Downie’s Buildings – were former 19th Century houses and early 20th Century shops located near Kirkton Cross on the north side of Main Street. To put this in context, they would have been where the small rectangular grass park is today near the Cornerstone pub.
They are known to have existed prior to 1855, for the valuation roll of that year shows a William Downie (Senior) as owning several houses, a shop and Smithy, almost certainly the one marked on the 1859 map in this location. Indeed Downie’s Building look to have existed prior to 1841, for William Downie Senior is in that first census noted as a storekeeper. However, the exact construction date of the property is unknown.
On the lower floor was a grocery shop and Downie’s Public House. Two generations of Downie family would own these properties, and the family looked to have prospered.
In the 1850’s water was supplied to the area via an outdoor pump and well behind the Smithy, which looks to have opened out on to School Lane. The buildings on Main Street were made of stone and double storey in height, with steps accessing the upper level of homes at the rear of the public house.
By 1865, the family had a grocers shop, the public house and another shop, each with a house above. Additionally, they owned the Smithy at School Lane and another 4 homes in that vicinity that year.
Mr. William Downie Senior (b1812) ran the spirit shop and his son William Downie Junior (b1845) ran the grocers shop and they lived above that property. The other 2 shops were let out to William Scott and Robert Galbraith for rent between £6 and £10 per annum. William Downie also paid feu duty to the Misses Miller of Milheugh, indicating that the land anciently may once in this location have belonged to the Miller family.
The Downies were also renting part of the Glebe land across the road and further up towards the Old Parish Church from Minister Gloag for unknown reason.
By 1875, the Downie Empire had expanded to owning a house at Hunthill, 2 shops, a house and bakehouse at Stonefield. It is likely by this time the spirit shop had become known as Downie’s Public House.
By 1885, the Smithy was no longer there but the vacant piece of land would be utilised again by the building of Spiers Laun following 1893.
The suggestion of the Downie’s doing well, perhaps due to this sale is further reinforced, by their expansion not just into further homes and shops in Hunthill, but also a large presence in Stonefield Road, namely at Kelling House, where there were shops, stables and homes and making opportunity of the sudden arrival of so many miners to Blantyre.
However, both William Downie Senior, his wife Ellen and their son William Downie Junior continued to live with their families at Kirkton. Both William Downie Senior and his wife Helen died in 1885, and single inheritor son William Downie Junior picked up the families wealth. The end of the Downie era was sudden.
At the height of their prosperity, in 1893, William Downie Junior died; aged 49 and his Kirkton catalog of homes, shops and businesses were abruptly inherited by William Downie Junior’s grocery assistant and cousin, William Johnstone, with nobody in the Downie family left to inherit the properties. Other cousins acquired properties in Hunthill and Stonefield.
There is no mention of any William Downie in the 1895 Valuation rolls and any Downie mentioned is not associated with the aforementioned properties.
The name of Downie’s Buildings also cannot be found after 1893; as of course others owned the buildings after that.
Downie’s Buildings would continue to have a Public House at that location until 1934, when the building was demolished, after lasting the best part of 100 years.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017