ballarat he resigned and, with James Patterson as partner, set up as gold-brokers. From early 1852 Khull supplied the Argus with weekly reports on the gold market and with six annual statistical supplements on gold production, prices, exchange rates and other relevant matters. As one of the leading firms in the trade, Khull & Patterson were engaged by the Bank of Australasia to buy gold on commission. In 1853 the banks decided to bypass the brokers and to buy gold on their own account. In the Argus Khull used his weekly column to condemn this ‘illegitimate’ banking business, but he protested in vain and within a few years the banks controlled most of the trading in gold.

Late in 1852 as E. Khull & Co. he began to deal in stocks and shares. The appearance of his first share price list in the Argus, October 1852, marks the beginning of a share market in Victoria. As the banks took over gold dealing he gave more of his attention to sharebroking and became one of the leading figures in the industry. His regularly published share price list contributed to the gradual development of a wider market in stocks and shares. Although not prominent in the negotiations leading to the formation of Melbourne’s first Stock Exchange in April 1861 he was one of its foundation members.

However, he had already become a victim of the aftermath of Victoria’s first speculative market in mining shares. He was involved in insolvency proceedings from May 1860 to February 1861. He had helped to found the Stock and Share Journal on
26 May 1860 which ceased publication in April 1861. His active business career did not long survive these experiences and he went into retirement. Predeceased by his wife, he died aged 79 at his home in Collingwood on 5 May 1884. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery.

A Taste of Life at Katandra in 1863

Tallygaroopna is a rural district and small town on the Goulburn Valley Highway and railway 15 km north of Shepparton in northern Victoria. It was named after the Tallygaroopna pastoral run, which had been taken up by Edward Khull in 1841, and was later occupied by Sherbourne Sheppard (1843-52), after whom Shepparton is named. It is thought that the name Tallygaroopna derived from an Aboriginal word meaning big tree or trees.

The country around was absolutely level and we could only get a view above the trees by driving to Khull’s Range, a small elevation about 200 feet in height, some 10 miles from the homestead. The view from these hills was somewhat unique, as the trees seemed to form a perfectly even plane as far as the eye could reach.

What was most remarkable, however, was the fact that such a thing as a stone was practically unknown in the district, as the whole countryside was a mass of level black soil formed by the overflowing of the rivers, Murray and Goulburn. True that on Khull’s Range, already mentioned, red volcanic stone in small quantities might be found, but grey sandstone of the size of this grinding mill was absolutely unobtainable.

Early history of printing in Virginia St.

As already noted between 1830-35 Khull was based at 65 Virginia St, where the first steam powered printing press in Glasgow was built. However, that is not the only link the street has with the history of printing.

James Miller

Printer and lithographer (& map maker?) was working out of 30 Virginia St in 1825. He is certainly one of the very first to be involved in lithography in Scotland. He was of some repute & influential in the industry. Miller had kept a writing ‘Academy’ at 33 Rotten Row and his ability in penmanship led him into this new line of business in which he was very successful. Some of his apprentices even went on to establish their own firms, like David Allan of Allan & Ferguson whose 1843 plates(20) ‘Views of Glasgow’ are now held by Glasgow University. Incidentally they made a print of the Black Bull Inn in 1840 that gives a good sense of what the foot of Virginia Street looked like at that time.

There is some dispute as to who was the very first in Scotland with respect to introducing Lithography. Some suggest Thomas Hopkirk, the younger of Dalbeth. who certainly had the means coming from a wealthy family. Some say he started John Watson in the lithographic business in 1822/3. Another is that he started in business with the son of James Cleland to form ‘Hopkirk & Cleland’ lithographers at a much earlier date. This firm dissolved and Hopkirk then started Watson and Cleland carrying on the business in his own name.

I can find no Lithographic listing in the Glasgow directory prior to 1821 where it mentions ‘Jn Watson’ and ‘McAllister & Co.’ with John Cleland making an appearance at 30 Virginia St from 1822. However I did notice that the home address of Thomas Hopkirk the younger of Dalbeth was given as 169 George St. This is the same address that Jn Watson is working out of so that lends credence to the history of there being a working relationship there.

Schenck in his book confirms this relationship.

John Cleland’s office in the Glasgow Directory 1824 was at 30 Virginia St ‘lithographic printer’ and it changed hands when it was taken up by James Miller in 1825. Miller then moved to 85 Trongate and afterward to 21 Argyle St where he remained until 1842 when he retired.

Note: William Collins b.1789 (Printers & Publishers) est. 1819 28 Candleriggs Court. This is the original Collins of ‘Harper Collins’ publishers. 1824 published first dictionary Greek & English Lexicon. Retired to Rothesay 1846.

An Edward Collins worked at 42 Virginia Street paper maker warehouse. This was situated between the current Merchant City Inn and M&S Melvin & Lieper building. A Reputation for Excellence: Glasgow Volume II 1994 © Scottish Printing Archival Trust (SC: 012320) states the following on Edward Collins:

Edward Collins who is said to have arrived in Glasgow about 1746 is a rather shadowy figure. Supposedly from Shropshire or Suffolk he is said to have been suspected of being a Jacobite and to have been conscripted, against his will, by the Duke of Cumberland during the rebellion of 1745—46. By 1756 he was established as a papermaker at Dalmuir, near Glasgow, and in that year was awarded a silver medal by the Edinburgh Society ‘for the greatest quantity of the best printing paper, not under six reams’.10 Much, if not all, of the paper used by the Foulis brothers was purchased from Collins and this is no doubt true of the other Glasgow printers. It has been claimed, on somewhat doubtful grounds, that a descendant of Edward Collins was the founder of the Glasgow publishing house of Collins.

Scottish Printing Archival Trust (SC: 012320). https://www.scottishprintarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Vol-2-Glasgow.pdf

28 Virginia St

28 Virginia St prior to 1826 was located on the grounds of the old Virginia Mansion from circa1797. This is where James Cleland’s father set up his business as furniture maker. It was situated in the vicinity of 63/65 Virginia Street and the current vacant ground at Virginia Place. It was also known as Cleland’s Land and later assimilated into Virginia Court which was located where the present day carpark is situated.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

Jean Smith: Burns’ Mauchline Belle

A woman of excellence and force of character… would appear to have heeded Burns’ advice,

“Beware a tongue that’s smoothly hung…”

Robert Burns
Burns window Glasgow University copyright Press Association

The Belles of Mauchline (1784)

The pride of the place and its neighbourhood a'; 
Their carriage and dress, a stranger would guess, In Lon'on or Paris, they'd gotten it a'.
Miss Miller is fine, Miss Markland's divine,
Miss Smith she has wit, and Miss Betty is braw:
There's beauty and fortune to get wi' Miss Morton,
But Armour's the jewel for me o' them a'.
 O Leave Novels ye Mauchline Belles (late 1784)
O leave novels, ye Mauchline belles, Ye're safer at your spinning-wheel;
Such witching books are baited hooks
For rakish rooks, like Rob Mossgiel;
Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons, They make your youthful fancies reel; They heat your brains, and fire your veins, And then you're prey for Rob Mossgiel.
Beware a tongue that's smoothly hung, A heart that warmly seems to feel; That feeling heart but acts a part-
'Tis rakish art in Rob Mossgiel.
The frank address, the soft caress,
Are worse than poisoned darts of steel; The frank address, and politesse, Are all finesse in Rob Mossgiel.

Burns is offering a cautionary tale to his ‘wantoness’. But scrape below the surface and he’s telling us something else. Burns is acknowledging the impact of the written word, (and of education, that mainly male domain of the 1700s) on the female population of Mauchline.

Burns married Miss Jean Armour (1765 – 1834). Jean bore Burns 9 children, the last on the day of her husband’s funeral. Only three of them survived her. Officially, their marriage occurred 5 Aug 1788. “Burns, Robert in Mossgiel and Jean Armour in Machlin came before the (Kirk) Session upon 5 Aug and Acknowledged that they were ‘irregularly married’ (up the duff) some years ago.”

The prim & proper belle, the smart one with ‘wit’ was ‘Jean Smith’.

Miss Jean Smith (1767 – 20 Jan 1854)

The sister of Burns youthful friend James Smith(b1765). Her father Robert died in a riding accident in 1775 when she was eight year old. Her mother remarried James Lamie in 1877 a man with a reputation for pious and austere behaviour, a strict ‘Auld Licht’ Mauchline Kirk elder.

James Smith her brother, as recorded by the Kirk Session, had an illegitimate son with Christina Wilson, one of his mother’s servants, fifteen years his senior. Ironically she had been employed specifically to help mend his wayward behaviour. Smith always denied being the father of the boy although locally it was taken for granted. He was one of the ‘ram-stam’ boys.

“I always think of her as I knew her in my college days in Glasgow. I think of her as the grandest old lady I have ever seen. Most wondrously tenacious of well-ascertained facts, and singularly indifferent to hypothetical speculations, her intellectual perceptions were always clear, and her practical logic indomitable. Most conservative of all established proprieties, she was at once dignified and motherly, courteous and kind; and her manner carried with it an authority which, in the quietest conceivable way, was absolute, decisive, and indisputable.

‘she has wit’, by which Burns meant, doubtless, that she was possessed of strong common sense and sagacity. As I remember her, she was a lady of stately and somewhat majestic presence, grave and reserved in manner, although always kindly and courteous. She had bright eyes, and a face beaming with intelligence. “

Rev. Andrew Urquhart writing of Jean Smith in MEMORIALS OF ROBERT SMITH CANDLISH, D.D. Pg8

For many years after her husband’s death Mrs. Candlish struggled financially with the ‘res angusta domi’ in Glasgow, and would tend her son’s clothes with her own hands, even during the years of his college course.

Hers was a severe school of discipline; but she abhorred a child being punished by corporal punishment. She immediately removed her eldest son James from an English school he had been sent to in Glasgow on account of his describing being caned with some fellow pupils. After that a tutor was found—Mr. Clark, who was afterwards minister of Canongate Church, Edinburgh. There was another English master (Sheridan Knowles), quite famous at the time for his elocution. He was responsible for teaching the boys to read well, and to recite from memory.

“The great amusement of a Saturday afternoon, or any other holiday, was to get Mrs. Candlish to invite the aunts and cousins to tea, and then the large school room was made into a kind of theatre, the company arranged on forms at the one end, and a large screen towards the other, formed of a green crumb cloth hung over a string. The three boys (Robert Candlish, John & Adam Bogle) were behind the screen, and when it was pulled aside the acting began, that is to say, the boys came forward and repeated in a theatrical way long pieces from Shakespeare’s historical plays. Hamlet’s address to the players was a great favourite, and Cato. Robert Candlish had a great defect in his articulation ; but every pains was taken to correct it. When any celebrated actor came to Glasgow the boys were taken to the theatre ; and always after that there was an imitation of it at home the first opportunity.”

“Mrs. Candlish (senior), when I first became acquainted with her, must have been about sixty-six years of age and at once impressed me with the conviction that she was a very superior woman… and eyes which seemed to see one through and through.”

Mr Bell

A favourite maxim through life with her was

” Out of debt out of danger.”

Jean married James Candlish, Mauchline, 8th September 1794. Source (OPS FR387 604/ 20 261).

Jean & James had from what I can establish 7 possibly 8 children. Only 4 made it to adulthood, two dying before thirty.

  • Janet Candlish 1797-1797 Mar (12th, buried 19th) Leith South?
  • Eliza Lambie Candlish 26 Jan 1799 – 1867 Jan 1st St Andrews Edinburgh
  • James Smith Candlish 28 Dec 1800 – 18 Sept 1829 Glasgow
  • Janet Smith 1801 – 1803 Feb (12th, buried 15th) Edinburgh
  • Jessie Smith Candlish 21 Aug 1802 (OPS) birth
  • Jane Smith Candlish died 23 May 1827 Glasgow (Gravestone Calton Edinburgh) aged 30yrs. Is this Jessie?
  • Henry (Harry) Candlish 1804-1805 April (24th, buried 27th)

James Candlish Snr (1759 – 29 Apr 1806)

(Glasgow University MA, 1781)

In Burns’ published letters there are two addressed to James Candlish. The first of them is dated “Edinburgh, March 21st, 1787,” and Mr. Candlish is there addressed as “Student in Physic, Glasgow,” and called “My ever dear old acquaintance.”

