Henderson’s Buildings, Blantyre

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

Henderson’s Buildings

   On the site of former Springwell Farm, throughout the late 19th Century and much of the 20th Century were tenement buildings known firstly as Henderson’s Buildings and latterly post WW2 as Kelly’s Buildings.

   In 1878, the year after the Blantyre Pit Disaster, Mr. William Henderson, a builder of 4 Firpark Terrace, Dennistoun, Glasgow bought the triangular plot of land where the farmhouse has sat only a year or two earlier. He may have been the person who demolished the house to make way for his tenements. Constructed in 1878 and likely into 1879 due to their size , the property was 2 storey, built in tenement style with slated roofs. Set out in a V shape on plan the tenements had frontage on Glasgow Road of around 100 foot and of similar size heading around the corner, going southwards up Auchinraith Road, directly across from later Rosendale building.

   Shops on the Glasgow Road ground floor had homes above them. There were no shops on the Auchinraith Road side, only homes. An enclosed yard at the rear was accessed from Auchinraith Road and via 3 pedestrian pend closes, 2 on which were on Glasgow Road.

Hendersons Zoned

Henderson’s Buildings, Glasgow Road highlighted on our 1910 map

   The tenements were located between Herbertson Street and Auchinraith Road, on the southern side of Glasgow Road. The late 1870’s and early 1880’s was a time of huge expansion of Glasgow Road. Around William Henderson’s Buildings other properties and miner’s rows were springing up fast on land previously open fields, never been built previously upon. It must have seemed everybody was constructing homes and shops and no doubt would have been hugely exciting for Blantyre residents, then still only numbering around 3,000 people seeing their town expand so rapidly. Blantyre’s population was to triple in the next 2 decades and Glasgow Road was a large contributing factor.

   In all, William Henderson (b1835) constructed 36 houses within this buildings, including an initial 7 shops, a spirit shop on the corner of Auchinraith Road and a large house being used as a meeting house or hall. He let them out to tradespeople, miners, labourers and their families. Home occupancy was good, and the shops appeared to be in good locations. It is known that between 120 -200 people lived at Henderson’s buildings at any one time. Factoring or maintaining the houses, including chasing up rents was managed by James Deans, a joiner (b1850 in Overton), who lived in one of Henderson’s homes.

Early Owners and Tenants

   The newly established Blantyre Co-operative Society opened the first shop in Henderson’s Buildings in August or September 1883, managed by a Mr. John Crow. It expanded as the Co-op prospered till they had occupancy of much of the building, in which eventually there was an Office, a Hall, Central Grocery, dept., a Dressmaking and Millinery dept., a Gent’s Outfitters, a Fleshing dept., Ante-Rooms and a Boardroom. The Co-op later opened their own central premises nearby and further westwards on the opposite side of Herbertson Street at its junction with Glasgow Road. (explored later). The homes on Auchinraith Road side of Henderson’s Buildings faced out to open fields until Rosendale was built. They also looked out upon Archibald Menzie’s Blacksmiths at the foot of Auchinraith Road.

    In 1885, William Henderson was renting out the hall to William Reid, the spirit shop on the corner was Harvey’s Public House, a predecessor to the more remembered ‘Horseshoe Bar’. William Harvey was leasing the licensed premises for £99 per year, although his business was fairly short lived and wound up around 1888. (Mr Harvey is not in the 1891 census). In 1885, 2 of the shops were empty, another occupied by Alex McWilliam a flesher and another by William Peters a shoemaker.

   In 1888, William Henderson died in Dennistoun, aged only 53, prompting sale of Henderson’s Buildings. Mr John Meek was the new owner, buying all shops and homes and continuing to let the same tenants live there. The name “Henderson’s Buildings” was retained, already established and Mr. Meek continued to use the services of James Deans as factor. However the shops nd spirit shop ended up with new leases.

   In 1895, 34 houses were being rented out between £6, 5 shillings and £7, 10 shillings per year. The Meeting hall was looked after by Mr. William Muir.

   The public house on the corner was rented from around 1888 by Mr James Kelly, a well known businessman with connections to the newly established Glasgow Celtic Football Club. James would prove to be an important figure in the history of this building as you will see shortly.

