Old Shettleston


By The Rev. J. F. Miller, M.A. F.S.A. (Scot)

The early history of Shettleston may be gathered round the interesting local name, “The Sheddens,” a word that is by no means unique, nor confined to Shettleston.  “to shed,” in the sense of “to part,” is a common and well known Scottish word still in use.  A mother will tell her boy “to shed his hair” before going to school in the morning, on reaching which he no doubt will learn the meaning of  a “water shed” – the ridge or elevation which separates one river basin from another.  According to Skeat, the word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “sceaden,” to shed, from which comes the Middle English “scheden.”  The word is accordingly used to describe a parting of the ways where two or more roads diverge.  The Sheddens therefore was not a cluster of primitive cottars’ houses, but a place where several ways merged into what was, and is, one of the oldest roads in the West of Scotland.

The Shettleston Sheddens is said to lie at the junction of the Old Edinburgh Road with Main Street, and is so placed in the Ordnance Survey Map of the district.  At one time however, the Sheddens may have been much nearer Glasgow, for, as we shall see, the district of Shettleston approached closer to the city than is generally supposed.  Dr. George R. Mather, in his paper on Provanhall in the Regality Club publications, describes the point as situated at the junction of Duke Street and Carntyne Road, the site of the Old Carntyne Toll House.  We suggest another site, a spot in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, where a road from Rutherglen, crossing an ancient ford of the Clyde, would strike the highway from the south and run into the city, such a spot would be between Parkhead Cross and Camlachie.

The Passage of St. Kentigern

As the chief roads from the south and east ran through the Sheddens, interesting personages in the early centuries of our era must have passed the spot.  Perhaps the foremost among these was St. Kentigern, who is popularly known as St. Mungo, and who in the middle of sixth century found a way from the east to the place where his memory is still enshrined.  Joceline, in his life of St. Kentigern, gives certain facts concerning the journey.  He tells how the saint lodged at Kernach, a place somewhere in the east of Scotland, in the house of an old man named Fergus, who was at the point of death, and who did die during the night.  Next morning Kentigern laid his body upon a new wain, to which he yoked two bulls not yet broken, and having prayed in the name of the Lord, enjoined the beasts to carry their burden to the place which the Lord, had provided for it.  The bulls came by a straight road to Cathures, which was afterwards called Glasgow, and pulled up beside the Molindinar at a virgin burial ground., long before consecrated by St. Ninian.  Here St. Mungo buried the body of Fergus, the first citizen of a great city of the dead; here he fixed his own dwelling place, and here to this day, in the Cathedral that marks the spot, is the “Ile of Car Fergus.”  By whatever route the solemn procession reached the west, it would probably pass the Sheddens, and we are left to imagine the group of peasants who stood at the spot watching the passage of the strange cortege.

Kentigern died in 603, and thereafter a pall as dark as night fell on the land.  The centuries which followed were chaotic, the country successfully becoming a prey to Picts, Danes, Scots and Saxons.  During these changes and revolutions all traces of Glasgow and Strathclyde disappeared from history for the long space of five centuries.  Necessarily a similar obscurity falls in Shettleston, and we can only feebly guess at the life of the people during these unknown years.

The Inquest of David

It is not until the twelfth century that we catch another fleeting glimpse of the district.  One of the heroic Scottish figures of that age was David, the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret.  He succeeded to the throne as David I., and was described by his descendant, James I., as “ain sair sanct for the Crown.”  In 1116 when he ws still only Prince and Earl of Cumbria, he appointed an inquiry to be made to ascertain the early possessions of the church at Glasgow.  This document is called “The Inquest of David,”   and is the most ancient of charters relating to the city and diocese of Glasgow.  In it we have a list of lands and properties which, by the help and counsel of the old and wise men of all Cumbria, are certified as the early possessions of the church of Kentigern.  The name of Shettleston indeed does not appear in the list.  It is not easy to identify many of the lands named because of their ancient nomenclature, but it is very probable that Shettleston is included in some of the place-names mentioned.  The lands in the north of the parish, Cardowan and Barlanark, are mentioned; Camlachie and Carntyne on the west and north Carmyle on the east, are all specially indicated as ancient possessions of the church, and it is likely that Shettleston was included in one of the names mentioned.  The only fact, however, that can be deduced fron David’s inquest with any degree of probability is that Shettleston was then not defined as a district and had no special name.