Later, Burns sought his help in getting a song they had sung together at school, ‘Pompey’s Ghost’ for the Museum. Candlish, in due course, did as he was asked, saying: ‘Being myself unskilled in music as a science, I made an attempt to get the song you mentioned set by some other hand; but, as I could not accomplish this, I must send you the words without the music.’

In a letter to a friend James Candlish wrote about pursuing a ministerial calling:

“By nature I hate hypocrisy, and consequently feel great reluctance to preach doctrines I do not believe.”

Thus Candlish turned his attention to the study of medicine, lecturing as a ‘Teacher of Medicine’. And, accordingly, he is found resident in Edinburgh 1800 (some records state as early as 1788 but I have been unable to corroborate that date).

In his profession he was eminently successful, and is referred to as an authority twenty years after his death, as appears from evidence given before the University Commissioners 11th December 1826.

” He was a gentleman of short stature, full flabby habit, and sallow complexion, at least latterly. He was in the act of making a speech in the Royal Medical Society on the evening of April 28th, 1806, when he was seized with an uneasy sensation in his head ‘ as if his head would have burst,’ or ‘ as if the brain had been too big for the skull.’ This feeling soon went off; and he continued his speech. When he had finished it he left the room, and felt extremely ill. After some time he was able to walk home.”

Dr. Abercrombie, who knew him, and attended him in his last illness.

He saw him about an hour after the attack. Candlish was sensible for two hours, but answered questions very slowly. Everything was done for him, but by eleven o’clock he was incoherent and his condition deteriorated. He died the following day. His youngest son Robert was 5 weeks old. He was buried in the old Calton burial ground.

It’s interesting to note that the story passed down is that Jean Smith only moved through to Glasgow when her husband died and by extension that is the point which she set up the school. However, the Glasgow PO Directory dates show that the school was established several years prior to her husband’s premature death in 1806. She and the family were clearly still living in Edinburgh (Where her husband was teaching medicine) when it seems she chose to set the school up in Glasgow. The school taught all the main subjects of the day except Latin, Greek & Mathematics.

The wiki entry for her son Robert Smith Candlish states his mother survived running a ‘boarding house’ at 49 Virginia Street. And that the building was ‘then a new building’. But looking closer at the citation it references the Glasgow directory of 1816. Possibly taking a (false) lead from the blue plaque on The Jacobean of circa1817.

However ‘boarding house’ seems at odds with the Glasgow Directory describing the occupation as a ‘boarding school’. Indeed other sources reference this ‘Mauchline Belle’ as running a school. Given she taught her youngest son who went on to achieve prominence in the ministry her running a school seems the more likely. In addition the location (geography) at both Virginia Street & Charlotte Street supports the premiss of it being a school rather than simply a boarding house. Most significantly, there is a contemporary account in her sons biography that confirm the establishment as being a school. The school is also listed in Cleland’s ‘Annals’.

Alexander Stevenson (surgeon) who lived at No.8 later 53 Virginia Street for 25+ years also worked in Edinburgh. He was one of the main correspondents of Edinburgh physician Dr William Cullen. (For more fascinating detail visit the Cullen Project) Glasgow must have had appeal if you chose to make that commute for so many years. It would suggest Jean Smith was able & willing to make the same commute in reverse to set up her school.

It seems the grind of a Glasgow – Edinburgh commute is nothing new.

Mrs Candlish’s Glasgow School (Jean Smith) was located at the following addresses:

  • 1803 Boarding School 49 Virginia Street*
  • 1804 –
  • 1805 –
  • 1806 Boarding School 21 Charlotte Street
  • 1807 Boarding School 21 Charlotte Street
  • 1808 –
  • 1809 Boarding School 21 Charlotte Street
  • 1810 Boarding School 21 Charlotte Street
  • 1811 –
  • 1812 Boarding School 49 Virginia Street
  • 1825 Boarding School 49 Virginia St
  • 1826 Boarding School 52 Virginia St **
  • 1827 Boarding School 52 Virginia St **
  • 1828 Boarding School 52 Virginia St **
  • 1829 Boarding School 52 Virginia St **
  • 1830 Boarding School 52 Virginia St **

* 1803 is earliest directory School may be older. ** Change in number is due to street numbering convention changing in 1826.

  • 1826 JS Candlish Surgeon 23 Maxwell St
  • 1827 JS Candlish Surgeon 86 Hutcheson St
  • 1828 JS Candlish Surgeon 86 Hutcheson St. ho 52 Virginia St
  • 1829 JS Candlish Surgeon 86 Hutcheson St. ho 52 Virginia St
  • 1830 JS Candlish Surgeon 86 Hutcheson St. ho 52 Virginia St

One address sticks out: 49 (later 52) Virginia Street. Indeed contemporary press reports 2020 claim the Jacobean was a school at one point in its history. The street number would appear to support the premiss. However, street numbering then was not as it is today. It was sporadic up until 1804, at which point it formalised then changed again in 1826 to the order currently in the street.

In Candlish’s time, street numbers in Glasgow rose sequentially from LHS crossed over and then headed back down RHS to the foot of the street. As such I have been able to establish that the school run by Mrs Candlish was not at the current site of The Jacobean but actually across the street. The move to Charlotte Street at exactly the same time as the Virginia Buildings were being built threw me off track. A lucky accident as I never would have made the Burns connection otherwise. I thought this was evidence to support the Jacobean being the school in question. But I was neglecting the development of Spiers’ & Bowman’s gardens across the street.

The gatepost that is still in situ may date from circa1799. John Bowman of Ashgrove died in 1796 and his property passed into the hands of trustees who later sold to John Lang, writer, in 1798. The Merchant City Inn is possibly from circa1798-99 but require feu detail to confirm conclusively.

A 1799 Post Office Directory description for Henry Hardie & Co. Linen Warehouse west Wilson Street, south side with crucially Henry Hardie lodging given as Virginia Street leaving us in no doubt as to how far west the warehouse was located. The Merchant City Inn is present on Fleming’s map of 1807 giving a latest date of build in the absence of feu records.

Copyright- Cicerone: Merchantcityglasgow

The Merchant City Inn on the east side of Virginia Street built by Henry Hardie & Co. I believe was also home to Candlish’s school. Have you ever wondered why the gap site still exists? The gap was twice the width it is today, about 40 feet wide. Was a previous townhouse garden used as a school yard? The yard certainly was leveraged later for a paper warehouse next door. The gap would have facilitated an off-street loading bay. At some point between 1830-1853 the neighbouring Glasgow Gas Light Company expanded their plot north and built into the ‘yard’. This was prior to Melvin and Leiper’s late Italian Renaissance palazzo style remodel in 1868 that exists today at No 42 Virginia Street.

‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ Image: https://maps.nls.uk
Fleming 1807 v Goad 1940s

In addition, 21 Charlotte Street for those few years between 1806 – 1810 was also the address of Walter Ewing (later Maclae of Cathkin) who was a partner in Henry Hardie & Co. He made a fortune in the West India Trade. He married Margaret Fisher, daughter of Rev James Fisher later one of the ‘fathers of the Secession’. Was there a link between her stepfather Rev Lamie and Rev Fisher that prompted Jean Candlish’s move west?

Also it’s a twist of fate that one of Burns’ six Belles should end up not far from The Black Bull Inn where Burns penned work to another of his loves, ’Clarinda’.

Curiously, after moving through to Glasgow from 11 West Richmond Street in Edinburgh a portrait painter called T Laurence (sp) 1820 moved into 6 Virginia Street Glasgow. He appears to have been resident in Glasgow from 1817. (Not the Sir Thomas Lawrence although he did paint monied Glasgow & Scottish citizens) On examining the Edinburgh directory there is a Mrs Lawrence on Richmond Street then later circa1810 Stephen Lawrence drawing teacher at 6 Richmond Court. Were these Lawrences related, did Jean Smith know them?

Below are short biographies of her two sons whom she raised single handedly along with her daughters. (more research is needed on her daughters)

James Smith Candlish (28 Dec 1800 – 15 Sept 1829)

Glasgow University MA, 1819

James Candlish the elder brother was born in Edinburgh in 1800. At the age of six he moved with his mother & siblings to Glasgow. He studied at the University of Glasgow graduating MA in 1819.

It would appear he travelled to the continent to further his medical education in Paris. By the autumn of 1825, he was back in the UK (London boarding house), ready to begin his career.

He is described as being, “Exempt from prejudice of every kind, yet restrained by natural sobriety of judgment from all extravagance of speculation; with a power of clear exposition and a readiness of expression that made him subsequently one of the most popular of lecturers.”

Rev. Andrew Urquhart says of him (pg8):
“And when he had just begun to practise as a doctor of medicine, he had delivered a course of lectures in the Mechanics’ Institution, and his most lucid expositions had attracted the notice of some of the most distinguished men of literature and science in the city, much hope was entertained of his future eminence, both as a physician and as a professor.”

This rise in social standing and eminence as a man of science is evidenced by the fact that he was called to attend to the mother of the Duke of Argyll.

On August 6th 1829 he was appointed Professor of Surgery in Anderson’s University, Glasgow. He won the vote 29/10 against Dr William Auchincloss who was also applying for the position. Tragically he would die 6 weeks later of typhus fever (spread by lice, fleas & mites) before he could take up the post.

At the next managers’ meeting of the University on 22 September James Smith Candlish death as their newly elected Professor of Surgery is noted. The minutes record:

’their very sincere regret for the loss sustained to this University… whose literary accomplishments and professional acquirements promised to augment the rising reputation of this medical school’.

Anderson University minutes 22 September 1829

He was buried in Glasgow aged 28yrs September 1829.

(source OPS 644/1 530 113).

Robert Smith Candlish (23 March 1806 – 19 Oct 1873)

Glasgow University MA, 1823.

He was never sent to school. This may have been due to the financial constraints on his mother, or it may have been because, of ill health in his early childhood, being described as “somewhat delicate, and rather timid”. The numerous deaths among his siblings possibly made his mother cautious.

His home schooling was not a hindrance. He had very competent teachers in his mother and elder sister and brother, and it would appear he was a very able pupil.

There is a note from Miss Duncan, a fellow pupil of his at his mother’s school in Virginia Street, which gives us a vivid picture of Robert Candlish in his earlier years:

” When I first came to be associated with Dr. Candlish he was a little boy of about eight years of age. We were at that time very much together, both at lessons and play. While the girls were engaged at needlework little Robert always sat on a low stool beside his mother, doing sums of arithmetic, of which occupation he never seemed to tire. He never was sent to a public school.

His mother and eldest sister gave him all the instruction he required until he was too far advanced for them to carry on. His eldest sister’s love for her little brother was very tender. She watched over and took an interest in everything he did and said. I remember her often saying how much she felt hurt at the remarks people made about him, when she went out with him and an old nurse, Jenny, who came with his mother and young family to Glasgow. He was a peculiar but interesting-looking child. His delicate fair complexion, his large forehead, and eyes with very long eye-lashes, and the rest of his body being so small, made him so peculiar-looking that people often stopped and asked whose child he was.

One day a lady gave him a penny, which he carried home and showed to his mother, and asked if she thought the lady took him for a beggar he was so early trained to abhor everything that was mean and selfish. His brother James, who was, I think, about four or five years older than Robert, took his education entirely on himself after his mother’s training.”

Robert S. Candlish was sent to the University of Glasgow at 12 years old, on the 10th October 1818. His undergraduate course took five years, graduating in the spring of 1823, when he obtained. the degree of M.A.

He was possibly bullied — ‘He had many young friends always tearing at him. His scarlet college gown was so torn by them, that when the day came for the prizes to be given, there was scarcely a bit left; and ‘ as an advanced student could not put on a new gown, one had to be borrowed for the occasion. He was such a funny merry wee fellow, it was no wonder.’

During the years 1823-1826 he went through the prescribed course at the divinity hall, then presided over by Dr Stevenson MacGill. A large part of his college course was largely employed in private teaching, sometimes as much as eight or ten hours a day, in addition to his studies.