   The shops in 1895, now 8 in number saw 2 empty, others occupied by William Young, William Caldwell a tailor, Mrs Robert Kilgour, Malcolm Reid, Robert Docherty, Thomas Lamond & Co watchmakers. All shops were rented out between £8 and £9 per annum. William Caldwell lived in the building and may have been a relation of James Caldwell, given that Caldwell’s buildings were built shortly after across the Auchinraith Road. One can imagine Mr Caldwell holding political meetings at the small Henderson’s hall in the late 1890’s, but needing a requirement for larger premises.

   The success of Mr. James Kelly saw him buy out Mr. Meek sometime before 1905, for by then, James Kelly not only owned the pub, but owned all houses and shops at Henderson’s Buildings. James was a wealthy , clever man and this latest business endeavour would not have been entered into lightly.

   This remarkable photo from 1900, shows clearly the stepped frontage of Henderson’s Buildings at Glasgow Road. A time before nearby co-op buildings, a time before trams. Whilst researching this book, it was found that these shops (which feature external indications of their trade) were occupied by John Arbuckle confectioner, John Mathieson jeweler, Torrance Love hairdresser. Can you match up the businesses with their shopfronts?

1900 Henderson's Buildings wm

Henderson’s Buildings shopfronts on Glasgow Road during 1900 (shops all identified)

   In 1903 the Henderson Building hall is known, for a short time to have been used to screen the first of silent movies, at a time prior to proper picture houses being built in Blantyre.

   In 1905 James Kelly, wine and spirit merchant had 9 shops in Henderson’s Buildings as well as his spirit shop, by then renamed “The Horseshoe Bar” at other times known simply as “Kelly’s Bar”. This may have been a reference to the Blacksmith in the field opposite Auchinraith Road. The pub was located at the corner of Auchinraith Road and Glasgow Road directly across from the Caldwell Institute. As well as the aforementioned shops, there was also Henry Stevens Confectionery shop, Walter Getty a saddler and Mrs Elizabeth Kilpatrick’s shop. All shops on Glasgow Road, none on Auchinraith Road. Alex McWilliam flesher had by then moved to McAlpines Building to the west and north side of the Road. Incidentally at that same time James Kelly also owned the pub at McAlpine’s Building.

James Kelly, Blantyre businessman

1890 James Kelly

James Kelly, owner

   James was somewhat of a character and as well as being Justice of the Peace, was more known for playing as an initial member of Celtic Football club, then going on to be the President of the entire Club. Residing at Thornhill, Blantyre James also had several local business interests in Blantyre amongst them owning Blantyre Engineering Company and owner of several pubs.

   James (or Jimmy to most people) Kelly was an all round athlete in his early life noting prizes for his 100 yards sprint. Born in 1865, he had started out in a working career as a joiner in Renton, Glasgow.

   He joined Celtic from the famous Renton World Champions team and a glowing football career continued. He was chosen to captain Celtic in its infancy and was even at his death had never been surpassed as a centre half in the Celtic club. He was capped for Scotland 16 times. Eventually he worked his way to become a director of Celtic and also chairman. He did much work for the community in Blantyre and was especially interested in education, serving on the old School Board.

   Exclusively shared here by great grand-daughter Nora Anderson is a picture taken around 1910 with James Kelly on the far left along with other management figures of Celtic Football Club.

1900 James Kelly

James Kelly on far left with Celtic Management (courtesy of Nora Anderson who shared this)

   His business interests included wine and spirits, which saw him move to Blantyre to his residence “Thornhill”. He was an elected member of the County Council and Justice of the Peace. He was just as well known in Motherwell as he was in Blantyre. When he died at the age of 66 at Thornhill, Blantyre at 11pm on Saturday, 20th February 1932, the businessman of Blantyre, and of Motherwell, grocer wine and spirit merchant, a director of Blantyre Engineering Co., Ltd., and Prestwick Picture House, Ltd., director of the Celtic Football Club, and at one time a member of the Lanarkshire County Council, left an estate to the value of £35,786. (about £2.2million in 2017 money.) His funeral took place on Tuesday 23rd February 1932 at St Patrick’s Cemetery, New Stevenston, but only after Requiem Mass was held at St Joseph’s Church on Blantyre’s Glasgow Road at 10.30am that morning.

   There was representation from people from all over Scotland and as many as 30 cars took place in the funeral procession. His widow, Margaret later that year applied for the licenses of his pubs, by means of inheritance including that of the Black Bull pub in Motherwell. He also had 10 sons & daughters.

