Fire at Adams Building 1929

This story of a fire at Kirkton in High Blantyre, forced me to revisit and change something I’d previously written. It’s concerning Adams Building or Adams Laun at High Blantyre Main Street. As with previous historians in Blantyre, I’d mentioned before that Adams Building was the 3 storey tenement that stood throughout much of the 20th Century next to the Old Parish Church Halls. What I found out, was the Adams Building was actually only the little 2 storey tenement immediately adjoining the Church Hall, sandwiched in between it and the larger 3 storey tenement. The story tells of a fire gutting Adams Building and eventually led to its demolition.

The Fire

On the afternoon of Thursday 25th April 1929, an alarming tenement fire in Blantyre occurred which burned out six homes at Main Street, and the unfortunate tenants had no time to save any of their belongings. The flames spread fast. The fire had serious consequences for on its east gable was the Old Parish Church Halls and on its west, a 3 storey tenement housing about 30 tenants. The large sawmill of William Adam and Son adjoined the 3 storey tenement and the property on fire, belonged to the Adam family. It had address 364 Main Street.

The fire originated in the upper flat of the 2 storey tenement and so quickly did the flames spread that they were bursting through the roof within a quarter of an hour. The tenant of the house where the fire started was temporarily absent. Other householders in their alarm rushed into the streets and took what belongings they could with them. The Cambuslang detachment of the Lanarkshire Fire Brigade was quickly on the scene and after about 4 hours work, fighting sheets of flame, and hampered by the dense smoke, the firemen managed to successfully in confine the fire to the 2-storey property.

Three families on the upper floor were burned out and had no chance of saving any of their household goods. The lower floor tenants saved only a portion of their belongings. From one house the only thing saved was a coat which luckily enough had £20 one of the pockets. It belonged to a driver. Only three of the affected householders were insured. The families were housed temporarily in the Old Parish Church, while others were given shelter by their friends. The damage was estimated at £2,500.

I’ve attached a graphic showing the portion of the building that went on fire, superimposed on to a 1920s photograph of Kirkton. I’ve added the flame not for some dramatic effect but primarily to illustrate where the fire occurred.

1930 Main Street copy

The Consequences

ScotlandsPeople.267932BE-FDF2-4270-928F-28EBF5058F87-VR010700495-00029-The building then sat derelict for a year or so for the April 1930 census shows all houses at 364 Main Street were empty, the property of Matthew Adam of Johannesburg and Charles Adam of 374 Main Street. Shortly after in 1930, the whole 2 storey building was demolished, clearly proving too much to renovate or too far gone to salvage.

In the aftermath following demolition of the building, a disagreement started up between Mr. Charles Adam and the Parish Church session, concerning the waterproofing of the now exposed gable end of the Church Halls, for the sum for the work, which was only about 4 guineas each. Gordon Cook told me, “it was apparently to do with whether the cementing (to make it waterproof) went all the way to the ground or not. The Church officers felt it required this but Mr Adam disagreed. Following meetings with Aitkenhead the builder, he finally agreed to pay a share (of what they were calling the mutual gable) but this was not resolved till August 1930. The Church Halls suffered a bit of damage and they got insurance money to cover their repairs. The mutual gable was still being mentioned in June”

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 22.22.17The 1936 map shows the void the building left, between the halls and the 3 storey buildings. So there we have it, a story, which records that Adams Building or Adams Laun was demolished between June and August 1930.

(The adjacent 3 storey tenements by the way were owned by Mr Hugh Mayberry in 1930, and before that, by his father, also Hugh Mayberry. They had addresses 366 to 370 Main Street and survived to the 1970s)

Sources: Scotsman 26th April 1929, Motherwell Times Saturday 4th May 1929, Gordon Cook Secretary of Blantyre Heritage Group. Access to 1930 Valuation Roll.

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