Contemporary photograph, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RobertSCandlish.jpg

As a result of this in 1826, he travelled as private tutor to Eton College (for Sir Hugh Hume-Campbell of Parchment after a request to some of the professors for ‘the most able young man they could recommend.’) where he remained till 1829. While at Eton he was licensed as a preacher of the gospel by the Presbytery of Glasgow, August 6, 1828. On returning to reside in Glasgow in 1829 he was engaged as assistant by Dr. Gavin Gibb, the minister of St Andrew’s. Thereafter engaged at Bonhill Parish before taking up his post at St Georges Edinburgh.

James Barr in his ‘Disruption Memories’ comments on the relationship between Gregor and his young assistant Candlish.  He describes Candlish as ‘a fidgety, galvanised piece of humanity.’ Never had Barr seen other adult human legs in such nimble motion when under no other excitement than the sober act of walking.  Gregor’s opinion of Candlish was invariably positive and he conveyed his admiration of “Candy’s” abilities to Barr, adding, “You know, we always called him Candy.”  He had selected him in opposition to letters from Glasgow advising that he should have nothing whatever to do with Candlish, as he had preached a church in Glasgow vacant, and the probability was that he would soon do as much for Bonhill.  “Notwithstanding that,” said the parson, “As I was to pay the piper, I would choose the tune.  I saw that the right stuff was in him, and by the help of God I’d try to bring it out of him.  I never yet knew a young man that could match Candy in the speed with which he could compose a sermon; and always capital matter in it too.”

“But he was ambitious though.  He was not long with me till I saw that he would not be satisfied till he should become the Pope of the Church.  I was in the habit of sometimes calling him Pope Candlish.”

“A man hardly needs anything beyond Candlish. He is devout, candid, prudent and forcible”



Candlish took a special interest in education and the old tradition of the Scottish church respecting the connection of church and school, as well as the desire to see education improved.

For many years he strove tirelessly to promote an education system for the Church, and was successful in raising the status and improving the infrastructure of the normal colleges. On the passing of the School Act, he advocated the abandonment of the Free Church schools, and generously recommended the transference of the buildings as free gifts to the school boards of the parishes where they were situated.

Assembly 1843: Abolition

He submitted a report on American Slavery, the report stated, ” consider it the duty of Christian Churches, as such, to set themselves against the manifold abuses of slavery, and to aim decidedly at its abolition.”

Robert Smith Candlish was recognised as one of Scotland’s most gifted preachers, employing eloquence and careful research. Mostly loved by all who knew him as minister – and opposed by some whose ‘little minds could not comprehend the length and breadth and height of his learning’.

His influence in bringing about the Disruption of 1843 was second only to that of Thomas Chalmers.

He was buried, on Friday the 24th October 1873, in the Old Calton burying-ground, Edinburgh. The funeral was a public one, and the cortege formed a long procession,—the Magistrates and Town Council ; the Professors of the New College. The Free Church and United Presbyterian Presbyteries of Edinburgh; the Kirk-Session and Congregation of St. George’s; and many ministers and others from far and near. All the way from his house in Melville Street to the place of interment, the streets were lined with silent and weeping onlookers.

Robert Smith Candlish

by Elliott & Fry
albumen carte-de-visite, early 1870s
NPG x5615© National Portrait Gallery, London

Given Robert Smith ended his days in Edinburgh with his extended family (sister) it’s easy to see how the Glasgow history of Burns’ Mauchline Belle was lost to time. The Clyde played its own part. Swollen and in spate in February of 1831 it flooded William Reid’s house at 56 St Andrew’s Square with the loss of Burns letters and documents that captured some of Burns many associations with Glasgow.

(Reid would later become a partner in the book selling business of ‘Brash & Reid’)

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

The Jacobean Corsetry: New Town

All Roads lead to Rome

When The Virginia Mansion was built it was ‘perfectly out of town’. By the time George Oswald of Scotstoun was it’s latest custodian the city fathers were at an advanced stage of laying the groundwork to create a new town befitting their city’s new found wealth. The foundation of ‘the second city of empire’ was just being laid.

Axial Approaches

In Architecture of Glasgow (2nd ed. 1987) by ‘Gomme & Walker’ p54 states, “A feature particularly notable… of this period is the series of axial approaches to important buildings, which thus gain some formal dignity.” They then go on to list the following buildings (dates of both building and Street are added by myself.)

Table 1

In addition to the streets Gomme & Walker list you have the following mentioned in other text:

Table 2

The only street I do not come across in the literature as being ‘capped’ axially is Wilson Street. Which is strange as The Glasgow Story website talk about it being central to the new town design.

Table 3

“The ethos of that first New Town was that it felt wholly enclosed, its streets being terminated by civic buildings axially facing down them with a broader, weather-protected space (Wilson Street) at its heart”.

Why would you need to ‘enclose’ something that was already enclosed? Was the narrowing of Wilson Street at its eastern & western extremities an attempt to bring symmetry & harmony to how it was enclosed? A use of forced perspective to ‘lengthen’ the street seems to suggest a degree of thought did go in to its construction. A device already employed in garden design. And not just any garden but that of André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), gardner to The Sun King.

However, that was in the future. When Wilson St was originally projected(circa1790) it had a destination. It must have done because Virginia Street & the Shawfield Mansion garden already blocked it’s progress west. The narrowing of Wilson Street on the western flank did not happen until 1801 some 11 years later. Therefore, Wilson Street would have needed to terminate at an appropriate destination as every other street in the New Town. What could be better than the home of the future Rector of Glasgow University, soon to be the home of the future Lord Provost? But that was not the original intent.

The unbuilt land east of Hutcheson Street was bought from the council by Robert Smith Jnr on condition,  dated April 1790, that  ‘A public street between Ingram  Street and Trongate to be called Brunswick Street and another public street from Hutcheson Street  to Candleriggs Street to be called Wilson Street’  Renwick p663 1913.

It would appear the original intent was for Wilson Street to terminate at Hutcheson Street.  Blocked by the Shawfield garden. (Fleming’s map of 1808 reflects Wilson Street terminating at Glassford Street) But with Glassford Street projected 1793 it facilitated the expansion of Wilson Street into Virginia Street.  Was it chance that it terminated at The Jacobean?  Did the then owners of The Jacobean influence the projection through to Virginia Street to maintain their open vista east along the newly projected Wilson Street? Or did our civic leaders recognise the potential for extending Wilson Street through the gardens of the Shawfield mansion at some later date?

Early Plans

Given the duration between McArthur’s map of 1778 & Fleming’s of 1807 I decided to explore if any plans in the intervening period captured anything I’d missed. These were:

  • 1782: James Barrie Plan of the city.  It clearly shows a larger property on Spiers plot than the neighbour to the south & captures the distinct profile to the rear that we now associate with The Jacobean.
  • 1783: James Lumsden plan confirms the scale and obvious difference with its southern neighbour on Bowman’s plot.
  • 1797: James Denholm plan of the city p52 “Scott’s talent can be seen in his clearer line work and and better definition.”  However, there are anomalies.  Wilson St terminates on the west side of Glassford St., its path blocked. There are properties detailed on Spiers garden plot when there shouldn’t be until 1801 as per feu detail.  In addition no effort is made to capture building profiles. Also, if we recall, Senex, JB et al talked about Wilson Street being projected through ‘Bowman’s’ garden. There is no evidence of that on Denholm’s plan. As such whilst the draughtsmanship might be improved the execution has flaws that in the context of Virginia Street I need to dismiss in the absence of other corroborating evidence. That is unless Denholm is trying to capture a proposed future state as Fleming’s later map of 1808 did.

Of course without the ability to georeference Barrie’s & Lumsden’s maps I cannot be certain to the same degree as with Fleming’s map of 1807.

It was about this time I started to consider the fact that The Jacobean still stands, it hasn’t fallen down nor become distressed beyond repair. Why? For three reasons:

  1. The building has been in constant use. ‘Use it or lose it’ as the saying goes. With that constant use there would have been the necessity to maintain, as the current owner(JM) has. But that alone is not enough.
  2. The build quality must have been there from the outset. It must have been built to a high standard. Which one suspects its early owners would have demanded.
  3. Luck: With the rapid expansion west of Glasgow to Blytheswood & beyond, this area as a commercial hub fell out of favour. It relegated Virginia Street to no more than a delivery entrance for Marks & Spencer. People would be staggered today if they saw buildings modelled on Rome’s ‘Temple of Jupiter Stator’ still sitting at the foot of the street. Therefore The Jacobean was not under the same pressures to modernise, expand & fit in with surrounding improvements. Thankfully it got left behind. (The Jacobean signage that most Glaswegians & visitors admire is a relatively new addition dating from 1946.)

Build Window

Based on circumstantial evidence alone we now have two possible build windows circa 1782 or 1795. (The 4th floor extension excluded.)

Potential Architects

As stated earlier, I’d ruled out Spiers as being responsible. But what architects do we know these gentlemen instructed. We must remember at this time to make the distinction between ‘builder’ (developer) & ‘mason’ (architect) or ‘mason’ (builder/wright) & whether the architect merely supplied drawings (fee: 1% of build cost) versus being actively engaged on site (fee: 5% of build cost.)

In considering who Spiers, Oswald or Dunlop would instruct they would not appoint an unknown. As men of means & status they would appoint someone ‘proven’ and potentially ‘a name’. Frustratingly very little documented evidence remains of who was active in Glasgow around this time with respect to particular buildings. We read in ‘Glasgow Past & Present’ reference made to certain buildings and an attribution may be made as to the ‘builder’ (developer) as we know it today. But little is made of the actual architect / mason except for the grandest public buildings. In fact the role of ‘architect’ was not something that was recognised during this period in the same way it is today. Their country estates are better served in terms of the detail that has passed down. Listed below is what we know about Spiers, Oswald, Dunlop & siblings.

Table 4

Late 1700s Robert Adam(b1728) features with the ‘father of Glasgow architecture’, David Hamilton(b1768) only making an appearance post 1820. It’s no surprise that these merchant elite would seek to engage the best architects. Given a build date of circa1794 would appear to place the Adam practice in the frame.

Using The Trades Hall as a rough guide given its build date 1791-4, we know 3 architects were engaged to produce drawings. They were, Robert Adam(b1728) (50 guineas), James Jaffray(b circa 1746 confirm with OPS) & John Craig. Both paid 30 guineas. It was thought that the difference was due to Adam’s more established reputation. However, a recent review of the Trades Hall minute books revealed that after Robert Adam’s death in 1792, his brother James returned the extra 20 guineas which had been given to Robert to oversee the building of the Trades Hall which, due to his death, he was unable to do.

Certainly if you look at the central motif of The Jacobean with the tri-partite window with fine relieving arch if Adam is associated with any exterior trope it would be this. However, even in his lifetime he was frustrated with other architects and builders copying his style. Something he would write to James Paterson (his clerk of works) about circa 1791 when working on the Edinburgh University buildings.

Looking at the known work of John Craig, two of his works were captured in early photography. Both were well received locally. A third, 42 Miller Street “The Tobacco Lords House’ still stands. As can be seen from the below Craig uses all the same elements as Adam, tri-partite window, the relieving arch, pilasters and external ornamentation. Typical architecture for the period 1750-early 1800s:

The Hall of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons Grammar School b1788 George St St Enoch’s Square b1791

His namesake James Craig(b1739) designed The Sugar Sample Rooms (b1789) off King Street. Apart from street plans there is no other documented evidence of further Glasgow elevations.

Bone, Muirhead 1901. Old Sugar Sample Room off Trongate (southside). Originally associated with Tontine. Architect 1789 James Craig who was passed over for William Hamilton on Tontine. source: Regalty Club p77 1898. John Brown & Matthew Cleland builders. Muireheads later print of its demolition confirms position as southside of Trongate.
House 71 Queens St (First Glasgow Linen Bank, north of Kirkman Finlay House built on his plot by Frances Wallace (nee Ritchie) commissioned for her son Hugh Ritchie Wallace 1805. Sold 1817 to British Linen Bank. Regality vI p90) copyright TheMitchell Library. Architect unknown.

