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Glasgow, Franciscan Friary

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Friary (15th Century)

Site Name Glasgow, Franciscan Friary

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Friary (15th Century)

Alternative Name(s) City Science Centre; Greyfriars Friary

Canmore ID 44092

Site Number NS56NE 30

NGR NS 5976 6529

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Glasgow, City Of
  • Parish Glasgow (City Of Glasgow)
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District City Of Glasgow
  • Former County Lanarkshire

Archaeology Notes

NS56NE 30 5976 6529.

For trial excavations (1992), see also NS56NE 201.

(NS 5969 6529) Greyfriars & Alexandra Parade Church (NAT)

on site of Monastery (NR) (Franciscan)

OS 25" map, (1966)

The convent of Franciscan (Grey) Friars in Glasgow was founded 1473-6, its church being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1477. What happenned to the friary after the Reformation is unknown, but it is suggested that it was destroyed in the autumn of 1559 (Easson 1957). Renwick (Renwick 1908) shows its site at NS 5976 6529, slightly E of the OS site.

R Renwick 1908; D E Easson 1957.

Two phases of what appears to have been the enclosure of the Observant Friars were located in a long cut made at right angles to Albion Street. The enclosure constructed in the 1470's was extended in 1511. The foundations of a now demolished church (built 1820) had somewhat disturbed the medieval levels of the site (1470's to the Reformation) but much pottery was found together with fragmentary animal and human bone. (Though Talbot adds: "It is hoped to extend excavations in 1970 away from what seemed to be the garden and cemetery area with the chance of locating the Friary buildings," no further reports appear to have been published.)

E Talbot 1969.

In the winter of 1985-6 SUAT carried out an excavation over a small area in a car park to the E of North Albion Street. The site was chosen to coincide with a trial excavation by E Talbot, Glasgow University, in 1969. Various 18th and 19th century activity was uncovered, including service trenches and drains. Rubbish pits, one thought to be of 17th century date, were also discovered. A soil section had a mixture of pottery, thought ot date from the 14th to the 17th centuries. No evidence for occupation of the site before the 17th century was found, with no structural features or inhumations. It was thought the site was either in the friary gardens or outside the grounds.

D Farmer 1987

(NS 597 652) Trial work was carried out in the George Street/ High Street/ College street/ Shuttle street area of Glasgow for one week in July 1992. The site was divided into seven areas of archaeological interest by the Strathclyde Regional archaeologist.

Area A: The supposed site of the Franciscan friary. Much of the area has been disturbed by 19th century and later activity, but in some places there is still a fairly deep deposit of darl loamy garden soil. The area is known to have been used as a garden in the post-reformation period, and the soil should seal earlier features. In the section of the trench A1 was a structure consisting of large pieces of sandstone roughly mortared together. This appears to have been a dyke.

Area B: Possibly the outer part of the friary. This all been heavily disturbed and no archaeological features were recovered.

A Bailey 1992.

(NS 597 653) Excavations were carried out between April and November 2003 in advance of redevelopment of the area SW of the George Street/Shuttle Street junction, on the site of the Greyfriars Friary.

The area investigated measured 35 x 45m, and the excavation recorded buildings and graves that belong to the Franciscan friary complex. The friary was established in the mid-1470s and existed for 80 years until the Reformation. There were no remains of the walls and foundations of the priory buildings, but the layout of the SE corner of the complex can be discerned from the truncated pattern of foundation trenches.

A well associated with the friary was uncovered at the proposed centre of the complex. It was cut 5m into the ground. The upper parts of the well had been robbed out, but the lower 2.7m of the well lining survived. Amongst the rubble thrown into the well when it was abandoned were fragments of stained glass windows and carved masonry from the friary buildings. Wooden shoring erected during the construction of the well still survived at the lower levels.

Eighteen graves containing 20 skeletons were uncovered. Most were laid out in a row N-S, with three in a line E-W, 5m further S, reflecting the layout of the friary buildings. The skeletons were all adult, 12 male and 7 females (and one indeterminate), indicating that people from the local community were also buried within the friary.

A large portion of the complex was covered in demolition debris, comprising crushed sandstone and mortar containing significant amounts of roof slate and floor tile fragments. Deposits of grey-brown soil covered the demolition debris, brought in to form garden plots dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. The layout of three plots could be identified by the orientation of cultivation furrows.

The later features of the site comprised a series of buildings, all of which are shown on 19th and early 20th-century maps.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: Scottish Enterprise Glasgow.

M Dalland 2003

NS 597 653 Following the excavation of the remains of Greyfriars Friary (DES 2003, 79), a series of evaluation trenches were excavated in areas to the E and S of the main site. Full excavation was carried out in two areas of archaeological deposits located on the E and S sides of Shuttle Street between February and April 2004.

The main feature exposed E of Shuttle Street was a linear ditch seen during the 1994 excavation immediately to the S (DES 1994, 67). The ditch was aligned parallel with the street and its backfill was previously dated not later than the 15th century. The ditch is likely to have been the boundary defining the western limit of the backlands of properties fronting onto the W side of the High Street in the medieval period.

In the area to the S of College Street, an area of cultivation furrows was uncovered. Similar furrows had also been recorded during the main excavation some 50m to the NE. The furrows are probably related to the market garden established in 1705 on the site of the former friary.

The main feature of this area was a V-shaped ditch aligned roughly parallel with Shuttle Street, 25m to the E. It was 1.6m wide, up to 1m deep and over 24m long. The ditch may be part of late 17th-century defences built around Glasgow.

Report to be lodged with WoSAS SMR and the NMRS.

Sponsor: Capita Project Management.

M Dalland 2005.

(Re-interment of remains).

N Baxter [2005].


Publication Account (1990)

A group of Observant Franciscans established themselves in Glasgow sometime between 1473 and 1479 1 on a site granted by Bishop John Laing, which was confirmed by James III in 1479. 2 The friary was to the rear of the west side of High Street on the lands of Craignaught and Ramshorn. To the north was a path leading to the Meadow well or Deanside well; to the east was a lane which came to be called Greyfriars Wynd; and on the south and west were arable lands. 3

By June 1560 the friars had left their convent,4 although some of their members had been present in March of that year when Queen Mary gave them herrings as alms. 5 The friary buildings remained standing in 1562, 6 and the church of the Greyfriars was repaired as late as 1589. 7 The properties of Greyfriars were, however, granted to the town by the crown in 1567° and in 1573 transferred to the college, 9 although by 1575 they were in the hands of Sir John Stewart of Minto. 10


1. Cowan and Easson, 119.

2. W M Bryce, The Scottish Greyfriars (Edinburgh 1909 2

VO 1 S) , ii , 195

3. For a full discussion of the possible layout of the

Franciscan convent, see D M Farmer, The Franciscan

Friary in Glasgow (SUAT publication 1987).

4. Glasgow Protocol, no 1370.

5. WM Bryce, Scottish Greyfriars, i, 350.

6. Ibid, i, 346.

7. Glas. Recs., i, 127.

8. GUA 16485 Bl 287.

9. Glas. Chrs., ii, no lxii.

10. WM Bryce, Scottish Greyfriars, i, 348.

Information from ‘Historic Glasgow: The Archaeological Implications of Development’, (1990).


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