Some time in the next half century Shettleston came into existence for the first time, and the place which for centuries had only been known for its road, or the parting of the ways, appears in the light of day “with a local habitation and a name.”

First Known Mention of Shettleston

As we might expect from its church connection, it is in ecclesiastical documents that the name of Shettleston is first actually mentioned.  In 1170, Pope Alexander III, addressed a bull of confirmation to Ingleram, Bishop of Glasgow, in which he took under his own protection and that of St. Peter, various churches in and around Glasgow.  Among these is a place described as “villa filie Sadin,” the residence or settlement of Sadin’s daughter, which at once suggests Sadin’s town or Shettleston.  From the phraseology of the bull, it would appear as if, at that early date, a church existed at the place.  If so it was probably one of the “mensal” churches – that is a church whose revenues were used to supply the bishop’s table – but no particulars regarding it seem to have survived.  Two years later, on 25th march 1172, another bull was addressed to the Dean and Canons of Glasgow, which shows an interesting change in the form of the name.  Here it appears as “villa Mineschaden,” i.e., Mineschaden town.  In 1174, Joceline, Abbot of Melrose, was elected to the see of Glasgow, and between that year and 1186 he received four papal bulls in which Shettleston is described as “Iniensceden,” “villa filie Sedin,” “villa Filie Scadin,” and “Schedinestun.”  In three cases we have thus the Latin word “filia,” a daughter, in the description. In two cases we have the word with prefixes. “Mine” and “Inien.”  We may reasonably assume that the two forms off the prefix are due to a copyist’s blunder or to a scribe writing a word the meaning of which he did not know, and that both forms refer to the same word.

The prefix “inien” is probably an early vernacular word meaning “daughter.”  The old Irish word for “daughter” is “ingen,” and the modern Irish and Gaelic word is “inghean.”  The phonetic spelling of the old form would be ”inien,” which is exactly the prefix used, and is not difficult to see how the form “mine” might be written by a scribe who did not know the meaning of the word.  The word occurs in a very primitive form inscribed on a stone in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which has a bilingual inscription.  In Roman characters it reads:- AVITORIA FILIE CVNIGNI, and in Ogam, INIGGENA CUNIGNI AVITTORIGES.  “Ingena” corresponds to “filia.”  The “g” was originally intervocalic and is practically consonantal “i,” (English “y” in yard).  Thus within the space of sixteen years we find six distinct and separate references to Shettleston, and in each case the name is written in a different way.  Five of these differences describe it as the village or settlement of a woman who is named Sadin’s daughter.  The last describes it as Schedinstun, a form of the name which after more than seven hundred years sounds not unlike the modern name of Shettleston.  It should be noted that mere variety in spelling a place name has no significance.Our ancestors enjoyed great privileges in the science of spelling.  In the printed rental book of the diocese of Glasgow, where the entries were made by three archbishops, “Shettleston” is spelled in thirty two different ways.  Even an archbishop felt under no obligation to spell in the same way today as he did yesterday.  If he required t write the name twice in one paragraph he felt no necessity to be consistent in his orthography.  Altogether no fewer than forty eight different ways in which the name is spelled have been noted.