Tenements in Hutcheson, Wilson & Brunswick Streets in the style of The Jacobean:

Tenement on Trongate in the style of The Jacobean. Located south east Candleriggs. (NOTE: Find reference to it)

Pictures copyright of Mitchell Library

Other architects are a possibility as part of the Glasgow Building Company scheme of Dugald Bannatyne, Robert Smith & John Thomson who underwrote most of the New Town and George Square. It was Robert Smith jnr who projected both Wilson & Brunswick Streets. We do know that Robert Adam produced plans (Soane) for Ingram Street, George Square & Stirling Square.

In addition we know that Robert Adam’s relations John Adam & John Robertson conducted work in Glasgow on his behalf. This would make sense as its been estimated that across their projects the Adams practice could require upwards of 2,000 tradesmen. We know from contemporary writing that the vast majority of these were ‘scotch’ much to the chagrin of the English benefactors. A popular London ditty of the time concerning the Adelphi project reveals the general prejudice against the brothers Adam.

Four Scotsmen by the name of Adams
Who keep their coaches and their madams,
Quoth John in sulky mood to Thomas
Have stole the very river from us.
O Scotland, long has it been said
Their teeth are sharp for English bread
What seize our bread and water too….
Take all to gratify your pride
But dip your oatmeal in the Clyde.

The Adams practice would have needed a talent pipeline to feed their more prestigious output. These craftsmen would have had to been blooded first on his more ‘bread & butter’ work that is now lost to history. Possibly on ‘1% work’ where his only obligation was to supply drawings or have a clerk of works oversee. It’s well documented that a John Robertson built a fine tenement at the south west corner of Virginia Street b1761 which William Cunnighame of Lainshaw (GoMA) used as his business premises as did other merchants of the elite class like Richard & Archibald Henderson who resided there . [p520 The Old Virginia Mansion, Glasgow Past & Present vI]

Soane curator Arthur Bolton writing in 1922, Page 196

At Glasgow such fragments of Adam architecture as remain after the clearing away of the Infirmary, the alteration of the Trades Hall, etc., are mainly testimonies to the efforts made by James, and, perhaps, by William Adam, to continue the Adelphi practice. Wilson Street and College Street and the block in Stirling Street, are ghosts of what Robert would have made of them, had he survived to preside over their erection.

These Adamitic buildings are not, of course, in scale with the great buildings of modern Glasgow, and have thus been left far behind in the development of the city. Only the curious student would now seek for such traces of the style at the close of the eighteenth century in the decayed streets that abut upon the old High Street of Glasgow. Turning to other examples in remoter parts of Scotland, a great list of designs exists, but, in the main, they are for unrealised projects. Culzean Castle in Ayrshire is, perhaps, the most extensive and interesting example actually built, and maybe taken as a type of the “ Castle Style ” of Robert Adam.  Newliston, near Edinburgh, on the other hand, is a specimen of the smaller classic house which Robert had been building all his life. 

This reference to Newliston(b1789) is tantalising. When placed side by side with The Jacobean(b1794) the similarity is plain to see. It certainly looks like whomever built The Jacobean had access to Adam drawings. Given a build date of 1794 for The Jacobean (fits with timeline for the Adams’ Trades Hall ) I think it’s unlikely a local architect would ‘knock-off’ an Adam design right under their noses. In addition the incised ornament on the facade was ground breaking in the context of Glasgow(UK) design. It would take a courageous and confident architect to suggest and an even more experienced one to convince a client to employ it on such a prestigious axial building.

Margaret Sanderson writes in ‘Portrait of an Architect'(source pp123-124) that Robert spent about a week in the West March 1791. Then the week of 13 September 1791 was spent in and around Glasgow staying at the Tontine Hotel. (He also apparently bought a plan of the city.) On Wednesday 14th September after business with the Assembly Room Committee he drove out to Carmyle with John Dunlop stopping in the way at Cambuslang to see Rosebank. One can imagine them discussing new ideas and Adam selling his vision to John Dunlop on that drive out to the country. Did Adam find in John Dunlop someone who caused him to reassess Scotland as that ‘narrow place’ where change was impossible? Later on that year 8-13 November he made his last recorded visit to Glasgow.

‘Gomme & Walker’ note The Jacobean as ‘an early example of incised ornament, owing something to the influence of Soane.’ But we mustn’t forget they were writing this in the belief that The Jacobean was built circa1817 not almost twenty five years earlier in 1794.

The location at a prime junction capping the main arcaded precinct of Wilson Street in Glasgow’s New Town fits with Adam’s keen eye for self promotion. As would the client, the future Lord Provost of Glasgow.

In his lifetime Adam was criticised for not evolving stylistically after his initial successes. Is The Jacobean a reply to those critics? Or is it simply case of his untimely death restricting artistic expression. The fine incised ornamentation would seem to hint at the former. The Lord Provost was well known for his refined tastes and artistic sensibilities ‘a collector of songs’ and one can imagine him as a receptive client open to new ideas.

In his late Scottish work you can see Adam making the shift away from the ornate ‘busy’ exteriors of earlier work; as evidenced by Newliston(b1789) and also Dalquharran Castle(b1785-90).

If considering Soane(b1753), he himself is most associated with incised ornament. As with most pushing of boundaries his was not initially received well as per the infamous ‘The Modern Goth’ (May 1796) where Soane’s incised ornament is compared unflatteringly to a chef’s knife scores on a pig skin.

'... To see pilasters scored like loins of pork, 
To see the Order in confusion move,
Scroles fixed below and Pedestals above,
To see defiance hurled at Greece and Rome ...'

Whilst there is a record of Soane visiting Glasgow as early as 1780 (Soane day book) staying at the Black Bull Inn at the foot of Virginia Street no less, there is no record of him producing work in Glasgow until the commissions in Buchanan St(1799) and Miller Street(1802).

He was also involved in Cairness House, Aberdeenshire (b1794.) Designed by James Playfair(b1755) Here, on each wing, window surrounds of the ground floor have fine vertical blank relief ornament. But crucially not incised.

(See G. Stamp, ‘Soane in Glasgow’, Georgian Group Journal, LXIII, 2003, p.196, 

Soane was a methodical record keeper, notorious collector as evidenced by the excellent Soane Museum and one suspects if he had a hand in The Jacobean some evidence would survive.

James Playfair (b1755). He mainly practised in central belt and east of Scotland. He too employed tri-partite windows as a repeating theme which he utilised on the horizontal rather than Adam’s vertical plane. As evidenced by ‘Baldovie’ and ‘London House’: Clapham for David Webster.

David Hamilton(b1768), it is thought he may have worked for the Adam practice in Glasgow possibly on Miller Street immediately to the west of Virginia Street. [I suspect he might have had a hand in The Virginia Buildings(b1808) to the south as evidenced by the finely squared window ‘orders’. At Dalquharran Castle(b1785) Adam used a stylised ‘order’ round the south facade windows to great effect. Looks contemporary even today. I can’t help make comparisons to the fluted square pilaster of Hamilton’s Hutcheson Hopital(b1804) and wonder if the squared ‘orders’ of The Virginia Building(circa b1808) are a progression in his style. If not by Hamilton then by whom?] If looking at his actual documented early work:

  • Ardenconnel House, Ayr (b1790),
  • Hutcheson’s Hospital, 158 Ingram St, Glasgow (b1802-5),  The west face on John St. has a nod to Adam with tri-partite windows repeating vertically across two bays.
  • The Theatre Royal, Queen St. Glasgow (b1803-5),
  • Castlehill House, Ayr(b1804),
  • John Knox Parish Kirk, Gorbals, Glasgow (b1804) 
  • Moorepark, Govan, Glasgow (b1805) 
  • Aikenhead House, King’s Park, Glasgow, for John Gordon (b1806 & 1823)
  • Nelson Monument, Glasgow Green (b1806) 
  • Kenmure House, Lanarkshire for Charles Stirling (b1806) 
  • Ayr, New Kirk (b1807) 
  • Airth Castle, Stirlingshire (b1807) 
  • Robert McBriar’s House, Glasgow (b1808) 
  • Justiciary Buildings, Glasgow (b1808) 
  • Trades House, Glassford St., Glasgow, Extention at rear (b1808)
  • Auchinraith, Blantyre (b1809) 
  • Barnton Castle, Midlothian (Porch) (b1810) 
  • Germiston House enlarged for Lawrence Dinwiddie (b1810) 
  • 233-5 Buchanan St., Glasgow – David Hamilton’s own house (b1811)

I’m surprised that Ardenconnel House(b1790) is only B Listed. As already noted by Adam scholars a progression of Adam’s ‘Sunnyside’. It looks like the perfect exercise; variations on a venetian window. Beautifully proportioned, paired back & playful, both on the main wings and the smaller eastern wing. The main wings central relieving arch resolving into a finely executed blank vertical relief. The vertical relief resolves similar to Playfair’s Cairness House(b1794).

One would suspect that if not using incised ornament on his own house by 1811 then Hamilton wasn’t responsible for The Jacobean. Certainly there is no evidence of him having done so. Architects sometimes have no choice but to showcase their most boundary challenging ideas on their own account first. Certainly self builds would exhibit themes central to their core belief at that time. Look at Soane’s house near Lincoln’s Inn Field, Holborn and his country retreat; Pitzhanger Manor.

The design of the Theatre Royal on Queen St intrigues me. Whilst you see Hamilton elongation on the vertical used to maximum effect it’s the roofline that others have commented that has ‘echoes of Soane’ that leaves me curious. The figures of the lion and unicorn couchant on the north and south extremities. It’s a divergence for Glasgow of that time. I see it on no other public building façade being featured so prominently. (The stairs of the University excluded). What links Hamilton to Soane? If I revisit The Jacobean where today I see the chimneys on the main façade. I believe they are a later addition. On that assumption what would have been in their place… my guess is the lion and unicorn couchant. Or something appropriate to ‘crown’ the building given the paired back facade.

Another contender is William Stark(b1770). One of Stark’s older sisters married the Glasgow architect John Craig. It is possible that Stark was a pupil in his office. In 1798 Stark visited St Petersburg presumably in connection with a commission there. There may have been a link to the architect Charles Cameron, then employed in Russia. Noted as an original thinker his talent must have been apparent prior to 1798 to win a Russian commission. However his work in Glasgow only gets recognition on his return from Russia.

  • 1802 Glasgow Cathedral alterations to east end of chancel
  • 1804 Hunterian Museum

Robert Reid(b1774) whose style is recognised as being influenced by Adam but more austere. He was King’s architect but didn’t assume this title until 1824. His main projects began 1801, so like Hamilton too late. Prior to Robert Reid assuming the mantle of King’s architect was James Brodie, but little knowledge of his work remains.

James Jaffray, the son of Alexander Jaffray, burgess and maltman, was a wright and was admitted a burgess of Glasgow in 1777. In the Glasgow directory of 1787 he appears as an ‘architect, cabinet-maker and house wright’ and in the directory for 1790-91 simply as ‘architect’.  Source: http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=408066

He built the first church in St Enoch’s Square 1780 (remodelled 1827 by David Hamilton) and produced drawings for College Street and Trades Hall between 1790-91. Both unexecuted. He rebuilt Rutherglen Parsh Church Nave in 1794 and produced drawings for a villa 1799.

James Craig (b1739) who laid out Edinburgh’s New Town after winning the competition of 1763. The plan being ratified some 4 years later. It is thought he had no hand in the design of the elevations in the New Town.

Subsequently he was engaged too by Glasgow city elders to lay out Meadowflats after being engaged privately to lay out Blytheswood by the Campbells. Again, there is no evidence of him having a hand in the Glasgow New Town elevations either. Although as noted above he did have a hand in the ‘Sugar Sample Rooms’.

This leads me to a hypothesis that The Jacobean did come from the Adam practice, a posthumous tribute to their brother’s last pushing of architectural boundaries. They were already in the vicinity building the Trades Hall, The Glasgow Royal Infirmary, The Assembly Rooms, Stirling Square & potentially in Miller Street & George Square. It was a ‘free throw’. If it was received favourably it cemented a reputation. If it didn’t then nothing lost; their brother was already ‘free’ from criticism for any blame that may be attributed. That’s not to say that it would have been a decision taken lightly, given their financial predicament.

