History of Glasgow

St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint

Early days

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, has a history stretching back to earliest times.
Celtic druids were among the first identifiable religious tribes to inhabit the area.

St Mungo established his Christian church on the banks of the Molendinar Burn, a tributary of the Clyde, where Glasgow Cathedral now stands. Such was his great popularity among his ecclesiastical community he was named Mungo meaning “dear one”.

Legend has it St Mungo performed four miracles in Glasgow, commemorated on the City of Glasgow’s coat of arms, depicting a tree with a bird perched on its branches and a salmon and a bell on either side.

When Mungo died on 13 January 603, he was buried in his own church, close to the spot  where the only two known Glasgow martyrs of the Reformation were later burned at the stake. Between Mungo’s death and Glasgow’s establishment as an Episcopal see in 1145, little is known of the city’s history.

By the later 12th century Glasgow’s population had reached around 1,500, making it an important settlement. In 1175, Bishop Jocelyn secured a charter from King William making Glasgow a burgh of barony, opening up its doors to trade. In 1238 work began on Glasgow Cathedral, symbolising the city’s growing role as a major ecclesiastical centre.

1450 Glasgow Green became Glasgow’s first public park. In the following year, 1451, the University of Glasgow was founded by Bishop Turnbull at its original site in the High Street, making it the second oldest university in Scotland and the fourth oldest in the UK.

Elevated to an archbishopric in 1492, Glasgow, by the end of the 15th century had become a powerful academic and ecclesiastical centre rivalled only by St Andrew’s.

By 1649 Glasgow had become the country’s fourth largest burgh, rising by 1670 to the position of second largest behind only Edinburgh. Glasgow’s position was ideal for access to Edinburgh, the Highlands and Ireland, and her wealth continued to grow through a ready supply of natural resources, especially coal and fish.

The first cargo of tobacco arrived in Glasgow in 1674, and by the later 1690s the city had risen from its medieval slumber en route to its later accolade of “Emporium of the World”.

Victorian times – Second city of the Empire

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 when she was just 18, lending her name to the rest of the century. The Victorian era was a confident, dynamic time, with Scotland becoming richer by the day and Glasgow becoming known as “the second city of the Empire”. With the British Empire covering a quarter of the world, vast riches reached Scottish shores from India, Africa, the West Indies, Australia and Canada. As the wealth of the Empire permeated through the country, few areas were left untouched by its influence.

The Victorian era brought huge changes to everyday life in Scotland. The advent of the railway shortened journey times and opened up areas of the country previously out of reach to most people, as taking holidays in the Highlands and the Trossachs became popular with those who could afford it. Leisure time was more freely available than it had ever been and many new pastimes evolved.

No other era of Scottish history has left such an indelible mark on our cities as the Victorian era.

Modern times – Culture and tourism centre

The Glasgow Garden Festival was the third of the United Kingdom’s five National Garden Festivals, and the only one to take place in Scotland.  It was held in Glasgow between 26 April and 26 September 1988. It was the first event of its type.  It attracted 4.3 million visitors over 152 days, by far the most successful of the five National Garden Festivals.

City of Culture 1990

Artistic, Brash, Chic, Dynamic, Exuberant – it’s difficult to describe Glasgow of the 21st century.  Think Manhattan with a Scottish accent, brimming with fine architecture and the best fashion shopping and restaurants outside London.  Like Manchester and Liverpool, Glasgow has had to work hard on its image over recent decades to lose its inner city decay and industrial past.  The renaissance came in 1990 when voted European City of Culture and UK City of Architecture boosting its reputation as a top destination for leisure and business.

City of Architecture and Design 1999

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, outstanding architect, furniture designer, and painter, is one of the most innovative figures of the early 20th century. Fittingly Glasgow is honouring him throughout 2006 with celebrations of his work with over 100 events at over 30 settings.In reality though, the celebrations started in 1999 when the Lighthouse opened as Scotland’s centre for architecture and design. Mackintosh himself had designed the building in 1895 for other purposes but the building has proved adaptable. A tower originally containing a water tank for dousing fires but now incorporating a spiral staircase makes the name ‘Lighthouse’ appropriate.

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