Perhaps one of the most beautiful areas of Blantyre was, (and still is) Greenhall. Most people know this Western area as the modern extensive park situated between Stoneymeadow Road and the River Calder, but at one time this was a grand house and estate of considerable standing. Greenhall House was most beautifully situated in about 332 acres of ground, a great portion which was well wooded, although about 150 acres were cultivated.
Several local sources indicate that Greenhall Mansion House was constructed “around 1760”, but this is not something I particularly agree with. The earliest mention of Greenhall, (or Greinhall as it was known then), I can find is in 1635. Within the 1885 ‘Annals of Blantyre’ book, there are comments eluding that in 1635 the Heritors of Blantyre, the Wardropes owned the Estate lands of Greinhall. I find it particularly hard to believe that a wealthy family owning such sprawling estates did not have a fine home there at the time and strongly believe that a previous house once stood there far earlier than 1760.
Further supportive evidence of this is the Valuation Roll in 1722, stating that the “property of Wardrop and Mason” amounted to £41.10, which may have been nothing more than a large farmhouse at the time.
The next historical reference is the Blantyre 1747 map, which clearly shows a large house in the Estate. Now, either this is the large stone house that we know once stood there, built earlier than 1760, or it is a large farm. The farmhouse is still possible as the map very clearly defines agricultural fields on where the Greenhall slopes are today. The map at this date still shows the place known as “Greinhall”.
The timeline then moves to the preferred date of 1760, which despite no dating evidence, seems to be the published date of the Greenhall Mansion House. Perhaps with heritor status and farms thriving, the owners decided to knock down the farm and upgrade their home to the large house, modelled on an emerging Georgian design.
According to the Directory of Land Ownership, in 1770 Greenhall was owned jointly by 3 owners. John William Park £23.4.0, Jas Pollock £23.4.0 and the larger part by John Muir £41.10.4. These men are the likely constructors of Greenhall Mansion House, owners only 10 years after the supposed building date. At the same time, there is no mention of the Farmhouse anymore, but instead, a Lodge and Coachhouse is noted. (the Coachhouse probably was the large mansion house itself.) As can be seen from the picture (taken in the 1920s), the mansion house would not have changed much outside since it’s construction date. Built of stone the building was one of the largest in Blantyre and at this time, it’s footprint was even larger than nearby Crossbasket, which in 1770, was still just a tower. The building clearly was constructed to impress and to stand the test of time.
Just three years later in 1773, the Freeholders of Lanarkshire records that Greenhall (as it was now known) belonged entirely to Janet Wardrope whose share was £41.10.4, the same as her husband John Muir. It is unknown what exact portions of land were sold, previously in the hands of William Park and Jason Pollock, but the name connects heavily to where the Lady Nancy bing is, rupturing and dividing those lands from the Estate itself. Taking her maiden and married name, Janet was known as Janet Wardrop Muir, the first in many subsequent generations to have the initials J.W.M.
Jumping forward in time to the 1841 census, Greenhall House was being leased out or at least occupied on the day of the census by Henry and Ellen Martin and their baby George. Henry was a 24 year old Glasgow merchant and was living in the house, not only with his family, but with his friend and colleague Robert Goapy. Robert , aged 27 was also a merchant and his wife Ann and baby Henry were there too. The house though still belonged to the Wardrop Moore family, which over the last 70 years used the name Moore, instead of Muir. Historical documents often mix these names up and on occasion deliberately make no difference.
By 1862 John Wardrop Moore (Snr), the grandson of Janet Wardrop Muir owned Greenhall House. In that same year, his son also named John was born in the house. Twelve years earlier in 1850 a decision had been made in High Blantyre to repair the Kirkton graveyard wall, by all accounts making it taller. J.W.M (Snr) was instrumental in funding those repairs and it was at that time he constructed a commemorative arch within the wall, adjacent to the kirkyard gates, into which he places a water trough for horses. (Later motorised transport caused the demise of horse drawn carriages and the trough was removed, replaced by a stone seat). J.W.M (Snr) went on to have a distinguished career as an Army medical officer and according to source “The County Directory”, retired in 1868 to enjoy the splendours of Greenhall Estate. We know J.W.M (Snr) was still there in 1883 as the Ordnance Gazetteer records this. According to Strothers directory, throughout his life J.W.M was regarded as a highly recommended doctor.
In 1885, ‘The Annals of Blantyre’ book records the owner as Heritor of Blantyre J.Wardrop Moore. However, by this time, it was John Junior who owned the property by inheriting it from the late doctor. Young John Wardrop Moore (Jnr) had joined the local militia volunteers in 1883 at the age of 21 and very quickly rose to the esteemed rank of Lt Colonel, a name he was known by locally. In 1883 the annual rent (if you wanted to live on the entire Moore Estate) was a handsome £786 per annum, a sum of around £80,000 per year today, although there is no evidence of people taking this offer up.