I also don’t think it’s an interpretation by the brothers. Look at the work of James on the College Buildings and Stirling Street. They do not breath. Little understanding is given to negative space. The ornament larger, more in keeping with their father; stylistically more in keeping with early Robert but not remotely close to Robert’s late Scottish work.

When looking at the width of the incised ornament of The Jacobean it’s too fine to be truly effective on an axial building. It’s lost from any distance rendering the façade plain. I don’t think Robert would have made this mistake. Soane certainly knew how to employ incised ornament to maximum effect as in Tyringham (b1792-1800). Did the brothers lack conviction in execution or were the masons’ instructions not clear. Either way we shall never know.

Like Soane’s experience, the public was possibly not ready for this. It would have looked bare, almost unfinished for a significant ‘axial’ building. Possibly deemed a ‘misfire’ to be quickly left behind with the stampede westward. Within six years to be partially covered up by the narrowing of Wilson Street tells us today how little it was regarded by civic Glasgow. Its reputation never to fully recover. Much like the rest of Glasgow’s first west end, it never reached the heights lauded a century earlier by the likes of Daniel Dafoe and others on Glasgow’s town planning.

This revised date of 1794 also leaves the door open to another question. Did the design of The Jacobean act as a lightening rod for the early ‘style’ of Glasgow’s first ‘new town’? The trope of tri-partite repeated vertically appear all over the New Town: Wilson St., Hutcheson St., Brunswick St., Candleriggs, John Street. Were the other builder’s directed or simply paying homage to The Jacobean? An ‘homage’ would suggest they respected whomever was responsible. At the very least there must have been a concerted attempt to create a unified and harmonious mixed residential precinct, either singularly by The Glasgow Building Company or collectively amongst several contractors. This merits further research.

Take another close look at the famous Glasgow tenement. A recurring theme is the tri-partite window, which then evolves into a bay on later elevations. Is The Jacobite the ‘primus’? One can only speculate, however, what we can say is that it would appear to be the oldest surviving example in that style for Glasgow (along with Wilson Street) and that makes it culturally important for the city. The oldest tenement (b1771) still survives in the Gallowgate.

In Glasgow’s transformative époque it’s incredible to think that one property, The Jacobean, over a fifty year period was not just associated with so many of the institutions that made Glasgow; mercantile, academic, civic & religious but housed some of those institutions’ leaders. All to a man, intimately linked with the slave trade.

There has been a lot of recent talk about Glasgow acknowledging its complicity more transparently. To find a place suitable to gather, reflect & hopefully educate would be welcomed.

Very few buildings leave a legacy for future generations. It has endured this long, hopefully the building will continue to survive, evolve, and be used as a catalyst to educate about what horrors were perpetrated in the name of ‘commerce’ and wilful ignorance. As a legacy there could be none more fitting for The Jacobean Corsetry.

Post Script: Why was The Jacobean forgotten?

For a variety of reasons:

It has been assumed that Findlay Duff & Co built The Jacobean 1817 as a commercial concern from the outset. The truth is more nuanced. I believe John Dunlop of Rosebank was well aware of his term as Lord Provost and like his father Colin Dunlop of Carmyle before him would have wanted to commission a property in a prestigious location, fitting his status as a civic leader and ‘man of refined tastes’. It’s documented that he had engaged Robert Adam for designs for a house. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the location he chose, capping the newly arcaded precinct at the heart of the New Town for everyone to see was any accident.

However, events would conspire against him; Robert died in March of 1792 just after overseeing his first draft of drawings of the same year & his brother James Dunlop ran into financial difficulty. It was this financial difficulty that led to John taking on the responsibility for the Virginia Mansion as his brothers trustee. We are told from other contemporary sources that he was in a sound financial position to assist his older brother. But his economic situation worsened and by 1796 we learn he had to take a salaried position as Collector of Customs in Bo’ness to make ends meet. Quite a fall.

It’s around this time that The Jacobean Corsetry transforms from a residential property to a commercial ‘tenement’. By 1797 John Dunlop is extending Virginia Street to maximise the developmental potential of the Virginia Mansion garden. He also puts his garden on the east side of Virginia Street up for sale and sells Rosebank his country estate to David Dale in 1801. This transition from residential to commercial almost 20 years prior to the sale to Findlay Duff & Co would partly explain the lack of awareness of the building’s history.

John Dunlop died in Greenock in 1820. His only child John Colin Dunlop died without issue or relict not long after in 1842 in Edinburgh. This is crucial as there was no-one left to vouch for The Jacobean‘s provenance. No family history to pass on. As far as everyone else was concerned it was simply a commercial property. It’s scale certainly suggested so.

Findlay Duff & Co sold in 1826, about a quarter century prior to Senex sending articles into The Herald.

By the time Senex , JB et al were writing the Glasgow history in ‘Past and Present’ you can understand why Spiers old plot could be confused with Bowman’s. The passage of time playing tricks on the memory. JB writes with such assuredness that I’m sure no-one would question or have the ability to critique unless they had privileged access to certain legal & civic records.

JB even admits himself in a passage that he could recollect clearly circa 1810. (almost 15 years after The Jacobean transitioned from residential to commercial.) He’d have been about 30 at this stage. Prior to this one would imagine he was enjoying his youth and not taking too much note of what was happening to property around him.

The sale of the mansion garden was also pivotal. It relegated The Jacobean to being ‘kerbside’ and certainly not worthy of consideration as one of the fifteen mansions that were passed down in Glasgow folklore as being stately in their own grounds, certainly not worthy of a word, engraving or print. Well that’s not quite true. The Glasgow artist Robert Eadie (1877–1954) did make a pencil sketch of The Jacobean in 1946. A commission; it is the only early image I have found.

It also fell victim to Glasgow’s rapid expansion west to the new environs of Blytheswood and beyond. With the narrowing of Wilson Street partially blocking its facade it also served to cover up any curiosity there might have been. This was compounded by the legacy of the other tenements remaining in the vicinity (one still exists at 54-64 Wilson Street) where the architecture was unified and cohesive meaning it didn’t stand out amongst its so called ‘peers’, its incised ornament the only thing setting it apart; only visible when looking from a close distance. In the vicinity The County Buildings(b1842-44) dominated, sucking up any oxygen remaining.

Like the County Buildings the victorian architecture got grander and more refined; The Jacobean hardly merited a second glance if at all. Writing of Virginia Street in the early 1800s:

“The street was dull and dreary in these days, and in that respect is not much changed now.”…“The archway to Miller Street now are was then occupied by several dreary-looking two-storey houses, the windows thickly encrusted with dust and well bespattered by many a swirling shower. They seemed never to have been subjected to the inconvenience of a glazier’s wipe, and imparted a peculiarly desolate look.” 

…Not much has changed.

And then there is the fatal statement ‘All their mansions are demolished’… Naw they wurnae.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

The Jacobean Corsetry: The Case

At this stage I was questioning my sanity. You don’t just lose a building. Impossible. But then I was reminded of The Britannia Panoptican Music Hall on Trongate, otherwise known as ‘Glasgow’s Lost Theatre’. As a music hall established in 1850 (now the world’s oldest & well worthy of a visit) it had hundreds passing through it’s doors every night on one of Glasgow’s busiest streets. Written about in press & fliers. A key source of entertainment it would have been used be all rungs of society. And yet it’s location was only recently re-established.

In contrast The Jacobean plot 100 years older, consigned to a side street, a building used by relatively few in comparison would seem the much easier to lose sight of so to speak. I had also been exploring family history and lost count of the times I found myself saying ‘Why don’t I know this?’ From one, two generations back. So reaching back the eight plus generations with The Jacobean seemed to bring things back into perspective.


Taking today’s Jacobean Corsetry simply at face value it’s easy to see why the assumption would be that it is, always was, a commercial property. It’s scale, appearance and location lend itself to simply just that. After all Senex, JB et al. stated that their mansions were all gone, ‘demolished’. They were wrong about the location, could they be wrong about it’s provenance too?

Now that we have a clearer understanding of who the original owners were, if we are to entertain the possibility of The Jacobean Corsetry as a residential ‘townhouse’, the idea does not seem so far fetched when set against the scale of their country estates. These were individuals at the very top of Scottish & to a degree British society. They had the motive and more importantly the means to build big.

I have no thoughts of attribution or even establishing a build date. Thats beyond my means, it would require finding documented evidence establishing provenance beyond all reasonable doubt. However, I would like to progress the conversation and try and identify possible build window(s) given who we know stayed there. In order to achieve that I will explore:

  • The architecture; It’s not going anywhere. Time to look again.
  • Contemporary accounts; Nothing happens in a vacuum.
  • Pictorial Evidence; Maps, engravings, etchings & early photography.


The Jacobean Corsetry in its current incarnation dates from at least 1807 NOT 1817. Potentially it is one of Glasgows last remaining 18th Century façades. Sadly, the guts ripped out of it long, long ago.


Noting the profile of The Jacobean in Fleming’s map of 1807 when it shouldn’t have appeared until at least 1816 on the purchase of the plot by Findlay Duff & Co. prompted me to reach out to the current owner (JM) in the summer of 2020. He had been involved in the building’s refurbishment in the early 1990s. He told me there was evidence of an older mansion that had been extended upward at some point on the same footprint. He identified a crow step (dutch) gable (typical of 1700s architecture) and chimney head about second floor level. Crucially he drew attention to the fact that the quoin stones to the rear of the property only extend so far. Suggesting the building had indeed been extended upward.

He also mentioned that Ian Samuels of Glasgow Planning Dept. had been ‘all over’ the building in the early 90s. Unfortunately he has since passed and now have no way of knowing what he established. Recently I was able to obtain the following photograph:

Jacobean Corsetry (rear) ©merchantcityglasgow

The Masonry

The quoin stones clearly stop about the third floor. With a distinct change in the size and layout of the rubble work. Up to the level of the quoin stones the rubble work is uniform in size and laid out in an orderly fashion. Above this point the masonry is a ‘mish mash’ of sizes with less care and attention given to it’s appearance as if it’s been flung up with what was lying around.

At this point I had to consider that there was at least two build phases, possibly more. Did Findlay Duff & Co. extend upward? Did they reface The Jacobean Building to keep it consistent with their Virginia Buildings to the south? If not, then who did?

I decided to have a closer look at the front of the building. To identify what was and was not consistent between The Virginia Buildings to the south and The Jacobean. I was not expecting them to be the same given the plot purchase dates of 1808 & 1816. (I made an assumption that Findlay Duff & Co. did not wait to acquire both plots before building in unison.)

Architectural Consistencies between The Virginia Buildings & The Jacobean

  1. The buildings were of uniform height.
  2. Both faced in ashlar.
  3. Both shared a symmetry of design.
  4. Both utilised a relieving arch and ionic pilaster motifs.
  5. Both had evidence of the same incised decoration around their 1st floor windows.

Architectural Inconsistencies between The Virginia Buildings & The Jacobean

  1. The architecture of The Virginia Buildings appears more utilitarian ‘chunky’ when placed up against The Jacobean. Yes same features but ‘heavier’.
  2. Key build lines do not match, window heights are off.
  3. 1st floor windows Although they share the same incised decoration The Jacobean has this detail on every bay whereas The Virginia Buildings only captures this on the most southerly and northern bays.
  4. Then there is the issue of No.49 Virginia Street. This is a close (an entrance) lying directly between Virginia Buildings (Nos. 37-47 ) to the south and The Jacobean (No.53). It is not flush with either building. Why? Logic would dictate it should be flush with at least one of them. It’s design ties it in with The Virginia Buildings, it’s first floor incised decoration providing the symmetry I spoke of earlier. So why isn’t it flush on at least one plain?
  5. Finally there was the balustrade at roof level of The Jacobean. Neither The Virginia Buildings nor Robert Findlay’s own house featured this detail. So why introduce it onto the later building?
  • The Architecture:

I’m not qualified to comment in detail about the stylistic architectural differences if they are indeed different. To my eyes at least, it looks different, has a different ‘weight’. It’s part of the reason I’ve written this blog to try and bring more qualified voices to the discussion at least.

