OLD HOUSES, BYRES ROAD
From the Dumbarton Road at Partick Cross a broad straight street runs to the Great Western Road at the Botanic Gardens gate. Attempts have been made to have this street called after Her Majesty, but the disloyal suburb rebels against "Victoria Street", and insists on keeping the old name, Byres Road, or Byres Road of Partick.
On the east side of Byres Road, about 100 yards from the Dumbarton Road, are two objects strangely out of keeping with their surroundings. An unmistakable old Loan leaves Byres Road, and bears away north-east ; and on the south-east side of this old Loan, just as it leaves Byres Road, stand the old thatched cottage and two-storey house which D.Y.C. has etched for us. The Loan is all that is left of the old Byres Road which has grown into our broad straight street, and the thatched cottage and two-storey house are all that is left of the old village of Byres of Partick which once lined the Loan on either side. Indeed they are all that is left of either Byres of Partick or of Old Partick itself, A year or two ago a few old crow-stepped cottages with tattered thatch and rickety doors still lingered about Brigend and Knowhead and Castlebank ; they are all gone now : even the Old Brig of Partick, the gift of Captain Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill, the captor of Dumbarton Castle, spans the Kelvin no more. (1)
In the Titles we have Byres Road at full length as "South Highway leading from Partick through the village of Byres of Partick". We also have "the North Highway leading from Partick to the lands of Hillhead and others", meaning the very old road, perhaps Roman, which has been variously known as Dobbie's Loan, North Woodside Road, Hillhead Road, and now University Avenue. We sometimes have Byres Village, as "Bishop's Byres", and perhaps it was here that the Bishop's lean kyne chewed and rechewed the cud from the thistle and bent tugged from the Commounty.
Byres Road is much older than Byres Village : it dates long before the luxurious era of thatched cottages and two-storey palaces. The hollow between Hillhead and Dowanhill is a natural thoroughfare -- like Sauchiehall Street, the hollow between Garnet Hill and Blythswood Hill, or Woodlands Road, the gap between Garnet Hill and Woodside Hill -- and since ever people have lived in these parts there has been traffic less or more, of one sort or another, on the line of Byres Road. But the line was not the straight line of to-day : that is not the way old roads get across country : old roads grow out of the footpath of the early settler, and still swerve hither and thither as a big stone or a fallen tree, a stretch of swamp or of springy turf, once attracted or repelled his steps.
Till 1839 Byres Road was still a narrow, crooked lane. At that date it was put into its present shape as a branch of the Great Western Road, then being made (2). But two of the old sinuosities can still be traced. A strip of land on the east side of Byres Road, just north of our old Loan, is in the estate of Dowanhill on the west side ; and further north, the site of the County Police Office (now pulled down), on the east side of Byres Road, is in the estate of Kelvinside on the west side : in each case we have a shred that the straightening of Byres Road was snipped off from the estate over the way.
The operations of 1839 carried Byres Road north to the line of our Great Western Road. Till then it did not go north of a point near our Hillhead Burgh Hall (3). At this point it turned sharp to the west, passed to the north of the quaint red-tiled steading of Horselethill, crossed the grounds of Hillhead Church (where it has dropped some beech trees) and the grounds of Huntly Gardens, and so past the villa of Marley Bank, down the brae beyond, across our Great Western Road, finally down our 'Kirklea Avenue' to Kirklea Bleachfield above the ford at the Pear Tree Well. In its course Byres Road threw off three branches. In Huntly Gardens grounds it threw off to the north a branch, which crossed Huntly Gardens (4), Kew Terrace (where some beech trees mark its course), and Great Western Road, then climbed the shoulders between Botanic Gardens and Windsor Terrace (5), forded the Kelvin above the Pear Tree Well, and ended by a junction with the Garioch Road just above Garioch Mill. Near our Kelvinside Academy, Byres Road threw off two other branches -- one to the right joining the Pear Tree Well branch, one to the left connecting the bleachfield at Bell's Haugh above Kirklea with the outer world.
Across the loan from D.Y.C.'s thatched cottage and two-storey
house the ground rose into a little knowe known as Castlehill, "part of that two merk land of old extent in the east end of Partick". On the west verge of Castlehill stood 'The Castle', a little old house, whose name was the best of it
; a number of cottages were squatted irregularly over Castlehill ; they were all
thatched, and for the repair of the ridges they had right to cut peat and divot
on the commounty of that two merk land of old extent
(6). Behind, more to the
north, at the point where Church Street now strikes Byres Road, grew a little
wood, "the Witches' Plainting" ; a footpath led to it
from the Dumbarton Road. All this is now changed. The footpath has grown into
Church Street ; the Witches' Planting has been grubbed up ; and the Castle and
on Castlehill have disappeared. From whatever cause (perhaps the decline of handloom weaving), the village of Byres fell gradually into decay, some of the Castlehill houses stood empty, some had tenants who paid no rent, some were taken down for the sake of the stones, some tumbled of themselves, the survivors were levelled twenty years ago by Order, as being dangerous to the lieges. The whole place, now inside the Burgh of Glasgow, and its ground selling by the square yard, had so utterly gone to pieces that the owners of some of the houses and yards had abandoned their little holdings ; and the late T. L. Paterson of Dowanhill, who managed to acquire the whole of Byres north of the Loan, had no end of trouble to ferret out the owners and identify the derelicts.
