A Seat of Power

The Burrell Collection includes a chair with a large decorative crest, carved with the coat of arms of the Cann family of Bristol, with the date ‘1699’ inscribed into the rails of the chair. The Cann family amassed their wealth from plantations they owned in the Caribbean. Sir Robert Cann, 1st Baronet of Compton Greenfield (1622-1685), was a prominent merchant in Bristol and served as … Continue reading A Seat of Power

Letters from Tobago

In 1776, John Foreman set sail from Greenock to buy cotton in Tobago to send back to Scotland. He was a merchant born in Scoonie, Fife, in 1740. Three letters written by him were donated to the Mitchell Library in 1934. These give an insight into Scottish trade with the West Indies at that time. On 28 November 1776, the day of his departure from … Continue reading Letters from Tobago

Lady Margaret Mackenzie speaks – life with the Glassfords

By 1783 John Glassford (1715 -1783) had been married three times. The last marriage was in 1768 to Lady Margaret Mackenzie.  It is Lady Mackenzie who is seated in the Glassford family portrait. What did she have to say about life with the Glassfords? Lady Margaret Mackenzie wrote to her Aunt, Lady Henrietta Dundas. She noted ‘I do not find any little jealousy’s in the … Continue reading Lady Margaret Mackenzie speaks – life with the Glassfords

John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

As seen by his signature on this guinea bank note in Glasgow Museums’ collection John Robertson was the Cashier for the Glasgow Arms Banking Office in 1778. The Glasgow Arms Bank was originally established as Cochran Murdoch & Co. in 1750, changing to Speirs, Murdoch & Co in 1763. It later became Murdoch, Robertson & Co a few years after this bank note was issued … Continue reading John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

John McCall and Family

In 1965 Glasgow Museums added this painting, called John McCall of Belvidere and family; Family Group known as the Dennistoun to its collections. Although the artist remains a mystery there are enough clues from the clothes that the McCall family are wearing to date the painting to the late 1760s. Unlike the Glassford portrait this does not feature a slave, but the McCall family, like … Continue reading John McCall and Family

The Black House

The ‘Black House’ deserved its name – it was built of stone from the Black Stone quarry, which was once between St George’s Road and North Woodside Road in northern Glasgow. This house represents one of the better known buildings made with stone from the quarry. It was built on the corner of Queen Street (Cow Lone) and Argyle Street (West Gait) for the McCall … Continue reading The Black House

Glasgow Merchants’ Investment in Purple

The profits from Scottish-owned plantations in the West Indies that used enslaved men, women and children were returned to Scotland and invested in industries here rather than helping to develop their local Caribbean communities. One such area that profited was Glasgow’s burgeoning dye industry. Many purple dyes were traditionally made using lichen dyes which were much cheaper than the famous Tyrian or murex purple extracted … Continue reading Glasgow Merchants’ Investment in Purple

The earliest enslaved person in Glasgow?

In 1705, the Glaswegian businessman, John ‘Bass’ Spreull published an account of Scotland’s prospects for international trade. He suggested that Scotland should make appropriate trade links with the West Indies, Virginia, the Guinea coast and what he called the ‘Negroes Coast’, by which he probably meant West African countries such as Senegal where European countries had established a slave trade. Spreull promoted a trade of … Continue reading The earliest enslaved person in Glasgow?

A black and white photograph of a building in Miller Street, Glasgow, taken in 1909

The Tobacco Merchant’s House at 42 Miller Street

Nestled amongst imposing 19th and 20th century industrial and retail architecture on Miller Street in Glasgow’s Merchant City, sits an attractive little house, built in 1775.  42 Miller Street, now known as The Tobacco Merchant’s House, is remarkable for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that it survived the enormous industrialisation and commercialisation of Glasgow over the last two centuries. The house … Continue reading The Tobacco Merchant’s House at 42 Miller Street

Cathkin House 1870

Cathkin House and Slavery

In 1870, James Maclehose published a volume of photographs entitled Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry. The photographs were taken by Thomas Annan (1829 – 1887), and the text, by John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, catalogued the stories of the families who lived in them. Tom Devine has commented that “they were essentially uncritical hagiographies, silent on the slavery roots of … Continue reading Cathkin House and Slavery

