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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.
The Masonic Buildings
In 1904, Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 abandoned their small hall at the north east corner of Forrest Street and Glasgow Road junction after 27 years and looked to the future in building a new hall fitting for the 20th Century. Their old hall later became a pub called “The Livingstonian.”
Their search took them to the opposite south side of Glasgow Road, further along in a more central location and a prime plot of land was found situated on vacant ground. Following a false recollection by an old timer online, others have incorrectly copied and published that the building ‘was constructed in 3 stages’, but that’s certainly wrong. It was built all at once, in one stage, situated firmly between 2 existing buildings, i.e. Burleigh’s Hall and rooms at Church Street corner and the opposing building at Logan Street corner owned by the late James McHutchison, (which later housed the Priory Bar.)
During researching this book, it was discovered that John Roberts, an adjacent spirit merchant renting the public house at the corner of Logan Street, bought the corner property from the Trustees of James McHutchison in 1904. He then extended his owned Bar by building 2 shops and 2 houses eastwards up against the new Masonic Hall. John Roberts and the Masonic built their new buildings at the same time in 1904, filling up the gap between 2 older, existing buildings, completing the block, directly across from John Street.
The design being selected and all the trades lined up, work began early in 1904. It is possible the nearby Roberts family of joiners were involved in the timber work for this construction, their relative being John Roberts, perhaps assisted by William Adam, also a joiner and prominent member of the lodge.
By Saturday 21st May 1904, the foundation stone of the new Masonic Hall was ceremonially placed in position.
The hall was of impressive design. Whilst some of the building consisted of more traditional 2 storey tenements with shops on the lower floor, the hall was located on the upper floor and had a pitched, impressive frontage, similar to classic Greek designs. Constructed of stone with slate roof the building had 4 windows above the shops on the east and 3 large, tall stained glass windows above 2 further shops to the east. A flagpole was erected above the pitched roof. The building would have address 143 – 149 Glasgow Road although later Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 would acquire the Robert’s extension and eventually would own 143-155 Glasgow Road.
A year after trams opened, the placing of the first foundation in 1904 was by far the largest ever Masonic occasion in Blantyre. Amid great pomp and ceremony Bro Colonel R. King Stewart, Provincial Grand Master of the Middle Ward laid the stone in the traditional manner. The public and visitors assembled at Low Blantyre Public School, Glasgow Road, almost every town in the area was represented, Coatbridge, Holytown, Carluke Larkhall, 3 Lodges from Hamilton, the Major Ness Lodge from Burnbank, there were Lodges from Glasgow, Bathgate, Strathaven and others.
There were between 300 and 400 assembled in marching formation, and encouraged along by the Cameronian Pipe Band, the Blantyre Silver Band, and the Palace Colliery Band, they made their way to the old Masonic Hall at Forrest Street where a meeting had been going on, the office bearers from this meeting then joined the procession and they went their way up Herbertson Street, right into Auchinraith Road, up to High Blantyre Main Street and down Broompark Road into Stonefield, where they halted at the bottom, at a point known as Priory Place not far from their new hall. This was to allow the Provincial Grand Lodge Brethren to take the point in the march and lead them the rest of the way to the New Hall in Glasgow Road. With these members all wearing full regalia and the stirring music of the bands. The thousands of spectators were not disappointed and it was great spectacle.
On arrival at the new premises on Glasgow Road, the dignitaries took to the platform erected for the day’s proceedings. Already on the platform was the Stonefield Musical Association led by Brother W. Steven, and when silence was called for, the choir led in singing “God Save the King.” R.W.M. Nimmo then called on Bro. King Stewart to lay the foundation stone. For this endeavour he was presented with a silver trowel by Bro. W. Kerr, and a mallet by Bro. William Adam.
What followed was a very intricate Masonic ritual, but before the stone was finally lowered into place, a sort of time capsule was put in place. A jar or “bottle” as it was called containing newspapers of the day and other documents was meant to be sealed in the cavity behind the stone bar but by some strange omission the usual coins of the realm had been neglected. Major Ness, a prominent Blantyre figure, teacher and member of the Lodge came to the rescue and immediately offered a commemorative set of coins presented to him during the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, a great sacrifice as the coins were of value and could not be replaced. It is not known if the jar containing them was ever recovered when the old hall was demolished.