D.Y.C.'s thatched cottage bears the date of 1680, cut on the lintel. The two-storey house bears no date, and no one has recorded its early history, when built, or by whom, or how first occupied ; but its old name, the "Mansion House", tells us that it was once the grandest residence in all Byres of Partick, and its owner the biggest man ; it has long ago been made down into labourers' dwellings.
A hundred years ago it was occupied, and with much more of Byres owned, by a Partick notable, by name Breadie Wylie (7). Breadie Wylie, like his father John Wylie before him, appears in the Titles as "portioner in Partick", but he was better known as treasurer to the Glasgow Arms Bank. The Glasgow Arms, the second of our native banks, was launched soon after the Ship, on 6th November, 1750, and foundered in the French hurricane on 25th March, 1793. Breadie Wylie then signed on with our third bank, the Thistle, which like the Ship had weathered the storm, and he served with her the rest of his time (8). He and his old thatched crow-stepped house were quite in keeping. He was of quaint presence, and singularly methodical habits ; he used to ride between his house and the bank, and people might have set their watches, the few that had them, as he and his pony trotted by (9).
In 1798 Breadie Wylie conveyed the Mansion House lot (with other parts of Byres) to the Thistle Bank. I am afraid he had to, from involvements with the unfortunate Arms Bank.
In 1805 the Thistle Bank sold the Mansion House lot (with
other parts of Byres) to Robert Bogle, head of the old West India firm of Robert
Bogle & Co. The land lay in to Gilmorehill, a fine residential estate of 60 acres which Mr. Bogle had been
building up ; it comprised Gilmorehill proper (the site of our University),
Donaldshill (the site of our Western Infirmary), and other parts, pendicles, and pertinents.
In 1825 Archibald Bogle of Gilmorehill, son and heir of Robert Bogle, feued the Mansion House lot to Anthony Inglis, carter and contractor at Byres of Partick. The price was £175 down, being the agreed on value of the houses in the ground, plus a feu-duty of £8 7s 2d, being at the rate of £25 an acre. The lot as feued contained 1 rood 13 1/2 poles ; its south march was the centre of an intended 40 feet street (now Thomson Street) ; its east march was the old footpath from the Dumbarton Road to the Witches' Planting ; its north or north-west march was D.Y.C's. old Loan ; its west march was partly the old Loan, partly "the road leading from Partick to Garioch", i.e. Byres Road. With the Mansion House and other subjects south of the Loan, Inglis got the ownership (or the exclusive use, which comes to the same thing) (10) of a patch north of the Loan. This patch was just at the north corner of the Loan and Byres Road, and was a bleaching green and contained a well that effeired to the Mansion House. It was not enclosed, being a scrap that never had been enclosed of "the two merk land in the east end of Partick". I suppose Breadie Wylie's predecessors in title had once kept to themselves the Castlehill (all unenclosed), and, as they gradually gave it off for houses and yards, had kept this scrap for their use at the Mansion House. Inglis did not himself occupy the Mansion House ; he lived in the thatched cottage to the east of it, shown in Napier's Partick ; east of this he had byre, stable, midden-stead, cart-shed, barn ; east of the barn and in line with the front of it grew a hedge now represented by the wall north of Church Street Public School.
In 1858 the property again changed hands. Inglis kept seven or eight horse, and did an active business in carting, inter alia, coals from the Byres Road pits and stones from Bogle's quarry (11). But things somehow went against him : he put a bond on his property, then a second blister, and on the top of it a third; then fell into arrears of principal and interest; finally, in 1858, was sold out under the powers of the bonds. The price got was £1I200, a large advance on what he had paid Bogle. The purchaser was Thomas McLean, indweller in Partick.
In 1873 Thomas McLean, then designed farmer at High Cross Hill, near Rutherglen, sold the property to James Aitken, butcher in Partick ; the price had now risen to £1850. James Aitken kept it till his death a few months ago. He had also acquired and retained Byres-North ; so that his heirs now own, except only Church Street Public School and the solum of the old Loan, the whole triangle which has Thomson Street for its base and Byres Road and Church Street for its sides, and comprises the old Mansion House of Byres of Partick, and the site of the Castle and the cottages on Castlehill.
(from Regality Papers, volume 3)