At the end of May 2015, I was contacted by Katarzyna Grzegorczyk of Blantyre, who sent me some photos of a mysterious little building hidden in the woods beyond the Priory Playing fields. Katarzyna asked what the building was.
Actually what she had discovered, was a largely forgotten or unknown building. Nature had reclaimed it, and it once stood on the treeline, in the field itself, but now engulfed by woodland.
The building is none other that the Priory Pit Dynamite Magazine store. Built in 1889 (now 126 years old) at the time of the pit opening, this small isolated, detached one storey building is made of brick. It has no windows, a slightly vaulted roof and one opening, which was the doorway. This was the colliery store for their sticks of gelatine dynamite. It is located in the woods, North of the old Pit Bath ruins and remains largely intact, vandalism free. This 1898 map shows the location of it and the 1945 aerial photo has the exact co-ordinates marked up.
Priory Colliery was also known as Bothwell Castle 3 and 4 Colliery and was owned by William Baird and Company. Despite the castle name, it WAS on the Blantyre side of the river, but pits 1 and 2 were on Bothwell side. Priory Colliery had two shafts, sunk in 1889 to a depth of 1,344 feet, and produced household, steam and gas coal. The shafts were nearly half a kilometre deep!
The average workforce was 345 people although at its peak in 1947 reached 655.
In 1943 the Government took over the management of Priory Colliery on the basis that its output of around 650 tons per day, as part of the ‘war effort’, was unsatisfactory. Under Government control it was closed for complete reconstruction and re-opened as part of the new National Coal Board. A report on 16th August 1948 records, “Output 550 tons per day, 165,000 tons per annum. 630 employees. 3 bar screens [mechanical device for separating different sizes of coal comprising a number of parallel inclined bars spaced at regular intervals allowing the coal to slide down the incline under gravity]. Bash-tank washer [coal preparation to separate coal from dirt whereby water is forced through coal using a plunger, perforated plate and tank]. Baths (1932), canteen. No medical services. All electricity self-generated. “
Flooded after closure, 1&2 collieries posed a threat to Priory which was shut as a precaution in 1951. A 7,000 named petition was raised in Blantyre to save the pit but the newly formed NCB wanted to use it as a pumping station to save Newton, Bardykes and Blantyreferme from being flooded. After months of discussion the Union agreed but persuaded the Board to continue working the upper coal. In 1959 this ended, the colliery remaining as a pumping station.
On social media:
Andy Callaghan Interesting that it was a pumping station When I was a nipper in the 50s the old pit buildings and the lumber yard with thousands of unused wooden pit props made a brilliant playground. The water that was being pumped out poured in a torrent down through the steep wooded banks of the Clyde into the river itself. We called it The Rushin Burn. The water was a horrible yellow/green colour and stank of sulphur (rotten eggs). We would cross the burn over various fallen trees and it wasn’t uncommon for kids to fall in and go home stinking of the water. God knows what environmentalists or H&S experts would have made of it but nobody seemed bothered in the 50s.
Michael Mcginley I remember the hut that Paul talks of we would shelter from the rain in it