Sprott’s Buildings were former double storey stone tenements with frontage on at 127-137 Glasgow Road. Smaller than nearby Avon and Henderson’s Buildings they date from the same approximate era.
In the 1870’s, George Sprott (b1822) who had previously been a miner changed profession and became a shoemaker, taking opportunity to be involved in the growing expansion of Blantyre’s Glasgow Road. In 1879, nearing retirement he constructed these tenements on a plot of unused land, previously fields. Initially 2 shops and 3 houses, they would be hemmed in between a track to become Jackson Street to the east and the newly built Merry’s Rows (tied miners cottages) to the west. The prior construction of the rows meant Mr Sprott had to build his property with an oblique angle at one end to make it fit the plot of land.
The name is “Sprott”, and not “Sproat”, a written incorrect term never used in any documentation, census or valuation (but may have been the local dialect.)
The shops were on the lower floor, the homes on the upper, accessed by stone steps at the rear, entered from Jackson Street. This was to be a home for the large family of George Spott, an investment for their future.
Upon construction in 1879, the intention was to create a public house / spirit shop at the west side. However, when son, Robert Sprott applied for a license that year, he was initially turned down, on the basis of suitability of the premises. The following year, with the building complete, his license was approved. Robert Sprott (b1855) moved from Springwell and would run Sprott’s Public House at one end of the building and also a shoe shop at the other end, assisted by his brother George Sprott Junior.
In 1881 George Sprott is living in one of the houses with wife Helen, and grown up sons Robert and George Junior. With them are daughters Grace and Marion and Helen, who would later live in Jackson Street nearby. His eldest son William Sprott (b1850) lived in an adjacent house with wife Agnes and their son. William is noted as being a “Hostler” or sometimes called “Ostler”, a person who keeps horses for others, usually at an inn or public house. In the other house was David Gray a miner and his family.
In 1890, George Sprott Senior died, aged 68, two years after his wife did. Eldest son William Sprott was the main inheritor of the estate, the new owner of Sprott’s Buildings and he set about to construct further homes for the family on his land, heading up into Jackson Street. By 1895 he had split the homes and shops up further and there were now 4 upper homes and 5 lower shops (including Sprott’s Pub). Homes were occupied by Helen Sprott, William Sprott, David Gray and Walter Neilson, a miner.
Shops in 1895 from west to east were as follows; Sprott & Company shoemakers, Alexander Christie’s Clothes shop, Neilsons dressmakers, George Sprott Junior Grocery and Sprott’s Public House at the end. It is noted that the public house then sold ‘William Younger & Co Family Pale Ale’ which cost 2 shilling for each 12 pints.
Change of Ownership, tenants and businesses
In 1900 William Sprott died young aged 50. The full estate was sold on away from family, the new owner being Mr. William Imrie & Son who lived outwith Blantyre. Mr Imrie bought the land, shops, upper homes on Glasgow Road and the homes on Jackson Street adjacent. The buildings and Jackson Street homes are pictured here in 1950, rear overlooking a mission hall.
William Irvine who bought the property was born in Fife in 1847. He married Mary Ann Smith and his profession is noted in census information as wine and spirit dealer. In the 1901 census, he lived with family in Govan despite owning these Blantyre properties and looks also to have owned the Blantyre Arms Public House, elsewhere in Stonefield run by Mr Bremner.
The Sprott family would largely move away, some of them to Fife, with exception of Mrs Sprott, then a widow. Another family member a different William Sprott would perish in 1930 in the Auchinraith Pit disaster.
In 1905 homes were occupied by Mrs Agnes Sprott (w) who died in 1916, Hugh Cumberford a miner, James Cathcart a miner and James Graham, all renting from William Imrie & Son. The shops changed somewhat. That year from west to east were Blantyre Co-operative Society’s bread shop, Alexander Christie Clothes shop, Jemima Walker dressmakers, John Machie’s Confectionery shop then the Public House.