Remainder of the Kelly years

   In 1915 during WW1, James was leasing out a total of 38 houses and 8 shops. By then, homes had been given postal addresses and in Henderson’s Buildings the properties (all homes) facing on to Auchinraith Road were evenly numbered from 2 -22 Auchinraith Road. (4 houses at 2,4,6,8 then 10 houses at number 10, then 6 houses at 12,14,16,18, 20 and 22). The public house was 69/71/73 Glasgow Road, then heading west was a small terraced house occupied by Mrs Grew. At 77 Glasgow Road was a house and shop occupied by Alexander McLuckie, a miner.

   At 79 Glasgow Road was Mrs Elizabeth White (w) a shop which would later become the undertakers. At 81 Glasgow Road were 7 houses. 83 Glasgow Road was William McInally’s hairdressers. Walter Getty the saddler had a shop at 85 Glasgow Road, 87 was empty, 89 Glasgow Road was a house and shop for Malcolm Ritchie a confectioner, 91 was Alexander Barrie’s shop (Alex was fitter, see his advert below). Number 93 Glasgow Road was 6 houses and finally number 95 was Blantyre Co-op. So, we can conclude that Henderson’s Buildings occupied 69 -95 Glasgow Road.

   Kelly’s Horseshoe Pub proved popular with miners nearby, the entrance through a tall, narrow, arched doorway on the Auchinraith Road side.

   In 1920, some of the businesses had changed. Alex Barrie had moved out of 91 Glasgow Road and Joseph Dunn occupied it. At 83 and 89 Glasgow Road McInally’s Hairdressers and Malcolm Ritchie confectioners continued. At 87 Glasgow Road an Andrew McSkimming occupied the premises. Alex Peters of Rosebank Avenue was by then the factor of the homes, acting for James Kelly.

Alexander Barrie

Alexander Barrie Advert, courtesy of Gordon Cook

   By 1920, the Co-operative had moved out of 95 Glasgow Road, and this larger shop was subdivided between Matthew and Joseph Miller, shoemakers, Matthew still there in 1925. Joseph Dunn was at 91 Glasgow Road. That year, the shops still had a large confectionery occupancy with Malcolm Ritchie still trading at 89 Glasgow Road. Andrew McSkimming at 87, Joseph Barclay a contractor at 85 and Samuel Douglas had taken over McInally’s hairdressers at 83 Glasgow Road. Elizabeth White still at 79, Alexander McLuckie still at 77 and of course Kelly’s Pub at the corner occupying 69-73.

   By 1930, 20 houses were occupied on the Auchinraith Road side again with no shops there. Alex Peters still the factor. The public house still in James Kelly’s ownership too although being run then by James Kelly Jnr, son of James. Shops were 79 John Clarke Undertakers and joiner. Perhaps this is whom constructed the alleged coffins stored at the nearby Caldwell Institute? Shop 83 was empty, 85 was John Harrison confectioner, 87 Duncan Cochrane a grocer, Malcolm Ritchie confectionery still at 89 and James Brown at number 91.

   Families who lived at Henderson’s Buildings in 1930 on the Auchinraith Road side included surnames; Carr, Morgan, McSkimming, Russel, Steven, Park, McCoul, Muir, Crookson, Henderson (Postman), Houston, Brown, Finning, Binning, McGuirk, Lusk, Bryson, Conquer, Bradley and Morton. On the Glasgow Road side, tenants surnames included; Downie, Stevenson, Clarke, Smith, Beggs, Park, Tenant, Wood, Pearson, Cochrane, Ritchie, Brown, Bell, Louden, Paterson, Jones and Elliot. If you can imagine all these were families, some very sizeable, it may give you a good indication of just how many people lived there!

   In 1932, James Kelly died, the properties passing to his widow, Margaret then to his son. One can’t help but wonder if the elderly lady had any real interest in running so many businesses and properties and it is little wonder that the Kelly family later in the 1950’s sold to Glasgow Publican, Eddie McCrudden, a successful businessman with many public houses under his ownership. The public house name of Horseshoe Bar, or Kelly’s Bar, or Kelly’s Corner was maintained through the rest of its days.

Henderson’s Buildings on fire

1940 Fire Brigade

Typical Firebrigade 1940

   At nine o’clock on the night of 31st January, 1940 fire broke out in a large two storey building in Glasgow Road owned by Mr James Kelly Jnr, wine and spirit merchant.

The building which had 120 tenants was still known as Henderson’s buildings. The ground floor of the building contained 12 shops at that time and the wine and spirit business owned by James Kelly was at the corner of the building at the junction of the two roads (Kelly’s Horse Shoe Bar).