The rest of the day witnessed many speeches, anthems, prayers and Masonic ceremony. Because of all the symbolism connected with craft, this was a much more important day in the calendar of Lodge Livingstone 599 than the day when they entered their new premises for their first meeting almost a year after building began.
Costing about £2,400, the P.G.M. Colonel King Stewart consecrated the new hall on Friday 3rd February 1905. He was assisted that day by Brothers W. T. Hay, Master-Depute and Colonel Peter Spence, Substitute-Master, as well as other office-bearers of the Provincial Grand Lodge.
One of the prominent features of this new chamber was a window portrait of Dr. David Livingstone, who’s virtuous life was extolled by Colonel King Stewart at the laying of the foundation stone. That day the Colonel had said, “I don’t know if Dr Livingstone was a Mason, but this I do know, he followed out in his life what every Mason ought to do. His life was a noble example for us to follow, and we ought all to endeavour act up to his principal of doing good to our fellow men.”
Early Shops and Masonic Life
In 1905 the hall was managed by Robert Proudfoot who lived in the Gate Cottage on Station Road near the Blantyre Village Works. The first ever shop the largest in this building at 143 Glasgow Road was occupied by James Miller a bootmaker, of no relation to the Millar family who would own shops further west in later times. Then, to the west was the large wooden door, an entrance to the upper hall and rooms. The 2 shops at 147 and 149 Glasgow Road under the hall were James Greenhorn butchers and Gorden G Grieg Printers & Stationers, renting for £18 per annum.
This incredible photo from 1905 shows these opening businesses. On the right is James Houson grocers within John Roberts Building. In 1909 the following people held these positions. R.W.M., Bro. John B. Stewart; I.P.M. Bro. Thomas Watson; D.M., Bro, Alex. Reid; S.W., Bro. James Morris; J.W. Bro. John Donaldson; Secy., Bro. John Beecroft, 7 Auchenraith Colliery, High Blantyre; Treas., Bro. Donald Macleay, P.M. All Lodge meetings were held in Freemasons’ Hall. Regular meetings on 4th Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. Monthly meetings of the Hall Committee were held on 3rd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
This hall was also used by the women’s guild throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Mrs Lamond was the patron of the guild, the hall being used for the meetings and parties. The hall had address 145 Glasgow Road.
Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 was renting out to entirely different shops during WW1. By 1915, James Miller had moved away, perhaps unable to compete with the nearby Co-op boot shop. Instead, at 143 was William Baxter & Son a fruiterer. At 145 the hall was being managed by Daniel J Sprott of 4 Jackson Street. 147 Glasgow Road with its gas lamp outside was no longer James Greenhorn butchers, but was still a butchers. In 1915, it was run by Gilbert Harper who would operate his business until his death in 1922. (his son would go on to establish Harper’s Garage in 1934 slightly to the west.) 149 still had the same use as a printers, but was by then run by Hugh Graham, who passed away in 1937.
By 1920, with the competition of public transport, William Baxter’s family would go on to run a bus company from their home at Church Street. Moving into 143 Glasgow Road was John Bowie, Fruiterer, renting for £23 per annum. John was a distant relative of the writer of this book. This address would go on to have a long tradition of being a family fruit and vegetable shop and florist.
Between 1921 and 1925, perhaps wishing to downsize, John Roberts sold his 2 shops and 2 houses above on Glasgow Road to the Masonic Lodge. The lodge would continue to rent out the shops and now owned addresses 143 to 155 Glasgow Road. In 1925, the Masonic properties were John Bowie fruiterer at 143, the hall at 145, Archibald Whittle butchers at 147 and Hugh Graham Printers at 149 under the hall. At 151 was the Commercial Bank with 2 homes above at 153 and James Mathieson Jewelers at the end at 155, next to Roberts Priory Bar. James lived above the shop.