The Smiddy Inn
The Smiddy transformed from Sprott’s Public House and became the Smiddy Inn in 1900 although of course had been a public house since 1880. The name was given by William Imrie for an unknown reason, for there were no blacksmiths anywhere near this location prior to this or at that time. It may simply have been a “working mans” name he liked, hoping to attract the nearby clientele of miners at adjacent Merry’s Rows. (later Elm Street)
The Smiddy Inn was run by William Imrie Junior, who did not live in the buildings, but simply worked there. The public house had address 135 and 137 Glasgow Road and was popular with miners for its wide variety of ales. At the time the Smiddy Inn took up much of the western part of Sprott’s Buildings and had a distinctive small single storey store on the western side, which may once have been used for offsales, and would later to become a ‘snug’. After his death in 1922, the Smiddy Inn would pass to his widow, then later to another owner Mrs. N Wilson.
It was a real working mans pub. Sawdust on the floor, pipes and had a darts team.
In latter years supporters buses for the football left from this location in Blantyre, right outside the pub. Following acquisition of the Smiddy Inn by Vincey McGuire in the mid 20th Century, it would be renamed “The Smiddy Bar” , a name which existed up until its demolition in 1979.
Change to Imrie’s then Kidd’s Building
Of course change in ownership of the building, eventually meant that the name ‘Sprott’ was forgotten perhaps in just one generation, for this building became known for 30 years as Imrie’s Buildings and was being referred as such by WW1.
In 1915, 127 Glasgow Road corner shop at Jackson Street was now Samuel Gilmour’s Dairy Shop, which would exist there until 1936. Next door at 129 Glasgow Road was George Valerio’s Confectionery shop with Alexander Christie Clothes shop now moved out. The Co-op’s rented shop had moved further along the building to 131. Next door at 133 Glasgow Road was Isa Botteril’s boot shop, then at 135/137 Glasgow Road, The Smiddy Inn. Homes on the upper level had address separated into a,b,c and d.
In 1920, the same configuration existed except at 129 now occupied by John Clark and the Co-op had left 131 which became James Smith’s restaurant, perhaps a family member of Mrs Imrie’s.
On 12th January 1922 William Imrie died aged 75 in Glasgow and his wife inherited his estate. Mary Ann Imrie (nee Smith) lived in Mount Florida in Glasgow and her son William Imrie Junior would continue to operate the pub on her behalf. During 1925, at 131 James Smith’s Restaurant was now Hugh Kidd’s Restaurant, a man in his early 30s.
In 1930 Mrs Imrie was renting all the homes out. Shops were leased by Samuel Gilmour at 127, Hugh Kidd’s restaurant at 129 and 131, James Botteril bootmaker at 133 and William Imrie Junior’s Smiddy Inn at 135/137. The boot shop also had machinery being leased.
Mary Ann Imrie died in 1930 and the building was bought over by prominent business owner, Mr. Hugh (Hughie) Kidd. From 1931 onwards the building was to be known as Kidd’s Building and the name Imrie’s Buildings would, like Sprotts, be forgotten to time.
Mid to Late 20th Century
When Samuel Gilmour died in 1936, his dairy at 127 Glasgow Road became Willie Weirs bookmakers. William Weirs (a bookmaking commission agent who had 2 telephone lines in his corner office with Blantyre telephone number 470 prior to WW2. This shop would latterly merge with neighbouring 129 Glasgow Road to become Mecca Bookmakers during the 1970’s.
Hugh Kidd’s Restaurant which had existed from the mid 1920’s would evolve at 131 Glasgow Road into Hugh Kidd’s fish and chip shop, remembered by many people as being one of Blantyre’s best “chippies.” In the 1970’s it would become it its final years, ‘The White Elephant”, a second hand goods outlet which sold toys and household items.
In post WW2 years, 133 Glasgow Road became an extension of the Smiddy Bar at 135 and 137.
Hugh Kidd passed away in 1964 aged 70 in East Kilbride. The whole building was sadly a casualty of the Glasgow Road compulsory purchase order and redevelopment and was entirely cleared in 1979. Sprotts Building by name existed for 20 years, then as Imrie’s Building for 30 years followed by Kidd’s Building for another 34 years and lastly , by others for its final last 15 years.
The former property if it had survived would have been located on grass in front of flats (home to the Masonic Lodge in 1980) on the south of Glasgow Road at the eastern corner of Elm Street.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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