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Provan Hall – Nine Centuries of Glasgow’s History

The Prebend of Lanark

The name ’Provan’ comes from ’Prebend’. It is so called because the income from this land was used to support a canon of Glasgow Cathedral. Normally a prebendary’s income would come from church taxation, and the expenses of running a parish would be met from it. The Prebend of Barlanark was unusual and unique among the prebends of Glasgow’s canons, in that it was a ’Prebend without Cure’, that is, it was not attached to a parish.                     

Barlanark is identified as Church property in the ’Inquest of David’, the oldest surviving document to mention Glasgow by name, which was prepared for David, Earl of Cumbria, who later became David I, King of Scots, some time between 1116 and 1122.

Later 12th Century documents identify Barlanark as a prebend of the Cathedral. The original endowment was increased in stages until it consisted of about 5,000 acres stretching from Shettleston to Johnston Loch in the North, and from Cowlairs in the West to Cardowan in the East.          

By the 15th Century the Cathedral Chapter had grown to number 32 canons, but Barlanark was still unique in Glasgow as a “Prebend without Cure”. The name “Provan” was sometimes used as an alternative to Barlanark. The building on the North side of the courtyard was probably built around this time. On three occasions in the 15th Century the Bishops of Glasgow tried but failed to add the lands of the prebend to their own estates.

Holders of the Prebend of Barlanark

The holders of the Prebend of Barlanark included:

  • John Wyschard, who obtained a charter from Robert the Bruce in 1322 granting him and his successors ‘rights of free warren’.
  • Walter Stewart, an illegitimate son of King Robert II.
  • William Turnbull, who later became Bishop of Glasgow and obtained the Papal Bull for the foundation of Glasgow University.
  • King James IV (probably).
  • Alexander Stewart (James IV’s son by Marion Boyd).
  • William Baillie, the first of several members of this family to have an interest in the proper.

The Reformation

The property passed through the hands of various members of the Baillie family until it was feued in 1562 to another William Baillie, who was Lord President of the College of Justice. He died in 1593 and the property passed eventually to his daughter Elizabeth, and through her marriage, to the Hamiltons of Silvertonhill. The last of these was Sir Robert Hamilton who held it during the Civil War and was responsible for building the outer wall of the courtyard in 1647. His coat of arms is carved over the gateway.

Burgh of Glasgow

Sir Robert, finding himself in financial difficulties on account of the war, feued off various parts of the estate, and finally sold it in 1667 to the Burgh of Glasgow. The Burgh wanted to obtain control of the estate as it contained the sources of the Molendinar which supplied water power to the burgh’s mills.

The Burgh Council rented the estate to another family, also called Hamilton, who were maltmen (brewers) in Glasgow.  They held it for five generations until 1729, when the Council began to break up the estate. The superiority of the estate was sold later, in 1768.  The Council appointed a Bailie of Provan to settle disputes between feuars and to protect the water supply. This post was abolished after the Reform Act of 1832. The Council later re-invented the title but as a purely honorary post for retired Councillors.

Provan hall after 1730

The Hall survived as the centre of a much reduced holding, known as the Hall Mailing. Among its owners was Dr John Buchanan, a former ship’s surgeon, who is credited with major alterations to the house on the south side of the courtyard, and with laying out a fine garden (now destroyed), which one 19th Century writer compared to the great garden of Drummond Castle. The present garden, to the west of the House, was developed in the 1970’s.

He bequeathed the property to his son, also John, who had two daughters. The house went to the elder of these, Elizabeth, who married Reston Mather of Budhill. They had two sons, William and Reston, who both died unmarried in 1934, aged 80 and 78 respectively. It remained a working farm till the end, with the Mathers having a particular interest in breeding Clydesdale horses.

A group of local businessmen bought the house and grounds and gave them to the National Trust for Scotland. They are now leased by the NTS to Glasgow City Council and are popular for local community events and activities.

Other historic sites in Greater Easterhouse

The Greater Easterhouse area is rich in sites of historic interest. Other sites include the Bishop’s Loch Crannogs, the Bishop’s Manor at Lochwood, Blairtummock House, and the former Cardowan Farm site, where various items of archaeological interest were unearthed recently in the course of preparing the ground for new housing.

The History and Prehistory section of Provanhall website is under development and more information will be added.

Latest update 12/12/06