The Identity of Sadin

It would be interesting to know something about the history of the man after whom Shettleston is named.  Who was Sadin, and how did he come to be settles on the banks of the Camlachie burn?  Why is it that when the name first appears the daughter is associated with the father, and the spot is called the settlement of Sadin’s daughter?  We may most reasonably assume that when the name first occurs Sadin was dead, that he had left no sons to take over his name and lands, and that his daughter inherited the settlement.  It has been said that Sadin was a brother of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland.  Cosmo Innes hands on this tradition when he records that “Shettleston is said to have been so called from a daughter of St. Patrick’s brother, but more probably from a Saxon colonist.”  It is difficult to see how a settlement described for the first time in the twelfth century could have its origin from the family of St. Patrick, who flourished in the sixth, the interval of time between the two dates being as long as that between the Battle of Bannockburn and today.  We also know that during the centuries there had been different race movements with changes and revolutions in the Clyde Valley.  On the whole it would appear to be reasonable to associate Sadin with one of the Saxon families driven north to Scotland after the Norman Conquest.  Across the Clyde from Shettleston was the Royal residence at Rutherglen where the Scottish Kings from the time of Malcolm Canmore had a castle, and where exiled Saxons would always receive a welcome from Queen Margaret, herself an exile from the south.

But there are difficulties too in accepting this theory.  As already noted, the name Sadin is associated with an old Irish word for “daughter.”  It is therefore probable that he was one of the Dalriada Scots who conquered the Romanized Britons of Strathclyde, and uniting with the Picts, formed the Scottish race.  Nearly all the name places in the Clyde valley are of British or Celtic origin and it may perhaps be claimed for Shettleston that it owes its name to some leader of the Scots who had formed a settlement on the banks of the Camlachie burn in the twelfth century.

The Cross of Shettleston

A fuller light of history falls on Shettleston when in the year 1226 its cross is mentioned for the first time.  On 20th October of that year, King Alexander II, granted a charter to the Bishop of Glasgow and his successors, by which the provost and officers of Rutherglen were prohibited from taking toll or custom in the town of Glasgow, but authorised to continue the collection of their legal dues “at the cross of Schedenestun, as they were wont to be taken as of old” – the only reference to the cross that has come down to us; but for it all knowledge of its existence would have perished.

The way in which the Cross is referred to seems to indicate that it had had a history extending back for many years.  It was not erected when the charter was granted, but had previously been a dividing point between the two burghs.  Rutherglen was a royal burgh, and had extensive trading area, including the town of Glasgow, within which it had exclusive privileges of trade, and the right to levy tolls and customs on all goods brought into the market for sale.  It is probable that Rutherglen had a station for collecting these taxes within the town of Glasgow itself, before the burgh was founded in 1175, and fifty years later that practice had either been continued or resumed.  The prohibition did not apparently interfere with the right of Rutherglen to take toll or custom for goods and articles’ passing into Glasgow, as may have been long the practice, but the collection of those dues within Glasgow itself or nearer the city than the Cross of Shettleston was now forbidden.  It is therefore apparent that a trading jealousy had arisen between the two towns, and it was necessary to define their respective spheres of operations, and the Cross was made the place where the trading rights of Rutherglen ended.

What was the position of this Cross?  Was it a cross merely marking a trading boundary or did it indicate a trading centre of the community?  Was it a casual cross erected at some cross roads or known place of public resort?  From the relative positions of Rutherglen and Glasgow, it is probable that the site must have been contiguous to both, and on the main route between the two places.  What spot corresponds most accurately with these requirements?

David Ure suggests it was “in the vicinity of Glasgow and has long since changed its name.”  Sir James Marwick says:- “That the position of the lands of Shettleston on which the ancient cross stood was probably what was known as the two merkland of Towcorse, now called Tollcross,” and he indicates that the village of Tollcross owes its name to  the fact.  Could the Cross of the charter stand on the Tollcross Road, and are the Cross from which Tollcross derives its name and the Cross of Shettleston be the same?

Following Sir James Marwick, Rev. Charles McEwing affirms that the two crosses are the same, and says:- “This Cross of Schedinestun has been variously located.  The probability is that the situation was at the west end of the village of Tollcross.  At this point the road from Rutherglen via Bogleshole Ford – a very ancient crossing – and Shettleston to Falkirk and Stirling intersects the old Roman road, which in the village forms Main Street”  It is however, unlikely that a ford across the Clyde at Bogleshole would be the natural line of a road between Rutherglen and Glasgow – it is much too far east – and this site as the spot where the Cross stood may confidently be set aside.

