Surrendering Millheugh House

millheughThe 8th May 1945 saw German troops surrender to the British and earmarked the end of the Second World War in Europe. Just 10 days earlier than this, a different kind of surrender was taking place in Blantyre. Trespassers had taken over Millheugh House, near the Calder Falls and on 28th April 1945, they officially had to surrender it back to the owners, effectively ending their squatting rights.

A series of prosecutions for contraventions of the Trespass Act (Scotland) 1865, were heard in Hamilton Sherrif Court at the end of April 1945. The charged were made against several married Blantyre families. One group of families were charged with taking over Millheugh House without the permission of the owner and others pleaded guilty of a similar trespass charge at nearby Greencroft (Bardykes Road). The owners Summerlee Coal and Iron Company reported the squatters and brought them to trial.

The Fiscal reported that Millheugh House was owned by Mr A. M Bannatyne, a well known local solicitor who had a business in Glasgow. It had been standing empty for only a few months and up until then had been occupied. The reason for it being left unoccupied by the owners may have been war related. During Spring 1945, it was in charge of a caretaker. On April 19th, the caretaker had particular cause to complain when he found other parts of the building broken into and families living throughout the house, including many possessions. A number of men, women and children occupied and filled the house.
Mr Robert Ferguson, the court writer, explained that so many similar prosecutions in Blantyre illustrated the acute housing shortage in the area. The immediate need for houses had been aggravated by the closure of a property known as Bowie’s land in Blantyre and in sheer desperation , the families from Bowie’s land had turned to occupying the empty and derelict largest houses nearby. It was stated in court the situation would be alleviated when a number of military huts would be made available. All individuals were fined £1 each, with exception of 2 women who had made alternative living arrangements by the date of the hearing, each fined half of this.

Millheugh was a grand house that stood on the banks of the Rotton Calder river. It lay derelict from the 1940s and was subject to many different squatters taking over. Unfortunately, the grand fittings and features got so badly vanadlised that the house was left to ruin and eventually demolished. As late at the 1970’s, the foundations were still visible above the grass. Today, no sign of the house remains, except for a flat grassy area.

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