"The Glasgow Guide" book

The Glasgow Guide
© David Williams

— sample text from Walk 1

Walk 1: High Street, Strathclyde University and the Merchant City

This extract describes the first section of Walk 1 and it takes the reader up High Street from Glasgow Cross to the Cathedral Precinct, which is just before Glasgow Cathedral.

The text has been slightly modified to make it suitable for the website. In addition, colour illustrations have been added.

Page 1 of 4

Glasgow Cross is one of the city`s most historic sites, though most of its present buildings are relatively modern. Five important streets meet here: High Street, Gallowgate, London Road, Saltmarket and Trongate, making this a busy and very important junction. High Street was the city`s main street from medieval times. It ran from the Cathedral towards the river; Gallowgate was the route to Edinburgh, passing Gallows Muir (the hanging place); London Road led southwards to England; the Saltmarket was where salt sellers were established; Trongate followed the north bank of the River Clyde towards the important town of Dumbarton.

The seven-storey Tolbooth Steeple (1625-7, John Boyd) is the Cross`s most important feature and it is topped by a clock and a stone crown. This was once part of a much larger building, the Tolbooth, which provided accommodation for the Town Clerk`s office, the council hall and the city prison. The debtors` prison had a steady stream of inmates who elected their own `provost` and generally ran the place like an exclusive club. They produced their own regulations, including one from 1789 which stated: `It is firmly and irrevocably agreed upon that the members of these rooms shall not permit the jailor or turnkeys to force any person or persons into their apartments, who are thought unworthy of being admitted.` There was even a rule about celebrating freedom: `Every member, when liberated, shall treat his fellow-prisoners with one shilling`s worth of what liquor they think proper.`

The Tolbooth provided the backdrop to many of the city`s dramas and it was here that witches, thieves and murderers were summarily dealt with, by hanging if necessary. It also had a special platform from which proclamations were read, important in the days before general literacy. The paved area (the `plainstanes`) in front of the Tolbooth was the `in place` to be seen and here the rich paraded in their finery, particularly the Tobacco Lords, attired in red cloaks and sporting gold-topped canes.

The cross developed as a communications hub, with stagecoaches from Edinburgh and London bringing visitors and news, and a reading room in the Tolbooth providing newspapers. However, as the city expanded and moved westwards, the Tolbooth was abandoned and eventually demolished, leaving the steeple as an isolated reminder of bygone days. This tragic loss of an important building was the result of the work of the City Improvement Trust which had the unenviable task of ridding the city of its slums.
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This is the Tolbooth Steeple, originally part of the 17th century Tolbooth.

"The Glasgow Guide" book "The Glasgow Guide"
— contents of the book
The list of walks "The Glasgow Guide"
— sample text from Walk 1