Between the 1560s and 1770s Glasgow rose in prominence to become Scotland's second city and the transformation of the urban landscape, along with rapid population growth, inevitably affected the provision of public services. There was a growing sense of confidence about economic prospects, evident in the architectural embellishment of the city. For instance, civic leaders erected a substantial new Tolbooth at Glasgow Cross in the 1620s, while a Town Hall was added in 1737 to provide a more elaborate setting for public functions. To help boost commercial opportunities in the 1720s, a municipal building programme created sufficient space for the city's expanding food markets. According to the 18th century historian, John Gibson, Glasgow's King Street became celebrated throughout the United Kingdom for its well-organised cheese, fish and meat markets.
Despite the impact of the Reformation and eventual removal of episcopal power in 1689, traditional civic responsibilities continued. Magistrates retained powers of jurisdiction, including the punishment of offenders. Indeed, statutes were more rigorously enforced, particularly in environmental matters. There were penalties against water pollution and indiscriminate disposal of refuse or "fulzie" on the streets. Following the great fires of 1652 and 1677, which had seriously disrupted Glasgow's economy, all new buildings were required to be of stone.
From 1689 the Town Council, on behalf of the community, had full rights of ownership over the burgh lands and assorted municipal properties, including the city churches and Glasgow Green. The Green provided grazing ground for cattle and accommodated the public washhouse. It was also the site of the midsummer Fair. Important city institutions, such as the Grammar School and Town's Hospital, or poor house, also came under municipal control. The desire to promote Glasgow's trading potential prompted civic investment in harbour developments and from 1770 there were ambitious attempts to deepen and widen the River Clyde.
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