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Pollokshaws in the 1600's

A potted history of events in Pollokshaws

Summary

Up to the end of the 17th century the growth of Pollokshaws had been due to three factors, the first of which was the meal mill. The mill attracted people to live in its vicinity, forming the village as a centre of agriculture. Second was the ford over the River Cart. Third, the village became established at a crossing of the main roads between Glasgow and Irvine , which at this early stage was the main port for Glasgow , and between Rutherglen, Cathcart and Govan. 1654 may be regarded as the beginning of the recorded history of Pollokshaws because in that year two events occurred. The first was the publishing of Johannes Blaeu's atlas of Scotland , which had been surveyed before 1610. Although the name is given as Pookshaws, that it is shown at all indicates it was of sufficient though small importance. The other event was the building of the first Shaw Bridge over the Cart in 1654, replacing a ford and indicating that easy access from and to the south-west by Pollokshaws was becoming essential.

At this time Pollokshaws occupied only a small area on the north bank of the river. On the south bank there was a hamlet, Bogle's Hall or Bridge, beyond which, less than half a mile away there was another, Auldhouse Bridge . A fourth village, Pooktoun, was situated about a mile downstream opposite where Pollok House stands today. Pooktoun was older than Pollokshaws, being first mention in 1512, but it certainly existed before then as its church, the Church of Poloc , was referred to in a Papal Bull in 1265. By 1708 the populations of the villages, excluding children under the age of 12 were, Pollokshaws 300, Bogleshaugh 20, Auldhouse 36, and Pooktoun 244. The latter was a declining village, and its buildings were becoming derelict when, in 1798, the laird of the comparatively new Pollok House (built between 1745 and 1750) on the opposite bank of the river, decide to remove the eyesore by transferring the few remaining residents to Pollokshaws. Thereafter, to improve the outlook from the House the buildings were cleared away and the site landscaped. Around this time Bogleshall and Auldhouse Bridge had also grown so that they formed, with Pollokshaws, into a continuous line of habitation. Eventually they were absorbed into Pollokshaws, and by 1800 the population of the extended village was about 3000.

Getting About

It is natural to think of old roads with in one's mind their modern counterparts, and to assume that roads have always followed the same route. This is not so because the old roads meandered from hamlet to hamlet taking the easiest way that was seldom the most direct, and using the high ground where possible to avoid wet going. Agricultural land too had to be avoided, and this is the reason why so many seemingly unnecessary sharp bends are encountered on certain roads. Early construction and surfacing fell far short of modern standards, but were steadily improved until eventually they justified the designation of 'roads' in the present meaning of the word.

Early in the 17th century Pollokshaws had become the crossing place of two roads of increasing importance, one from Glasgow to Irvine , at that time the principal port on the Clyde , and the other from Rutherglen to Govan, both small towns of similar size to Pollokshaws. The road from Glasgow passed through the rural village of Gorbals and several hamlets, then it passed over the Shawhill and went on through Pollokshaws and the future sites of Thornliebank and Patterton. It then crossed over Fenwick Moor to Stewarton and Irvine (now the B769). The road from Rutherglen crossed the then Glasgow to Kilmarnock road a short distance north of the village of Cathcart, then passed through the village of Langside and thence to Pollokshaws, where it crossed the Glasgow to Irvine road at the foot of the Shawhill. From there it went on by what is now Haggs Road to Dumbreck and Govan.

In 1750 what is known as the Kennishead road was constructed. Starting at what was to become the site of the Round Toll, it went on by the Greenknow and Darnley to Barrhead (now the B773). This road was supplemented in 1797 by another via Cowglen and The Hurlet, giving an alternative route with easier gradients for the horse drawn carts of the time. A few years later this new road to Barrhead, then known as Cowglen Road (it later became Barrhead Road), was linked directly to the road from Glasgow to Pollokshaws by yet another new road, this time from what is now known as 'High Shawlands' to the Round Toll. The last section, known as Barrhead Road for over a hundred years, is now the final part of Pollokshaws Road . In taking through traffic away from Pollokshaws village it was an early example of a by-pass.

Social and Local Government

After Pollokshaws came into existence, its small affairs were controlled by the Laird of Pollok acting personally or in a court of Barony, a feudal institution dating from the twelfth century whose jurisdiction was finally terminated in 1787. Some matters would be the concern of the Sheriff of Paisley, who would be the King's representative with administrative as well as judicial authority. After the Reformation in 1560, the Kirk Sessions were charged with the responsibility for keeping the peace and providing education for the children of their parishes. But the Parish of Eastwood, bounded by the parishes of Govan, Paisley, Neilston, Mearns, and Cathcart, was extensive which made difficult the task of Eastwood Kirk Session. It is nevertheless evident that the Elders of the Session made positive efforts to fulfil both obligations despite the adverse circumstances, and served well the early Pollokshaws that was the only centre of population in the parish.

Authority to create Justices of the Peace was give in 1609, but it is very doubtful if any were appointed locally as they were ineffective for over a hundred years. Their magisterial position then became established and they were given the additional authority to appoint a constable to assist in peace keeping, to arbitrate in disputes over work and wages and, in conjunction with the Commissioners of Supply, responsibility for roads and bridges.

