The following article was emailed to me by Gordon Cook, who has taken time to research the Masonic Halls of Glasgow Road. It is spread over 2 articles, this one for the older hall at Forrest Street, and a Part 2 for the newer hall at Stonfield, Glasgow Road. Thanks to Gordon for sharing.
Blantyre’s Lodge Livingstone 599 was ‘Chartered’ on the 5th of February 1877, the first Master was Mr J. Nimmo (I think the Nimmo family were builders and landlords in Blantyre at this time), Dr William Grant and Major John Ness being the next two. Because of the date, we must assume that the influx of miners had much to do with a new lodge being inaugurated. I don’t know for sure where the first few meetings were held, perhaps Dixon’s Hall, but in a relatively short time they had accumulated enough funds to initiate a building programme at the corner of Glasgow Road and Forrest Street.
The chosen architect was Mr John B. Wilson of West George Street, Glasgow, and the contracors included R. Davidson of Blantyre, wright; Craig and Finlay of Hamilton, plasterers; the plumbing work was done by A. Cameron of Uddingston; Kean and Wardrop of Glasgow did the tile work; and R. Morton of Uddingston was the slater.
The hall opened on Thursday 9th October 1879 and had a frontage of 36 feet on Glasgow Road, and ran 70 feet down Forrest Street. Inside, the hall measured 55 feet long by 32 feet wide, with a very high ceiling, being fully 20 feet. Beneath the cornice their was a “deep frieze” which was planned to be filled with a fresco showing illustrations of all the local industries. The top part of the windows were glazed with antique glass, and the upper part of the twelve windows at the front of the building were installed depicting Masonic emblems and symbols of the Free Gardeners, this work was carried out by Mr D. Gordon of Glasgow.
Also in this new hall there was a suite of rooms for committee meetings, preparation, refreshment, and also a room for the convenience of ladies visiting. A ‘dumb waiter’ was installed to receive food from the kitchen downstairs. The style of the building was deemed to be “French Classic” and once inside, the entrance was decorated by rusticated pilasters, near the top of which carved trusses supported the cornice work. All in all it cost just over £3,000, and would be used by the Lodge for 25 years. (until around 1904)
The more modern photograph taken in 1977 attached is probably the clearest of all the views of this building. The downstairs part was a restaurant, probably owned by Mr. D McNaughton. I imagine he paid a fair bit of the cost of these shared premises. This was the third hall used by the Blantyre Lodge. But by 1900 and going into the Edwardian period, there were potentially about 350 to 400 members, so the need arose for newer, more spacious rooms.
Interesting side note: The head you see in stone above the I and the N in the photograph is David Livingstone, and in Forrest Street similarly, there was Henry Stanley. When they began to demolish this building in the 1970s I came off nightshift every morning to watch for these heads being removed (I hoped I might be given charge of them, or at least ensure they were not destroyed), however, On the Friday of that week a notice appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser advising that the heads had been preserved and were being kept in a builders yard (Whistleberry Road I think), so I thought they would surely then end up at the Livingstone Memorial, but they disappeared, I certainly haven’t heard any more about them, very disappointing, they could have been cleaned up and incorporated in the new hall façade.
Back to the early 1900s and the Masonic hall… a great bazaar was held to raise funding, and along with donations and subscriptions, the Lodge hierarchy were soon able to engage architects to draw up plans for new chambers on Glasgow Road, between Logan Street and Church Street.
To be continued in Part 2…….
Paul Veverka adds, “whilst the modern picture of the pub shows the building single storey, remember that this building used to have an upper storey. Following the abandonment by the masonic lodge in 1904, the property pictured became a pub on the lower level, The Livingstonian (or Tap Shoap) run by McLaren Brewers. On the upper floor, the large open halls became the public entertainment service, “Blantyre Electric Theatre”. By 1915 the Electric Theatre company was taking about £14 per showing and regularly donated to charities, such as the Blantyre Ambulance fund. I was recently discussing this business and building with fellow history enthusiast, Robert Stewart in Autumn 2014 who wondered if the property had similar upper architecture as the corner of John Street, i.e a turret, like the Castle Vaults. The buildings on old photos would appear to be very similar in design.
Fate intervened at the corner of Forrest Street in the form of an upper storey fire (allegedly from the projectors). The upper storey was removed stone by stone and the lower part salvaged to continue being a pub. It is pictured here in 1977, upon its closure, just before the demolition of properties along Glasgow Road.”