The Stonefield Tavern is one of Blantyre’s best known pubs. Situated in a prime location on the south side of Glasgow Road, directly opposite the junction of Station Road, it has good frontage opening directly out on to the pavement and remains popular to this day.
It may surprise you however, to learn that as an official ‘public house’, its late Victorian roots are relatively ‘recent’, from a similar era to the likes of the Westend Bar, Blakely’s Pub and Auchinraith Vaults, although of course nowhere near as old as the early Georgian era Blantyre pubs that still exist like the Hoolets or Village Bar. As a property with a slightly different use though, we can go back before Victorian times.
The building is noted on Forests 1816 map and was likely constructed around that time as part of the gathering of buildings around the old tollhouse, purposely built and sited to service passing travellers. Perhaps used first as an inn or place to rest. The proximity to a small paddock field made the building an ideal changing house. (A changing house was a place to rest, to feed and change horses, a place for the traveller to stay overnight, get something to eat and drink). It looks likely that a man called Binning ran the changing house in 1825, following an altercation being reported there in the Caledonian Mercury newspaper. The changing house was tied to an adjacent 2 storey house and shop further to the west and following 1832, also to 8 tenement homes immediately to the south behind it.
Built of stone, the changing house was 2 storey with a slated roof. It had 3 upper windows and was entered from Glasgow Road. The upper storey was accessed via 2 sets of steps at the rear yard. The lack of any ‘P.H’ marking on the 1859 map is telling that it was not recognised as a public house yet at that time.
Between 1862 and 1864, Mr. John Coats of Blantyreferme, then in his late 20’s started managing the changing house for his father, the 8 tenements behind it and the house and shop to the west of it. For near 30 years, the business became part of several buildings known as “Coats Buildings”. John was a farmer’s son but by 1875, he is noted as being a spirit dealer. His younger sister, Elizabeth Coats (b1837 Blantyreferme) ran the changing house and is noted in census of that decade as being a hotelier or innkeeper.
It appears at some point in the 1870’s, the name “Stonefield Tavern” was established, (most likely in 1877 when John Coats Jnr fully acquired the building from his brother Thomas who had died) and we first see the building being recognised properly as a Public House, a place for the general public to wander in for ale. This coincides with several other pubs being constructed along Glasgow Road. The dates also coincide with the construction of nearby Dixon’s Rows. The tavern was just a stone throw from those miner’s ‘raws’. As the hamlet of Stonefield expanded rapidly in the 1870’s and 1880’s, its likely many a weary miner called into the tavern for a pint. It had and still has a long association with Tennents Caledonian Brewery (Wellpark) in Glasgow.
In the 1881 census, at 47 years old John Coats is still a single man, noted as a spirit merchant living in the adjacent house. His business may have initially drastically suffered when so many miners from the adjacent streets behind the pub were killed in the Pit Explosion of 1877, something like all in Blantyre, he would have been sympathetic to. In 1885, beside the tavern was an empty shop owned also by John Coats. Blantyre’s population was rising sharply and business at the Tavern would have been steady enough, although so many other pubs nearby was soon to have an impact.
Change in ownership
In 1890, John Coats died and with no children, his bankrupted estate in 1891 was subsequently nursed and repaired up until WW1 by his trustees. Following his death, Mr. Thomas Rae a spirit merchant of McGhie Street, Hamilton rented the tavern, which in 1895 he did for £36/year. Thomas also ran the ‘Old House’ in Rutherglen. Born in 1862 in East Kilbride, his father had owned the Torrance Hotel. After eventually selling this inheritance, Thomas bought the County Hotel in Cadzow Street, Hamilton. His business interests were consolidated in 1895, when as a partnership with Mr James Craig (his sister’s husband) they took over J&A Yuill in Broomielaw, Glasgow. He was a successful man owning many homes in the surrounding District and shareholder of multiple businesses including Hamilton Aerated Water Company. Thomas kept Mastiff dogs at the tavern to assist security.
