John Struther’s Pub (Priory Inn History Pt 1)


1905-stonefield-road-blantyre-cloneToday, I’m exploring the history of the Priory Inn from it’s humble beginnings to the current day.

The Priory Inn is a contemporary public house on the west side of Stonefield Road, opposite the junction with Calder Street. Not to be confused with the Priory Bar. The Public House has recently closed. It has address 20-22 Stonefield Road, Blantyre, G72 9PQ.

The earliest the property can be traced is back to 1879 when Naismiths Directory suggests a spirit dealership partnership existed between Struthers and McHuchison at Stonefield.

According to the 1881 census John Struthers, a 32-year-old grocer was renting the property. John lived at Stonefield House, near the corner of Glasgow Road, which is only 100 yards away from the building, with his wife Jessie and their son James, aged 4 months that year. Little James was to pass away as a child and the couple would go on to have another son.

According to the 1885 valuation roll, John Struthers, was renting the little building from Mr. Andrew Stark, a wholeseller grocer of Glasgow who owned from afar. Neither John Struthers nor Andrew Stark is on the 1875 valuation roll, leaving a conclusion that the building was built by Andrew Stark between 1879 and 1881.

The property was then a small, single storey building with a slated pitched roof, the south gable facing up Stonefield Road, the north gable adjoining a larger tenement building on the west side of Stonefield Road. The door and windows faced out on to Stonefield Road itself and looked across to Dixon’s Row’s. Mr Stark was surely quite enterprising for building a grocers and spirit shop, as the building was then, at the same time as Dixon’s Row’s miners homes were being constructed, surely was opportunistic and with foresight. A large billboard on his south gable offered the perfect opportunity for license holder Struthers to advertise his business to passing trade.

In February 1887, during the Blantyre riots, the looting and rioting miners attacked John Struthers’ spirit shop making off with quantities of brandy and whiskey and causing considerable damage. In the following month in March, John submitted a claim for £313 18s and 6d (about £45,000 in today’s money!). The 1891 census has John Struthers; born in East Kilbride, age 42 a self-employed grocer living with his wife Jessie 41 and son, John Junior (5) in Blantyre at Norwood Cottage, which was located near Coatshill.

Between 1890 and 1895, ownership of the shop transferred from Andrew Stark to William Watson. In 1895 John Struthers, now a recognised grocer in his own right, with no sign of former partner McHutchison, was leasing the shop at Stonefield Road from new owner William Watson, of Camnetean, Wishaw. The yearly rental was a rather lofty £60 per annum, perhaps reflecting the popularity of the establishment. It may not have been a public house in the modern sense of that term, but more of a place to go in and buy alcohol to take away, but there could have been seating in the premises.

Between 1895 and 1905, John Struthers bought the entire building from William Watson, but his ownership was to be short lived. John Struthers passed away on 14th January 1903 at home at Norwood Cottage, aged 54 and his wife Jessie inherited the little building. John died of a malignant disease of the abdomen. (John is not to be confused with JB Struthers who owned the halls and spirit shop at Kirkton or JB Stuther’s son JBH Struthers who would go on to own the Auchentibber Inn. Clearly the Struthers family were a prominent family of spirit shop owners in Blantyre during the last decades of the 19th Century, the Struthers family first applying for licenses in Blantyre as early as 1875.)

1906-stonefield-roadIn 1905, Mrs Jessie Struthers, (nee Anderson or Mack as previous marriage), born in Ardrossan, owned the whole building. Jessie was a licensed grocer and decided to split the shop into 2 properties, to maximise the rental income. She ran one side of the building as a licensed spirit shop. Adjacent, she was leasing to Alexander McWilliam butchers for £15 a year. Jessie lived at the house “Norwood”. The shops obviously had a good façade for advertising. Facing directly up Stonefield Road looking on to the fields of Wheatlandhead, Jessie also owned the billposting or advertising hoarding rights.

During 1915, some 10 years later, Jessie passed away aged 65 and the entire building was then passed to and owned by her son, Dr John R Struthers of 193 Stanley Road, Bootle, Lancashire.

John was born in 1886 in Blantyre. By 1915 he occupied and ran the licensed spirit shop but leased the adjacent shop to Alexander McWilliam, a butcher for £15. In 1920, the two shops had separate addresses and we see 20 and 22 Stonefield Road for the first time in any valuation roll, with numbered addresses being given to streets. The entire building was still owned by John R Struthers in 1920, however he had found a new occupier to rent his licensed shop.

He was letting both of his shops out that year to occupiers William Murdoch, a grocer at 20 Stonefield Road for £36 per annum rent and also still to Alexander McWilliam butchers for £15. As such William Murdoch moved in to run the spirit shop as a lease sometime between 1915 and 1920 and he had clear ambitions for the pub to be his, in all senses of the word.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017

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