To locate the site of the Cross certain conditions must be fulfilled. (1) It would likely stand at some prominent place on the well known trade route between Rutherglen and Glasgow.  (2) It is very probable that it would stand somewhere on the lands of Tollcross. (3) We would also expect it would mark a boundary of the Burgh of Glasgow on the east.

The Cross cannot have stood at any place which is regarded as the centre of Shettleston life today, because no such centre satisfies the necessary conditions.  The popular position assigned to the Sheddens does not meet the requirements, nor does the west end of the village of Tollcross.  A Roman road did indeed pass through the modern Tollcross. but it did not lead to Rutherglen, and no service road to Rutherglen was likely to braek off so far to the east.  The Sheddens as placed by Dr. Mather answers some of the conditions – it is more than half a mile nearer Glasgow, but the site is not on the lands of Tollcross.  In truth we must go west from both Shettleston and the present Tollcross towards Camlachie to a place which answers all the conditions which have been laid down.  That spot was probably between Parkhead Cross and Camlachie on the highway which led to the Drygate and Rottenrow of Glasgow but the exact place can hardly be identified.

Traders at The Cross

If the Cross was more than a mere trading boundary post between two burghs, it is probable that in the twelfth century merchants and traders from Rutherglen, Renfrew and Paisley on the south of the Clyde came to it, and there met with dealers from the forests and pasture lands of  the Monklands; representatives from the clans north of the Roman wall, bartered and exchanges with men from Dumbarton, the capital of Cumbria, with the king’s tenants from Partick, and with the bishop’s men from Glasgow and Shettleston.    It may also be that a thousand years earlier a Roman milestone had stood on the spot.  From this milestone the Roman soldier might be able to learn how far his legion had marched from Rome, and how many miles he had to travel before he reached his station on the wall.  We can imagine Crusaders from the west of Scotland halting for a moment as they passed, and many a pilgrim with staff in hand and wallet on shoulder, as he set out on the great pilgrimage to the Holy Land, read there that it was 4,600 miles to Jerusalem.

Some learned members from this Society hold that the first market cross or trading centre of Glasgow was at the Wyndheid in the neighbourhood of the Cathedral.  May I hazard the theory that the earliest trading centre of Glasgow was at the Cross of Shettleston, and that with the building of the first Glasgow bridge, and the gradual development of the burgh, the centre was changed to the spot we still call the Cross of Glasgow.  I ventured to suggest this theory to Dr. Renwick, to whom I am greatly indebted in preparing this paper, but Dr. Renwick, jealously guarding the rights and privileges of the city, perhaps afraid lest a charge should be brought against the city of appropriating what did not belong to it said, “Oh no, sir, we always had a cross of our own! “  But the Cross of Shettleston was also Glasgow’s own, for it stood near the centre of the ancient barony and regality of Glasgow.

The Divisions of Shettleston

Before the Reformation we find Shettleston divided into certain districts, such as Easter Shettleston, Westertown of Shettleston, and Midquarter.  It also appears that at an early date the district was divided up into four wards.  Sandyhills is described as lying in the first ward of Shettleston; Budhill in the second; Tollcross, West-Thorne and probably also the lands marching with the Clyde in the fourth part of Shettleston.  I have been unable to discover exactly what district was described as the third part or ward.

