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Hampsons of Glasgow

GLASGOW (a very potted history)

   Pstrolloxrior to the 18th Century Glasgow was a sleepy little town on the banks of a lazy and not very deep river. It was famous for it's Cathedral and University. The river Clyde was only 15 inches deep in places, which meant that no large ships could navigate up the river. In 1662 a Quay was constructed on the Broomielaw and a new port constructed at Port of Glasgow (nowadays known as Port Glasgow). This was the start of the transition from a sleepy town to a Commercial City. The construction of the Quay enabled large seagoing ships of the day to put into Port Glasgow. In 1674 Tobacco from the New World Colonies was being shipped via Glasgow, and the Tobacco Barons came into existence. The "Act of Union" in 1707 would add to the boom. Records for the 1770s show that 37 Glasgow companies were involved with the tobacco trade. More that 300 ships would eventually be busy with the transatlantic trade with America.

The merchants of Glasgow soon developed the entrepreneurial skills for which they and Glasgow would become famous. They soon realised that more money was to be made by becoming involved in the purchase and not just the carriage of tobacco. They quickly set-up agencies to purchase tobacco in the colonies. Eventually the cornered the trade and the Glasgow Tobacco Lords were born. The tobacco did not remain in Scotland, it was quickly exported to Europe, the majority being sold to France.

With the new wealth flowing into Glasgow it was reinvested in the manufacture of other goods for export. Linen and farm tools were exported to America. However, this all came to an end with the American War of Independence which virtually killed the tobacco trade at a stroke. As it proved it was not as bad as it could have been, the merchants of Glasgow developed other trade links, which helped to limit the potential disaster caused by the collapse of the tobacco trade. The collapse of the tobacco trade helped to persuade the town to set up a Chamber of Commerce, the first of it's kind in Britain, it also changed the role from import to export.

Glasgow was surrounded by mills and weaving villages were set up.  These needed labour, a whole lot of labour, in fact an army of labour was needed to keep the wheels turning in the new industries. Weavers skilled in the new spinning and weaving processes developed in Lancashire and France, were recruited from the Highlands and Ireland. Within the space of two generations Glasgow would grow from a sleepy backwater town to a thriving, bustling city. St. Enoch and George Square were built, along with new shops, and the Merchant City built to the north of the Trongate. That part of the city is still called the Merchant City by Glaswegians to this day.

Alas, the new prosperity was not for all, the workers were paid pitiful wages. Women and children were employed in the Mills, no childhood in those days, once a child was old enough to work for a wage they did. Children were used to crawl through the small spaces under machines to sweep away fluff, and they did this whilst the machines were still in operation. Women were used as they had better hand dexterity. The conditions were appalling, cotton particles filled the air, which would cause congestion of the lungs in later life. Squalid working conditions, no breaks and treated like slave labour, so much for their skills earning them a decent living wage.

The mills needed a better power source than water, thsi was supplied by the steam engine.  To produce steam power a ready source of cheap fuel was required, here Glasgow, if not the workers, was fortunate. Glasgow was ideally placed to take advantage of the "Mechanised Industrial Age" the embryo city was surrounded by coal fields in Lanark, Hamilton, Ayr, Govan and Monklands. D|ureing this great expansion the common man was treated as a serf with minimum wages. Miners, on whose work the prosperity of the city and the UK would be founded, were treated very harshly. They could be bought and sold by their owners, paid miserable wages, it was not unknown that the wife and children of a miner would take his place in the event he died whilst working in the pit. If ever there was a hell on earth, then mine working in the 18th & 19th century must have came close.

Coal - the black gold of the Scots, was important to many other new industries including steel making - as iron could now be smelted. The new steel industry gave birth to ship building and other heavy industries such as engineering and locomotive building which Glasgow and the river Clyde would be forever famous for. Many famous engineers would learn their trade in Glasgow, and the term Clyde Built became a bye-word for quality and excellence.

As in every revolution, there was a fear that the new technology would replace the need for workers. This fear was often exploited by the Employers who would lay of workers or pay them even less. (Familiar story to this day). In 1819 the weavers fearing the loss of jobs by the new technology took part in the "Radical War". Placards appeared calling for a general strike and an uprising against the exploitation of workers. This was very quickly squelched by the Government, troops were sent in and placed on the streets, which quickly dispersed the threat. However, the working class of Glasgow had begun the long fight for better conditions and wages, and more importantly would eventually lead to the fact that the common man, the dogs body to the rich and influential, was in fact, a force to be reckoned with.

To quote from an article from the Millennium Life series by the Scottish Daily Record on Saturday the 4th September 1999

"The battle lines had been drawn. Glasgow's working classes had established a reputation both for working hard and for flexing their muscles in an attempt to win a better deal. It was a combination which would eventually make Glasgow one of the most industrially powerful, yet politically radical, cities in the world." 

Time Line:

1636 - Population of Glasgow stood at less than 10,000
1670 - Glasgow becomes second Scottish burgh to Edinburgh in terms of size of assessed revenue.
1674 - First consignment of Virginia Tobacco arrives in city. 1706 - Riots break out in town protesting merger with England
1707 - Scotland loses independence as Act of Union passed. (it would be 292 years before Scotland would once again have it's own parliament).
1775 - Start of the American War of Independence.
1780 - Population of Glasgow exceeds 40,000
1819 - The short lived Radical War. - Workers in Glasgow draw the battle lines for the future,
1830 - Population of Glasgow stands at 200,000 and still growing.

During my research at the GRO(S) in Edinburgh I could not trace the exact date of when the Glasgow branch of the Hampson family became established. The first occurrence of the Hampson name is in 1700, a record of a marriage in Tollcross, Edinburgh. The next occurrence is 1760, again a marriage in Edinburgh. From 1760 until 1856 there is no further mention of the name Hampson. So where did my ancestors originate? A good question and one that fuels my interest in tracing not only my family but also the history that surrounds my ancestors. (Update 1/2/2008 - I am becoming to believe that the family were established by English soldiers who were barracked in and around Ayr, having served a time in Ireland.  Research indicates that the Henry was a serving soldier as were hsi sons in the Sherwood Foresters)

Research has shown that Henry Andrew Hampson may have been born in Mauchline, Ayrshire between 1800 - 1810. Jean Verbena McIndoe, wife of Henry was born in Hamilton on 28 January 1806. This couple were the founding ancestors of my father's family in Glasgow, and their descendants would found other branches of the family throughout the world.

From 1760 until 1856 there is no further mention of the name Hampson. So where did my ancestors originate from? A good question, and one that helps keep my interest going in tracing the family.


Family Settles in Glasgow   Family of Peter & Emily   Family of Mark and Mary

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