The bridge leads above Wishart Street to enter the Glasgow Necropolis from the west. See also NS6065 : Wishart Street and the Bridge of Sighs
and NS6065 : Bridge of Sighs (western end)
. For other contributors' earlier photographs see: NS6065 : Bridge of Sighs and the Necropolis
, NS6065 : Glasgow: bridge over Wishart Street
, and NS6065 : Wishart Street
The name Bridge of Sighs has been associated with the structure almost from the time it was built. Although Wishart Street (NS6065 : Wishart Street, Glasgow
) now passes under its arches, the line of the street had previously been the course of the Molendinar Burn. The burn was an important part of Glasgow's early history, and its name appears to refer to its role as a mill-burn (Latin "molendinarius"); for example, the Sub-dean Mill was located nearby. Sadly, by the time the Necropolis was created, the historic burn had become polluted and foul-smelling; it was later culverted for most of its length. For more on this topic, see NS6065 : Ladywell Street, Glasgow
and NS6065 : The Molendinar Burn
The Necropolis itself was established in what had formerly been the Fir Park. The first burials in the Necropolis took place before the cemetery had been formally opened. The first to be interred there was a Jew, Joseph Levi, on the 12th of September, 1832 (the Jewish community had purchased a small plot within the Fir Park for burials): NS6065 : Glasgow Necropolis: the Jewish burial ground
. The first Christian burial was that of Elizabeth Miles (the wife of George Mylne senior, he being the father of the cemetery's first superintendent), dated the 9th of February, 1833.
It was only in the following month that the Necropolis could be considered to have formally opened, a committee being empowered on the 12th of March to dispose of burial places there "on such terms and under such regulations as they might find most for the advantage of the House" (the "House" being the Merchants House of Glasgow, who created the Necropolis, and who were its owners until 1966 – see the end-note).
It was also on the 12th of March, 1833, that a report was laid before the Merchants House on the "best manner of forming the approach to the new Cemetery from the head of the High Street"; the report stated that "it will be found that the erection of a Bridge upon the Kirk Lane will be the most substantial, perfect, ornamental, least expensive, and the most expeditious way of making an approach from that North quarter of the City".
On Friday the 18th of October of the same year, the foundation stone was laid by James Hutchison(*), Dean of Guild of the Merchants House of Glasgow from 1833-34 (at the time the foundation stone was laid, portions of the bridge had already been built – see below).
[(*) Or Hutcheson; the 1866 work "View of the Merchants House of Glasgow" consistently uses the spelling Hutchison, but most other works appear to prefer the spelling Hutcheson.]
Hutchison, his fellow directors, and other matriculated members of the Merchants House met in the town hall, and then went in procession along High Street and Duke Street. A platform had been erected on the east bank of the Molendinar Burn to accommodate the Dean of Guild, the Lord Provost (James Ewing – NS6065 : Memorial to James Ewing of Strathleven
), some clergymen, members of the Merchants House, the cathedral band, and other ladies and gentlemen. Boys from Hutcheson's Hospital (see NS5965 : Hutchesons' Hospital, Ingram Street
) stood on such parts of the bridge as had already been built.
After the singing of the 90th Psalm, and the offering of a prayer, Mr Hutchison laid the foundation stone of the bridge; a bottle containing some documents was placed within that stone. There followed some speeches, and the reading of two inscriptions, which, it was intended, would be placed on structures at the eastern end of the bridge. One of these inscriptions is now located on the Facade, which was built a little later, and which is the structure that can be seen, in the present photograph, at the far end of the bridge. The Facade is discussed separately: NS6065 : The Facade
The bridge was designed by the architect James Hamilton, and is said to consist chiefly of stone from Milton quarry. [James and his more famous father David worked together in the architectural practice D & J Hamilton.]
On page 34 of his "Biographic and Descriptive Sketches of the Glasgow Necropolis" (1857), George Blair points out other remains that were visible here in his day: "it will be observed that beneath the new bridge is another small and very ancient arch in a somewhat dilapidated state. This, we have reason to believe, is one of the oldest pieces of masonry in Glasgow, and may, perhaps, be coeval with the time when the earliest parts of the Cathedral were built".
"View of the Merchants House of Glasgow containing Historical Notices of its Origins, Constitution and Property and of the Charitable Foundations which it administers" (published by Bell and Bain; Glasgow, 1866).
"Biographic and Descriptive Sketches of Glasgow Necropolis" by George Blair M.A. (Maurice Ogle & Son, Thomas Murray & Son; Glasgow, 1857)
"The Merchants House of Glasgow (1605-2005)" (2004) by Susan Milligan, based on J.M.Reid's "A History of the Merchants House of Glasgow" (1967).