At the reformation the lands of Tollcross were owned or occupied by only three families.  The same extent of ground in other parts of Shettleston were owned or occupied by twenty families.  Before the Reformation the lands were feud to three persons.  At another time we find the whole estate in the possession of one family.  Tollcross was in fact the aristocratic and exclusive part of Shettleston.  Three distinctive names are given to the lands of Tollcross: (1) Tollcross, evidently the name given to the largest holding; (2) Little Tollcross describes that part of the land now included in Tollcross Park; (3) Little Hill of Tollcross is the name given to the land that lay in the neighbourhood of Camlachie.  In 1751 Mr. James Corbet feued part of this land , and in the conveyance the part he owned is described as being “ a half merk land and part of the four pound land of Tollcross.”  It is this land that is now known as Janefield.

A large portion of the lands described as Wester Shettleston and Midquarter are owned by the Grays of Carntyne and a portion of the estate lies at Camlachie.  In one of the titles the following description of a piece of land is recorded:- “All and whole those parts of the four pound land of Tollcross lying adjacent to Camlachie and extending to thirteen acres or thereby.”  The property is further described as bounded on the north by the Camlachie Burn, and by other parts of the four pound land of Tollcross.  In the early part of the last century several fortunes were made and lost by working the coal in the lands of Camlachie and Tollcross.  One of these coalfields is described as – “The lands of Camlachie part of the four pound land of Tollcross extending to about fifty acres or thereby, which coal, metals and minerals were reserved by the proprietors of the said lands of Tollcross in the dispositions granted by them when they conveyed away the surface of the said lands.”  The lands of Camlachie being thus described as part of the four pound land of Tollcross, we may reasonably assume that the latter extended fro the site of the park and included what is now known as Camlachie.  From the earliest time Camlachie formed the eastern boundary of the burgh of Glasgow.  When afterwards the burgh was formed into a parish, Camlachie became the boundary between the city and barony parishes.  Camlachie at William Street is described in “The Extracts from the Records of the Burgh Glasgow” as “the east boundary of the royalty.”  In a report of the perambulation of the marches of the royalty made on 20th May 1805, it is noted:- “march stone No. 46 to the South of Camlachie has fallen down and should be set up again.”  A bend of the Camlachie burn continued to be the east boundary of the city of Glasgow till comparatively recent time.  The Reform Act of 1832 extended the parliamentary boundary of Glasgow to the Old Edinburgh Road at Shettleston, and in 1846 the city boundary was extended to the same place , and so remained until 1912 when the latest extension of the city took place.

A small property of five acres named Whitecrosshill, bounded on the east the nineteen acres of Easter Camlachie lying on the north side of the highway, and the lands of Tollcross marched in the same direction with the sixteen acres opposite.  Camlachie burn skirts both divisions on the west.

As the archaeologist frequently brings against modern officials the charge of “removing ancient landmarks,” it is only right to give these officials due credit when they restore them.  Shettleston comes to its own in the parliamentary division of the city recently carried out.   The new Shettleston ward comes as far west as Camlachie, which was probably the boundary between Shettleston and Glasgow in the twelfth century.




5 thoughts on “Old Shettleston

  1. Anna McKinlay

    Can you tell me if Edinburgh Road in the Shettleston, Camlachie area in the 1911 census became Shettleston Road by 1921

    Family lived in number 584 and am trying to prove that it is one and the same property

  2. Anna McKinlay

    Can you tell me when Edinburgh Road became Shettleston Road – Ancestors lived at 584 Edinburgh Road in the 1911 Census but in the 1921 census it’s shown as 584 Shettleston Road. I believe it is one and the same place and would be delighted if you could confirm this

  3. Rose Strang

    Brilliant history of Shettleston. My 5th Great Grandfather, James Kerr (got married to Agnes Jack in 1762) lived there and worked as a shoemaker.

  4. William Broadley

    Always been interested in east end history,my mothers father , peter Gordon was a miner, he came from the Aberdeen area and settled in Vesalius st. After reading this, just wondering if his mining job was in the shettelston aria

    1. Thomas McCann

      There were many mines in the area William. Carntyne Here is a link to the Scottish mines web site http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/index.html
      James Gray.
      Robt Paterson.
      Robert Finlay.
      John Horne.
      Roxburgh and Faulds.
      R. Gray and Company.


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