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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s


The Regality

By James McGrath

The regality survived the Reformation of 1560 intact. The aristocracy realised that the bailieship of the regality could be a lucrative and influential position. The office became heritable, associated with great families such as the dukes of Hamilton and the dukes of Lennox. Long before the abolition of episcopal governance in 1690, the true power behind the regality lay not with the archbishops but with these nobles (though they delegated the day to day administration to a depute bailie who often also acted as provost of the burgh).

From the mid-17th century onwards, in response to population growth, the burgh began to purchase lands that were part of the regality, including Gorbals in 1665, Ramshorn and Meadowflat in 1694 and Barrowfield (the future Calton) in 1724. Population expansion also brought occasional friction between the burgh and the regality over their respective powers, but these neighbouring jurisdictions might have continued as they were had not national events intervened.

Prompted by the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and concerns about overly independent jurisdictions, the Hanoverian government enacted the Heritable Jurisdictions Act in 1747, and the regality court of Glasgow and the heritable office of bailie (plus many other private courts), ceased to exist. The regality's court gave way to the sheriff court.

In 1772 the burgh sought, unsuccessfully, to have the regality jurisdiction re-introduced and vested in the town's magistrates to enable them to pursue felons outside the burgh. The problem of law enforcement in what were fast becoming populous suburbs would not be tackled until the Police Acts of the following century.

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