On Saturday 5th February 1927, the Masonic Lodge celebrated their Jubilee (50 years) anniversary. Thomas Richardson RWM presided. The Provisional Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire was received. Bro Sir Robert King Stewart, the PRWGM, complimented the office bearers and brethren of Lodge Livingstone on their great success since their conception. 250 people attended and long service medals were given to T. Geddes and Alex Livingstone, member of the Lodge for 40 years. Z. Nimmo, A Russell and Alex Reid were also given long service medals.
In 1930, shops had changed slightly again with Mrs Marion Young’s fruit shop at 143 and Matthew Lennox a watchmaker at 155. Archibald Whittle was still at the butchers under the hall, now occupying both shops, one of which contained butchery machinery. 151 Glasgow Road was the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
In post WW2 years, the correct order of the shops is noted as Bowie’s at 143 Glasgow Road, who would come back to occupy the fruit shop. During the 1970’s people may remember the shop as Tandem Shoe Shop. The hall at 145 Glasgow Road and the butchers at 147 and 149 would become James Aitkenhead butchers then during the 1960’s, taken over by Davidson’s Butchers, a family who lived at Broompark Road in High Blantyre. The Commercial Bank at 151 became the Scottish Clydesdale Bank, which would later move further west along Glasgow Road.
The Masonic halls were subjected to compulsory purchase in 1977 and scheduled for demolition the following year, delayed slightly by politics.
Before the demolition the beautiful stained glass mosaic windows, which featured Livingstone and Major Ness were carefully removed and at great expense to the lodge were renovated to restore their beautiful colours.
Each window features opaque glass of many colours. Red, browns, yellow, greens and blues. Amongst the masonic icons were images of Major Ness and Dr David Livingstone. Some are long and tall and have more than a hint of early art-deco about them. They were then moved to the new Lodge at the bottom of Elm Street, a modern brick building far less impressive than the former Hall. Their time there from 1977 was to be short lived until the hall was sold in 1988 to make it into a restaurant and bar named ‘Cobblers’. The windows were again carefully removed and followed the lodge to their next premises at the Masonic Hall at High Blantyre, alongside Lodge 557.
The windows are currently in storage in the basement of the hall. Speaking of the windows, Bill Andrew, a member of this lodge added, “They were always considered one of the most beautiful temples in the area if not Scotland because of this. The Glasgow Road building had a special aura when you walked and you truly felt the history in the building (at least I did) and a big part of this was the windows.”
Pictured in late 1978 is the demolition of the Masonic Halls commencing with the Priory Bar at the far eastern end, directly across from the former Post Office. It was a final, brutal end to these iconic buildings. Demolition had been scheduled earlier than this, but was delayed by final planning objections, ironed out in Autumn 1978.
Today, on this ground between Church Street and Logan Street is a small patch of woodland, which has been rather fast growing in the last couple of decades. The land is currently vacant.
Priory Place & The Priory Bar
Priory Place was a former 19th and 20th Century building situated at the eastern corner of Glasgow Road and Logan Street junction. It comprised primarily of a popular public house (named the Priory Bar) but also had homes and shops.
Naming the Building
Constructed by joiner James Walker around 1889 into 1890, the 2 storey stone corner tenement had frontage on both Glasgow Road and the dead end street that would later open up and become Logan Street. Mining was at the forefront of Blantyre Industry by this time and the name ‘Priory’ being attached to this building likely signified a nod to the Priory ruin or recent colliery, both with strong connections to Blantyre. Or simply, it may have been just a popular, liked name. Constructed on behalf of owner James McHutchison, the building was to predominantly house a bar, shops and houses. His public house was to be “The Priory Bar” a constant and consistent name which would exist until the demolition of the buildings, regardless of their ownership.
James constructed the Public House facing out on to Glasgow Road which had 5 upper windows on that side and 4 large plate glass windows. At the side and immediately adjacent was a house, separated into 4 small homes. The whole block was to be named “Priory Place” and would become well known in Blantyre.
