Shield Hall

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Shield Hall photographed in 1870 by Thomas Annan

SHIELD HALL was in the parish of Govan and county of Lanark, on the south side of the Clyde, four miles from the Cross of Glasgow.

The below description of the house was captured in Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry by John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, published in 1878.

The property of Shield Hall (which contains over 300 acres), like many larger estates, is a collection of small properties, being made up of various of those "Bonnet Lairdships" into which most of the parish of Govan was once divided.

It was first got together, and named Shield Hall, about 1720, by Bailie Thomson Hamilton, maltman in Glasgow, and the older part of the mansion-house was probably built by him. But the Bailie's affairs went wrong, and, after one or two changes of owner, it was bought in 1746 by John Wilson, a merchant in Glasgow, and an early but unsuccessful explorer of the coalfield of the Clyde. He must have been a man of means, for he left £450, a great sum then, for the Town's Hospital. But the fortunes of his successor, Alexander Wilson, were like the fortunes of his predecessor, Bailie Hamilton, and in 1781 Shield Hall was sold by Alexander Wilson's creditors to Alexander Oswald, merchant in Glasgow, brother to George Oswald of Scotstoun.

Alexander Oswald of Shield Hall was a shrewd and enterprising man of business, and was engaged in various undertakings besides his own foreign trade. He was a partner in the South Sugar-house Company with Casper Claussen, a Dutchman, as managing partner. He became sole proprietor of M'Ure's "Great Work" for the making of ropes, and built the tall tenement with a rope carved round it, which stood till the other day at the corner of Ropework Lane. And he was an early and successful invester in building ground. But from the leading business of the day he held aloof. He had tempting West Indian offers, but he refused them all : he would not, directly nor indirectly, mix himself up with slavery.

Rigid in his own expenditure, he was a generous though discriminating giver and lender, and he had a great contempt for those who had never lost by a friend. Though a grave silent man, he was full of humour and information. He took a keen interest in the Andersonian University, and in every appliance for spreading knowledge. He was one of the founders of the Royal Infirmary, and so must share the discredit of having swept away what was left of the Bishop's Castle.

In days when it was not pleasant to be a Whig, he was a Whig, or perhaps a little more. For he said about the French Revolution much what most people now say, and he openly denounced the wretched Dundas system of government, and favoured a Reform Bill something like the old measure of 1832. For these opinions he and some others found themselves so unpleasantly received in the public Coffee-room that they retired to a small room of their own. On Fox's birthday, the jour de l'an of the old Whigs, they used to dine there together, and once they discovered a Government agent "takin' notes" behind the screen. On another occasion, a warrant for the committal of Mr. Oswald and two other members of the Fox Club to Edinburgh Castle was sent through to the Provost (M'Dowall.) Fortunately (for those were the days of Trial by Braxfield) the Provost took on himself to hold back the warrant till he had remonstrated, and the matter dropped. But all this told on a shy and sensitive temperament, and Mr. Oswald ended by selling his house in Glasgow, and shutting himself up at Shield Hall, where he died in 1813, aged seventy-five.

By his wife, Margaret Dundas of Manor, who came to represent, through her mother, Agnes Haldane of Lanrick, the ancient family of Haldane of Haldanerig, he left (with other children) James, who succeeded him in Shield Hall and in his political opinions. The old Whigs are now extinct - they called them latterly the Clique - and they had their faults. But they did good service in their day, and James Oswald, who was almost their last representative, was an outspoken Liberal, when Liberalism was the losing side, and a consistent honest and disinterested politician first and last. He took a keen interest in the struggles that preceded the old Reform Bill, and presided at the memorable meeting on the Green. He sat for Glasgow in the first Reformed Parliament, and in four others. When party feeling ran highest, his private qualities made him liked by those who most disliked his politics; and when he died, in 1853, friends of all parties - and he had no enemies - erected his statue, which long stood at Charing Cross, and now stands in George Square.

In 1841 he succeeded to the Auchincruive Estates, on the death of his cousin-german, Richard Alexander Oswald, son of George Oswald of Scotstoun, and formerly M.P. for Ayrshire. Mr. James Oswald's nephew, Alexander Haldane Oswald, who succeeded him in Auchincruive, was also for several years M.P. for Ayrshire, and died when again a candidate for the County at the general election of 1868.

Shield Hall, meantime, had passed into other hands. It was bought, in 1838, by Alexander Johnston, merchant in Glasgow. He, like his predecessor, took a great interest in politics, and was for some time Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs. He married, in 1816, Agnes, daughter of John Ronald, merchant in Glasgow, and died in 1844, leaving (with two daughters, Mrs. Ker of Dugaldstone, and Mrs. Walter Paterson, and a younger son Alexander, now deceased) an elder son Robert, who succeeded to Shield Hall. Robert Johnstone married, in 1848, Eliza, daughter of John Ker, merchant in Glasgow, brother to Robert Ker of Dugaldstone. He died in 1855, leaving one son, Henry William, and two daughters. In 1872 Robert Johnstone's trustees sold, to James Scott and the late John Proudfoot, merchants, Shield Hall, and about forty acres, part of Cardonald, which Mr. Johnstone had bought in 1857 from Lord Blantyre. And in 1875 Mr. Scott (who had in the interim acquired Mr. Proudfoot's share) sold the whole to Mr. Robert Cassells, iron merchant, the present owner.

In the late 1880s it was acquired by the Scottish Wholesale Co-operative Society. The SCWS demolished the mansion and laid out a large industrial estate of factories and warehouses there. Most of the Co-op buildings were demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Shieldhall Industrial Estate.