I thought it about time I wrote an extended article and collected my research into Pathfoot, for it occurred to me some time ago, these quaint little houses near the foot of the Pech Brae hadn’t been commented on before on or offline with any depth. I’m pleased to now share my research on this area.
The area of Pathfoot, was a small part of Blantyre located on the Western fringes of the Calder. It was situated on a low position, below Bardykes Road, down the Pech Brae, entered from across the Hoolets Nest pub. The earliest mention of Pathfoot on any map is in 1859. In an old 1940 account passed to me, a Blantyre Blacksmith (thought by the late historian Jimmy Cornfield to be a member of the Templeton family at Barnhill) wrote of the area. The name of the Brae is officially the Peth Brae, but the Lang Dominie (a clergyman) when he climbs back up calls it the “Pech Brae”, for his wind was not what it used to be. A standing joke no less in Blantyre at the time.
Pathfoot is often commented on as being the area around or even the 2 little stone cottages you may have seen on some old photographs, but it’s name goes further back than the 19th Century cottages. Just before the Pech (or Peth) Brae cottages were built in the 1850’s, a third cottage was in ruins, called “Pathfoot”, which was an old weavers house at the end of the Medieval path leading to the Dysholm Ford on the Rotten Calder. As the cottage became ruined, and the 2 cottages were built nearby on the brae, the old house name became the area itself, Pathfoot. During the 1850’s- 1920’s, there was also another weavers house, doubling as a shop at the top of the brae, called Pathhead, now also gone.
The Original Cottage “Pathfoot”
The original old cottage named Pathfoot predated all homes at this location (except the Milheugh Mill). It was older than Milheugh house itself. I cannot find a date of construction but it was still shown on an old 1816 map and given the poor standard of buildings at the time, was likely built in the 1700s. I know the cottage was made of stone as I recently found the remaining foundation course, now almost confined entirely to the Calder and nature.
Pictured are the remains of the original Pathfoot cottage. It is there, I promise you, with some of the original walling now forming about 5m on the side of the little woodland walk. At the back of the cottage was a little field known as “The Ward” which consisted of 5 riggs of land. In 2014, I photographed “the Ward” which is now the site of a young birch woodland.
You can get access to the original house location, by going to Niaroo, the entrance halfway down the Brae on the North side (right), then taking a right , off the brae and down the little woodland path. Approximately 20 yards in, on the left is the ruin, situated well back off the Brae itself. Warning, although a beautiful area, there is nothing much to see. Pathfoot was then, just a house in Barnhill.
Pathfoot’s Two Cottages
So we leap forward to the late 1780’s. By this time, Professor John Millar had inherited the Milheugh Lands and Estate, consisting of several houses within Barnhill itself, and of course the expansive lands and fields at Milheugh. It is said that the Millars were in this area for 500 years. His son, James Millar is said to have built the Milheugh House around 1800, certainly a focal point for the grand estate. However, James was to live a good life and his daughter Margaret Millar inherited the estate in 1835, having married to Andrew Bannatyne 7 years earlier. The 1859 Valuation register for the Parish records that this “modern home” also had ornamental gardens and offices, but they were located across the river on the West side in Cambuslang Parish.
Back in Blantyre, between 1835 – 1859, the two estate cottages were built by Milheugh owners Andrew and Margaret Bannatyne. The cottages this time were built directly on the Brae itself. A third cottage was built on Bardykes Road which acted as a lodge to Milheugh entrance. The 2 cottages became known as Pathfoot and were both built of stone construction, with gable ends, reaching up that afforded an upstairs of sorts to be accommodated. The two homes were thatched as confirmed in the same Valuation records, one on each side of the road leading to the bridge over the “Rotten Calder” from “Barnhill.” The name was well known, and confirmed primarily as the property of Mrs Bannatyne. The Road between the houses was Public from “Barnhill” to the Bridge. It was formerly a Parish Road, but, for some time even in 1859, had not been supported by the Parish, owing to the steepness of the Pech Brae. Pictured are the two cottages. The one on the Milheugh House side was slightly larger and had stables at the rear. A small paddock was also on the same side where the horses for Milheugh House were kept. The cottage was built to a good standard with small coal and wood fires at either gable. It has an outhouse attached to the side, doubling as a small smithy.