Remote owner, Mr. James McHutchison was a merchant of Bothwell Parish. Born in Clarkson in 1842, he was a licensed grocer. During the 1890’s, he lived at Cookshill Place, Bothwell with his wife Bessie, a Bothwell woman, who was 10 years his junior. A successful man, employer of others, his home had 6 windows in it, suggesting a modest size by comparison to the neighbours. It is not thought he had children. Perhaps seeing this a rental investment, his ownership of Priory Place was however, incredibly short lived.
James died in 1891, aged only 49 and as a public house owner, it may be easy to make a connection as to what he died from.
Priory Place passed in 1891 to the Trustees of James McHutchison, to be held in trust. This looks to have prompted a change in occupation of the buildings. In 1895, Mr. George Robertson was occupying a small house at the Logan Street side of Priory Place as well as a stable for £11/year. George was a fruiterer and ran his small, rented shop on the lower floor, not far from the Logan Street entrance. Above the pub lived John Roberts, the son of William Roberts who ran the ‘Volunteer Arms’ pub further along Glasgow Road.
John Roberts took over as occupier of the pub in 1891 renting the public house for £55 / year from the Trustees of James McHutchison. During this time, Priory Place was separated from more easterly Abbeygreen Hall & Rooms by a large space of vacant land.
Mr. John Roberts was born in Paisley in 3rd December 1849 and had rather an interesting life worth sharing here.
He was baptized on 30th December 1849 at Middle Church, in Paisley. In the early 1860’s his family moved to Blantyre. He was the 3rd child to father William, a police officer and mother Mary. John had 5 brothers and sisters. He was a middle child and grew up to become a plumber with a Bothwell company. When he was only 16 (about 1865) he joined the Blantyre Rifle Volunteers. He was allegedly one of the best shots and represented the Battalion on more than one occasion at Wimbledon (the biggest event in the calendar). He was also at the famous 1881 ‘Wet Review’ that Major Ness was so proud to be a part of in Edinburgh before the Queen. In 1871, the census records them as living at “number 6” in Blantyre, and although doesn’t say where, it is known that they were at newly built Causewayshot westwards on Glasgow Road by 1881. In 1885, John Roberts lived at the Avon Buildings, an area of Glasgow Road that many of the Roberts family would not stray far from.
Working as a Plumber and living at Walker’s Buildings in 1891, John changed profession that year to become a spirit merchant at Glasgow Road. His brother William, had by then started his own building company nearby.
John went on to become a member of the old School Board, and may be featured in some old Blantyre photos of curlers and the bowlers as he was keen on both. In his latter part of life from 1905, he had been the outright owner of the corner buildings at Logan Street and proprietor of the Priory, before he died aged 83 in 1932 in a nursing home in Glasgow.
The Priory Bar and Shops of Priory Place
In September 1899, John Roberts successfully appealed against the County Council raising his rates from £55 to £120, managing to agree upon £100/year. The Priory Bar was clearly successful, for by 1904, John Roberts had the funds sufficient to buy Priory Place from the Trustees of James McHutchison. Perhaps motivated by the Masonic Lodge building their impressive building to the east, John set about to construct an extension to Priory Place on Glasgow Road, building out fro the pub eastwards. This was done at the same time as the Masonic Buildings were constructed and by 1905, there were no gaps in buildings between Church Street to Logan Street. The 1905 valuation roll shows just 1 home occupied by John Roberts, which he had extended above the pub with attic rooms. Owner and occupier of the Priory Bar, his new extension was to be let out to James Houston grocers and in 1905, the other shop he had built was still empty, as were the two homes above them, perhaps still to be finished.
John Roberts was well known and much respected. In 1914 he sponsored the Blantyre Silver Band on several outings, the band using a field nearby to practice. During the 1910’s, as treasurer of the Blantyre, Cambuslang & Rutherglen Ploughing Society, John let this organisaiton use his building for their annual meetings. James Pettigrew of Malcolmwood Farm presided.