Commissioners of Supply were the forerunners of the County Councils and were appointed from among the local landowners. These were customary before 1667 and statuary thereafter, continuing until they handed over their functions to the new councils in 1889.

What, Witches!

In history books and articles relevant to the subject, there is a reference to the 'Pollokshaws Witches'. More correctly this should be the "Polloktoun Witches', and the story is as follows. In the autumn of 1676, soon after returning from a witchcraft trial at Gourock, Sir George Maxwell of Pollok, a keen witch hunter, suffered from an illness which the then meagre medical knowledge of the time could not diagnose. A vagrant teenage girl had just then appeared at Pollok Castle and was frequenting the servants quarters. She indicated that she was deaf and dumb, but by signs also indicated that the illness suffered by the Laird was due to the actions of a witch who was in league with the devil. Accompanied by two male servants, she went to the house in Polloktoun of Janet Mathie, widow of John Stewart, under-miller at Shawbridge Mill. There, a wax figure of a man was 'found' that had been pierced by pins, and this was accepted as conclusive evidence that Janet was a witch who had cause of the illness.

The woman was imprisoned at Paisley, and by coincidence Sir George recovered, but later he had a relapse and died in January 1677. Then the girl uncovered more evidence implicating the son, John Stewart, and the fourteen-year-old daughter of the imprisoned woman, and also three other women. The Privy Council appointed a commission to try for witchcraft the three women and the young man, who were all found guilty and condemned to death, the execution of all but Janet's daughter, who was found to be simple minded, being carried out at Paisley in February 1677.

Shortly after this the vagrant girl suddenly recovered her speech and hearing, and brought suspicion on herself by continuing her self appointed witch hunt, so the Privy Council decided that it would be well if she was banished from the land. However, no captain of any ship could be found who would accept her as a passenger so she was allowed to disappear. While condemning the whole affair, writers in later years speculated that it was probable the victims had to some extent brought their fate upon themselves by dabbling the black artsí and performing weird rites to intimidate and use as a lever for petty blackmail.

The origins of some names

ANNE. Anne Street , now Christian Street , was named for the only child of Sir John and Lady Stirling-Maxwell.

AULDHOUSE derives from two Celtic words, 'ald' meaning a burn, and 'hus' which also means 'ghost' or 'spirit'. Often in later times old words like these were regarded as a name rather than a description of a place, and Scots and English words were added which became a duplication of meaning. Thus, when we say 'Auldhouse Burn' we are really saying 'the burn of the ghost burn'. The much altered ancient building from which the district takes its name, parts of which may even pre-date Provanís Lordship in High Street , Glasgow , is in Garvock Drive , Eastwood, just off Thornliebank Road . Over the kitchen fireplace there is an inscription dated 1631, but the house, in some form, existed many centuries before, as in 1265 it is referred to as belonging to an order of monks. Later it became the property of the Maxwells and was occupied by members of the family. Then it became the home of Robert Saunders who, from 1661 to 1696 was the officially appointed and only printer in Glasgow . In recent years it was used as a home for disturbed children, but after lying empty since the 1980s it was converted into private flats during the early 1990s.

HAGGS. Originally, 'hags' referred to the marshy area of ground to the north and east of the road of that name.

And Martyrs Too

Histories of the Covenanters seldom if ever mention the Pollokshaws district, but there was activity here during those tragic times. In 1622 the minister of Eastwood was deprived of his charge, but he continued to preach in the vicinity of the church and was fined and imprisoned. Sir George Maxwell, and his son Sir John Maxwell, were both imprisoned and heavily fined for their beliefs and also for assisting and sheltering fugitives. Two Kennishead farmers, one of whom was probably the Thomas Boyd mentioned below, were tried at Paisley and quite illegally, even by the laws of the time, condemned to death and executed, while several men from Poloktoun, Pollokshaws and other parts of the parish were imprisoned. Many other people were fined, the total the fines being £650 - in those days a very substantial amount. During these twenty seven years Eastwood had three Episcopal ministers, the last one fleeing in 1689 when King James II and VII was declared to have abdicated, which ended the persecution. The Sir John Maxwell of that time was a prominent lawyer and became Lord Justice Clerk, with the title Lord Pollok, and also a Lord of the Treasury. He was created a Baronet and a Privy Councillor and was one of the Commissioners who negotiated the Union of Scotland and England in 1707.

Until the 1960s there was a memorial stone in a field of Broompark Farm in Boydstsone Road which gives a clue to origin of the name, Boyd stone. It was about six feet high above ground level and stood a few yards inside the boundary hedge opposite Rosegarth Cottage. It was well weathered so that it was difficult to make out what shape it was originally. The date inscribed on it, 1667, is during the time of the Covenanters, and it was known up to recent times as The Preaching Stone. It is reputed to have been set up in memory of a martyr, Thomas Boyd. Richardson ís 1795 map has buildings surrounded by trees here marked Boydstown. It is possible that a Boyd from here was one of the two farmers, martyrs.

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