Woodburn Fire, the first one


A co-incidence that I’m posting about a fire on Bonfire Night, but this is an interesting story anyway.

14233441_10207484684217493_331772878_oOn 2nd September 2016, Woodburn House, a beautiful family home on Woodburn Avenue, Low Blantyre burned down, leaving owners , the Scott family who had lived there for 55 years, devastated. This nice family had been plagued by youth disorder for some time around their home and the issue had at one point been escalated to the council and local politicians. Pictured is the fire brigade in the aftermath of having put out the flames, kindly shared here with permission.

You may be surprised to know however, its not the first time Woodburn has been totally gutted by fire!

James Spreull was living at Woodburn in 1859 when he attended the inaugural meeting of the Rifle Volunteers and when the Name Book was written up, he had a firm of Writers in Hope Street, Glasgow, and like many business men of his day, having a house at the station like that meant he could commute quite comfortably. The house had eight rooms, a kitchen, washhouse, and it had gas from the mills piped in as well as water. It all sat in an acre of ground which, in those early days was well stocked with fruit trees and up to 300 hundred black-current bushes. Described in 1859 as, “A superior house on the south side, & near the Railway. Occupied by J. Sproul Esquire, Proprietor”.

The house went up for sale in 1862 and then again in 1869, enter Mr William Stiell, a retired Glasgow leather merchant.

The 1873 Woodburn Fire

Mr William Stiell or Steel was quite hard of hearing. On the night of Tuesday 22nd July 1873, a thunderstorm began. The thunderstorm was particularly severe and would claim many lives across Scotland that night.

There are a couple of versions of this story. It goes that Mrs Stiell was quite frightened, so much so she felt something bad was going to befall them, so she woke up the servant girl, then they woke up her son, and these three were making their way to the upstairs. Mr Steil was sleeping in one of the attic rooms oblivious to the great crashes of thunder and bright flashes of of forked lightning.

Just as Mrs Stiell opened the room door, a bolt of lightning shot down the chimney across the floor of the room and out of an open window, the metal grate had been blown out of the fireplace and also the lightning had left a trail of fire in its wake. The furniture also caught fire.

The flames began to spread rapidly, and the four occupants hurriedly made their escape in their night clothes.

The men had left their pocket watches under their pillows, in fact all the family valuables, jewellry, and money were left in the rush to get out of the house. Some of the less expensive furniture was able to be reached.


According to reports in the Edinburgh Evening News, the family were hardly out the house before it was all ablaze. The neighbours rallied round but the fire had taken too good a hold on the property for them to do anything. The house was burned to a stone shell, just the bare stone walls, totally gutted.

The Stiells were taken in by Mr Pettigrew who lived just the other side of the railway. The house was partially insured and was rebuilt with additions.

In another version of the story, it was Mr William Stiell (the son) who had the premonition of danger after being awakened by a fearful crash of thunder.

At time of writing, Woodburn is currently up for sale. I wish the Scott family, the very best wishes for the future. http://www.residenceestateagents.co.uk/search/property/?location&type&from&to&bedrooms&living&branch&page=7&id=198373

Partly from “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016, with thanks to Gordon Cook for added information.

On social media:

Helen Lawson Taylor It was terrible when it was it was set on fire again in September as it has so much history attached to it .

1 Comment

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  1. caroleanne57@live.co.uk

    why did the scott family not try and restore the building rather than leave it. If this was my house I would restore it. Unfortunately I could not afford this house. Do the Scott family still live in Blantyre.

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