  • Key Build Lines

Window heights not matching seems incongruous when there was every opportunity to match up The Jacobean with the building to the south even when built sequentially as the text would tell us. However, if The Jacobean existed first as the map evidence of 1807 would seem to suggest and was used as an anchor to build north to then this might explain the heights being slightly out. It might also explain the difference in the incised window decoration.

  • Incised Window Decoration

Why does The Jacobean have incised decoration on all 1st floor windows but The Virginia Buildings only on the outside bays? This decoration is additional expense. Extravagant for a townhouse but would it be used so freely on commercial property such as an office tenement that we know The Virginia Buildings were built as? I think not.

However, if you wanted to unify the street architecture and were taking cues from an existing building then you just might prudently ‘borrow’ elements to achieve this. Glasgow has ‘previous’ in this approach. The old Bank of Scotland by James Sellars, 24 George Square and Merchants House, 30 George Square by J Burnet 1874. Two different buildings by two different architects. However, there was a prior agreement to keep the design uniform and cohesive for the benefit of the square.

  • Close at No.49

This perplexed me. Why is it there, what was it’s purpose? Was it bomb damage from the war? I searched Glasgows database of known hits but there was no match against Virginia Street. Was there fire damage? Again whilst there had been fires documented in the street, some even like Reid’s warehouse sadly with the loss of life none were associated with this location. In the absence of information relating to subsidence I then decided to look again at the maps that had helped me get this far.

And there it was, No. 49 Virginia Street sits on Spiers original plot not Bowman’s as expected. This suggests that Findlay Duff & Co. required the gap to bring symmetry to their original plan for The Virginia Buildings. I thought initially that the gap had been filled when the later purchase of 1816 from Dunlop took place but the symmetrical design of The Virginia Buildings strongly suggests the purchase was made earlier, possibly at the same time of the Bowman purchase.

On re-examining both recessed ‘wings’ that contain closes No37 & No49 if removed from the design then what remains (the 8 bays over the central pend) more closely matched the internal courtyard stylistically. Were both No.37 & No49 added as the business expanded, requiring other plots to be bought? We simply don’t know for certain. But their width matched closely the width of arched gateways that Glasgow of mid 1700s was famous for having either side of gentrified property. The central 8 bays also appear to fill in totality the width of Bowman’s original plot.

The design could have been 10 bays in total from the start, mirroring in scale the most prestigious building of that time The Tontine on The Trongate. Again we can only speculate. However, what’s not in doubt is that the newly acquired slice of Spiers’ plot has been used to maximum effect. It has enabled the internal buildings of Virginia Court that run perpendicular to be set back creating more internal space for the passageway between Virginia & Miller Streets. In the rear courtyard there is another clue that The Virginia Buildings were built in phases. Again the window line does not match up & the inside windows north most on the rear Virginia Street side appear to have been halved to accommodate the internal return through the courtyard space. This suggests at least two build phases for The Virginia Buildings excluding The Jacobean.

Given No49’s unified exterior with The Virginia Buildings as far as I am aware today there is no internal link south to The Virginia Buildings. Logic would seem to suggest there must have been. At some point in the early 19th Century The Jacobean became a girls’ school. Would this have necessitated the rejigging of the internal layout requiring a staircase north instead of south? With any connection to the neighbour to the south blocked off for the girls safety. A theory at least; I’m not aware of any evidence to support this. However an insurance map of Glasgow (Goad 1889-1946) would appear to show what looks like a connecting internal staircase with exits both north & south.

  • The Balustrade:

I’d seen a building with a similar feature but where, what building was it reminding me of? Then the penny dropped… it closely matched the known designs of The Virginia Mansion. Why was The Jacobean mirroring the mansion? It was time to explore the sale history of The Virginia Mansion.

  • 1752 George Buchanan of Mount Vernon.
  • 1769 Buchanan’s trustees.
  • 1770 Alexander Spiers of Elderslie. (confirmed by McArthurs map of 1778)
  • 1777 Spiers conveys the property to his wife Mary.
  • 1779 Spiers dispones the property (under the burden of Mary) to his second son Peter.
  • 1787 Peter Spiers sells to James Dunlop of Garnkirk. (The brother of John Dunlop of Rosebank)
  • 1789 Dunlop sells to George Oswald of Scotstoun.
  • 1793 Oswald sells to John Dunlop of Rosebank.

Then it hit me, all 3 owners of The Jacobean prior to 1816 had also owned The Virginia Mansion. Indeed John Dunlop had bought both The Virginia Mansion & The Jacobean in the same year (after George Oswald of Scotstoun had held both for four years). Two of the most prestigious properties in Glasgow bought at the same time. On the face of it, extravagant. What was going on?

Knowing that both The Virginia Mansion and The Jacobean had had the very same owners did this explain the balustrade? Was this architectural feature used at some point to unify and link both buildings and/or signify status?

What made me even more curious was Senex, JB et al. commenting on the following about John Dunlop. On purchasing both properties he stayed in The Virginia Mansion for two years before moving into his Virginia Street townhouse which he owned for almost 25 years.

Why would he move out of what on the face of it was the more prestigious property? The Virginia Mansion was renowned , it carried more ‘clout’; it had been Alexander Spiers’ residence after all. And then there was the delay of two years. Was this window used to refurb The Jacobean plot before he moved back there? The purchase was 1793 and we are told he moved back into his townhouse in Virginia Street circa1795.

By this time circa1793 The Virginia Mansion was almost 50 years old and possibly showing it’s age. John Dunlop of Rosebank was a man of refined tastes, did he see an opportunity to make a mark with his Virginia Street townhouse The Jacobean?

Equally it’s well documented that George Oswald of Scotstoun used this as his city townhouse for quarter of a century. He also had a large family, possibly 13 children. They’d need housed somewhere.

Could Alexander Spiers be responsible? He had the means, certainly, but I think not as evidenced by the later engraving showing The Virginia Mansion as a two story building. I don’t think he’d go to the trouble of erecting a 3/4 storey building only to move to something smaller in stature, spend the money widening and not extend upwards. I doubt as in business he would have allowed himself to be dominated by another.

And then I came across Annan’s image of The Tontine on The Trongate. Photographs of Old Closes, Streets, etc., Taken 1868 – 1877. Glasgow City Improvement Trust. Here we had what Gomme & Walker (p52) referred to as, ‘perhaps the most distinguished building of eighteenth-century Glasgow.’ Significantly important to Glasgow, Annan would photograph it several times from different perspectives. Built originally as a 5 bay Townhall circa 1740 it was extended circa1760 to ten bays. [coincidently Virginia Buildings eastern aspect is ten bays wide] We are told, ‘Above a dental moulded cornice was a balustrade (dating from after 1756), topped with urns. Since the building was ten bays long no bay could be central.’ The date of the balustrade being added ties in with the build date of The Virginia Mansion: both 1750s.

The Merchants’ House(1874) at 30 George Square, by J Burnet, prior to the addition of two floors also utilised a balustrade I suspect to provide a ‘nod’ to the original of The Tontine. This was captured circa 1900 by George Washington Wilson the photographer.

So if we are to take the Balustrade as a key piece of evidence, it opens the door to the possibility of The Jacobean being 18th not 19th century. Circa1770-1795.

Of course given John Dunlop held the Jacobean until 1816 he could have built at any point up until then. Equally Findlay Duff & Co could have introduced the motif at any point until 1826 when they too sold. But why would they go to the expense of introducing a balustrade when they wouldn’t even expend the cost of decorating all the 1st floor bays uniformly with the incised detail? The lack of window detail points to Findlay, Duff & Co. being less frivolous, and more prudent with their build costs. Which I guess was as true then as it is today for a commercial venture. The heart is less likely to rule the head when the venture is simply business.

If John Dunlop was choosing The Jacobean over The Virginia Mansion it really must have been something in its day. Hence leading us to think it was at least 20 years younger. The owners certainly had the means and contacts to achieve this. However, such a building would be ‘known’, remarked upon in contemporary sources: newspapers/magazines. Right?

It was time to explore contemporary sources and find what was happening locally.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

The Jacobean Corsetry: 1760-1816

‘The Jacobean Corsetry’ ©MerchantCityGlasgow

John Dunlop, merchant in Glasgow, was a younger son of Provost Colin Dunlop of Carmyle, and was himself Provost in 1794. In 1789 his town residence was on the east side of Queen Street, and he afterwards, in 1793, bought a house and garden in Virginia Street which had been long occupied by George Oswald of Scotstoun, and before him by Alexander Spiers of Elderslie.

LXXXV. Rosebank – The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry 2nd ed: Glasgow James Maclehose & Sons (1878)

Owners 1760 – 1816

  • 1760 – 1770: Alexander Spiers of Elderslie
  • 1770 – 1793: George Oswald of Scotstoun
  • 1793 – 1816: John Dunlop of Rosebank

Alexander Spiers of Elderslie (1714-1782)

Sir Daniel Macnee copy of William Cochrane portrait of Alexander Spiers
Photographer unknown .
https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=f941.435 OLD

As I proposed in my earlier post The Jacobean Corsetry sits on the original plot of Alexander Spiers of Elderslie. The ‘mercantile god’ of Glasgow. Much has been written about him already. If interested I’d urge you to read more at the excellent glasgowbenefactors.com[1] After purchasing his plot in 1760 it seems he made the most of building a substantial house. When he sold to George Oswald of Scotstoun in 1770 for £1,600 [2] it was at a price that would not be matched in the vicinity for 10 years as far as I can deduce from other sale history; excluding the more prestigious Virginia Mansion into which he was moving. When he passed, his wife Mary Buchanan was left a life rent of £12,000 per annum. [3] Consider the original house that Cunningham built (now known as the GoMA on Royal Exchange Square) cost £10,000 you could say she was not left short.

[1]: https://glasgowbenefactors.com/2020/03/14/alexander-speirs-tobacco-lord-1714-1785-part-1/

[2]: Senex, Aliquis, J.B. etc. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.II Glasgow: David Robertson & Co. p401

[3]: Source TBC

Elderslie (1782); Thomas Annan (Scottish,1829 – 1887); 1878; Albumen silver print; 11.6 * 16.2 cm (4 9/16 * 6 3/8 in.); 84.XB.1360.40; No Copyright – United States L.A. The J Paul Getty Museum. Original plans were designed by Robert Adam in 1776, but it was Robert Robinson who was engaged to construct Elderslie in 1777.
Portrait of Mary Buchanan (painter unknown. possibly copy by McNee vI p14). Photographer unknown. https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSA03585

Mary Buchanan was the daughter of Archibald Buchanan of Silverbanks and Auchentorlie and granddaughter of both George Buchanan of Mount Vernon and Provost Peter Murdoch of Rosehill. After Mary’s death her estate was mainly left to her unmarried daughters Helen, Mary & Joanna. She bequeathed the following to The Merchants’ House:

vI p13 ‘Extract from the Minute of the Directors of the Merchants’ House of Glasgow, convened of 25 April 1850: having expressed a desire that a sum of £1,ooo of her means should be laid aside for accumulation, till it amounted to £2,0oo, and thereupon invested for behoof of certain decayed Members of the Merchants’ House, or their widows or orphans.

Mount Vernon; Thomas Annan (Scottish,1829 – 1887); 1878; Albumen silver print; 11.6 * 15.9 cm (4 9/16 * 6 1/4 in.); 84.XB.1360.76; No Copyright – United States L.A. The J Paul Getty Museum. The ancient name was “Windy-edge,” which it retained till about 1756, in which year the lands were acquired by George Buchanan, merchant in Glasgow, who built the oldest portion of the existing mansion, and gave it, and the estate, the present appellation. In 1827 wings were added, and the interior altered and modernised.

We are told that Alexander Spiers spent £3,800 in 1778 refurbishing his town house in Glasgow. This may explain the difference in the appearance of the two prints below purported to be of The Virginia Mansion which he moved into in 1770. Whilst it retains hipped roof, the balustraded pediment, central pair of chimneys & sculpted pediment the main changes appear to be the increase in size from 5 to 7 bays, the entrance staircase being enlarged to make a bold statement of arrival fitting of his status and the removal of the sunken basement windows gave the effect of ‘elevating’ the house.

