Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The Bishop's Palace, Glasgow

The castle was the residence of the Bishops of Glasgow until the last Catholic Archbishop fled to France in 1560. After the 'Glorious Revolution' it had no purpose and all attempts by the Town Council to preserve it were in vain as it was ruthlessly pillaged for its stonework and finally cleared in 1792 to make way for a hospital.

Bishops Palace Gatehouse2
Bishop's Palace Gatehouse 1756 – note original position of panels above door

The principal building was a massive 15th century tower surrounded by a curtain wall. It stood immediately to the west of the cathedral, now occupied by an empty square.

In 1542 Archbishop Dunbar added a twin towered gatehouse placing his heraldic achievements above the door.

Bishops Palace Panel Today 19
LEFT: Panel showing Archbishop Dunbar's heraldic achievements as it is today
RIGHT: The panel as it looked in the 19th century

These were salvaged and are now preserved within the cathedral. It consists of two panels. The first contains the arms of the King of Scots (Dunbar's superior) flanked by two unicorns and surrounded by the Order of the Thistle below which is the cartouche I5 for James V.

Underneath are Archbishop Dunbar's personal arms with his episcopal cross and the salmon of St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow.

On the lower shield are the arms of the Sub Deacon of Glasgow, James Houston.

The palace needed its fortifications as it was attacked no fewer than six times in the wars of the 16th century. The adjacent cathedral is pock marked by bullets, and lead shot is embedded in the chapter house door – stormy times!

Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral viewed from the site of the Bishop's Palace gatehouse

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 18 Jun 2019 Updated: 01 Jul 2019
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