The Trongate, named after the old public weigh beam or ‘tron’ at its east end, was one of the original eight streets in Glasgow before the city’s eighteenth century expansion. It was here that the early merchants in Glasgow had their commercial headquarters. Close to here is the ‘Bridgegate’ or ‘Briggait’ and the Merchants’ Steeple. This was the old Merchants House which was used as a look-out for merchants awaiting the arrival of their cargoes from Virginia and the West Indies.
Goods were weighed at the Tolbooth on their way to merchants’ warehouses – a demonstration of Glasgow’s role in what is sometimes called a ‘warehouse economy’. From there, cargoes would go to English and European markets, particularly France. The Trongate contained a paved area known as the ‘plainstanes’, where the Tobacco Lords liked to convene. It was not an area for Glasgow citizens of a lower social scale. The street was also the location of the later Town Hall and the Tontine rooms, which in the 1780s became the social and commercial headquarters of Glasgow, at a time when this area was fashionable and affluent.