The Barracks, High Blantyre

This fantastic photo from a hundred years ago or so is the former “Barrack” at High Blantyre.

Officially named “Forrest Place” the tenement buildings were once located just off Main Street, just behind where Jinxy’s Bakery is today. Nicknamed, “The Barracks’, it was not built well in the 1880’s and only lasted until the early 1930’s. By all accounts it was a difficult place for people to live in, conditions way below the accepted norm, even back then. 

For a time, whole place was occupied by 54 single males and living at number 35 in 1895, was Mrs Sarah Lee, likely a housekeeper, cleaner or rent collector.  I wondered if this is her on the right hand side? This photo has made me wonder if the barracks was a place for men, widowers to live at, who, without wives or partners could leave their children with Miss Lee during working hours. Or there may be another reason why these kids were pictured?

The building was poorly built and not a desirable place to live. The expressions on the little faces are perhaps telling of that. There are multiple accounts of incidents, many of them crime related. There was tragedy too. In 1896 a young 8 year old girl, Catherine Shields, daughter of a miner, John Shields of Forrest Place, died from injuries received when a cinder from the fireplace set her clothes alight.

In January 1907 six young men were hanging around at the end of Forrest Place, when two of them decided to have a friendly boxing match in one of the houses there, upshot of which ended in tragedy for 20 year Thomas Russel who lodged at Forrest Place, as, during the third round, 22 year old James Wallace punched him on the side of the head and he fell unconscious, he never regained consciousness.

By 1926, the properties had become so run down and deemed unfit for human habitation. They were still there in 1930 according to the valuation roll, owned by Mr James Wyper and Mr. James Craig, but were demolished by 1935.

Old Photo Courtesy: Thomas Ward
Modern Photo & Map Courtesy: Gordon Cook

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

Jean Boyd Very hard times, such a sad childhood just look at the wee faces, wee souls, I wonder what became of them as they grew older
Stewart Willis As a child in the 70s i have a vague memory of what looked like a small farm building or small holding on that side of the road. Not sure if it was maybe a older house with a bigger garden can you shed any light. Possibly the building to the top right of the picture.
Stephen Kelly Stewart Willis the building on the top right is the former Co building. It’s now a shop, think it’s called Smart Ways. There’s a youth group called Hyper Cyber and a Wool Shop in the same building. There was a wee orchard near there as well. There was a farm as well. Before my time but my family haved lived here since the late 50s
Stewart Willis Stephen Kelly yeah in the same side of the road as the bakers is now is where i remember it. Viewed the post on my phone so the map picture is actually bigger than i originally seen my comment of top right doesnt really make sense when i see the full picture now. I seem to remember there being horses in the field
Stephen Kelly Stewart Willis yeah I think there was a horse there. I can’t remember it but I have friends who can
James Dick That’s where my dad was born aye ask you last year and you told me me about it but it’s great to to see it thank you
Letitia Mitchell My dad was born their the youngest off 7 two of the children died their they then moved to maxwell cresent not sure what age he was when he moved their he was born in 1915
Marian Maguire Ghosts of the past
Betty Davies They are true pics of that era
Lynne Punton My grandad came from Blantyre of Irish decent he met my Gran in Aiirth where he had moved to find work in a pit. The day they we’re married his Mother died so they left their reception & went to Blantyre my Gran said she had never seen poverty like what she saw that night I don’t know where it was in Blantyre but it is so sad to think people had to live like that

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  1. My Great Grandparents (John and Annie Irvine) and their 6 children were living at 34 Forrest Place in 1901. The description of the poverty confirms what my Grandfather told me of his upbringing. The children often went without shoes, even in Winter.

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