The Larkfield Bar – Blantyre

The Larkfield Bar was a public house which once stood on the exact spot of the current front car park of the Doon Inn.

1898 Larkfield Bar

1898 Larkfield Bar

In 1875, Mr Alexander Young, a spirit dealer in Blantyre formed a partnership with James Walker, and together they feued a piece of land at Larkfield, which we now know was at the bottom of Watson Street at its junction with Broompark Road. A Glasgow Herald report of 1886 confirms this was done in 1875 and that the men erected buildings upon the land, which already contained their Public house.

Interested by this, looking back at the 1859, there is indeed 2 buildings on the exact location of the pub, but importantly it is not marked as being a public house at that time. This would suggest the Larkfield Bar was created sometime between 1859 and 1875, in a double story tenement that existed at that time. An alternative to this would be the buildings shown on the 1859 map were demolished after 1859 and shortly after a double storey tenement building was built.

The pub ran in a North to south direction and opened out directly on to Broompark Road’s footpath. Built of stone, the pub was a two storey tenement with a single storey extension on the back, which today would have been located in the front entrance of the Doon Inn. The roof was made of slate, and the building heated by open coal fires. It is likely the pub was downstairs, with homes above.

On 3rd February 1886, it was reported in local newspapers that Alexander Young was being declared bankrupt. Alexander had fallen into debt and was forced to sell the pub for £135. This was handed over to the person owed it, and under a separate agreement, Alexander’s wife was permitted to keep the adjacent shop for £1 per week rent. Alexander was still working in the shop at the time, but the agreement asked for him to take another job immediately. This was a drop in the ocean though, as Alexander’s liabilities amounted to a whopping £3,372 (about half a million pounds in today’s money!)

A year earlier in 1885, the Valuation roll shows the pub being run by John Hunter, a spirit dealer, who was only the tenant, not the proprietor. There are many homes nearby owned by Walter Watson, which is a good clue to the naming of the nearby street at a later date. Interestingly, neither Alexander Young nor James Walker are shown as living at Larkfield. In 1885 the pub’s nearest neighbours were Michael Duffy, Hugh Wotherspoon, Mary Kelly, James Louden (grocer) and a Mrs Davidson. Some of the properties were empty, owned by the Investment Building Society, suggesting they may have been repossessed!

The only known photos of the pub are coincidentally in my own family photos, taken by my grandfather, and quite by accident. The Bar is in the background, the gable of the tenement facing the camera. (The Danskins owned the drapers across the road, and although these photos date much later to the 1930’s, the building is still standing and can be seen very clearly.) At that time, it would have started to feel quite old, i’m sure.

I cant help but feel the timing of Alexander’s pub was unfortunate. The nearby colliery at Larkfield and subsequent building of homes nearby, would surely have made the pub much busier in the following decades.

The pub changed name a few times, as new owners put their stamp on it. In the latter part of the 19th Century it was known briefly as The CrossKeys. Amongst 20th Century names were McTavishes and back again, (allegedly) to the Larkfield Bar. It is unknown exactly when the building was demolished. It is an error to suggest this pub is now the Doon Inn. It’s not. The two pubs are completely different in different locations and different buildings. The name is also not to be confused with the modern named “Larkfield Bar” which whilst short lived, was situated across the road in what is now John Carrigans.

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Iain Mac I’m told the building was taken down the day the Doon Inn opened in 1966 – apparently the punters all went out and helped “push it down”.

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