The cottage on the River side was similar and housed a groundskeeper for Milheugh. (the servants quarters if you like). On the front at the upper side was a coal chute. I cannot imagine the amount of water that must have poured down this Brae, past those doorways during storms or heavy rain!
We then come to the postcard photos that you may have seen before. The pristine photo of the two cottages dates from 1905 and is of excellent quality, showing the cottages, whitewashed in all their finery. The thatch, by that era was replaced by modern slates.
In the next postcard which has been artificially coloured, the same scene, but dates 5 years later in 1910. It shows a one legged man, who must surely have been out of pech going up that brae! The postcard is wrong though. There is no evidence to suggest the cottages were painted pink at any time.
Another 15 years later, and the next postcard from mid 1920’s features the Pathfoot cottages from the top side of the Brae. A horse and cart is poised ready to climb the brae. At the stable house is a woman cleaning her steps, the horse paddock visible in the left rear of the picture. The wall on the left is still standing today.
Ownership of the cottages was for the best part in the hands of the Milheugh Estate owner. Upon the sale of the Milheugh home either through inheritance or outright purchase, the cottages also transferred in ownership as part of the Estate. It is very likely then the Pathfoot cottages were rented from the Milheugh owners. In 1859, the owner of Pathfoot cottage (the name given to the stable cottage) was W. Corbett.
Thanks to Alex Rochead who recently supplied me with papers showing the sale of Milheugh Estate, I was able to transcribe that in July 1874 ownership of the cottages passed to Janet Millar as a security from her mother, Janet, who was by that time widowed to Andrew Bannatyne and again further divided amongst the grown up children in 1881. However, on the 9th of July 1883, the 2 cottages plus the original ruin and the land known as the ward were also sub divided and sold on within the family. Just a couple of years later, more land was sold to railway and coal companies. Of course the old original house was already ruined and fell rapidly into oblivion. Further owners beyond 1885 were Andrew Millar Bannatyne and John Millar Bannatye, an army officer. The estate owners did well for themselves with further land sales to the County Council in 1926 and the Roads Authority in 1929 when the Barnhill road got upgraded. By 1947 the Estate had been inherited by a distant relative Mary Baird Bannatyne who was not resident. The cottages fate was sealed. During the late 1940’s, Milheugh House went into decline with caretaker struggling to keep out squatters, something that continued all through the 1950s. The cottages would continue to be lived in until the 1960s. However, before that on 2nd May 1958, with consent of Jane Louisa Millar Bannatyne, the Milheugh Estate, or what was left of it, including the derelict house was transferred to the District Council of 5th District of County of Lanark. At the same time the last few portions of land at Hunthill and Barnhill were sold off privately.
Talking of today, unfortunately, there is no Pathfoot today. The buildings are now demolished and ruined. At a recent presentation, a gentleman whose father had lived in the cottage, told me they were demolished in 1963 or 64. Since then, the Calder has most definitely reclaimed the land.
Intrigued and motivated to get some closure on this article, I visited Pathfoot again on a sunny Easter weekend in April 2014.
The scene is still beautiful, but lost it’s charm with the missing cottages. I quickly found the ruins of the Stable cottage which still had a few courses of sandstone walls standing, but no more than knee height.
Standing at the back of the stable cottage, within the old paddock, the history immediately came back to me and I could picture just what it would have been like to be there at the back of the Pathfoot cottage. The little gap in the trees is where the side entrance for horses was.
Finally, just as I was about to leave, I noticed something on the stone gable. Pulling back some of the ivy, I was presented with a great final photo opportunity. The old hearth and fireplace of the Pathfoot Stable cottage.
I hope you enjoyed my trip around Pathfoot and glad to know more people are now aware, this fascinating area was more than “2 wee cottages on the brae”.