Brown’s Nursery, Blantyre

Brown’s Nursery – may have also been known as Brown’s Croft but should not be confused with Brown’s Land, which was in Auchentibber.

Arthur Brown founded Barnhill Nursery (sometimes referred to as Brown’s Nursery) in summer 1834. The nursery building was one storey, long and narrow and had a thatched roof sited at the southern corner of the junction of Broompark Road and Hunthill Road, where a modern bungalow is located today.

1859 Brown's NurseryThe nursery was once part of a whole row of terraced homes and businesses but by 1898, a gap had been created by one of the homes becoming ruined, between the row ending at the Barnhill smithy and the row comprising of the nursery and the Barnhill “wee” farm. The nursery building was made of stone, had a few doors opening out on to Broompark Road, and an apparent lack of windows on that side. At each gable were open fires, heating the building, smoke vented by a chimney on each side.

1920s or 30s Browns Nursery by Gordon Cook copy

1920s Brown’s Nursery at Broompark Road, shared by Gordon Cook

Arthur Brown’s son, John Brown inherited the business and according to the 1851 census, John’s wife was not there and it was John living at Barnhill with his 5 children, the youngest being 9 years old.

In 1855, John is noted as being the tenant on 3 portions of land at Barnhill, owned by the Bannatyne family at Milheugh. At this time, George Brown at Orchardhead at Kirkton should not be confused with the Brown family at Barnhill. John Brown was 56 years old that year. His son James is noted as the farmer’s son. The entry is interesting as it may suggest a tied connection to the adjacent “wee farm” at Barnhill. However, John is listed in 1862 directory as a freelance gardener. The 1861 census has John married to Janet Cross, each being 60 years old. Son, James is the farmer’s servant.

By 1865, John is noted as occupying not just the land at Barnhill, but also an orchard at Greenhall, (some apple trees still exist there today near the riverside under the viaduct). It is his son James Brown, who that year is noted as occupying the house and stable at Barnhill, by then with fruit in production, the nursery appears to be trading.

In 1875 John and James have land and a house at Barnhill. Around this same time, the Brown family from Orchardhead had established themselves at Boatland and they may have been relations of the Browns at Barnhill, being in the same business as fruit growers.

By 1885, younger James Brown is not present but elderly John Brown is still at the Barnhill address. Interestingly, he is noted as having a house and farm.

The 1895 valuation roll returns a result for John Brown having a house at Barnhill and his younger son, Arthur Brown as tenant with the house and farm. By 1901, there are no records for John Brown, incicating he may have died between 1895 and 1901. By 1905, Arthur is noted as not only occupying the house and farm, but also a tomato house, greenhouse and sheds at Barnhill, as was the same right through to 1925 valuation roll.

Then, according to the 1930 valuation roll, Arthur was not present there, indicating he may have passed away. Instead, his wife Eliza Brown was living there and the valuation roll notes the greenhouses, sheds and house had address 115 Broompark Road. Importantly by 1930, there is no mention of the farm being in ownership of the Brown family. By this time the nursery and land was still owned by the Miller-Bannatyne family of nearby Milheugh.

On Christmas day 1933, William Sommerville Ritchie, a farmhand at the nursery who had been made unemployed just before Christmas, broke into the barn and stole potatoes, was caught and fined.

Sometime after 1958, according to the deeds of Milheugh Estate, the portions of land owned by them were sold off. It would appear that Mr. James Rochead acquired it outright, whose grandson Alex Rochead commented that James leased part of the building out as a business.

Most of the fresh produce the Brown family and their workers tended to, was sold locally to grocers and at times outwith Blantyre itself. Strawberries and Damsons were grown on the Calder braes on strips of land below the Cottage Hospital. Later, apples were added to the orchards. Some of these fruit trees are still there today near the medieval path leading down to Pattenholm. The winter months were known as “slack time”, i.e. when the fruit business was poor. During “slack time” the Browns supplemented their income by growing willow trees, which were sold within the town for craftwork to the weavers. Again, these reeds and bulrushes and willow can be found on the Calder braes.

Carved into the wall of Mr. Brown’s house were 2 direction stones advising the way to Blantyre Kirk and Hamilton. These stones are still there today now built into the present garden wall at the corner of Broompark Road and Hunthill Road. The building was still occupied for a couple of generations beyond WW2 until it became ruined suddenly in 1970 or so, perhaps through neglect or abandonment. However, local man Gordon Cook has a more decesive suggestion, for he remembers seeing the whole building engulfed in flames in 1970, a fireman on the roof with an axe. If the building suffered such a catastrophic fire, the damage looks likely to have been so complete, that it had to be demolished shortly after.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul D Veverka (c)2016
Image courtesy of Gordon Cook, with credited additional reference to modern history supplied by Alex Rochead and Gordon Cook.

This is what it looks like today.
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