A little hidden gem of a building, one so secluded, you may only have glimpsed it from the train coming into Blantyre!
In 1932 the miners of the Priory Colliery, located just off Blantyreferme road, got a new perk. Their very own washhouse. It was an instant hit as many of the houses in Blantyre at the time still had inadequate water supplies.
Pictured here in 1932 on it’s opening, the bathhouse sat on the North side of the railway (you can see how close the railway is in the foreground!). Built in an art-deco style by William Baird & Co Ltd, it was the first colliery pithead baths in the district. It was an expensive labour of love costing £12,000 funded by The Miners Welfare Dept, London. That’s around three quarters of a million pounds in today’s money! It was state of the art and known for being the most commodious and best equipped in the County of Lanark. Accessed by a track leading along the railside from Craigknowe Farm, it was very much a male only environment.
There was a large water tank with a capacity of 5,000 gallons and adjacent to that, two large copper cylinders each with a capacity of 600 gallons and a twelve foot vertical boiler fitted with latest technology of the day. Inside, there were 52 private bathing cubicles, also 800 separate lockers with each workmen owning two each. One locker for his working clothes, the other for his shifting clothes. A boot cleaning machine with revolving brushes was provided and a boot grinding machine for cleaning the hardened dirt. If this was not enough, the building also contained the most well equipped canteen and a special first aid ambulance room.
Separate plunge pools were available and some back offices for the colliery officials, which Bairds were responsible for themselves.
Designed by LA Dempster Architects, built by Angus McDougall & Company, the baths were officially opened on July 2nd 1932 by Mr LT Forgie, managing director of Messrs Baird & Company.
Following the closure of the pit the building soon became in a sorrowful state. Attended by vandals, stripped of it’s worth, the building became into decline until a small Engineering firm took ownership of it. Today, it’s a sad state of its former self, despite being re-roofed. The art deco windows all bricked up, graffiti striken and run down, the exterior is well beyond the glory days. If you’re coming from Glasgow by train to Blantyre, look out for it on the left, just after you go under the first bridge at Blantyre Farm Road.
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My father, Malcolm Dow, used to take me as a treat to the Priory Baths which were looked after by my great uncle, George Dow of Springwells. At that time we were housed in the tenement on Main Street, (No 222) sharing an outside toilet with our neighbours the MacMillans. On Fridays we would go for a bath at the house of my grandparents, Jimmy and Jessie Sneddon, at 1 Small Crescent. But the Priory Baths had something special – showers. Ye coodnae whack them.
Out of interest My grandfather Jimmy Sneddon (Snibs) finished his 60yr service in the mines at the Priory. He got a certificate from the NCB that was framed and hung on the living room wall. Dr Adam Stewart whose father had worked in the Priory with my grandfather noticed the newly hung certificate when he visited. “Is that all you got for 60yrs, Jimmy?” he asked. “Aye” replied my grandfather “That and two ton of free coal a year.” Whit a pension!
Another wee note: Dr Adam Stewart had his surgery on the east corner of the junction of Craig Street with Glasgow road. I might be wrong but I understand his father was killed in the Priory. Of course the greatest achievement of Dr Adam was bringing me into the world at 222 Main Street, High Blantyre. A task he performed for many a Blantyre worthy. Now there’s a man worth a statue. Dr Adam, I mean, no me.
James Sneddon Dow (Hamish)
James, I wonder if my Gt Uncle Thomas Moonie of 3 Small Crescent, a colliery engine keeper was a neighbour of your Grandfathers, his wife was Elizabeth however he passed way back in 1932?
He had a brother John Moonie an engine keeper resided at Burnbrae, 6 Main Street & their father also John Moonie an engine keeper resided at 86 Main Street, High Blantyre Road.
It is a very small world
We came across the bath house on a Boxing Day walk, we are visiting from England and were curious about the purpose of the building. This is an excellent community website, packed with useful and interesting information which answers our questions
Thank you Elizabeth. Glad to be of help.