In the 1880’s, Lt. Colonel Moore held a high standing in Blantyre area and was respected by many. Despite studying and doing well educationally at Bath, he spent much of his adult life at home, with the exception of four visits on round the world trips. Once on a visit to New Zealand he had been stalking a deer, 7000 feet above sea level, when a portion of the cliff on which he happened to be standing gave way, precipitating the intrepid sportsman a fall of around 300 feet. He broke a number of ribs but recovered soon after. He was also a keen fisherman and on his New Zealand trip alone, allegedly caught 3 tonnes of rainbow trout fish. The four stags heads he shot there adorned the wall of the Billiard room at Greenhall. It was said he deliberately delayed buying a motor car due to his love of horses. One of his most treasured possessions was a gold watch that had a connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
On 1st February 1890, Moore sells part of the mineral rights of Greenhall to the Caledonian Railway Company. Again on 30th September 1892, he sold further mineral rights to the railway company and would do so a third time on 20th September 1899.
In 1892, he married Miss Catherine Davids, daughter of Smith W Davids of North Wales . During 1901 Lt Colonel Moore became a Major in the army, according to The Country Directory. By 1911 he had two children, Master J.Wardrop Moore and Miss Nora Moore. Mrs Moore enjoyed all the popularity that her husband enjoyed from the people of Blantyre. Her presence at the Blantyre Cottage Hospital Committee meetings was more than welcomed. Her ever kind nature and graceful manner with natural sympathy for the alleviation of the suffering filled her surroundings with hope and encouragement.
Mr Moore was the business owner of Greenhall Brick Works located near Calderside. According to Neil Gordon’s book and Strother’s 1912 Directory, “Access to the brickworks was by a track leading from the General’s Brig (Bridge) in Stoneymeadow up the hill, over where the current East Kilbride Expressway is, up through the woodland and along the top of the high bank of the Calder River towards an open field. The existing remains of the kiln and associated works can be seen to this day.”
However, this is a mistake that is being carried by generations through history and was spotted by Robert Stewart. Robert contacted me with the query and upon investigating, i concluded from the 1910 map that Greenhall Brickworks was actually accessed from Craigmuir Road near the Old Parish Church, in a far more Eastwardly location , and certainly nowhere near the Chainlink road or General’s Brig. The reference was probably to the old ironstone pits. I’m glad that Robert and I can correct this.
The 1920’s saw the end of the Moore era. Ownership of the house transferred to the family of Ean Paul. In particular the sale of 34 acres of estate including the house was made on 30th December 1921 to James Snell Paul, a writer from Glasgow. I’ve had a few chats with Ean about his family living at Greenhall. Walking around Greenhall in May 2014, Ean was able to point out where there were tennis courts and rockeries, now long gone as well as the exact location of the house. I was enthralled listening to his stories of the endless pipes and electric lights, well before other homes in the area. At the end of July 2014, during a ‘Friends of the Calder” meeting, I met up again with Ean who gave me a further insight into his old home, telling me his family bought Greenhall from the Wardrop Moore’s. He even confirmed that the stags heads were still in the Billiard room when he lived there. It took 50 tonnes of coal to heat Greenhall House, which was 50p per tonne delivered. I learned also that the house had a fully fitted workshop. Pointing out all the old tracks leading into the Estate, we were in a reflective mood as we walked around discussing the potential felling of the Greenhall woodland planned in the near future. As with most large homes, death duties hit the family hard which in those days Ean advised were up to 80%.
On 15th January 1953, Jessie Anderson (Paul) , a widow sold Greenhall for the sum of £3,800 to Mr Peter Laurence Duff, a livestock dealer from Uddingston.
On 2nd February 1960 Greenhall was sold by the Duff family to Matt Nicholson, of Philipshill House, East Kilbride for £5,000.
In a way, I’ve been spoiled with access to the previous owners of Greenhall. I was delighted to also make acquaintance with Matt and Hugh Nicholson (sons of Peggy and Matt ‘Nicky’ Nicholson) who lived there briefly in the early 1960’s. I was privileged to view their video of their memories of Greenhall. What a talented family. Hugh enjoyed chart success as drummer in one of Scotland most successful bands of the 1960s, ‘The Poets’. He later was part of global 70’s group “Blue”, writing songs for the likes of Elton John and Gary Numan. I’ve also certainly enjoyed emailing Matt, back and forth these last few weeks and have even been treated to a beautiful piece of music all about Greenhall itself.
In July 1961, the Nicolsons moved out (Matt and his wife had a turbulent relationship and this may have been a reason).
The house attracted interest from the English Electric Company who bought it on 22nd July 1961 for the sum of £6,500. The company made some upgrades and improvements especially to heating and plumbing.
On June 28th, 1963, Greenhall House was sold to the Fifth District County Council of Lanark for £8,000. It soon became a liability for the park, they opened all around it, leaving the house subjected to vandalism. The new park, linked by paths, footbridges and gardens linked Greenhall to nearby former estate at Milheugh.
Throughout the mid 1960’s – 2010, people will remember the Greenhall park as having a playground and in the earlier of those decades, a popular pitch and putt and shop. Today, Greenhall is a favourite haunt for dog-walking companies, often with more dogs than people!
In 2013 and 2014, the Council extended their budget to incorporate repairs and paint to walls and gates, fixing fences, painting white kerbstones, new signage and clearing the dangerous, storm damaged trees. It does look better, indeed magnificent in Autumn with varying colours on many different species of mature trees. Greenhall, for me means childhood. Like many Blantyre children, it was my playground, my bike track and my golf course. It was my place to hangout with friends, my adventure area and dare I say, even a place my father let me “test drive” his car at 10mph when I was 14. How can a boy ever forget that!?