British Workmen’s Public House

The British Workmen’s Public Houses, perhaps designed in the 19th Century to offer an alternative to the rowdy drinking dens of working classes. British Workmen’s Public Houses offered something else other than the bar. The had free reading rooms with newspaper and magazines and there were lots of the them about Central Scotland. At least 5 in Glasgow , but also in towns like Airdrie and Hamilton.

In the Workman’s Public Houses, you could buy food like a roll with butter for one penny, two pence if you wanted beef on it as well. Hot pies were two pence, scone and butter for one penny and three half-pence for cheese and biscuits. You could also buy tea, coffee, cocoa, soda, ginger beer etc. There were games to play like billiards, draughts (very big at the time), chess and dominoes. It cost a penny per visit, or you could pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual subscription. They opened from 5 a.m. till 11 p.m.

Gordon Cook, recently told me, “On ebay a few years ago this token appeared for sale (see attachment). Also, in January 1879 a meeting was held in Dixon’s Hall where it was agreed to raise £500 in £1 shares to open up a British Workman’s Public House in Stonefield, Blantyre. Then in April 1880, an advertisement appeared looking for a ‘Married Woman, without children, to take charge of Blantyre British Workman Coffee-House, Husband must superintend in the Evening.’ The wages offered were 10 shillings a week, a free house, coal, and gas.”

Coffe House token

1d British Workmens Public House Token for Stonefield, Blantyre

Thats a fantastic token and proving conclusively that the Workmen’s Public House existed in Blantyre. However, information on it seems quite scant at the moment but I decided to dig deeper. There is nothing directly in the valuation roll returning for “british workmen” although public houses for them did start appearing from 1885 valuation roll onwards, so perhaps the movement started around the late 1870s as proposed in Blantyre?

By 1925, they were gone everywhere in all valuation rolls, which may help firm up dating the token, i.e somewhere between 1880 – 1920. The sudden disappearance of these particular public houses, also ties in with the creation of Miners Welfare buildings in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Public House in Blantyre located in Stonefield, perhaps on Stonefield Road may have been short lived, unable to compete with the huge number of pubs and competition which arrived in the area in the 1880s.

If you know more, I’d love to hear from you!

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