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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
Origins of Herbertson Street
Researching the origins of Herbertson Street proved more difficult than first thought. Nobody has previously written how Herbertson Street acquired its name when postal addresses were allocated around 1910 and the name wasn’t in any valuation rolls of that time. Some research in the earlier 19th Century was called for and all became clear when it was found that Mrs Janet Jackson (nee Herbertson) was the last owner of Springwell Farm House prior to it being demolished in 1876. Indeed her family had owned the farm for a few decades before that. The name Jackson and Herbertson are absolutely linked to that same person, related to the Jacksons of Spittal and Bardykes.
Janet’s mother in law Mrs Margaret Herbertson was born in Blantyre in 1793, although lived most of her life over the boundary at Spittal Farm. In 1851, she was a widow at the young age of 58 and living with her daughter Janet and her husband Andrew Jackson and their family of young children at Spittal. Along with them are 4 servants. Margaret owned Springwell Farm House, which following her death in 1863 would be inherited by daughter Janet.
Herbertson and indeed nearby Jackson Street are both therefore named after the last owners of Springwell Farm, whose former field boundaries became the two small streets leading south off Glasgow to Hamilton Road.
Odd numbered postal address were located on the east side and even on the west.
Herbertson Street has always been a small street and although side streets branching off Glasgow Road are fully explained in another Blantyre Project book, since there were only a few buildings, its worth touching upon them here too.
Many excellent old photos have been held back from Blantyre Project website to feature in this book. Meantime, here’s a great old photo of Herbertson Street in the mid 20th Century. Previously unseen online.
With the exception of the Mission Hall, there was only ever one other building on the east side of Herbertson Street prior to the 1980’s. The telephone exchange may be remembered by some of our older generation being there before 1958, but the building didn’t start out like that. It initially was a large, detached house.
Between 1898 and 1905, Mr. John Marshall, a printer constructed a detached house behind the mission hall at Herbertson Street. It opened out on to Herbertson Street, the main door facing west. Built of stone in one and a half storeys, it had 2 large dormer windows on the roof and a large bay window on the ground floor.
By 1905, for an unknown reason John was living in Johannesburg, Africa and his house was being occupied by Thomas Moore, an agent. A small workshop had been built adjacent to the house, which lay empty.
According to the valuation roll of 1915, John Marshall’s house had been acquired by the bank, owned by the Hamilton & District Economic Building Society and it is noted a liquidator had been appointed, presumably due to payments not being kept up. John had returned back to Blantyre and together with his son continued to operate under new name John Marshall and Son at nearby Anderson’s Buildings at 97 and 101 Glasgow Road until 1925.
So what became of the house and the workshop? Well in 1915 the bank was letting the house at 3 Herbertson Street out to the Postmaster General for the Telephone Service with George Carruthers as caretaker. The small workshop at 1 Herbertson Street was now a small house occupied by William McLellan a miner for £5,13 shillings per year.
The Telephone Exchange was almost directly across from the entrance doors of the Co-op hall, located on the site which now is the car park at Gavin Watson Printers. The exchange was manned by only one or two women, who must have been privy to every telephone conversation, which took place in those early years.
By 1920, Elizabeth Jamieson (a widow) lived at the large house and likely was one of the operators. In the small house was Christopher Bell McKie, who was a postmaster linesman, operator of the Telegraph. The Telegraph Plant was located within the small house at 1 Herbertson Street.
In 1958, a new exchange was built in Forrest Street, adjacent to Blantyre Victoria’s Castle Park Football Club and the premises continued as a house until demolition in the 1970’s.
Stonefield Parish Church Manse
Stonefield Parish Church Manse was a sizeable house built between 1898 and 1905 located at the top of Herbertson Street near the corner of Auchinraith Road and first occupied by Rev Thomas Pryde. It had address 34 Auchinraith Road.
In 1905, the manse had a rateable value of £30. The former stone built manse was a moderate detached sized home, a storey and a half. The door was accessed up a couple of steps and was positioned centrally below a small decorative arch window. Either side on the ground floor were large windows, above them exposed timber rafters along the soffit line. On the upper floor, to the left was a large dormer window and to the right another window, set into a pitched upturned V shape, finished with decorative trefoil timber design. To the north of the manse was land belonging to the Roberts family.