By the start of WW1, Priory Place extension had address 151, 153 and 155 Glasgow Road. John Robert’s Priory Bar had address 157 and 159 Glasgow Road and 1 Logan Street. John’s home above was 3 Logan Street. He was letting out 151 to the Bank managed by William McGruther, 153 as 2 upper flats and 155 to James Mathieson. These properties (the extension) would be bought completely from John, by the Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599 in 1922, explored earlier in the book.
The bar looks to have struggled for suitable staff during war years with several advertisements asking for qualified assistance. Its central location on Glasgow Road made it easily accessible and successful, often frequented by miners and likely more frowned upon by some of the adjacent Masons who were accustomed to non drinking and self prohibition.
The Priory Bar located entirely on the ground floor was of modest size by comparison to other larger bars in Blantyre. The private rooms at the back used for meetings and later small parties, meant the bar was located in the front room only. A horseshoe shaped public bar, with plenty of space for bar staff to work meant initially little space for punters to stand, although the layout of this changed during the 20th Century. The private room had a window that slid on a small metal rail, allowing people in the room to be passed drinks directly from the bar or indeed to directly order more. In time a lounge bar, separated from the main bar could be entered from Logan Street. Located beside this in George Robertson’s former grocery shop was later in the mid to late 20th Century, a bookmakers. Prior to that, direct offsales were offered from time to time as licenses changed.
Like butchers shops and other pubs, sawdust was put on the floor to assist cleaning and soak up any spillages, although truth be told, it is said this was purely to do with the uncouth habit of men spitting tobacco and spitting in general. The sawdust was cheap and readily available and changed often.
Shortly before this photo was taken, John Roberts passed away in 1932. He would miss the extension and building of council homes nearby at Logan Street, something which would only bolster the fortunes of the Bar.
Upon his death, William Black was the next manager of Priory Place for Helen Roberts (w), but only for a short time. In March 1935, upon returning home from Motherwell one evening, William was found dead in his chair at Priory Place, aged 57. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage.
The pub was then taken over by John Murray of Rutherglen. Brewers such as Youngers, Tenants and Scottish & Newcastle were later involved with the Pub and the building remained in private ownership. From 1966 until 1972 Jimmy and Mina McInally managed the Priory Bar, then Mina herself for 2 further years when Jimmy died in 1972.
During the 1970’s Davie & Jean Tallis ran the pub, before passing that mantle over to relatives.
In 1974, Ben and Mary Meechan (a relation to the Tallis family) were the last landlords until Priory Place was bought by compulsory purchase order in 1977, then was demolished in late 1978, ahead of the nearby adjacent Masonic Buildings.
The Priory Bar was popular and appreciated by many for the great evenings had in there with friends and family, singing songs until late, its sports team, including darts and bowls.
The Priory Bar still is fondly remembered by many.
St John’s Wood & Episcopal Church
During the 1930’s, situated between Logan Street moving east was a small wooded area, which ran through to Church Street. The wood ran alongside the drill hall, what we know now as “Terminal One” Youth building. The name “St John’s Wood” was common to the 1930’s and 1940’s era and was less used post WW2, and unknown why St John’s name was chosen.
In the corner of the woodland on the Logan Street side between Priory place and the Drill Hall was a small hut with some seats and a stove that various clubs from around Blantyre used as a meeting hall. In the 1920’s this small wooden hut was officially the Episcopal Church. However, it changed use by 1930 used more by local community groups.
In later decades, it was used as the Racing Pigeon hall adjacent to Priory Place, which was next to the Priory Bar Lounge i.e. beyond large green doors where the beer was delivered. Next to the small hall, the local Doocot. Owners would spend a lot of time looking at the sky to see the birds coming home and then try to get them to land to get the ring off their leg, putting it into their time clock. There are still people with old pigeon lofts in their back gardens at Logan Street although this little hut is long gone.
This land is currently vacant although a ‘for sale’ sign has been erected 2017. It’s in a prime, central spot for development and we predict confidently that it will be put to use again. If not and with trees already sprouting again, perhaps alternatively, it will see a return of the name, “St John’s Wood”. Photo pictured from the Church Street side in 2016.
Ready to move on? Lets Look at Logan Street to Victoria Street…..
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