By 1905, his wife Jane Rae rented the Stonefield Tavern as landlady. She came from the Craig family (spirit merchants in Blantyre who owned the West End and newly built Old Original Bar). Jane was also a spirit dealer living at Hamilton and would have been delighted to catch a tram car each morning taking her directly from her home to the exact location at a tram stop outside the public house in Blantyre. This short commute would have seemed very modern in those times. Renting the pub from John Coats Trustees, she also was renting a store for the pub in the nearby Co-op buildings not far to the west. Employed in 1905, was barman Frederick Pirie who lived nearby at Coats Tenements. He later kept chickens and sold eggs as a WW1 sideline. Another barman, Malcolm Mitchell was from nearby Annfield Terrace.
Burglary at Stonefield Tavern
Just over 110 years ago, John Davidson, a miner living at adjacent Coats Tenements and Daniel McGuire, miner, of nearby Dixon’s Rows were charged at Hamilton Sheriff Court with attempting to break into the Stonefield Tavern on Tuesday morning of the 6th August 1907. Evidence showed that the masonry of the window sill had been smashed with a causey-set, a stanchion torn away and glass broken. The accused were disturbed and ran away without entering the premises. Sheriff Thomson sent each of the accused to prison for 60 days. This would have been highly embarrassing for the families of these young adults, living so close by to the scene of their crime.
Post WW1 Years
By 1915, postal addresses had been allocated to Glasgow Road and Stonefield Taverns’ cellar was 225 Glasgow Road, with the Tavern known as 227-229 Glasgow Road, something still maintained today. By that year, the pub and 8 tenement houses behind it had been bought outright by the Rae family.
Mrs. Jessie Rae, a spirit dealer from Hamilton owned and managed the pub right up until WW2 one of the longest serving owners, far surpassing Thomas or Jane Rae. As proprietrix, she kept a watchful eye over her bar staff and ran a ‘tight ship’. The pub was also known shortly after locally as Fred Rae’s.
Sometime in the 1960’s, the upper storey was boarded up and used for storage. People may remember the large advertising billboard that adorned the gable end. In the second half of the 20th Century other owners and landlords included Teddy McGuiness in the 1960’s, which gave the pub its familiar nickname “Teddies”. During the 1970’s May Maxwell was landlady, her parents Sammy and Maimie Maxwell managing the business before her. Other landlords and ladies included couple, Ivor and Josephine. Jim Queen was another owner and Katie Ferry managing.
In post Millennium years, the Tavern was owned by ‘Punch Taverns’, but closed in 2007. In 2008, a Blantyre man teamed up with former Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram to buy the pub. James ‘Stan’ Gordon (44), has a strong connection with the Ibrox club, and intended to create a Rangers theme for the popular Glasgow Road hostelry, which he opened with a weekend of celebrations on 4th and 5th of October 2008. Stan enlisted the help of best friend John ‘Bomber’ Brown, the former Rangers player, and initially hoped to get other Rangers stars, such as Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant, involved.
Stan told reporters at the time, “John Brown is my best pal so through him I know most of the Rangers players, and got friendly with Andy Goram. Andy and his missus, and me and my girlfriend, regularly meet up, and we got talking about going in for something like this. I’m a Blantyre man and I was a regular at the Stonefield Tavern but it’s been closed for about seven months, so we spoke to Punch Taverns and agreed a deal for the lease.” Goram, a part-time coach with First Division club Clyde at that time, where Brown was manager, was expected to spend more time in the bar than Stan, who intended to continue in his offshore job.
Stan said: “Andy’s part-time at Broadwood so he has more time than me, but he’s also more experienced at running a bar. Even with that, we’re going to get people round about us who know exactly what they’re doing, and we’ll appoint a bar manager. Our object is to make money from the bar but we’re not looking for millions. We’re hoping to get after-dinner nights going, with people like John Brown, and nights for ex-players. We want to make it a Rangers theme bar and get players to come down quite regularly, so that if people go to the Stonefield Tavern there’s a good chance of meeting them. Everything’s looking good at the moment.”
The pub is currently managed by company “Teddies Two Ltd” and still has strong connections to Rangers even now in 2017 following a troublesome few years for the football club. Many regulars are loyal supporters. There are regular karaoke evenings, quiz nights, a darts team and charity evenings like race nights. Ex Rangers players visit often, especially on charity nights. The pub has a friendly, pleasant atmosphere and the days of brawls, seem to be long gone. Staff are polite and attentive. Despite the sign outside saying Stonefield Tavern, it is known primarily today for its former owner and Rangers nickname, ‘Teddies’. The name spelling with “ies” rather than “y” as confirmed by the business social media website.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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