   The outbreak originated in the home of a Mrs Elliot in the centre of the building and the fire travelled at great speed towards the eastern end of the tenement engulfing it in flames. Three fire engines attacked the fire from different angles and they brought the fire under control at 11.30 p.m but continued to pour water on to the burning building until well after midnight. The western homes and pub were saved.

   The fire took place on one of the coldest nights for years and the bitter conditions caused a great deal of hardship, not only for the people who had lost their homes, but also to the people whose homes had been damaged by the vast amounts of water needed to bring the fire under control. Access to the upper properties was only by stone stairwell in the rear yard which may have made things more difficult.

   During the blaze great anxiety was caused by the knowledge that three invalids, confined to their homes by ill health were in the blazing building but they were carried to safety by neighbours. John Tennent whose home was terribly damaged by water lost all of his furniture. John was the secretary of Blantyre and District Ornithological Society and he remembered at the height of the blaze that he had £23 in a drawer in his home. Much to his relief he found the money quite secure when he managed to gain admission to his home. The money had been the proceeds from a recent show and was to be handed over to the Red Cross.

   Seven families were left homeless. Mrs. Mary Elliot, widow; John Woods, wife and family; William Davis, wife and family; Alexander Henderson, wife and family; James Loudon, wife and family; John Clark funeral undertaker, and Stewart Raeburn, wife and family. Many of the families in the building lost everything they possessed due to either fire or water/smoke damage, some sadly not insured.

   This news report from the Hamilton Advertiser is made all the more bizarre by suggesting it happened on 28th February 1940, when compared to other newspapers who suggest the fire took place on 31st January 1940, a full month earlier. However, it did take place on 31st January 1940 and in was definitely Henderson’s Buildings, not Anderson’s Building which was adjacent to the west.

   The unsafe, damaged portion Henderson’s Buildings was demolished, directly across from Gilmour’s Buildings. It is confirmed here that 85-95 Glasgow Road was demolished shortly after the fire. It left the whole building substantially reduced in size and with the public house so prominent in what was left, the building appears to have adopted a more prominent name of ‘Kelly’s Buildings’ following WW2. This 1950 aerial photo demonstrates well the gap left on Glasgow Road.

1950 Hendersons Buildings aerial

1950 Aerial photo, showing the gap in Hendersons Building , post fire. (Courtesy HES)

   Speaking of years around WW2, Thomas Hartman recalls, “There was a barbers shop for men. Very few of us boys went to the barbers; it was sit dooin in the chair, bowl on your heed and all that stuck out from the bowl was chopped off! There was also a watch repair shop next to this and he had a huge clock hanging outside his shop, which a lot of people used as their own time piece. It was large enough that one could see it a block away, if you were sitting on a bus passing the shop, you could see the people just by habit take a glance at the clock. It was much used in those days.”

Latter, Post WW2 years

   The late 1950’s saw some changes to the building with the drastic removal of all the homes along Auchinraith Road belonging to Henderson’s Buildings. It is unknown why these were demolished, but proximity to the former Auchinraith Pit may have been to blame, perhaps subsiding. They likely needed extensive modernization and with homes being built in Blantyre in the 1957’s some residents appear to have moved to Coatshill. This 1962 map shows who extensively Henderson’s Buildings were reduced.

1962 Hendersons Buildings

1962 Our map with highlights Hendersons Buildings. Demolished buildings with x.

   During the 1960’s Henderson Building was directly opposite O’Neils Garage on the north side of Glasgow Road. By then Baird’s Rows had gone so residents had a view over cleared fields to the side of Grant’s Building.

   Families who lived there in the 1960’s and 70’s included the McGuire’s (who lived above the public house) and McAlisters. Shops may be better remembered. Heading west away from Kelly’s Bar was McVeys Bookmakers, Archie McKays and a lawyers office.

   Finally, in 1977 bought by the County Council as part of a compulsory purchase order for the clearance of Glasgow Road, Henderson’s Buildings were boarded up, scheduled for demolition in 1978 but due to planning delays did not happen until 1979.

   The land ultimately was just outside the wayleave needed for the new A725 expressway in 1981 and ultimately during the 1980’s was sold on to JR Reid’s Printers for their relocated business. Today, it is the site of Gavin Watson Printers.

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said,

Fairlie Gordon My Dad ,served his time as an engineer at ” Blantyre Engineering “

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  1. Think this is my g grandfather

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