THIS week we travel back to the late 12th and early 13th century to see how Glasgow went from a small settlement of Christians to a growing presence in Scotland.

With Bishop Jocelin having greatly enlarged the church dedicated to St Kentigern, and with Glasgow acknowledged as a diocese in its own right, the latter years of the 12th century were something of a boom time for the town. Some of the original church is preserved in the present Cathedral and it was from the Cathedral downwards to the River Clyde that Glasgow began to develop and expand.

As we have seen before, Partick, Govan and Rutherglen were all settlements that pre-dated Glasgow but the preferential treatment given to the town by the Church and King William the Lion in particular meant that Glasgow soon soared past its neighbours in importance.

King David I had made Rutherglen a burgh, an order only a king could make, but William the Lion allowed the church to nominate its own burghs.

As we saw last week, Jocelin obtained burgh status for Glasgow from William the Lion sometime between 1175 and 1178, and he got the king to allow him to create a weekly market – the first such burgh market in Scotland.

King William also allowed Glasgow an annual “fair” – a sort of holiday with great festivities – and the Glasgow Fair remains a part of the city scene today.

The maddening thing about Scottish history in the early years of the second millennium is that we have so few contemporary accounts still extant.

We have to rely on chronicles written far away from Glasgow, and usually much later than the events portrayed, for our basic information about the development of the city.

Two of the most detailed accounts are the Chronicle of Melrose and the works of Andrew of Wyntoun, but while the former was fairly contemporaneous, the latter was not produced until the late 14th century. Wyntoun, a monk, wrote in poetry, including his eight volume “Orygynale Cronykil” of Scotland from which we learn that:

“A thowsand a hundyr foure scor and ane Fra Jhesu Cryst had manhed tane, Joce, than Byschape off Glasgw. Rowmyt the kyrk off Sanct Mongw”

Which basically tells us that in 1181, Bishop Jocelin tore down the old church and began the new one that would become the Cathedral, but only after a disastrous fire in 1195 that would need St Kentigern’s to be rebuilt again.

Put this information together with the Chronicle of Melrose’s statement that in “A.D. 1197, Joceline, bishop of Glasgow, dedicated his cathedral church, which he had built anew, upon Sunday, the day before the nones of July, in the 24th year of his episcopate,” and you have proof that Jocelin got the church built and dedicated before his death in 1199.

For sake of clarity we will call it the Cathedral from now on, and I will return to the subject of this great building later in this series. Jocelin also brought in members of various orders of friars and monks who were allocated areas of Glasgow to build their residences – nothing as grand as a priory or monastery, but substantial enough to be referred to in various church documents of the time. They were also given “fees” or “feus” – the right to charge rental for use of their lands in Glasgow.

It wasn’t just his fellow clergy that Jocelin favoured, because ancient records show that the Knights Templar were also granted land and fishing rights on the Clyde and they charged their local representative 12 pence per year for his rent.

BY the start of the 13th century, Glasgow was becoming a substantial town, and the various areas in and around its boundaries began to be connected by streets. Perhaps the first of those streets was Rottenrow which connected the area south of the Cathedral to the area to the north of what we now know as Cowcaddens which was then an entirely separate settlement.

It was always traditionally accepted that Rottenrow, best known latterly for the city’s maternity hospital, was the first street, but I am not so sure.

It is certainly among the oldest surviving streets, but if we accept that Glasgow first developed between the Cathedral and the Molendinar Burn’s confluence with the Clyde then it surely most likely that “streets” developed around what we now know as Glasgow Cross.

With the market place being developed nearer to the Clyde than the Cathedral it seems obvious that early streets would link these two areas of settlement, and certainly the riverside area was where livestock were kept – the nearer to the market, the better.

I therefore contend that the High Street is a better contender for the title of “oldest street in Glasgow”, and later on in the series we shall see how the High Street became by far the most important arterial route in Glasgow.

Of course they were not “streets” as we know them. We can be pretty certain that the High Street and Rottenrow were rough tracks and certainly not paved until much later in their existence.

Still, by the early 13th century the layout of what we might call Old Glasgow was being established.

There were a few rough years for Glasgow in the early part of that century as a succession of four bishops came and went without laying their mark on the town – a couple might not even have visited the place – before Glasgow got lucky with the election and appointment of Bishop Walter who was consecrated in November, 1208, and would be bishop of Glasgow diocese for 24 years, a long time in those days of brief mortality.

Walter just happened to be the chaplain to William the Lion and his appointment was another sign of Glasgow’s favoured status with the king.

Yet it was William the Lion’s son, King Alexander II, who would boost the fortunes of Glasgow by starting the process which would see the town become a great centre of trade, as well as authorising the establishment of Glasgow’s first great “business” – a Mint.