I was surprised to learn nobody has ever written about the history of the Village Bar, so continuing my detailed look at Blantyre’s Pubs, I decided to write up an article.
The Village Bar can be dated back to 1785, a time when Monteith’s were building the Blantyre Works. The new gated community of homes for the weavers, required community facilities such as a school and shops. The shops were to be inside the community itself, right at the gates, for the exclusive use of the mill workers. The gates were located across a track, later to become Station Road, forming the entrance to the Village Works, and spanned between two pentagonal properties, one, a toll house and the other, a post office. The shops were immediately adjoining the post office and opened out on to the track itself.
The Village bar started out as one of those two shops, likely at the time to be the part of the building that was licensed to sell alcohol, but as a shop, not a public house. With exception of the Barnhill Tavern (Hoolets), the Village Bar premises at Station Road, which stills exist today, is the 2nd oldest known property that still sells alcohol in Blantyre.
Monteith’s built the two, single storey shops to serve the workers, who were not unknown for a time, to be paid in tokens that had to be spent at these shops! The property has suffered several catastrophes over the centuries as well see shortly.
The shops were built of stone in single storey, terraced. The roofs would have likely been thatched initially, as were many buildings in Blantyre of that era. David Livingstone himself would have known this scene and I can imagine the young Livingstone running up from his nearby home at Shuttle Row around 1820, to fetch something for his parents! The shops would have faced on an expanse of open fields, with nothing much at all surrounding the shops themselves. Even then, the Blantyre Station hadn’t yet been built.
There is a suggestion that Monteiths would have employed staff initially to run the store, the staff under their full control. When legislation was passed in the early 1800’s that meant companies like Monteiths could not have a monopoly in paying their workers tokens that had to be spent there, and with the introduction of real money wages, it would appear this may have been the trigger for Monteiths to give up the three shops, sell them on to be run by others. The shops would have been well serviced with the addition of Blantyre Railway Station very nearby from the late 1840’s onwards.
In 1855, the store was still owned by Robert Monteith who also owned the Blantyre Lodge House, houses for workers and other property in the village. According to the 1855 Valuation Roll, Robert Barclay was renting the store from Robert for the handsome and expensive sum of £200 rent per annum. This likely gives an indication of how vital, well used and profitable it must have been.
Mr. John Bryson is noted as being the owner for the best part of the mid to late 1800’s. It is he who likely subdivided the larger shop into two, creating a total of three shops within the terrace. He ran the three shops as a grocers, a drapers and of course, the Pub. A Public House is not shown on the 1859 map, instead only 2 shops, so the beginnings of the Village Bar being a Public House likely date to after 1860 (and it is for that reason that the Pub cannot have the accolade of being the oldest in Blantyre).
Fire Guts the Village Bar 1878
In April 1878, the whole building went up in flames. It is unknown how the fire started, but the drapers, grocers, pub and nearby houses were all gutted. There was nearby apparatus at the Village Works, but by the time they had rallied it to the location and then connected up hoses down to the River Clyde, the fire had already by then swept through the premises. It was insured for £1,800 at the time, but the damage was so extensive amounting to £2,000, that the rebuild payout would not have covered the full amount. The rebuild most certainly would have included a slated roof.
During Mr Bryson’s tenure, some local boys obtained some gunpowder and succeeded in blowing a hole in the gable of the building, which had to be repaired.
Between 1898 and 1903, a new street was created at the gable of the public house. Ulva Place led into large, three storey tenements, which are no longer there today. Pictured in 1903 are the brand new tenements which partly faced on to Station Road. The Village bar and shops look to be in good repair, whitewashed with the roof in excellent condition. This postcard probably celebrated the removal of the gated entrance and the modernisation of the street with the new tenements. The colour painting of the same era, was done by the late Neil Gordon, Blantyre historian in the 1970s, and is the cover of his 2004 book.
The 20th Century
Around the time of the First World War, the Bar was run by Mr. William H Brown.
Fire Guts the Village Bar again 1931
On the morning of 16th July 1931, fire again broke out at the Village Bar. It is noted that the pub was owned by the trustees of the late William Brown, Mssrs Craig and McIntyre and that its formal name was “The Blantyre Inn.” However, I think the name Blantyre Inn was either just used by reporters or was short lived, for there is evidence in newspapers, the Public House was known as the Village Bar, certainly as far back as 1900 and most likely back to its formation and changeover from shop to pub.
As can be seen from this photo, the damage was so severe, the entire inside had to be rebuilt. Indeed, only the outer walls remained after the fire and those themselves had to be repaired due to the damage estimated as being £1,200. The adjacent shop, then the property of a branch of the Co-operative Society, was saved. It was noted at the time, the flame could be seen for miles around. As such, the inside of the Village Bar you see today in most cases, dates from 1931. The 1930’s also saw a great deal of change to the immediate area, with houses built directly across from the Village Bar.
The pub was broken into on Hogmanay 1932/1933 and a small quantity of alcohol was stolen, a young man taken into custody on 2nd January 1933.
On Saturday 7th April 2012, Celtic fans celebrating winning the Scottish Premier League on Saturday in the quiet Blantyre pub were left fearing for their lives after a man barged into the bar brandishing a switched-on chainsaw. Thankfully nobody was injured. Jim Quigley, owner of The Village Bar, said: “This was a one-off incident and could have happened anywhere. The bar is generally quiet and friendly.” 2 Blantyre men were later charged. Alex Lindsay and Carol Tierney are known to be directors of The Village Bar (Blantyre) ltd.
Today, the Village Bar is a popular pub, especially by residents in the housing estates of Low Blantyre. Its address is 144 Station Road with telephone number 01698 828801. With affordable drinks, and live music, its friendly atmosphere and staff makes it great for also viewing sports on the TVs and enjoying an evening out with friends and family.
Pictured one evening in 2009, is the Village Bar, by Jim Brown.