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is abundantly proved by such Burgh Records as have been preserved, the burgesses were keenly alive to the necessity of an effective line of defence for the security of their lives and goods. They had ever to be on their guard against two sets of enemies, from whom few Scottish towns had not suffered at one time or other—the neighbouring feudal barons and “the auld enemy of England.” Accordingly, we find the burgesses ever and anon waking up to a consciousness of the insecurity of their good town, and making desperate efforts to provide the requisite defences. With this object they would impose a special law, exact the hand labour or its equivalent which was obligatory on every accredited inhabitant, and even procure the services of skilled workmen from a distance." Curiously enough it was in the latter half of the sixteenth century that the most vigorous measures were taken for surrounding the town with effectual fortifications. From first to last, however, these efforts were intermittent and only continued under the pressure of some immediate danger. In the case of greater and smaller towns alike the same story is told. A heroic beginning would be made in the construction of a wall of such height, breadth and durability that it would equally defy the weapons of men and the tooth of time, but when the threatened danger passed, the work would drag and finally cease till another panic evoked another burst of energy. After the disaster at Flodden, as
we know, a hasty attempt was made to surround Edinburgh with a stronger line of defence than it had hitherto possessed ; and all through the sixteenth century there were ever-renewed efforts to construct a wall that would effectually serve the desired purpose; yet the Town Records prove that the work was never satisfactorily accomplished.
The true reason for the absence of town walls such as existed in England and on the Continent, therefore, was not the heroic confidence of the Scots in their "good right hands,” but the simple fact that their erection and maintenance was beyond the resources of the most flourishing towns. In the conditions under which the towns existed, however, some kind of excluding barrier was absolutely necessary and, indeed, obligatory for a variety of
Commodities had to pay toll before they were admitted into the town; strangers had to be cross-examined before they were allowed to take up their quarters there; and some protection, however feeble, was necessary against the sudden attacks of hostile neighbouring barons. Solid, fortified walls being beyond the resources of the Scottish burghs, therefore, they had to content themselves with dykes, which, to say the truth, seem to have but inefficiently served their object. Generally they were of the most rickety construction and were constantly under repair. It was strictly forbidden to clamber over them, but the regulation was set aside by every person whose dignity or stiffness of joint
did not prevent their seeking this mode of egress from the town." Usually it was not even necessary to scale the dyke, as convenient “slaps” were perforated through which mischievous urchins made their way and illicit merchandise was smuggled in and out of the burgh. The records of the different
. towns prove, in short, that the maintenance even of these unsatisfactory dykes was a perennial source of vexation to the successive generations of town officials.
Perhaps the best-known description of the general appearance of Scottish towns is that of Pedro de Ayala, the representative of Ferdinand and Isabella at the Court of James IV. " The houses are good,” he says, “all built of hewn stone and provided with excellent doors, glass windows, and a great number of chimneys. All the furniture that is used in Italy, Spain and France is to be found in their dwellings. It has not been bought in modern times only, but inherited from preceding ages. ”13 Ayala's description of Scotland, however, must be taken with considerable reserves; he was made so much of by the King of Scots that, in his gratitude, he said the most pleasant things he could of his subjects and his kingdom. From his remarks about the houses in Scottish towns we might suppose that they rivalled those of Italy and South Germany in elegance and luxury. But a casual saying of Æneas Sylvius gives us a somewhat different impression, and, though his words apply to
the first half of the fifteenth century, they undoubtedly apply, though in less degree, to the period before us. According to Æneas a royal palace in Scotland was not comparable in comfort and luxury to the house of a Nuremberg burgher of moderate substance." In point of fact, considerable
4 deduction must be made from almost every statement in Ayala's account of Scottish towns. For example, it was not strictly true that all the houses in Scotch towns were built of hewn stone. English travellers, indeed, were struck by the much more general use of stone in Scotland than in their own country, but what one of them says is nearer the truth than the sweeping statement of Ayala, viz., that “generally in most towns of Scotland” the houses were built of stone. In Edinburgh a common practice was to build the walls of stone and face them with timber (a practice which was considered a blemish on its general appearance); "s but
15 long after Mary's day many houses in Edinburgh were purely wooden constructions. A visitor at the close of the seventeenth century tells us that it was only the new houses that were built of stone, 16 and about the same date the Scottish Parliament specially commended the provost “for his building in stone for the greater security against fire.” 17 The precautions that were taken against fires, indeed, prove that wooden houses were far from infrequent in Scottish towns. Once a month it was incumbent on the magistrates to visit the houses of
their burgh and ascertain that no hemp, lint, straw, hay, heather, nor broom were in dangerous proximity; every town had to be provided with twentyfoot ladders in number proportioned to the population; and if a light was conveyed from one house to another it must be in a covered vessel or lantern.18
Ayala's statement that the houses in Scottish towns were generally provided with glass windows is likewise at variance with the testimony of other observers. In England, during the reign of Elizabeth, glass windows were so numerous that Lord Bacon complained of them as a nuisance. * You shall have sometimes,” he says, “your houses so full of glass that we cannot tell where to come to be out of the sun or the cold.”
In Scotland glass was certainly not so plentiful as to occasion inconvenience. Even in the capital and long after Ayala's day glass windows were far from being universal. As late as 1636 it was noted as a blemish on the beauty of Edinburgh that there was "a want of fair glass windows, whereof few or none are to be discerned towards the street;" 19 and still later (1689) the older houses are described as having "oval windows without
“ casements or glass,” though houses recently built had "good windows modestly framed and glazed.” 20
From such descriptions as we possess of Scottish towns in the sixteenth century it would appear that some of them have not improved with age. In the time of Mary, Dundee was. “one of the