Damping Down the Roads

In Springtime 1909, the road authorities as an experiment decided to relay Glasgow Road with a new road surface.

These were the days before tar-macadam surfaces and Blantyre’s main thoroughfare was already partially cobbled in places due to tramlanes laid only a few years earlier. This however, left parts of the road which were “unmade” and to avoid them turning into quagmires, several different mixes of ash and materials had been used to see which surface would wear the best.

It was a problem in towns throughout Britain, not just in Lanarkshire and something we take for granted these days. This new mix in 1909 was a combination of lime, ash and small stones. This new mix seemed to create a level, nice surface on which people could walk, and horses and carts could travel without getting stuck, but whilst it initially was a success, as summer approached and drier weather arrived, a problem of dust arose.

One reporter added on 8th May 1909, “Never before have the people, and shopkeepers particularly, had to suffer such disagreeable conditions than those experienced on Tuesday sad Wednesday of this week. The road surface being dry, and a high wind prevailing, the dust was carried along simply in clouds of a fine, powdery nature. That the new material is responsible for this uncomfortable state of affairs may be taken as a certainty, and the grumbling of the people is evidence that the overall experiment does not find favour with them.”

“Something will require to be done to lessen the “stour” and it would simply be impossible to suffer the conditions that have prevailed this past week. It is quite evident that the matter has caused the road authorities some concern, for they at once took steps at the earliest possible moment to remedy affairs as far as possible. A water cart was brought out on Thursday morning to water the streets, but by midday the benefiting results had disappeared, and things were worse on the previous day. If what we have suffered these past few days is only a small sample of what we are to get in summer, the County Council may expect a deputation representing the lieges of Blantyre, asking them to revert back to the old order of things. “

Another concern about the “stour” which landed on shop windows and doorways, was raised about the passing tramcars, and it was suggested the Tramway Company should be watering their own portion of the road to help. However, the tram companies contested this, stating that the issue was one for county authorities. With Blantyre made officially into a “cleansing district” and with authorities responsible for the upkeep of roads, a daily sprinkling of water by special horse drawn carts became the norm in drier months.

Experiments with sealing roads continued for some time, but it would take until the late 1920’s for proper hard surfaces to be laid, with Glasgow Road receiving a full makeover around 1930 when trams became redundant.

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