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Authorized form of name
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Dates of existence
1895 - 1975
The city of Glasgow owed its origins, and for several centuries its prosperity, to the medieval church. The founding charter of the burgh, dateable only to 1175x1178, was obtained from King William the Lion by Bishop Jocelin, and provided for burghal status and a weekly market. An annual fair was added by a second charter around 1189. The burgh court, the town council (in some form) and various burgh magistrates and officials date from this early period. It was not until around 1450, however, that Glasgow conformed to what was becoming a pattern among the more successful Scottish burghs by choosing a chief magistrate, the provost. By the Reformation there were already clear signs that the ambitions of the governing merchant class for greater autonomy were causing tensions with the archbishops. Despite becoming a royal burgh in 1611, however, and despite a successful resolution to the city?s own internal social and political tensions by the Letter of Guildry of 1605, full independence from the archbishops came only in 1690. By then Glasgow?s steady rise in prominence among the Scottish burghs, judged by its taxable value, had already brought it to second place, with a population estimated at around 12,000.
Economic growth during the latter part of the 18th century, based first on tobacco, and after 1776 on cotton, increased the population about sixfold by 1800, but without greatly altering the burgh ?sett?, or constitution. After that date, however, its extraordinary growth in wealth and population was matched by a much greater complexity of administrative and political organisation. The powers of the unreformed town councils in Scotland were very wide, and not limited by any defining statute. It was established, however, that it was not competent for them to establish any form of police force. Such a force was already an urgent requirement for a city with a population in excess of 70,000, and in 1800 the council took the unprecedented step of establishing a body of Police Commissioners, to be responsible for policing, lighting, paving and cleansing the city. Until 1846 the police commissioners were an entirely separate body; thereafter they were the councillors themselves. The police commissioners (under a succession of different titles) later acquired important additional functions, including maintenance of the public streets, and in particular public health (from 1866). During the 19th century the town council itself acquired additional powers, frequently as commissioners or trustees for special purposes. Parks and galleries, markets, the supply of gas and electricity, and city improvements (the forerunner of municipal housing) were all administered by trusts and commissions of this type. In November 1895 a major restructuring took place. The former trusts and commissions, including the police authority, were now merged with the council itself under the official title of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow, and their functions were thereafter carried out by Corporation departments.
Another beginning was made in 1800 with the first extension of the boundaries of the ancient royalty, to take in the lands of Ramshorn and Meadowflat to the west of the old town centre, including the site of the present City Chambers. Successive expansions, which took the city south of the Clyde for the first time in 1846, soon came to be checked by a ring of suburban burghs, some of them created by royal charter, but more often by the inhabitants of local areas exercising powers under the 1850 and 1862 Burgh Police Acts. These could only be absorbed by Glasgow after what were often hard-fought parliamentary battles, not all of them won by the city. The main boundary extensions of this type were in 1891, when the incorporated areas included six burghs as well as several landward areas, and 1912 (Govan, Partick and Pollokshaws). These extensions, which continued until 1938, enlarged the municipal area from the original 1768 acres to almost 40,000 acres.
In 1930 the Corporation took over the functions of the former education and poor law authorities, and from then until after the Second World War it was in effect the sole local authority within its area (Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929, 19 & 20 Geo.V, c.25). The range of services provided was at its widest extent during these years, when coincidentally the population also peaked at just over 1.1 million (around 1939). Thereafter various functions were removed from local government entirely or were handed over to specialist agencies. These included most of the responsibilities relating to health (1948 and 1974), the transport system (1973), and the supply of electricity, gas and water (1947, 1948 and 1968 respectively). In 1975 local government was reformed and the Corporation abolished in favour of a two-tier system, with local government functions distributed between the two tiers. In Glasgow the successor authorities were Glasgow District Council and Strathclyde Regional Council.
Glasgow, City of Glasgow
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Rules and/or conventions used
ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997)
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Created 23 Feb 2021