University o f Glasgow : Blackhouse charters

Scope and Content

The corpus contains 497 charters, divided in 21 categories:

  • 1: BL 1 - 311 Rights belonging to religious orders before the Reformation, with the University's title to them, 1304-1640. Almost all the properties involved are in Glasgow, but exceptions include the earliest item, which concerns the burgh of Dumbarton. The main sources of the University's titles were the Dominican Friars in Glasgow and the Vicars Choral of the Cathedral, but the former properties of chaplainries are also included.
  • 2: BL 312 - 314 Rights to Blackfriars Yards, 1578.
  • 3: BL 315 - 325 Colmonell teinds, 1552-1685, and the houses and land purchased from William Laing, 1520/1-1706.
  • 4: BL 326 - 375 The 'Grassum Lands' (the 5s land of Dovehill), 1556-1717.
  • 5: BL 376 - 393 The Principal's house, 1557-1639.
  • 6: BL 394 - 395 Rights in Avondale and Queen Mary's foundation of bursaries for five poor children.
  • 7: BL 396 - 402 Part of Dovehill purchased from John Bryson, 1620-1717.
  • 8: BL 403 - 406 Chaplainry of St Mungo, 1578-1634.
  • 9: BL 407 - 415 Jordanhill's Mortification and the teinds belonging to Stewart of Balschagrie in the parish of Govan, 1576-1655.
  • 10: BL 416 - 436 The remainder of the teinds of Govan parish and the customs of Glasgow, 1577-1654.
  • 11: BL 437 - 444 Renfrew and East Kilbride teinds, 1593-1651.
  • 12: BL 445 - 446 Michael Wilson's mortification, 1617, 1640.
  • 13: BL 447 - 448 Annuity payable by the magistrates of Rutherglen, 1618, 1636.
  • 14: BL 449 - 461 The sub-deanery of Glasgow and the teinds of Cadder and Monkland, 1624-1670.
  • 15: BL 462 - 466 Lands of Ballagan and Garscube, 1577-1655.
  • 16: BL 467 - 471 Mortifications to the University of Glasgow, 1627-1652.
  • 17: BL 472 - 473 Bishopric of Galloway, 1641-1642.
  • 18: BL 473(2) - 480 Mortifications to the University of Glasgow, 1652-1697.
  • 19: BL 481 Part of Blackfriars church and churchyard, 1699.
  • 20: BL 482 - 484 King William's mortifications and Queen Anne's donation, 1695-1708.
  • 21: BL 485 - 497 Miscellanea (copies of early writs and general ratifications, etc.), [1451]-1654.

This collection is part of the  Records of the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

When the University of Glasgow was created at the instigation of Bishop William Turnbull in 1451, it did not have any building of its own and had to use the chapter house of the cathedral. Over the years, the university expanded and relocated several times, as a result of historical events and of the generosity of rich grantors. The 500 Blackhouse charters recount this evolution, giving a great exemplification of this aspect of the history of the university through acts of transfer of land, settlements of court, donations and royal grants.

The main group of documents (BL 1 to BL 311), and also the oldest one, consists of the charters relating to the rights belonging to religious orders before the Reformation. The most important of them was the order of the Dominican Friars of Glasgow, also known as 'Black Friars', active in the city since at least 1246. They possessed many lands and tenements on the High Street in a place called 'Black Friars Wynd', and as every ecclesiastical establishment, they carefully kept their deeds and charters to prove their rights to their lands and their privileges. Another important institution was the Cathedral and its Vicars Choral, closely linked to the university as the masters also held offices in the religious foundations of the city. The first set of documents also contains the university's title to those rights, as in 1563 and 1573, the Blackfriars' properties were made over to the college in two different grants by Mary, Queen of Scots. Additionally, in 1595 a decree of the Lords of the Council designated the masters of the university as successors of the vicars of the choir. Thus, the 'Old College', as the university was called, inherited not only the Black Friars Wynd and the other lands, buildings and rents belonging to the Dominican monks, but also all the legal documents proving their rights.

Those expansions after the Reformation played an important role in enabling the university to flourish during the 17th century. The rest of the collection, divided in "progresses", recount the subsequent acquisitions by the university. It could be either by purchasing lands from laymen, or by appropriating revenue from nearby parishes and vicarages such as Colmonell, Cadder, Stobo, Renfrew and Kilbirnie. Since such cases were often prone to litigation, it was particularly important for the masters to keep all the legal documents proving their rights. Additionally, the university, now well-established, received many generous donations from important people such as Anne Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton and Archbishop Robert Leighton.

The following glossaries can be helpful to understand the vocabulary used in this catalogue (please note: the University of Glasgow is not responsible for creating or maintaining these websites):  


Chronologically within series.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

A transcription of about a hundred charters relating to the Black Friars (BL 1 - BL 311) was made in the 18th century by General Hutton. It is now kept in the University Archives as GUA 26 768: 'Transcript of deeds by General Hutton taken from Blackhouse's inventory relevant to the Friars Preachers (Vol. XLI 132)'.

Appraisal Information

Appraised to standard GB 0248 procedures.


None expected.

Related Material

GB 0248 GUA 26614 (Clerk's Press 2): Annales Collegii Facultatis Artium in Universitate Glasguensi.

GB 0248 GUA 26674 (Clerk's Press 60): Inventory of College of Glasgow writs, rights and securities compiled by Robert Alexander of Blackhouse, 1712.

GB 0248 GUA 17635: 'Inventory of writes respecting tenements in Blackfriars Wynd. Supplementary to Blackhouse's inventory'. n.d. [ca 1800].

GB 0248 GUA 9944: 'Inventory of papers concerning ground annuals being supplementary to Blackhouse's inventory'.

GB 0243 LK1/31: Inventory of the charters relating to the city of Glasgow.


The following printed books containing the transcriptions of many charters and other relating documents are available in many major libraries and online (please note: the University of Glasgow is not responsible for creating or maintaining these online copies):

  • Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow : from its foundation till 1727 (Glasgow: [Maitland Club], 1854) - 3 volumes plus separate index. (Available online here)
  • Liber Collegii Nostre Domine registrum Ecclesie B.V. Marie et S. Anne infra muros civitatis Glasguensis MDXLIX : accedunt munimenta fratrum Predicatorum de Glasgu / domus Dominicane apud Glasguenses carte que supersunt MCCXLIV-MDLIX, ed. by Joseph Robertson (Glasgow: the Maitland Club, 1846), 1 volume. (Available online here)
  • Registrum episcopatus Glasguensis : munimenta ecclesie metropolitane Glasguensis a sede restaurata seculo ineunte XII ad reformatam religionem, ed. by Cosmo Innes (Edinburgh: Maitland Club, 1843) 2 volumes. (Available online here (vol. 1)and here (vol. 2))
  • Deeds instituting bursaries, scholarships, and other foundations, in the College and University of Glasgow, ed. by William Thompson (Glasgow: George Richardson, 1850). (Available online here)
  • Charters and other documents relating to the city of Glasgow, ed. by Sir James D. Marwick (Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Record Society, 1894-1906), 2 volumes. (Available online here (part 1)and here (part 2))

The printed catalogue containing most of the seals of the Blackhouse charters can also be found in major libraries:  

Geographical Names