The manse position across Herbertson Street from the UFC Burleigh Church may have confused some people, even more so as the Burleigh Church Manse was further along Glasgow Road at the corner of Church Street. The Stonefield Parish Church manse looked out at the back into a field, then beyond to Merry’s Rows. Around the manse was a sizeable garden.
In 1944, Rev Duncan Finlayson came to Blantyre and occupied the manse. It is no longer there today, demolished in 1978 when Duncan left Blantyre and following the fire which consumed the Stonefield Parish Church.
On the western side of Herbertson Street, aside from the manse and Co-op buildings (explored shortly), the only other buildings were at Roberts Land. Contrary to what you may have read by others, there were no tenements located in Herbertson Street near its junction with Auchinraith Road.
The Roberts family came to Blantyre, specifically to the Stonefield area sometime between 1875 and 1879. William Roberts is noted as a spirit dealer, together with John Roberts at Glasgow Road in 1879’s Naismith’s Directory. We’ll explore John Roberts story later in the book. There are other Roberts men related to this line in Blantyre at the time, such as David Roberts, a joiner living at Miller’s Land, Springwell in 1885 and who would later build homes at 7 and 9 Jackson Street. However, this article and the Herbertson Street land ownership is specifically related to William Roberts and Thomas Roberts line.
William and his brother Thomas Roberts first lived at nearby Avon Buildings on Glasgow Road at the corner of what would become Jackson Street, when arriving in Blantyre. They’re noted as renting homes there in 1885. Both men were to be joiners, William changing profession from spirit dealer, leaving that to another brother John, and deciding to exploit the requirement for house construction.
By 1891, William (born in Shotts in 1850) had established his own joinery business in Blantyre. He is noted in the census as being an employer, living at Stanley Place, just off Forrest Street along with wife Agnes, young sons David and James and daughters Janet, Marion and little Agnes.
Between 1892 and 1894, William Roberts and brother Thomas bought a modest sized square plot of land on the south side of Glasgow Road on the west side of Herbertson Street. It was directly opposite their rented homes. They constructed a double storey workshop, no doubt very secure being directly backed on to the Glasgow Road Police Station. Forming a small courtyard, were also 4 other double storey homes, 2 on the lower floor and 2 above. Their business was not a drop by place for people to buy wood, but instead a workshop used exclusively by the brothers and their employees for the purposes of constructing components for building homes for others.
The first occupants in 1895 were Thomas and William, each taking a lower house on the ground floor. Above them, accessed by stone steps at the rear the other 2 homes were let to Robert Naismith a blacksmith and Elizabeth Lauder a music teacher. A small shop was also built to sell some of their woodwork related items at the front facing out on to Herbertson Street but this was short lived and gone by 1905. This configuration of tenants existed until 1905 when James Robertson a tailor moved into the home formerly occupied by Elizabeth.
The business flourished and the Roberts Brothers were involved in the construction of many homes and buildings in Blantyre. The family were well known as were their extended family involved in other local businesses.
Around the outbreak of World War One, Thomas Roberts retired and moved to Dunoon. By 1915, William Roberts was left in charge of their business keeping an eye on Thomas’s share. The workshop had a rented value of £10 per year. Houses in Herbertson Street now had addresses and William Roberts was still in the same house at number 4. Renting at number 2 was Alex Paterson with John Barr and James Sommerville occupying the others for rents of up to £18 per year. The little former shop was now a small street side workhut for family member Jessie Roberts, who had a little dressmaking business behind the police station.
Post WW2 Years
In 1920 William Roberts died in Blantyre, aged 70. Sons James and William Junior formed a company following their inheritance and “J&W Roberts (Joiners)” commenced trading. This was overseen by their Uncle David Roberts who had an interest. David Roberts moved into the house previously occupied by Thomas, and Mrs Agnes Roberts, the widowed wife of William continued to live at the other ground floor home. Upstairs were John Barr and Robert Hamilton, a clerk.
