The accompanying sketch was taken more than forty years
ago (21st May, 1847) from a back window of my house, No. 6 Somerset Place, one
of those in the eastern division of that compartment then recently erected. The
large house on the right had been, not long before, erected by Mr. Fleming, the
then proprietor of Clairmont. Although it stood for a number of years within its
own grounds, it was intended to form, as it now does, the centre house of
Clairmont Terrace. Mr. Fleming had, shortly before this, begun to lay out his
property for feuing, and the raised ground, shown on the left, and along the
middle of the sketch, is the forced earth which he had laid down to form the
solum of Clifton Street, and of the street in front of what is now Clairmont
Gardens. To the left of the large house, on the top of the hill in the sketch,
is Woodlands House.
Below, among the trees, is old Clairmont House, for many years occupied by Mr. Fleming, and which was for a long time the only house on the property. In the distance, to the north-west, is Gilmour Hill House, the site of which forms part of the ground now occupied by the buildings of the University. To the extreme left is the chimney stalk of one of the Partick mills. With the exception of the large modern house, nothing that is shown in the sketch exists now except the solum of the ground, and this was largely altered when Park Gardens, Woodlands Terrace, and Park Terrace were formed.
The lands which came to be called Clairmont formed part of a property called Barton Hill, consisting of 22 acres, which was feued in 1758 from Mr. Campbell of Blythswood by William Purdon, designed "Tenant in Sandyford." Sandyford was the name of the property on the opposite side of the road, south of Barton Hill, and belonged to Mr. Walter Logan of Cranston Hill, whose daughter was, in the early part of the century, a celebrated beauty in Glasgow. The price paid by Purdon for these 22 acres was only £210, with a feu-duty of "ten bolls oatmeal at eight stone per boll." A portion of this ground, consisting of about 11 acres, was in 1797 sold by Purdon's Trustees to Mr. Hugh Cross of Barton Hill, merchant in Glasgow, for £1,136, and under burden of one-half of the feu-duty. Mr. Cross laid out the lands for a residence, and gave it the name of Clairmont. In 1802 or 1803, he built the house shown on the sketch, with the exception of the upper storey, which was, I think, added by Mr. Fleming.
I find that Mr. Cross was admitted into the Merchants' House as a home trader in 1781. In Tait's Glasgow Directory for 1783 there appears "Hugh Cross & Co., insurance brokers, Trongate." In the Directory of 1787 we have "Hugh Cross, merchant. Head of the Stockwell," and the same in 1789. As only one Hugh Cross appears in the Merchants' House, these entries relate, I have no doubt, to the same person. He was son of the Rev. John Corse, D.D., minister of the Tron Church from 1743 to 1782.
In 1807 Mr. Cross sold Clairmont to Mr. John Reid, cabinetmaker, the brother of "Senex," at the price of £5,250 a sum which appears exceptionally high when contrasted with the prices at which it was sold many years afterwards. Mr. Reid was a client of my father's, who then lived opposite Clairmont, and in my father's journal, under date 30th July, 1812, is the following entry "A tremendous fire last night in John Reid's cabinet warehouse, Argyle Street ; the bodies of eight persons have been dug out of the ruins." And under date 1st July, 1813, my father has this entry "Mr. Reid, who was on his way from Clairmont to our house to see me on business connected with his late fire, fell down opposite our wall and died immediately."
In 1815 Clairmont was purchased from Mr. Reid's Trustees by Mr. John Black, my wife's grandfather, at the price of £4,360, and, on Mr. Black's death, it was, in 1822, sold by his testamentary trustees to Mr. Fleming, at the low price of £2,800. Mr. Fleming improved and added to the old house, which he occupied for more than twenty years. The lodge at the west gate still remaining (1889) was built by him. He began to lay out the grounds for feuing about the year 1835, and not long afterwards he erected the large house shown on the sketch for his own residence, and he continued to live in it till his death.
