In October 2014 I spent three weeks travelling the United Kingdom. Most of my time consisted of visiting museums and historic sites. The history of many of these buildings is fascinating. Museums, such as Provand’s Lordship, Glasgow did not start life as a museum and had many lives before it came to what it is today.
Provand’s Lordship is a three-story random-rubble stone building that sits at the top of Castle Street, just across the road from Glasgow Cathedral. Built in 1471, it is the oldest house in Glasgow and one of the few medieval buildings remaining. It was originally intended to be lodgings for the Master or Preceptor of St Nicholas’s Hospital but it became accommodation for one of the 32 canons of Glasgow Cathedral. One of these cannons was Cuthbert Simson. He lived in the house between 1501 to 1513. He was a lawyer as well as a priest. As the size of the house suggests, cannons often lived sumptuously, even by today’s standards.
After a time the house became lodgings for illegitimate sons of Stewart kings. By the early 1500s it became the property of the Baillie family, when it seems to already have become a common townhouse. In 1800’s the house again became the property of the church and housed a cannon of the Prebend (area within the Diocese of Glasgow) of Barlanark (or Balernock).
In 1906, The Provand’s Lordship Society was founded to preserve the building. At this time the Morton family lived in house and operated a sweetshop (and sweet factory) on the premises. With the co-operation of the Morton’s, The Society had opened some of the rooms to the public. After WWI The Society raised enough funds to buy the house outright and it was restored to its 1700 state.
However they were not able to maintain it so they offered it to the City Of Glasgow in 1978. It was reopened to the public in June 1983 after a £175,000 restoration.The current room settings are a combination between 1500 and 1700, with 17th-century Scottish furniture and a series of historic royal portraits, including Mary Queen of Scots, who is believed to have a visited the house. All these pieces were donated by Sir William Burrell. In mid-1990’s another restoration took place to recreate St Nicholas Garden,the medicinal herb garden that would have been part of the property when it was attache to the hospital.