James Little – The Rates Scandal


32 Crossbasket front 1910s1926 – On 22nd September, The Glasgow Herald reported on a story about some suspicious activity by James Little, who would later become owner of Crossbasket.

Strange trends had been noticed by the Blantyre rates assessor for Blantyre’s homes, and each of the anomalies involved houses owned and built by James Little. Mr. Andrew Murray, the rates assessor took the issue to court and James defended his position by stating that the homes in question were attached to his sister. What became evident was a clever scheme, but ultimately was frowned upon by authorities. Murray’s query was in relation to eighteen homes owned by brothers William and James Little, each having the same tenant officially on the register as living there, i.e Miss Jane Little, their sister.

The assessors query was “how could this be” as all the houses were occupied by other tenants and Miss Little had only paid rates once. At the time William Little lived at Nithsdale, Victoria Street, Blantyre, not far from James Little who was at 175 Stonefield Road (pictured above). The assessor produced to the court a paper on which the proposed rates should have been paid, and then a comparison paper as to what Jane Little had paid, showing a shortfall to the county of £100. (about £6,000 in 2015 money) The scheme was simple. Jane Little had her name on the houses which were all modestly furnished (i.e rentable). James appeared in court on behalf of his sister accepting that the arrangement had been his suggestion, but contested that any ill doing had been done. He subsequently prove that Jane was subletting to individual families, and getting them to sign to this on contracts. It was found the law was on his side and that the money paid that year by Jane for her rates was maintained, with the assessors query dropped. The tenants paid rent and a little extra, towards a mortgage, with the intention that the tenant would one day own the house. However, a horrendous clause was written into the contracts stating that if the tenant fell behind in the rent even by one week, they forfeited all rights to the mortgage, losing that portion of the money already paid, regardless of the sum! With contracts shown, the court having no choice in the matter and whilst frowning on the situation, dropped all charge against James. The fact that the Little’s had contracts signed by the tenants had saved them. I’m sure this would have prompted a review of such cases where one person owned so many rented houses under those terms.

1929 – Mary Little (nee Bowie) mother of James passes away followed by his father William in 1931. This prompted a new start.

1932 – At the age of 54, James Little purchased Crossbasket Castle and Estate grounds on 6th April. He immediately moved to the property, which was certainly massively larger than the tenement he had been staying in. When I queried Sonya about this, she confirmed that the family, being close, lived beside each other and it had been quite common for them to live a modest lifestyle when it came to their homes. James certainly broke that tradition.

1933 – On 10th May 1933, just a year after moving to Crossbasket a “Feu Disp” was raised in the deeds (a lease that may have relied upon a service being undertaken, in return for living there, rather than paying rent). This particular deed was to Agnes Meikle or Pate a widow, Margaret Sloan Pate and Hugh Meikle Pate a dairyman. This was for the property called ‘Glenrose’, Stoneymeadow Road, on the west side of Crossbasket estate across from Allers Farm. The house had been there for over 80 years already by this time and the later name may have had a connection to George Neilson’s 2nd wife, Rose. The deed included 34 Poles, 24 square yards of land.

On the left hand stone pillar of the Glenrose entrance gate is an old milestone marker.

On 1st September 1933 James also leased the West Lodge House to Roderick Bruce and his wife Margaret Mary. A slightly larger piece of land at 40 Poles, 16 yards was included.

1935 – A similar lease was then made on 1st February 1935 this time for £200 per annum to David Minto Coke and Mary Morton Coutts for the Gatehouse, more commonly known as The east lodge at Crossbasket. This included 16 Poles and 20 square yards of ground.

I have seen on more than one occasion, it written by others that James Little had sold off all 3 estate cottages by 1935. This is not the case. He had leased them out to rent.

Taken from an extract of “The History of Crossbasket Castle” by Paul Veverka (c) 2015

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