The Priory Flood of 1785

prioryIntrigued by an overlaid note on a Blantyre 1897 map I recently uncovered some conclusive evidence of a great Blantyre flood of the River Clyde. On my 1897 map, there’s a note against the Blantyre Priory (directly opposite Bothwell Castle) saying “Clyde rose to this mark 12th March 1782“. Capturing my curiosity, I wanted to know more.

So in the spirit of The Blantyre Project, I decided to investigate more in depth and contacted the Weather Met office asking what happened in that particular week, the reply coming back nothing much, which was not eventful and I had filed it away. Weird.

Then, recently I noticed this photo by Karen Madden, which shows a stone engraving on the site but with a different date of 1785, not 1782. Was the map wrong? Indeed it WAS!


Back to weather records again, which are very general for Lanarkshire, rather than specific for Blantyre, but their reply tells of “A cold spell fiercely drove in through Central Scotland on 10th March 1785. By the 11th snow had started to fall and it continued to fall heavy the likes of never seen before for a period of over 12 constant hours. With persons housebound, the great fall of snow ended late evening on the 11th and temperatures immediately started rising again, sharply. By the 12th, rivers and lochs were full of meltwater.” This old Met office account corresponds directly to what was witnessed as an important event which saw the River rise to the point where the paths several metres above the normal River line were covered. The draughtsman designing these Victorian maps felt it necessary to record that historical event on their “modern map” but were careless with the date!

This was an important year for the River Clyde, because further upstream, David Dale had already started building his 1785 Cotton Mill. With a population of only around 500 people at the time, I can imagine the people in Blantyre’s tiny hamlets, huddled around their stoves unable to go outside in such deep snow.

On social media:

Mark Cranston Now that is a cracking piece of research

The Blantyre Project thank you. I had to triple check it. lol

Einram Notlimah Saw this marking just last week while out walking!

Christine Wallace Your meticulous research is so impressive!

The Blantyre Project one thing i’ve learned is you cant believe everything in print. If it’s written down by others, it needs checked. Wikipedia is the worst culprit, content on that site i wouldn’t trust at all. So much wrong Blantyre history is online by others, simply copied from multiple errors in former books or from lazy sources online like wiki. I log everything about Blantyre in a massive A-Z once fact is confirmed and thats over 800 pages long now!! My own huge manuscript, is often now the source of additional information for these daily articles. I think it will be a life work to record the rest of Blantyre’s history though, as there’s just too many things to look at! lol I have a spreadsheet, a “to do” list with way over 260 items on it and when i look at one thing on it, it usually adds another one or two on to it! That way there’s constant material for me to write about. I stop my own research to prioritise anything people send me first, but do like to put a mix of what people send me, old unseen photos and something I have researched as the 3 daily posts.

Betty McLean A great work and all so interesting

Chris Ladds Great article Paul! This will perhaps be down to the map drafters trying to make sense of the log books and sketch sheets from the surveyors. Would be interesting to see the source material of the logs for that spot which will be on Scotland’s places. There we can see if what they wrote was easy to mistake for a ‘2’ when it was a ‘5’

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