Greenfield Foundry – Part 4 of 4

Continued from Parts 1 to 3

The business thrived in the first part of the new Century. Planned expansions came to fruition when between 1900 – 1910 part of the Park Burn was culverted and landscaped over to the west, offering a materials laydown area for the foundry and further space to operate cranes. Beyond to the west and north were still all fields at the time, but it meant Greenfield Foundry was now operating in both Hamilton and Blantyre Parishes. Around that same time a weighing machine was added beside the railway. However, the greatest change was the demolition of the office managers house in the foundry square and of the offices themselves, creating space for a large foundry workshop right along Glasgow Road, accommodating new offices within. It meant the previous foundry entrance was redundant and another was created opening up Glasgow Road directly into Foundry Square immediately beside Greenfield Bridge, gated off at the southwest to separate the business from residential.

The arrival of trams in 1903 brought easier commutes for those workers who lived outwith the foundry. The nearest tram stop was just outside the nearby Birdsfield Street to the south. In 1900, Mr Muir Robertson, jun., partner of ‘Messrs William Robertson & Son, civil and mining engineers, Glasgow, said his firm were engineers for many of the collieries in this district, and for the Greenfield and Udston estates. The Greenfield estate was one of the largest growing mining estates in the district, and was in process of development. He considered that the proposed tramway would be a very great service to the Greenfield, Springwell and Burnbank districts, and among other things, would quicken the development of the Greenfield estate. Fields surrounding the foundry still kept their rural charm as this postcard from 1908 shows. You can see the square ground cleared behind the foundry in readiness to build Blantyre Lodging House, later that year.


1908 children play by the Park Burn, foundry on the left, Burnbank on the right

On 21st April 1911, the North British Railway submitted plans for a railway siding alteration and some tracks were laid within the foundry itself, meaning little disruption for any loading operations to their line.

In 1912, Campbell, Binnie and Co had to pay a worker £275 in damages after a court case proved that the worker had been crushed due to their machinery and negligence of maintenance of the equipment. The worker was left lame for much of his life.

Fire broke out in the foundry joinery shop on 20th January 1914 and the fire services were called. Arriving promptly, water was fetched from the Park Burn nearby and the fire quickly put out before it spread to the pattern shop adjacent. Damage was negligible.

During WW1 in 1915, the Foundry continued operating and worker R.H.Reid patented a device for washing coal that could separate materials of different sizes. War affected the foundry just as much as it did other businesses. Men left their employment to head off to fight and employee numbers reduced during that time. On Saturday 2nd March 1916, workers stopped at lunchtime to hold a little service, where guest of honour was William Webster of the 6th Scottish Rifles. William was presented with a beautiful gold watch with a suitable inscription of his bravery on the battlefield. William who was a sergeant had won the DCM medal and was home on leave and had been an engineer at the foundry, before the war. It was his third visit home from the trenches after being injured 3 times by bullets. The Rechabites raised the money for the watch. He left to go back to the front the following Saturday. His co-workers John Crookson, Ernest Rogerson and Gilbert Stodart, all privates were not so lucky and did not return from war. During the war years the employees and owners of the foundry subscribed heavily to donation to Blantyre Ambulance, Blantyre Hospital and Blantyre Jubilee Nurses as well as major hospitals in Glasgow. In April 1918, co-workers awarded John Black a gold watch after his return from France and service in the Scottish Rifles.

On 12th August 1924, the partnership of Campbell, Binnie & Co was dissolved due to the retirement of Mr Binnie. Mr William Reid was to take his place, the business re-emerging that day as “Campbell, Binnie, Reid & Co”.

In 1924 and 1925, the new business partners decided to expand the business further. They demolished the remaining old homes in foundry square, which had become damp (presumably from consistent flooding at the nearby ParkBurn) and culverted the Park Burn to the north. They then bridged over Blantyre’s boundary into a field opposite on the Blantyre side and created another workshop and stores, almost doubling the size of the original foundry. Again, this meant the entrance moving, south this time. By the mid 1920’s Greenfield Foundry & Engineering Works was once of the largest buildings in the area and employer of a couple of hundred people, stretching right up to homes in Springwell.

1936 Greenfield foundry map

1936 Map of Greenfield Foundry

Fire destroyed most of the old foundry records in 1927. About midnight on 31st August, fire broke out in the office premises of Messrs Campbell, Binnie, Reid. & Co. The office adjoined the main works, and consisted of a two-storey building with a loft above, where plans and records were stored. It seems that the fire originated in the loft, which was completely destroyed. Damage by water and smoke was also done to the drawing office and the counting house on the ground floor. The damage was estimated at several thousands of pounds. The fire though did not interfere with the work in the foundry.

In 1933, following the removal of the old tram lines on Glasgow Road outside the foundry, the road was widened making it more substantial, just as had been done in Blantyre a few years earlier.

2017 First Buses today

2017 First Buses depot now on the former site of the foundry

Towards the end of WW2 in May 1945, Campbell, Binnie, Reid & Co was fined £20 for not maintaining safe temperatures for their workers. Their business was wound up in the mid 1950’s and bought over by Charles Ireland, who primarily ran a scrap merchants business from the site. It was then heavily fenced off and guarded, with a report that a 2nd World War ammunition was found out in the yard. Charles Ireland’s business did evolve and was successful, becoming a limited company in the form of Ireland Alloys on 2nd September 1964. They remained at that site until the mid 1970’s before moving to custom built premises on Whistleberry Road.

    On Wednesday 21st November 1973, a Mr Hannaway attempted to open the safe with an oxy acetylene torch after losing the key. Not realizing there safe contained dynamite, he succeeded only in blowing both his legs off! The explosion was heard throughout Low Blantyre.

    With Ireland Alloys having cleared many of the old buildings, the open space was ideal for vehicle storage. First Buses Depot now is situated on the site of the former Greenfield Foundry. The large depot at Springwells houses many buses with familiar white and purple livery.

From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017


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