On the western side of Herbertson Street, aside from the manse and Co-op buildings (explored shortly), the only other buildings were at Roberts Land. Contrary to what you may have read by others, there were no tenements located in Herbertson Street near its junction with Auchinraith Road.
The Roberts family came to Blantyre, specifically to the Stonefield area sometime between 1875 and 1879. William Roberts is noted as a spirit dealer, together with John Roberts at Glasgow Road in 1879’s Naismith’s Directory. We’ll explore John Roberts story later in the book. There are other Roberts men related to this line in Blantyre at the time, such as David Roberts, a joiner living at Miller’s Land, Springwell in 1885 and who would later build homes at 7 and 9 Jackson Street. However, this article and the Herbertson Street land ownership is specifically related to William Roberts and Thomas Roberts line.
William and his brother Thomas Roberts first lived at nearby Avon Buildings on Glasgow Road at the corner of what would become Jackson Street, when arriving in Blantyre. They’re noted as renting homes there in 1885. Both men were to be joiners, William changing profession from spirit dealer, leaving that to another brother John, and deciding to exploit the requirement for house construction.
By 1891, William (born in Shotts in 1850) had established his own joinery business in Blantyre. He is noted in the census as being an employer, living at Stanley Place, just off Forrest Street along with wife Agnes, young sons David and James and daughters Janet, Marion and little Agnes.
Between 1892 and 1894, William Roberts and brother Thomas bought a modest sized square plot of land on the south side of Glasgow Road on the west side of Herbertson Street. It was directly opposite their rented homes. They constructed a double storey workshop, no doubt very secure being directly backed on to the Glasgow Road Police Station. Forming a small courtyard, were also 4 other double storey homes, 2 on the lower floor and 2 above. Their business was not a drop by place for people to buy wood, but instead a workshop used exclusively by the brothers and their employees for the purposes of constructing components for building homes for others.
The first occupants in 1895 were Thomas and William, each taking a lower house on the ground floor. Above them, accessed by stone steps at the rear the other 2 homes were let to Robert Naismith a blacksmith and Elizabeth Lauder a music teacher. A small shop was also built to sell some of their woodwork related items at the front facing out on to Herbertson Street but this was short lived and gone by 1905. This configuration of tenants existed until 1905 when James Robertson a tailor moved into the home formerly occupied by Elizabeth.
The business flourished and the Roberts Brothers were involved in the construction of many homes and buildings in Blantyre. The family were well known as were their extended family involved in other local businesses.
Around the outbreak of World War One, Thomas Roberts retired and moved to Dunoon. By 1915, William Roberts was left in charge of their business keeping an eye on Thomas’s share. The workshop had a rented value of £10 per year. Houses in Herbertson Street now had addresses and William Roberts was still in the same house at number 4. Renting at number 2 was Alex Paterson with John Barr and James Sommerville occupying the others for rents of up to £18 per year. The little former shop was now a small street side workhut for family member Jessie Roberts, who had a little dressmaking business behind the police station.
Post WW2 Years
In 1920 William Roberts died in Blantyre, aged 70. Sons James and William Junior formed a company following their inheritance and “J&W Roberts (Joiners)” commenced trading. This was overseen by their Uncle David Roberts who had an interest. David Roberts moved into the house previously occupied by Thomas, and Mrs Agnes Roberts, the widowed wife of William continued to live at the other ground floor home. Upstairs were John Barr and Robert Hamilton, a clerk.
By 1925, the properties had slightly amended addresses due to the earlier arrival of the Co-op near the corner of Herbertson Street at Glasgow Road. Roberts Land still had 4 homes and a workshop, although it would appear by this time the workshop was in a diminished capacity and not operating as a fully fledged sawmill. That year, Janet Roberts, the daughter of William Senior was in the family home, with John Smith a motor driver in the other ground floor house. Upstairs, David Roberts a teacher and John Erskine, another teacher occupied the upper houses for rents up to £24/year. All these properties owned by J&W Roberts.
1930 saw changes to the Herberston Street even numbered postal addresses again, due to the expansion and subdividing of shops within the nearby Co-op buildings to the north. The houses were allocated 10 and 12 Herbertson Street on the ground floor and 14 Herbertson Street was the upper floor. John Smith lived at number 10, James Roberts at number 12 and David Roberts and John Erskine above at 14 Herbertson Street. The Workshop at 8 Herbertson Street now also had machinery on the outside. James and William (Bill) Roberts were still the joinery owners (J&W Roberts).
Around WW2, a gap opened up in the wall at the back of the courtyard offering easy access from Roberts Land to family owned houses in Jackson Street. The Roberts family continued to live at Herbertson St, at Jackson Street and Craig Street into the 3rd quarter of the 20th Century. Roberts Land was entirely cleared in 1979 following the council’s extensive compulsory purchase order, to make way for building the current small trading estate in which some of Blantyre’s Glasgow Road traders were to be accommodated.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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