By Dr Stuart Nisbet
Linn Park is a place to walk, to exercise, to take children, to observe wildlife and many other things. It is also a window into the past. A green space amidst suburbia. Yet the park is not an untouched paradise. Over the past few centuries the parkland that we see today has been worked, managed and improved. For its owners, it was not only a thing to be viewed, but a resource.
To understand Linn Park we need to know where it came from. Why was it of value? Who changed it? What was their vision? In the past, the traditional owners of our parks and country houses were treated with reverence, as the ‘great and the good’. The epitaph of one of Linn Park’s merchant-owners says that he was of fine character, gallant, romantic, virtuous, talented, praise-worthy, full of zeal for the public good, a gentleman of fine character and the most notable figure in Glasgow. Nowadays we take such accolades with a pinch of salt. We no longer need to doff our hats or curtsey to them in the street, but we would like to understand them. Were they any different from the ordinary folk who worked their estates?
The history of Linn Park needs to be built, not on legend and supposition, but on a sound foundation. To understand Linn Park, we need to understand its history, the story of how its landscape developed.
At least two of the owners of the land which makes up Linn Park made their fortunes from slave ownership.
Aside from slavery, the history of the park falls into two camps. First the well-known general history which is churned out regularly – Mary Queen of Scots, 'Snuff Mill' Bridge and Mansions. Then there is also a sort of spoof history which is a growing issue on the web, where folk post silly ideas, and once they are up there, it is hard to dismiss them.
The White Bridge was built for the landowner and was not a toll point. It is vaguely on the route of an earlier ‘parish road’ or back road which forded the river just upstream, but this was forcibly closed in the 1790s as folk were using it to bypass the ‘Snuff Mill’ bridge toll.