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growth of towns throughout Western Europe which had begun in the eleventh and twelfth centuries Scotland had been a partaker as well as her neighbours. By the period when that remarkable growth began Scotland was happily in a position to profit by the new forces that were impelling men to form communities for the greater security and comfort of life. By the beginning of the twelfth century, Scotland as well as England had become an integral part of Christendom, and was thus open to all the influences which determined the form and spirit of the mediæval society. The two great forces that moulded that society-feudalism and the organisation of the Church-were as powerfully operative in Scotland as in any other country. Alike in its urban and its rural life we find the same general conditions which are found in the other countries that looked to Rome as their head. In her towns we find the same general type of institutions, the same principles underlying her trade and commerce that prevailed in the other parts of Christendom. In what is about to be said of Scottish towns in the time of Mary, therefore, á state of things will be described which had its beginnings in the early Middle Age, and which in its main characteristics had been common to Western Europe for a period of not less than four centuries. In such a description it must of course be only the general type of Scottish town that we can have before us. Even under the rigid uniformity imposed by mediæval conceptions of society and the individual there was abundant scope for national and even local differentiation. The Scottish towns came to have peculiarities of their own, which distinguished them from similar communities in other countries, and even among the Scottish towns themselves there were variations in customs and institutions which gave to each an individuality of its own.
Let us imagine ourselves approaching a town in the time of Queen Mary, and note what we should have found most characteristic within and without its walls. We should be within the town territory when still at some distance from the town itself, for it was a peculiarity of Scottish, as distinguished from English, towns that they owned a considerable extent of land in their immediate neighbourhood." Various indications would inform us that we are approaching an organised centre of population. At any time between sunrise and sunset we would note the numbers of cattle and sheep browsing on the town common—the one detachment under the charge of the town cowherd, the other under that of his fellow, the shepherd, for in the case of larger communities one herd was found insufficient to look after the whole stock." The office of town herd was
5 one of some responsibility. At the blast of his horn at sunrise the cattle must be ready to accompany him under the penalty of a fine." As no kind of fence existed, the herd had the delicate task of piloting his charge through the surrounding fields to the common which lay beyond them. However careful he might be, accidents were bound to happen ; a contumacious animal would plunge into a plot of corn and work such havoc as would seriously diminish the profit of the year's harvest. At Paisley, in 1598, it was enacted that every sheep found straying in a neighbour's corn was to be escheated to the bailies for the time being, who, we presume, paid an adequate compensation to the injured party." Although the pasture was common property the number of beasts allowed to graze was strictly limited, as otherwise the amount of fodder at the town's disposal would have been insufficient. At regular intervals, therefore, the herd gave in the number of his charge, and if any townsman was found to have more animals than was his right, he was proportionably fined for his breach of the law.18 It was expressly forbidden that any townsman should have cattle feeding apart from the common grazing.
Besides the sight of the town grazings there would be other signs of activity as we entered its territory. In the moss, which was likewise its common property, men and women would be at work digging and stacking peats for the general supply in the coming winter, and from a neighbouring wood we might hear the clang of the town forester's
It might also chance that in the town warren the rabbit-catchers would be already at their busi
ness, for the possession of a warren important item in the common good of the town. If a river happened to pass near the town, we should also see that the town fishings were not a neglected industry, though as often as not they were the object of constant bickerings with some neighbouring proprietor.19
Proceeding in our approach to the town we should find ourselves in the midst of the "town acres, on the cultivation of which its inhabitants mainly depended for their subsistence, for in the time of Mary the towns were still essentially rural communities owing little to trade and mechanical industries. What these “town acres
were like may still be seen in the neighbourhood of certain towns at the present day. They consisted of narrow strips of cultivated ground separated by “balks” of unploughed turf, by which the owner could come and go in working his separate field. Originally, when the limited population of the town permitted it, each inmate had his own allotment of the common arable ground, but by the time of which we are speaking this condition of things had long passed away.
As the population grew, it became impossible for every member of the community to receive an allotment; and the acres were assigned to the highest bidders. Only burghers were entitled to rent the common land, which might be variously held for a year, for a life-time, or during the will of the party-nineteen years being a common term. The extent of land that could be leased by the individual burgher was strictly defined. At Paisley, for example, no burgher was allowed to lease more than five roods, though at Paisley, as elsewhere, the law was frequently set aside. 20
Sub-letting was permissible, and the allotments were constantly changing hands — often to the embarrassment of the town officials. In truth, the disposal of the “town acres” became an increasing source of trouble as the citizens grew in numbers, and it was only a question of time before the whole system would be found to be unworkable. The modes of cultivation were precisely what they had been throughout the Middle Ages. The run-rig system, by which different proprietors owned the alternate ridges of a field, was universally prevalent. Convertible husbandry by means of enclosures, which had only begun to make its appearance in England, was probably unknown in Scotland. The only manures that seem to have been in use were lime and seaweed, the latter of which excited the ridicule of the stranger.
We are now at the gates of the town. For the most part all its houses were within its defences, but in some cases a few might be found outside them. What appearance the exterior of the town presented has already been suggested in the remarks regarding the general absence of walls in the towns of Scotland. If we took the trouble to walk round it, we should find that its defences consisted alter