By 1925, the properties had slightly amended addresses due to the earlier arrival of the Co-op near the corner of Herbertson Street at Glasgow Road. Roberts Land still had 4 homes and a workshop, although it would appear by this time the workshop was in a diminished capacity and not operating as a fully fledged sawmill. That year, Janet Roberts, the daughter of William Senior was in the family home, with John Smith a motor driver in the other ground floor house. Upstairs, David Roberts a teacher and John Erskine, another teacher occupied the upper houses for rents up to £24/year. All these properties owned by J&W Roberts.
1930 saw changes to the Herberston Street even numbered postal addresses again, due to the expansion and subdividing of shops within the nearby Co-op buildings to the north. The houses were allocated 10 and 12 Herbertson Street on the ground floor and 14 Herbertson Street was the upper floor. John Smith lived at number 10, James Roberts at number 12 and David Roberts and John Erskine above at 14 Herbertson Street. The Workshop at 8 Herbertson Street now also had machinery on the outside. James and William (Bill) Roberts were still the joinery owners (J&W Roberts).
Around WW2, a gap opened up in the wall at the back of the courtyard offering easy access from Roberts Land to family owned houses in Jackson Street. The Roberts family continued to live at Herbertson St, at Jackson Street and Craig Street into the 3rd quarter of the 20th Century. Roberts Land was entirely cleared in 1979 following the council’s extensive compulsory purchase order, to make way for building the current small trading estate in which some of Blantyre’s Glasgow Road traders were to be accommodated.
Our Herbertson Street diversion over, lets get back to Glasgow Road. Prior to the existence of the current Police Station at Calder Street, Blantyre had an earlier police station at Stonefield.
During the mid 1870’s with population expanding rapidly, a growing requirement for keeping order and permanent police presence was needed for the expanding mining town. A police building was needed.
In 1875, the ‘Commissioners of Police Supply’ acquired a plot of land on the main Hamilton to Glasgow Road, near the corner of a track, which would eventually become Herbertson Street. The Police station was one of the earliest buildings in Stonefield, Low Blantyre centrally located between growing areas of Springwell and an expanding Stonefield. Built of stone, of s storey solid construction with a slate roof, it opened out on to the Hamilton to Glasgow Road. A wall was built around the perimeter and the main access in to the back courtyard was through a large stone framed gate approximately 12 foot high (presumably to accommodate slim police wagons of the era). This entrance was at the corner of what would become Herbertson Street and Glasgow Road.
At the rear of the building were two buildings, one co-joined with the station by a tall wall which almost certainly was the jail (the older term ‘gaol’ frittered out a few decades earlier.) Another smaller building looks to have been a wagon house or stores.
Certainly there are newspaper stories of police officers responding to incidents in Blantyre as early as 1875, a constable of that year being Mr William Oliver. It is highly likely though that police officers lived in Blantyre prior to this, although were employed out of Hamilton or Glasgow.
Even upon its construction, police officers could never have anticipated just how rapidly Blantyre was to grow that coming decade and incorporating just 3 houses for constables would have seemed adequate.
Walking along this side of the emerging Glasgow Road between 1875 and 1880 must have been an astonishing sight! To see open fields and hedgerows suddenly becomes rows of shop and houses would have been an exciting prospect for incoming miners seeking employment and housing.
The station was situated beside the Avon Buildings immediately adjacent to the west as pictured, although the station itself was detached. In 1880, the mission hall was built directly across from the station at Herbertson Street and just over a decade later, Roberts Land was built to the rear of the station. With Blantyre so populated in the 1880’s, there are several stories which highlight the fact that 3 or 4 officers, simply weren’t enough.
Murderous Assault on Police
Blantyre is no stranger to a party, or a rammy for that matter, but in the early hours of Sunday 16th September 1883, an evening party at a Stonefield residence escalated into argument and quarrel resulting in some disgraceful scenes. Whilst on duty, Blantyre police Sergeant Stewart and Constable McLeod heard the commotion going on outside the party house and decided to intervene, arresting the two combatants. However, the other people at the party were having none of this and clearly taking sides, struck the Sergeant on the back of the head with a brick. When McLeod dropped his prisoner and came to assist, the police officers were pelted in a fury of stones by some ten people. During the pelting, the Sergeant was struck down and stabbed through the left ear, on the left arm and below the chin, with what could be described as a pocket knife. The police, fearing for their lives, and admitting being outnumbered, left the scene and their prisoners jeered in freedom.
