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The medieval palace of the Bishops of Glasgow – and its successor, the 17th century castle – are well documented but their site had been lost for almost 400 years – until a chance discovery...
While laying sewage pipes in Partick, at the point where the River Kelvin joins the River Clyde, building foundations were uncovered by Scottish Water. An archaeological team was quickly summoned and soon determined that this was, indeed, the long-forgotten structures.
The Bishop's Palace was known to have existed in the 12th century and abandoned at the Reformation when the last Catholic bishop, James Beaton, left Partick for France.
In 1611 George Hutcheson, a Glasgow financier and philanthropist, built ‘a convenient house, well planted with timber and large gardens enclosed with a stone wall’ on the site. This was Patrick Castle, a commodious and vaulted tower house. The building contract stipulated an ‘iron yett’ so defence was not neglected.
In his will of 1655, Hutcheson endowed a hospital in Glasgow for ‘sick and old men’. His statue was placed over the entrance and exists to this day.
His hospital survived but not his castle. By 1770 it had been abandoned and soon afterwards it was demolished. As Partick became industrialised in the 19th century the site was covered by a dye works, a foundry, a laundry, a railway and, finally, a scrap yard.
To date finds from the excavation site include pottery, metalwork, leather, glass and animal bones dating from the 12th to the 17th centuries but the challenge confronting the excavation team will be how they can disentangle the medieval palace from the renaissance castle.
Regular updates on the progress of the dig will be posted on this site – so keep visiting!
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.
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