‘Walkers Buildings’ were named after constructor James Walker, who was one half of a former joinery partnership named “J&J Walker (based in Larkfield).” James Walker born in Motherwell in 1843 lived at the bottom of Stonefield Road, the neighbour of the Craig family and was a joiner by trade.
Around 1877, the year of the pit disaster, his business bought a long, narrow plot of land from nearby Mr. Jackson of Bardykes, situated in an open field, but with frontage on to the developing Glasgow Road. Situated near the Westend, ‘J&J Walker’ halved the plot for 2 different buildings and on the eastern side built 2 storey tenements, which would be named appropriately, “Walker’s Buildings”. James was married and had 6 children under 16 at the time.
The venture was to be an investment. Walker built the homes and retail space to sell outright to others. Seeing potential to maximize their sale, they subdivided Walker’s Buildings into 2 district properties, although the whole situation was adjoining and terraced. The whole block was constructed of sandstone with slated roofs. 2 storeys high, upper floors were accessed from steps at the rear, where also the washhouses and outdoor toilets were.
Walkers Building looks to have been completed in 1877 or 1878 and went on the market, the Walker family hoping to make a good return on their investment. It wasn’t long before 2 separate buyers showed interest, each acquiring outright ownership of different parts of the building.
Walkers Building – Eastern Side
At the far eastern side, 12 homes, all double storey were bought in 1878 by Adam Thomson who would remotely own and rent them out his home in Castle Douglas. This part of the building would initially have address 321 to 329 Glasgow Road, with 321 having 8 of the 12 homes!. (Following road widening in 1930, they would be re-addressed as 401 – 423 Glasgow Road.)
The first tenants were mostly miners including William McCall, William Sharp, James Gibson, John Smith, Pat McEwan and Rob Sneddon. It is noted James Walker Jnr, the son of the original constructor lived there initially too. The 12 homes would always be let out to miners and around the late 1880’s, rents of just £4 per annum were common.
Adam Thomson however died and by 1895, the 12 homes passed to his trustees, firstly to Robert McVane, of Academy Street, Castle Douglas. Robert continued to let out the property with John Sneddon of nearby Springfield Cottage, being factor of the homes as collector of rents.
Between 1920 and 1925, Robert McVane also died and a secondary trustee of Adam Thomson, namely John McLellan, also of Castle Douglas became the owner. John continued to own the property for several decades.
In 1930 upon the road being widened and allocation of new addresses, Walker’s Buildings lost their front garden space, and subsequent construction of south pavements thereafter meant the doors of these homes then opened directly out on to the Glasgow Road pavement.
There were never any businesses or shops in this particular part of Walker’s Buildings, with homes situated also on the ground floor.
By the 1940’s, Walkers Building was perhaps starting to show its age, and it is noted that during the war calls were made for its modernization. For over 6 decades it had served as homes for many families, including generations of the same family. Rents around this time varied depending on the quality of homes and ranged from £8 to £16 per annum. The end was in sight.
Walkers Buildings were bought over by the county council in the early 1950’s and subsequently demolished to make way for the council’s modern homes of Cloudhowe Terrace.
We next explore the western side of Walker’s Buildings, which certainly for the purposes of this book, we think has rather a more interesting tale to tell and one which definitely had a much more public use.
Walkers Building – Western Side
In 1878, the western part of Walker’s Building was sold outright to Bathgate teacher, John Whelan (or Wheelan). A smaller part of the overall building, it comprised of 6 houses spread over 2 storeys and 2 ground floor shops, one of which was fairly large. It was adjoining 12 homes to the east.
John Wheelan would rent out the 6 homes to miners and their families and would own this building for many decades. By 1879, tenants were found and one of the shops was being rented by Duncan MacFarlane, a grocer. The other shop was opened as a public house, “ The Cross Guns”, with license holder, Mr. William Roberts a spirit merchant occupying it. Naismith’s Business Directory of 1879, confirms the existence of the public house and the license ownership of William Roberts at that time.
This part of Walker’s Building initially had address 337-351 Glasgow Road but following road widening and new addresses in 1930, it became 425 to 441 Glasgow Road.
In 1895, the grocers was owned by Janet Paterson renting for £13 and the public house had changed license holder, explored separately next in this book. By 1905, Elizabeth Smith was the grocer and again the license holder of the neighbouring public house had changed. Two of the homes were empty that year. The public house then became known as “The Volunteer Arms.”
By 1915, James McCartney was renting the grocery business and the landlord of the pub was absent in combat during WW1. A temporary landlord ensured the continuation of business in the public house.
Between 1920 and 1925, owner John Wheelan retired but continued to let out the building in his elderly years. By 1925, grocers had temporarily become a blacksmiths shop, owned by Robert Craig (not the person who owned the Westend). By 1930 Morris Grocers occupied one shop and the pub was by then empty, later to become a hall or meeting room. An address change saw Richard B Morris’s Grocery at 427 Glasgow Road, the hall at 435/437.
Walkers Building was entirely demolished in the early 1950’s prior to 1953 after being bought over by the County Council, the site cleared to make way for new council housing at modern day Cloudhowe Terrace.
With the ‘Volunteer Arms’ Public House so little known about these days, largely forgotten by all alive, and never previously written about, it is worth exploring its rise and fall separately, something we endeavour to do in the next page of this book.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017