When Mr. Cross acquired the property, and for years afterwards, the road bounding Clairmont on the south, and which forms the continuation of Sauchiehall Street, was a mere country lane between hedges. It is called in the original charter "the common highway leading from Swansyeat to Clayslap." Swansyeat belonged to Blythswood. and was situated to the west of the continuation of the Cowloan. At a later date the eastern portion of the road is called in the Blythswood titles "the old road leading from Glasgow to Sauchy Hall." As an approach to the city, it was practically useless, and in order to obtain a proper carriage road to Glasgow, Mr. Cross, in 1804, acquired from Mr. Logan ground to form a road through that gentleman's lands of Sandy ford. It led from Mr. Cross' west gate "to the highway leading from Glasgow to Dunbarton." This road is what is now Clairmont Street. Mr. Cross erected gates at both ends of it, and within my recollection, one of these was still standing. This was the only road which Mr. Cross could then use as a carriage access to the city, and for many years afterwards the direct road was little better than it was in his time. My father purchased in 1813 from Mr. Robert Watson a house which had been built, but not quite finished, by his brother, Mr. Thomas Watson, with three acres of ground attached. This was directly opposite Clairmont, and in my recollection, which goes back to before 1818, the road, so far as regarded the carriage way, was all but impassable. It was a common thing to see carts labouring through it with the wheels sinking in the ruts up to the axle, and "kail stocks" and other refuse from the gardens of my father and his neighbours were used to fill up these terrible ruts a very temporary relief, I need not say. We were a long way from the city in those days.
Clairmont at the time of my early recollections of it, was far beyond the limits of police protection. Some time after we came to live on the opposite side of the road my father and the few other gentlemen who had villas along the road joined in providing two private night watchmen, who had, at long intervals, watch-boxes in which they usually sat or slept when not convoying along the road their employers or members of their families. One of these boxes was nearly opposite where the Corporation Buildings now are ; the next, to the west, was at the head of North Street. When I first went to my father's office, about 1825, I frequently walked home with him late in the evening, and in the dark winter nights it was a dreary road. When we came to the first watch-box the watchman would turn out with his lantern, and walk before us to the next station, when he would be relieved by his neighbour, who would conduct us to our own gate.
Opposite the westmost watch-box, facing the head of North Street, there was, in my recollection, a handsome gateway, intended as the entrance to a mansion on the lands of South Woodside which was never built. To the east of this gateway, within the grounds, was a beautiful small sheet of water, within steep banks, and surrounded with fine trees and coppice wood, and having floating in the centre a wooden swan fastened by a chain to the bottom. South Woodside was bounded on the west by Clairmont. The only residence then on the property was a cottage near the western boundary, close to the east boundary of Clairmont. South Woodside, which consisted of eighteen acres, was, to the extent of about eleven acres, acquired by Mr. Richard Gillespie, partly in 1798 from the successors of William Purdon, being what remained of Purdon's feu from Blythswood after he had sold to Mr. Hugh Cross the portion which became Clairmont ; and partly of ten acres and six falls feued by Richard Gillespie from Blythswood in 1802 less three acres sold by him to the proprietor of Woodlands. In 1815 South Woodside was sold by Mr. Gillespie's Trustee to the late Mr. Andrew Mitchell, writer, and his brothers Thomas and Moncrieff, and by these gentlemen it was sold in 1825 to Mr. Hamilton William Garden. In 1829 it was acquired by Mr. James McHardy and Mr. Allan Fullarton, by whom, and by their successors, the lands were feued out.
The upper part of South Woodside, like Woodlands and the northern part of Clairmont, was, till a comparatively recent period, covered with trees and coppice wood, and the late Mr. James Mitchell, LL.D., used to tell that he recollected, when as a boy he was on a visit to his uncle Mr. Gillespie at South Woodside Cottage, seeing a roe deer emerge from the wood behind. This would be about 1809-14. It was not uncommon, at a later period than this, to see hares in my father's place opposite, and even in the grounds of villas much nearer town.
Besides the house on Clairmont, Mr. Black had a large house in the city at the head of Jamaica Street. The family spent the winter there, and came out to Clairmont as a country residence for the summer months. In the first edition of Dr. Strang's Glasgow and its Clubs, and also in Glasgow Past and Present, that house in Jamaica Street is erroneously stated to have been the residence of Provost James Black, but that gentleman belonged to another family. It was the finest house in the street. It had been built about 1770 by Mr. Buchanan of Hillington, and had the imposing double stairs in front, so characteristic of the street architecture of that day. It was taken down in 1849, and on its site were erected the buildings occupied by Messrs. Arnott and Cannock. Within the precincts of the house was one of the finest private wells in the city a valued luxury at a time when the supply of water available to the citizens was chiefly from common wells in the streets.
