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Provand's Lordship and Gardens in Glasgow
The original function of Provand's Lordship is uncertain. However, this medieval building is a very rare example of 15th century Scottish domestic architecture. It has survived largely due to the efforts of the Provand's Lordship Society (founded in 1906) despite the extensive demolition and redevelopment programmes in the area over the past hundred years. The building, now administered by Glasgow City Council serves as an important link with Glasgow's medieval past when it became the religious and administrative centre of an extensive Diocese.
The medieval cathedral girth
In the late 19th century the building was identified as the manse of the Master or Preceptor of the Chapel and Hospital of St Nicholas which probably stood on the southside of the present building. This almshouse or hospice was built in 1456 or 1471 by Bishop Andrew Muirhead with endowments for the care of twelve old men. His Coat of Arms, much worn, can be seen on the eastern side of the south side gable of Provand's Lordship. In the late 19th century, with little evidence, the building also became identified as the manse of the prebend of Provan or Barlarnark. In contrast to the others, this Prebandary was supported not from a parish but from income derived from extensive lands three miles east of the medieval town. His wide ranging powers over these lands are reflected in early documents in his title as 'Lord of the Prebend of Barlanark'. Later this title was corrupted to 'Lord of Provan' hence the name by which the building is now known -'Provand's Lordship'. Provan Hall, his 16th century country residence, also survives and can be found in Auchinlea Park between Easterhouse and Garthamlock in the east of the city.
A unique building
In 1560 the Protestant Reformation led by John Knox (1514-1572), swept away the Catholic church in Scotland replacing the hierarchy with a system of presbyteries or church courts of ministers and elders. Although the Cathedral itself escaped destruction, the surrounding buildings either passed into secular hands or simply fell into ruin. By the middle of the 17th century, the Hospital and Chapel of St Nicholas was in a ruinous state and were finally demolished at the beginning of the 19th century.
Provand's Lordship enjoyed a happier fate. After the Reformation it was granted to a William Bailie and in 1642 passed to William Bryson who added the extension to the west front. In 1753 the house passed to Matthew Whitelaw, a maltman, in whose time the smalllean-to-building (later known as the Hangman's House because of a later occupant) was built against the south gable. This addition was later demolished by the Provand's Lordship Society. By the middle of 19th century the building was sub-divided among different tenants and tradesmen (part of which was occupied by an alehouse under the ownership of a Mrs A Dudgeon!).
The Cathedral Precinct has changed completely since the Reformation. The Bishop's Castle which stood on the east side of the Provand's Lordship was reduced to a ruin by the middle of the 18th century and eventually demolished in 1792 to make way for the Royal Infirmary. Part of the site,-including Bishop Cameron's tower, is now occupied by the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which openedin 1993. The manse of the prebend of Govan which lay to the north of the building was demolished by the 1870s and so Provand's Lordship alone remains of the medieval precinct.
The Provand's Lordship Society
The unique collection of Scottish domestic furniture and fittings were acquired by the Society with the intention of re-creating the interior of the house as it might have been around 1700. In 1927 this was boosted by a financial gift from the collector and shipping magnate Sir William Burrell. His own private collection can be seen at The Burrell Collection in Pollok Park.
The house today
The St Nicholas Garden