Image of a blue and white delftware punch bowl

Drinking the fruits of enslaved labour

This ceramic bowl is known as ‘The Roberton Hunt’ bowl. It belonged to the members of an 18th-century fox hunt which took place twice a year in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire. In 1771, the year the hunt was established, the club’s treasurer ordered four of these bespoke delftware bowls, customised with the club’s name. They were designed to be the right size for punch made from … Continue reading Drinking the fruits of enslaved labour

Glasgow Museums Collection OG.1948.14.2

John Glassford’s Art Collection

John Glassford of Dougalston (1715 -1783) is famed for his success as a businessman, but few people know about his art collection. It was sold at auction at Christies on 23rd December 1786. The auction catalogue lists 139 paintings for sale. The collection was mostly made up of British, Dutch and French artists but there were also a few Italian paintings. He had three works … Continue reading John Glassford’s Art Collection

Glasgow Museums and Collections T-SK-22-5

Glasgow Plantation Owners in Jamaica

In the 17th and 18th centuries Glasgow achieved commercial success through its trade in tobacco and sugar. Its merchants acquired land on the east coast of America and in the West Indies where the land was cleared for tobacco and sugar plantations.  The Scots relationship with the Caribbean became more significant, particularly after American Independence. Jamaica became the dominant island in the Caribbean and by … Continue reading Glasgow Plantation Owners in Jamaica

Glasgow Museums Collection PR.2004.5.12

The Cunninghame Mansion

The building housing Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) started out as a mansion for the tobacco and sugar merchant William Cunninghame of Lainshaw (1731 – 1799). The plot of land on Queen Street where the Gallery stands was once agricultural ground on Glasgow’s western frontier. Construction of the small but impressive mansion house started in 1777. The house had a sunk storey for kitchens, … Continue reading The Cunninghame Mansion

Glasgow Museums Collection 2887

John Glassford’s Family Portrait

When the portrait of the tobacco merchant John Glassford and his family was given to Glasgow Museums in 1950 not much was known about it, and a myth grew about a black slave boy who had been painted over to erase Glasgow’s association with the slave trade. In 2007 the painting was moved from the People’s Palace to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where conservation … Continue reading John Glassford’s Family Portrait

Jamie Montgomery, Runaway Slave

In 1750 a Scottish merchant in Virginia named Robert Shedden purchased an enslaved boy named Jamie for £56. Two years later Shedden sent the young boy back to Scotland where he would be apprenticed to Shedden’s brother-in-law, a carpenter named Robert Morrice who lived in Shedden’s home town of Beith, Ayrshire. Shedden intended to profit by this, for he would eventually have Jamie sent back … Continue reading Jamie Montgomery, Runaway Slave

Glasgow Museums Collection TEMP.9384

The Luke of Claythorn family – silver, sugar and slavery

The Scottish Identity in Art gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum contains many wonderful objects, including silverware made by the Luke of Claythorn family. Claythorn is in today’s Calton, near the People’s Palace. Recent research on portraits of them in the museum stores has revealed a complicated family history. There are six portraits: three of John Luke, one of James Luke and one for … Continue reading The Luke of Claythorn family – silver, sugar and slavery

Glasgow Museums Collection 3715

Slave Cotton in Glasgow

When Glasgow Museums first acquired Robert Salmon’s painting of Glasgow Harbour in 1832 it was for the extraordinary representation of steamships. However research into the other ships has thrown up additional information that helps us to understand what is going on in the painting. The American ship on the left-hand side of the painting was originally thought to have been there simply to appeal to … Continue reading Slave Cotton in Glasgow

Glasgow Museums Collection PP.2016.38.2

A Marriage Bonded by Slavery

Living with the consequences of our actions is a condition of life. Proof of this in a very positive way is that Glasgow Museums is still benefiting from the How Glasgow Flourished exhibition at Kelvingrove in 2014. The Friends of Glasgow Museums supported this exhibition, and in 2016 also gave us a grant to purchase two Georgian wedding portraits. These were painted in 1752 by … Continue reading A Marriage Bonded by Slavery