I don’t believe either of these two engravings relate to Colen Campbell’s The Shawfield Mansion which The Virginia Mansion is suspected of being modelled on. Nor Cunninghame’s now known as GoMA. The Shawfield Mansion was a larger 7 bay from the outset. It’s chimneys were located at either gable and the roof balustrade was located at the roofs pinnacle on a central square platform; possibly a ‘belvedere’. A completely different profile from those seen below in the balustraded pediment. Whilst Cunningham’s was 7 bay it also had a half story on the third floor. Ruling it out completely. Also ruled out are both Crawford’s mansion on Queen St & Dreghorn’s mansion on great Clyde Street. Both of these captured in engravings.

He also spent over £12,000 on improvements to his Renfrewshire property at Elderslie including a massive flood prevention scheme.

The Virginia Mansion as first built circa1752. Engraver unknown. No copyright.
Engraving of The Virginia Mansion made prior to demolition in 1842. Source: https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSA01052

George Oswald of Scotstoun (1735-1819)

Gainsborough Portrait at Bath (19th century photograph) of George Oswald of Scotstoun. Photographer Thomas Annan https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSA03628

George Oswald & Margaret Smythe m.1764 had between 9-13 children depending on you read. He the son of Rev George Oswald D.D., Presbyterian minister of Dunnet the most northerly parish in Scotland. Nephew of the Rev James Oswald, Episcopalian minister of Watten & also the nephew of Richard Oswald of Auchincruive of The Paris Treaty and Bunce Island infamy.

Initially George worked in the Glasgow firm run by his father’s cousins the brothers Richard Oswald (1687–1763) of Scotstoun and Alexander Oswald (1694–1766). They left him the Scotstoun and Balshagray estates, both having died by 1766. Oswald became head of the tobacco firm of Oswald, Dennistoun, & Co. of Glasgow. He was also a partner in The South Sugar House and being well read became Rector of the University in 1797.

Gainsborough Portrait of Margaret Smythe of Methven (1747-1791).

Margaret the daughter of David Smith of Melven. Together with Oswald they had between 10-13 children. One ‘Elizabeth’ lived to the grand old age of 97.  It is said that Elizabeth kept very good health and by the age of ninety she had never had cause to see a doctor; by the age of ninety-five, Elizabeth retained all her powers of mind and body. One thing is for sure with between 9-13 children you would have needed a big house. George Oswald must have been happy staying at Virginia Street after all he resided there for close on 25 years. Only leaving in 1793 not long after his wife passed in 1791.

The following is taken from The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry in relation to Scotstoun and it’s owners:

GEORGE OSWALD of Scotstoun, and afterwards of Auchincruive, born 1735, died 6th October 1819, one of our old “Virginia Dons.” His firm of Oswald, Dennistoun & Co. stands sixth in the list of tobacco importers of 1774. He was also a partner (though not one of the original six) in the famous old Ship Bank. He inherited, as did his brother, their father’s love of books, and he was not unfitly chosen Rector of the University in 1797. He succeeded in 1784 to Auchincruive, but this he gave over by arrangement to his son, and lived on in his house in Virginia Street, (9) and at Scotstoun : he died at Scotstoun. By his wife, Margaret Smyth of Methven, daughter of his father’s old patron, he had thirteen children.

The Ship Bank, the first private bank in Glasgow, began in 1750 with six partners – William Macdowall of Castle Sempill, Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier, Allan Dreghorn of Ruchill, Robert Dunlop of Househill, Colin Dunlop of Carmyle (John Dunlop’s father), and Alexander Houston of Jordanhill. The original contract was for 25 years. At its expiry in 1775, only three of the six founders remained, Castle Sempill, Carmyle, and Jordanhill. George Oswald and James Dennistoun of Colgrain had been in the meantime assumed. The five old partners then retired, and Robin Carrick was rewarded for his long labours by heading the new copartnery.

Methven Castle circa 1664 built for Patrick Smythe of Braco by John Mylne.
Photographer: unknown
Methven Castle was the home of Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), queen of James IV, King of Scots, and daughter of Henry VII of England, after her third marriage to Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven, in 1528. 
Scotstoun; Thomas Annan (Scottish,1829 – 1887); 1878; Albumen silver print; 11.1 * 16.2 cm (4 3/8 * 6 3/8 in.); 84.XB.1360.87; No Copyright – United States L.A. The J Paul Getty Museum The mansion was built in the early 18th century by William Walkinshaw of Barrowfield and it was acquired by Richard and Alexander Oswald in 1748. It was extended in 1825 to designs prepared by the architect David Hamilton for Elizabeth Oswald (1767-1864).
Auchincruive (1767), Oswald Hall Photographer: Dan. © Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0 https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1149418 In 1758 the estate passed to James Murray of Broughton, who sold it in 1764 to the merchant and slave-trader Richard Oswald, who built the present Auchincruive House. Robert Adam provided a design for a house to James Murray in 1764, although Oswald built the house, in modified form, in 1767. Adam’s scheme for the interiors was carried out as planned

John Dunlop of Rosebank (1755 – 1820)

Portrait by Raeburn, Henry; John Dunlop (1774-1820), Provost of Glasgow (1794-96); Glasgow Museums; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-dunlop-17741820-provost-of-glasgow-17941795-85775

Dunlop was the son of Colin Dunlop of Carmyle (1706-1777), a tobacco merchant, co-founder of The Old Ship Bank and Lord Provost of Glasgow, 1770-72. Colin Dunlop’s house was directly east of John Murdoch’s on the south side of Argyle Street and was at one point the oldest house remaining there. John followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming Lord Provost, 1794-96.

Circa1780 John married Jessie Miller of Glenlee, daughter of Thomas Miller, Lord Glenlee and granddaughter of John Murdoch of Rosebank (1709-1776). Afterwards, in 1796, he became Collector of Customs at Bo’ness and Greenock.

John Murdoch of Rosebank served as Lord Provost of Glasgow three times:1746 to 1748, 1750 to 1752 and 1758 to 1760, in a pattern interspersed with his brother-in-law Andrew Cochrane. Murdoch Avenue in Cambuslang is named after him. In 1750 he built the first house on Argyle Street (standing on the corner of Dunlop Street) and long-known as the Buck’s Head Inn. It’s the reason Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s building is now known as The Bucks Head.

John Dunlop’s grandfather was James Dunlop II who was bred to the law. He married Lilias, daughter of Robert Campbell of North Woodside. She died in 1709 in childbirth at the age of 34yrs, after having had sixteen children in nineteen years!

Dunlop was reputedly a ‘man of taste’. An active-minded man, he is described as “a merchant, a sportsman, a mayor, a collector, squire, captain and poet, politician and factor”. His humour and social qualities made him sought after. A wit and a poet, he wrote several pieces, among which are the songs “Here’s to the year that’s awa,” and “O dinna ask me gin I lo’e ye.” He was a leading member of the famous Hodge Podge Club.

Taking advantage of the fine situation and beautiful wood Rosebank his country estate in Cambuslang was renowned as one of the very finest places on the Clyde.

His son, John Colin Dunlop, Advocate, was many years Sheriff of Renfrewshire, and was well known as the author of the “History of Fiction” and other works. He died unmarried on 26th January 1842, an only child, and his father’s direct line terminated with him.

Rosebank was sold in 1801 to David Dale the industrialist & merchant. John Dunlop died at Greenock 4th September 1820.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

The Jacobean Corsetry

Tobacco lords worked here from 1817′

The Merchant City Trail

The blue plaque says ‘Tobacco lords worked here from 1817’ this only tells part of the story. To understand how that date was arrived at we need to examine the shared histories of Virginia Street & neighbouring Miller & Wilson Streets.

But in examining the history, the architecture & other documented evidence it raises conflicts that can’t easily be explained unless you are willing to question the received wisdom.

Could the much loved Jacobean Corsetry building be older? Possibly. Did Tobacco Lords live and work on this plot earlier than 1817? Most certainly, from 1760 to be exact.

I believe The Jacobean Corsetry sits on the plot of self styled ‘mercantile god’ of Glasgow Alexander Spiers’ first mansion in Virginia Street. [1] It was the north most plot on the west side of Virginia Street as originally laid out sitting just outside the gates of Buchanan’s Virginia Mansion.

[1]: Senex, Aliquis, J.B. etc. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.II Glasgow: David Robertson & Co. p399.

Trying to establish the exact location of Spiers’ first house in Glasgow beyond reasonable doubt has not been straightforward. Contemporaries such as Senex , JB etc. provide statements about the development of Virginia Street that when examined closely can at times prove contradictory and misleading. It was on noticing these discrepancies that prompted my curiosity to investigate further. I decided to try and establish which of the statements could be corroborated by present day observation, documents and research. I should add at this point during lockdown of 2020 I had no access to public record archives other than what existed already online. Crucially this meant no access to city burgh sasine records.

Let me summarise the quotes in the volumes I & II of Glasgow Past & Present (1884) that made me curious:

vI p100, Senex in his letter to us on 18th October 1843 “…Virginia Street was so named by Mr. Spiers in honour of the tobacco trade”

vI p472 (footnote) “Mr. Buchanan‘s large importations of tobacco were from this plantation of Washington’s. Hence the name given to the property near Glasgow, and also to Virginia Street.”

So who named Virginia Street? Could Spiers or is this simply a typo from Senex. Well it’s a matter of record that Spiers a newcomer from Edinburgh became a member of the Glasgow Burgesses 22 March 1753. [2]

[2]: Scottish Record Society (1935) The Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1751-1846 Edinburgh: J Skinner & Co. Ltd. p7.

He married Mary Buchanan in March of 1755. [3] The daughter of Provost Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier, and the niece of Archibald Buchanan of Silverbanks who he had already entered into partnership with in 1754. [4]. So he was very well regarded by the Buchanan’s even at this early stage but one suspects not to the extent that he would get the honour of naming rights to the very street that Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier laid out in 1753. After all it was Andrew Buchanan who spent approx. 20 years buying up the various rigs that would ultimately form the furlong long Virginia Street. In 1753 Spiers was yet to realise the status of ‘mercantile god of Glasgow’. So it is safe to assume Senex was mistaken as neither the dates or provenance fit. It’s now undisputed (2021) that Buchanan named Virginia Street.

[3]: Marriages Scotlandlandspeople (OPR). Glasgow 2 March 1755. SPIERS, Alexander & BUCHANAN, Mary. 644/01 250 157.

[4]: Deed of Contract 1754. Mitchell Library Archives Glasgow. Reference Number B10/15/6653.

Next we are faced with the conflicting statements concerning the location of the southern extremity of The Virginia Mansion garden wall.

vI p519 “A large area in front of the house was allotted to shrubbery, enclosed by a parapet, carying a massive iron railing, which ran across the property from east to west, the whole space between Colonel M’Dowall’s garden wall on the one side and Mr. Miller of Westerton’s ground on the other. This cross wall stood as far south as the line of the present Wilson Street.

vII p396 “The road or avenue reached from the Wester Gate up as far as about the point where Wilson Street now branches off.”

vII p399 “The position of the two lodges and the parapet wall, which ran across the street in front of the mansion, was nearly in line with the opening to what is now Wilson Street.”

So we have one of three options as to the exact location of the southern wall of The Virginia Mansion which marked the northern boundary of Virginia Street as originally laid out in 1753. These options are:

  • That the wall was in line with Wilson Street.
  • That the wall stopped short of Wilson Street to the south.
  • That it was located north of Wilson street.

Using the National Library of Scotland map functionality ‘side-by-side’ with McArthur’s map of Glasgow 1778 and comparing that with Fleming’s map of 1807 it can be seen that the southern wall of The Virginia Mansion was located north of present day Wilson Street. Even allowing for a margin of error based on the inherent inaccuracy of the 1778 map using the mouth of Virginia Street as a datum this suggests that the map is out only by a few metres and certainly not by an amount sufficient to place the mansion’s southern wall at or south of Wilson Street.

‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ Image: https://maps.nls.uk

It’s interesting to note that Virginia Place is a relic of the mansion garden serving to denote both it’s original width bounded by Glassford’s garden to the east and Miller Street’s solum to the west and also the southern location of the well documented out buildings and offices.

Having established the rough location of the garden wall I next wanted to establish who was living at the north end of the street circa1760. The sources seemed straightforward.

vII p399 “Immediately outside the gates, four plots were given off by Mr. Buchanan to two of his friends, namely, Mr. John Bowman of Ashgrove, afterwards Provost of Glasgow, and Mr. Alexander Spiers,  who subsequently purchased the estate of Elderslie, and was married to Mr. Buchanan’s sister, Mary. Both these gentle men were Virginia merchants of no small degree. The plots which they purchased lay next each other, two being on the west and two on the east side of the street, directly opposite.  The north most two were those of Mr. Spiers. The date of Mr. Bowman’s acquisition was 14th May 1754, and of Mr. Spiers’, 26th March 1760.

vII p400 These four plots filled up the gap between the steadings before referred to, belonging to Silverbanks, and the south retaining wall of the Virginia Mansion shrubbery.

vII p400 “The two plots acquired by Mr. Spiers measured 1883 square yards; each had a frontage of 100 feet; and the price of both was £141 : 4 : 6.”

vII p400 “Dwelling-houses, something in the style of the antique edifices still lingering in Miller Street, were built by Mr. Bowman and Mr. Spiers on their westmost plots. Those opposite were left unbuilt for  many years, being reserved as gardens, and to preserve the pleasant view from the windows eastward, which reached all the way to the Candleriggs, and included the fine gardens behind the Shawfield Mansion and Hutcheson’s Hospital.”

So far so good. We are also informed that Spiers’ frontage was larger than Bowman’s. It seemed straightforward that Alexander Spiers resided in the northern most plot on the west side with Provost John Bowman’s residence to his south. That was until I tried to reconcile the following statements which seemed to suggest that Wilson Street was projected through Provost Bowman’s garden. Now inferring that his was the northern most plot not Spiers.

vI P489 “Thus, four banks—the Paisley, British Linen, City of Glasgow, and the Savings Banks—have successively been owners of this Virginia Street tenement, which was built by Mr. John Leckie, writer, in 1800, on part of old Provost Bowman’s garden.

vII p401 “Wilson Street had also been laid off through Provost Bowman’s garden-plot immediately adjacent. Hardie and Co. were taken bound to lay a pavement along the south side
of their purchase
, which skirted the north side of what is now Wilson Street. They seem to have bought the ground merely on speculation, for they did not build ; but after holding it as a garden for three years, Hardie and Co. sold their half of the original plot in 1800 to Mr. John Leckie, writer.

So which gentleman owned which plot? It was a case of going back to the source text, reviewing the sale history as written and having established a potential link ask ‘who would live in a house like this?’ Does the location fit in the context of status, of outlook, and of course were there any other contemporary sources that could give a clue as to the correct match. Each piece of the puzzle alone not sufficient to prove beyond all reasonable doubt but when added together a case could potentially be made.

Given we were told that each of the two plots acquired by Spiers had a frontage of 100ft and that it was larger than Bowman’s plot then looking at the map evidence alone would confirm the scale of the respective plots. Taking two British National Grid References from the southern and northern points on the eastern face of the most northern plot gave a distance of approx 31metres using the NLS map functionality. This equates to a shade over 100ft. The smaller plot to the south equated to about 24m approx 78ft. Allowing for a margin of error it would still suggest the length quoted for the frontage of the northern plot was indeed correct.

Next looking at the original feu history quoted by Senex, JB et al. established the following ownership of the respective plots:

South Plot

  1. 1754 Buchanan to Mr John Bowman of Ashgrove. The southmost two (east & west) were purchased 14th May 1754. (Afterward Lord Provost of Glasgow 1764-66.)
  2. 1798 John Bowman’s trustee to Mr John Lang (writer). Mr. John Lang, many years Dean of Faculty acquired after Mr Bowman’s ‘misfortunes’.
  3. 1808 Mr John Lang to Findlay Duff & Co.

North Plot

  1. 1760 George Buchanan to Mr Alexander Spiers (of Elderslie) The northmost two (east & west) were purchased 26th March 1760. Afterwards in 1770 after the death of his friend he moves into The Virginia Mansion.
  2. 1770 Mr Alexander Spiers of Elderslie to Mr George Oswald of Scotstoun (Afterward Rector of Glasgow University 1797-98.) The price of both house and ground in June 1770 was £1,600.  Doesn’t sound like much now but it was double the price paid by the Thistle Bank for the next most expensive house on the street.  The price paid wouldn’t be matched in the area for almost a decade! The east most plot is described in the conveyance as the little garden opposite the house. Mr. Oswald possessed the house and garden twenty-three years.
  3. 1793 Mr George Oswald of Scotstoun to Mr John Dunlop of Rosebank. (Afterward Lord Provost of Glasgow 1794-96.)
  4. 1816 Mr John Dunlop of Rosebank to Findlay Duff & Co.

Now the chronology above would seem to fit with the received wisdom on the build sequence of the Virginia Buildings. That is, Robert Findlay of Easterhill residing at 42 Miller Street developed east to create what’s now known as Virginia Court and north up Virginia Street toward The Jacobean Corsetry. The dates of purchase 1808(south) to 1816(north) would support that theory. Suggesting that Spiers did in fact reside in the most northern plot. But was there another source that could lend weight to the argument?

In The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry 2nd ed published 1878 which detailed info on the families associated with the estates there was an interesting comment concerning George Oswald of Scotstoun. It said that he had 13 children and referred to his house in Virginia Street with an additional footnote. This footnote(9) read:

His house was the northmost house on the west side of Virginia Street. It looked north into the grounds of the Virginia Mansion, and in front, across the great garden of the Shawfield Mansion and other vacant ground, it looked east to Candleriggs and beyond it. To secure this eastern view Mr. Oswald owned the building stance across the street, and kept it as a garden

LXXXVII. Scotstoun – The old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry 2nd ed: Glasgow James Maclehose & Sons (1878)

The above tells us three things:

  1. Oswald’s house was north most.
  2. The garden plot was still not developed.
  3. Crucially it looked north into the grounds of The Virginia Mansion.

It would have been impossible to look into the grounds of The Virginia Mansion if Oswald’s house was located further south. He would have been unable to see over the large perimeter garden wall. (We are told the iron gate was 15ft high.) Even if there wasn’t a house in between, such as Bowman’s, given the wall’s height the house would need to be located almost right up against it, as indeed the map evidence supports, in order to claim you could look north into the mansion grounds.

The fue history captures that George Oswald of Scotstoun bought the plot belonging to Alexander Spiers of Elderslie. So we now have two corroborating sources supporting the case for the north most plot being Spiers’.

Circumstantial evidence is the feuing history of the street. Andrew Buchanan began selling his plots at the southern end of the street first working his way north. His son George Buchanan of Mount Vernon continued this with the sale of 1754 to John Bowman. The last large plot(s) to be feud(1760) were to Alexander Spiers and they were the north most just outside the garden.

This approach would make sense for two reasons. The broad plan was to build a fine mansion and garden with avenue leading up. Now if you haven’t quite ‘nailed down’ what your own plot requires logic would dictate that you feu other plots from the Wester Gate (Argyle Street) moving north. This would (a) buy you time to sort out your own plot out (b) Keep noisy build work well away from your aspect as long as possible.

But there is still the issue of the statements concerning Wilson Street being projected through Bowman’s garden. In each of the statements above concerning Bowman’s garden ‘Leckie’ & ‘Hardie & Co.’ are mentioned. Again we need to look at the sale history of the garden plots. First Spiers’ garden as quoted by Senex, JB et al.:

North Plot Garden

  • 1793 Mr Alexander Spiers to Mr John Dunlop of Rosebank. (Whole)
  • 1797 Mr John Dunlop of Rosebank to Mr. Robert Brown. (North half)
  • 1797 Mr John Dunlop of Rosebank to Henry Hardie & Co. (South Half)
  • 1800 Henry Hardie & Co. to Mr John Leckie, writer. (South Half)

The sale history noted against Spiers’ garden transactions recorded both ‘Leckie’ & ‘Henry Hardie & Co.’ The fact that these are not linked with Bowman contradicts what Senex, JB et al are telling us about which of the two gardens was impacted by the projection of Wilson Street. The sale history would support it being Spiers’ garden that was most impacted by the development of Wilson Street.

Looking at the statements more closely they talk about Henry Hardie & Co. being obliged to put in a pavement on their southern boundary (North side of Wilson Street). This clearly defines Henry Hardie & Co. southern limit as being on the north side of the new street leaving no room for ambiguity as to how far south it extended.

In addition, and more importantly, we have reference to the banks that operated from Leckie’s tenement. Map evidence supports the location for these banks being located at the north west corner of Wilson Street at the junction with Virginia Street. Currently the home of the Polo Lounge.

‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ Image: https://maps.nls.uk Fleming 1807 vs Glasgow OS 1857

On the Glasgow OS 1857 map you can clearly see The Savings Bank being highlighted on the corner. The same Savings Bank that we are told operated from the tenement that Leckie built. This confirms for me the fact that Wilson Street was projected through Spiers garden and not John Bowman’s as the literature would have us believe.

In summary the six pieces of evidence for speculating that The Jacobean Corsetry sits on the plot of Alexander Spiers’ first Virginia Street mansion are:

  1. Establishing the exact location of The Virginia Mansion southern wall with map technology.
  2. Validating the feu history of both plot & garden against map evidence & received wisdom.
  3. Finding a detailed description of the north plot in family history of one of the owners; George Oswald of Scotstoun, who crucially purchased direct from Alexander Spiers of Elderslie.
  4. Proving with map technology the north plot on which The Jacobean sits is 100ft long.
  5. Confirming the exact position of Leckie’s plot with reference to map evidence detailing the position of The Savings’ Bank mentioned in Glasgow Past and Present vI/II.
  6. Disproving that Wilson Street was projected through Bowman’s plot.

The five pieces of circumstantial evidence are:

  1. The order in which the plots were feud, from the south, north up toward The Virginia Mansion.
  2. The negative space. In every map I’ve seen the rear courtyard has never been encroached. The pressures on land during the late 1700s in Glasgow were incredible. So for this area not to be put to ‘good use’ suggests someone had the means and ability to protect it. As Spiers, Oswald & Dunlop would have. The fact that it survived after the purchase of Findlay Duff & Co is I suspect more by chance than anything.
  3. Zoning: With the sale of 1798 of Bowman’s plot to Lang a ‘writer’ (solicitor) this is the prevailing use of the buildings that evolved and stayed with The Virginia Buildings in this vicinity as evidenced by the ghost signs of 1820 that still linger today. Whereas The Jacobean evolved to serve a variety of uses.
  4. Gavin Stamp writing in 2003 about ‘Soane in Glasgow’ for the Georgian Group identifies that Senex et al got the location of Robert Dennistoun’s house in Buchanan Street incorrect. If wrong about one it open’s the door to there being other innacuracies.
  5. The north plot is the more prestigious of the two. It also retained its uninterrupted aspect east longer than the plot to the south. As a location then, the north plot aligned with the status of Spiers, Oswald & Dunlop better.

As of writing this 2020/21 I have not had access to sasine burgh records. Land Title documents begin 1836. I hope to be able to resolve this and prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the current site of The Jacobean Corsetry was indeed the plot belonging to Alexander Spiers of Elderslie early 2022.

In trying to answer these questions I came across something completely unexpected. In the map above you shall see the striking similarity between the two maps of the building facing east down Wilson Street. It looks like one in the same, The Jacobean Corsetry. That profile remains unchanged to this day. Which begs the question what is the profile of a building we are told was constructed circa1817 doing on a map dated 1807?

vII p400 “In the course of years  many changes took place in the ownership of these properties. Mr. Buchanan’s fine mansion and the houses of Mr. Bowman and Mr. Spiers have been demolished ; both sides of the street built up, with tenements for places of business.”

‘Demolished’, were they? …

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

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