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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Culture and Leisure


By Joe Fisher

Bob Dragon The 1707 Treaty of Union opened to Glasgow a profitable trade with the American tobacco plantations. By 1773 there were thirty-eight tobacco firms in the city and more than half of Britain's tobacco trade went through Glasgow. These nouveaux riches acquired the "airs and graces" commensurate with their growing bank deposits and looked down on the city's manufacturers, shopkeepers and the big corks and wee corks (who controlled Anderston's weavers). They distinguished themselves by a particular garb – scarlet cloak, cocked hat on powdered hair or wig with dangling pigtails and a gold-headed cane.

Trongate, 1770 A further distinction came with the "Plain Stanes". The city's streets were causewayed with rubble, but the pavement that ran from the Cross to King Billy's statue was composed of flagstones. The right to promenade on these plain stanes was the prerogative of the "Tobacco Lords" and woe betide any citizen of mean degree who so trespassed - even ladies had to step into the mire of the street.

However, their monopoly did not last very long, for by 1777 the flagstone pavement had been extended westward as far as St Enoch's Burn (now below Union Street and Jamaica Street) and had become the city's fashionable, and unrestricted, promenade. There was a third promenade. When the first Jamaica Bridge was opened in 1772, the river bank between it and the Old Bridge at Stockwell Street had a quay wall added, which rapidly became a fashionable public parade.

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