In such days before telephones or police radio, the only way to get back up, was to return to the station, where if you were lucky, other officers would be on duty or could be recalled.
At the Blantyre Police Station, the bedraggled officers stumbled in to the shock of their colleagues. Thankfully, luck was on their side and two other officers were unusually on duty that weekend. Constable Morton and a young Constable Bruce from High Blantyre were both in plain clothes, but at least were on hand. The four officers proceeded back to the scene of the disturbance and quickly pinpointed one of the people they had tried to apprehend. Incredibly, as they approached the house, directly opposite Mr Scott’s shop, Irishman John Kane was violently smashing in his mother’s door with a pick axe and was clearly overcome by drink.
When the police officers tried to apprehend him, John Kane smashed the sharp end of the pick on to Officer Morton’s skull, in two sharp and quick blows. Kane closed in as Morton fell to the ground clutching his bloodied head. As Kane moved in again, he had to be beaten off by Constable Bruce, a man half his age, and armed with only a small wooden police baton. Upon seeing her “boy” being beaten by officers, Kane’s elderly mother lifted the pick axe and made swinging motions towards the officers. The pick was quickly disarmed by the other officers and Mrs Kane restrained, only making John Kane more angry. With Kane’s mother is custody, Kane did the cowardly thing, and ran away.
The police officers saw quickly that officer Morton was insensible and delirious and decided to head back to the Station on Glasgow Road with the apprehended lady pensioner. Morton needed medical attention as quickly as possible. On the way there, Morton became unconscious and had to be helped back. This task was made more difficult as by now the house party and spilled out into the street and seeing Mrs Kane being led away, the small crowd decided to pelt the police officers with stones. Back at the Station, Dr Cooper asked for Morton to be transferred to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow where that evening, upon halfway there, he regained consciousness. The cut to his head was an ugly one and a lot of blood was lost. In an ironic twist of fate, reporters later found out that Morton had only been at the Police Station that evening in his plain clothes, to hand in his notice and leave the police! It was also found out that John Kane, some 2 years earlier had been sentenced to 3 months under the Crime Prevention Act for wielding a pick at another person. Sergeant Stewart was confined to bed and apparently better the next day.
Speaking of which, as Sunday daytime arrived, a huge force from the neighbouring village came and promptly apprehended Patrick Kane, John’s brother who had instigated the stone throwing. Mrs Kane was released without charge due to her age. Police Commander McHardy stationed at Coatbridge arrived in Blantyre later in the day to take charge, citing that an example of force should be made and attacks on the police would not be tolerated. The report ends with John Kane still missing, but with the entire surrounding police force looking for him.
On 7th and 8th February 1887, miners in Blantyre rioted in the streets smashing shops and property. At one point, the Police Station was attacked with so much damage done that the local police constables had to release the 2 prisoners in the cells. Many civilians and reinforcement police were hurt in this lively and troublesome commotion
In 1886 Charles Wilson was in charge of the whole station which then had a rateable value of £45. By 1895 the Police Station and the 3 houses were owned by the County Council. Police officers stationed there were George Taylor, William Lochart and David MacAulay all renting for £5, 4 shillings.
In 1899, Mr. John Braid was a Police constable there, his wife Mary Braid died young on 26th May 1899 at 34 years old at the Police Station. By 1905 Robert Munn was constable, David Richardson the Sub inspector and John Miller another constable paying rent between £12 and £13 per annum.
The Police Station was then allocated the address 105 Glasgow Road, although the address as police premises was short lived, for in 1909, the Glasgow Road Police station was abandoned. Unfit for purpose in those Edwardian Times, with inadequate jail cells, police transferred to a new, larger custom built Police Station at Calder Street at the corner of Victoria Street. Newspapers record the new police station being almost ready on 22nd March 1909.
In this exclusive unpublished photo from 1908, Blantyre Police officers are pictured with other Lanarkshire officers, although the location is not thought to be Blantyre.
The old Low Blantyre Police Station was bought by the Blantyre Co-operative Society following lengthy negotiations and then entirely demolished in summer 1915, during WW1. They bought the land to build their Central Premises. We end this article putting the station into a modern context.
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