Mr. Black was the son of James Black, merchant in Paisley, by his wife Anne Maxwell, daughter of James Maxwell of Merksworth, a grandson of Maxwell of Brediland. Semple, in his work on Renfrewshire, mentions a bleachfield on the lands of Brediland as "about to be occupied by a Mr. John Black." This must have been Mr. Black, afterwards of Clairmont, and it is no doubt his name also which appears in Tait's Directory of Merchants in the Toun of Paisley, published in 1783, as "John Black, thread manufacturer, Snedon." He came to Glasgow soon afterwards, and was the senior partner of the well-known firm of John Black and Company, calico printers. In Jones' Directory for 1789, the second published in Glasgow, the firm appears as "John Black and Company, calico and linen printers, warehouse 1st close east side High Street." Their first works were at Annfield, near Linlithgow, and were managed by Mr. Black's younger brother James, John attending to the business in Glasgow. After Mr. Black's death the works were carried on at Parkhouse, near Glasgow, and after that at Milngavie, Mr. Black married a daughter of Mr. M'Nair of Greenfield, and left a large family. Mr. Fleming, his successor in Clairmont, was an East India merchant connected with the house of William Nicol and Co. of Bombay. He was well known in Glasgow. He took for some time an active part in politics, and was a member of the first reformed Town Council. He married Miss Nicol, whose cousin and brother-in-law William Nicol was head of the Bombay firm. Mr. Fleming left a large family. Of the subsequent history of Clairmont and the large amount realized from the feuing of the ground I need not speak.
Woodlands, the property to the north in the sketch, formed a part of the lands called Woodside Hill. The first portion of it was acquired by " Dr. James McNayr, writer in Glasgow," from the Blythswood trustees. It is described in the feu contract as "ten acres of Woodside Hill, now called Woodlands, formerly and still partly a wood." Dr. McNayr was a man of some literary attainments. He published in 1789 a work on Conveyancing, "exhibiting," as he states in his preface, "precedents of such deeds only as have been, or are likely to be, executed in Scotland in the English form." It was probably for writing this work that he obtained his degree of LL.D. He did not obtain his
charter from Blythswood till April 1802, but he must have been in possession, and have built the house shown in the sketch, some time previously. Early in 1802 he became the first editor of the Glasgow Herald, but he held the appointment for only two months, having been sequestrated in July of that year. At the same time he ceased to be proprietor of Woodlands ; but for a long time afterwards the house, whether from its peculiar architecture, or, what is more likely, from its then extremely out of the way site, was popularly known as "McNayr's folly." The feu-duty was £91 15s., and the feuar was taken bound "to erect houses within ten years of the value of £200." In 1804 the property was sold by the trustee on McNayr's estate to Mr. James Miller, Jr., merchant in Glasgow, for £1,730, and on Mr. Miller's death it became the property of Mr. George Buchanan, through his wife, a sister of Mr. Miller. In 1808 and 1809 Mr. Buchanan added between five and six acres to the property, part of which three acres he acquired from Mr. Richard Gillespie, the proprietor of the adjoining lands of South Woodside. Mr. Buchanan occupied Woodlands for nearly thirty years, and on his death it became, by family arrangement in 1840, the property of his three unmarried daughters. It was sold by these ladies in 1846 to the Glasgow, Airdrie, and Monkland Junction
Railway Company at the price of £28,906 10s. This purchase was made with reference to an arrangement then proposed, but which fell through, by which the Railway Company was to acquire the site of the old College in High Street for a station, and new buildings lor the University were to be erected on Woodlands.
Six years afterwards the Railway Company sold the ground to the Corporation of Glasgow for £21,000. As regards Gilmourhill, I have nothing to add to what is told in Mr. MacLehose's well-known work, The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry.
(Regality Papers, volume 1)