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National Grid reference: NS5865

Glasgow’s origins lie in several prehistoric settlements on the banks of the river Clyde, brought to prominence by a religious foundation, which, by the twelfth century had become the seat of the bishops (from 1492, archbishops) of Glasgow. The town was constituted a burgh, under the control of the bishop, at some date between 1175 and 1178. Scotland’s second university was founded in Glasgow in 1451. Initially Glasgow’s importance derived from its status of diocesan centre and university town and as a market for local produce, especially fish. It was rivalled in size by two settlements on the south bank of the Clyde, Rutherglen (a royal burgh) and Govan (another ecclesiastical centre and fishing village). However, Glasgow was to surpass, and eventually swallow up, each of these.


Glasgow’s success lay in the expansion of trade and industry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially in the tobacco trade, and in the manufacture of cotton, iron and steel. The key to its pre-eminence in the development of Scottish heavy industry and engineering (especially shipbuilding) was the deepening of the river Clyde for steamship navigation by the Clyde Navigation Trust, which allowed Glasgow to become the ‘workshop of the British Empire’. In 1800 the burgh was the first in Britain to set up a modern police force, controlled by elected commissioners and funded by local taxation. Later in the nineteenth century the Police Commissioners of Glasgow were to merge with the old burgh council as the civil authority for the town, becoming Glasgow Corporation.Boundary extensions in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century swallowed up parts of Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Dunbartonshire, including over a dozen suburban burghs, of which the largest were Govan and Partick (annexed in 1912). The population in 1891 was 658,198 and grew to 1,128,473 in 1939, before declining to 897,483 by 1971. Glasgow Corporation was abolished in 1975 under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1973 (c. 65). Its powers were assumed by Glasgow District Council and Strathclyde Regional Council. These in turn were replaced by Glasgow City Council in 1996 under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1994 (c. 39). Glasgow’s great rival of the medieval period, Rutherglen, was annexed by the city in 1975, despite fierce local resistance, but was disjoined from the city in 1996 and now forms part of South Lanarkshire.


Archive services
Further information about these archives can be found in the SCAN Directory
Glasgow City Archives
Glasgow University Archive Services
Strathclyde University Archives
Jordanhill Archives
Greater Glasgow Health Board Archives
Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow
Archdiocese of Glasgow Archives
Scottish Jewish Archive Centre
Glasgow School of Art
Scottish Brewing Archive



George Square, Glasgow
George Square and the City Chambers, Glasgow, in 2001.


Local studies libraries
Glasgow City Libraries: Mitchell Library

Family History Societies
Further information about this society can be found in the SCAN Directory, under Useful Links
Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History Society

Location of historical records
Glasgow City Council records are held by Glasgow City Archives. The records of Glasgow University are held by Glasgow University Archive Services. The records of Strathclyde University are held by Strathclyde University Archives

Other records:
Over the next two years the SCAN website through its Online Catalogues and Knowledge Base will become the definitive guide to the location of historical records relating to places in Scotland. At present the best online guide to the location of historical records is the ARCHON website.

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