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Just north of the M8 motorway on the east side of Glasgow is the suburb of Easterhouse. Built in the 1950s as one of a series of large peripheral estates intended to house people displaced by slum clearance programmes from central Glasgow, by the 1980s it had become a byword for poor planning and social problems.
Since then, widespread placement of housing and the building of community facilities have brought about something of a renaissance in the fortunes of the area. Nonetheless, the nearest that most people who don't actually live there come to Easterhouse is as they pass it along the M8 en route to or from Glasgow itself.
So it comes as rather a surprise to find that in Auchinlea Park, on the west side of Easterhouse, and within a few hundred yards of Junction 10 on the M8, lies what is usually regarded as the best-preserved medieval fortified country house in Scotland: Provan Hall.
Its income supported the Prebendary of Barlanark or Balernock, one of the canons of the Chapter of Glasgow Cathedral. Because its income derived from an estate rather than from a church it was viewed as a particularly valuable post, and holders included two illegitimate sons of Stewart kings (and, according to some accounts, James IV himself).
The north range of Provan Hall was probably built in the 1460s, as a base from which the Prebendary of Barlanark could administer the estate. The incumbent would also have had to spend part of his time within the precincts of Glasgow Cathedral itself, and since the 1800s many have believed that while there he lived in what is now known as Provand's Lordship: usually said to be Glasgow's oldest house, but possibly built up to ten years after Provan Hall.
In the early 1500s, William Baillie was appointed to the post of Prebendary and, as was becoming common in the decades before the Reformation in Scotland, the distinction between church ownership and private ownership became rather blurred. By the time the Reformation arrived in 1560, the post of Prebendary had been passed down through several generations of the Baillie family. And in 1562, Sir William Baillie, who was also Lord President of the Court of Session, formally took over the ownership of the estate.
By 1647 Provan Hall had passed by marriage to Sir Robert Hamilton, who was responsible for building the walls on the north and south sides of the courtyard, and, possibly, the south range. In 1667 Sir Robert sold Provan Hall and the estate to the Burgh of Glasgow. They rented the Hall to another family of Hamiltons, who remained here for five generations until 1729 when the Burgh Council broke up the estate and sold off the Hall. It later came into the ownership of Dr John Buchanan, who made extensive changes to the south range. The Hall remained the focus of a working farm until the last of the family died without heirs in 1934.
Provan Hall was then purchased by a group of local businessmen, who presented it to the National Trust for Scotland. They in turn lease it to Glasgow City Council, and today the Hall is managed in close consultation with the local community as an important civic amenity and as an attractive location for locals and visitors.