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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.
Origins of Priory Street
Priory Street dates from 1936 and runs in a northeast to southwest position linking Glasgow Road to Calder Street. At its junction with Glasgow Road, nearby stands the Stonefield Tavern. With the slum clearance of the mid 1930’s demolishing many of the most northerly homes of Dixon’s Rows, a County Council programme of 92 brand new homes was started on a site known as the ‘Calder Street site.’
Delayed by adverse weather in January 1936, twenty of the homes had been built by that spring, along Glasgow Road and up what would become Priory Street towards the next proposed site at Calder Street. The 1936 map remarkably shows the houses built, empty with no Priory Street yet built until later that year.
The houses are made of brick, roughcast with slated roofs. They are double storey of three, four and five apartments and all them still stand today. At the time of construction, part of the ground was taken over from William Dixon & Co by the County Council who intended building the remaining 72 homes on the rest of the nearby Calder Street site.
The Priory Street council homes were built by local builders, Messrs Andrew Wright and Sons, who also had contracts to build 176 homes at Fallside in Uddingston. Priory Street named after Blantyre’s most ancient ruin, once connected Calder Street to Glasgow Road, but is now a cul de sac, with access to Glasgow Road, now prohibited to vehicles. Postal addresses are odd on the east and evenly numbers on the west.
People may remember popular families like the Slaters at 1 Priory Street, the McGurks at number 3 or the Bevridges at number 11.
This treasured family photo was kindly shared by Duncan Slater and was taken outside 1 Priory Street in 1938. In the photo is Duncan’s mother with her children. Duncan is actually the baby and Sadie, his elder sister. Generations of the same family have lived at Priory Street. It was a busy junction on Glasgow Road during the mid to late 20th Century. Several popular opposing shops and the proximity to the pub and cinema made it a regular place to park.
A large bus stop and layby now blocks off the street at Glasgow Road, next to the Stonefield Tavern. In 1967 as political figures vowed for Blantyre votes, Mrs. Winnifred (Winnie) Ewing of Blantyre SNP campaigned at the corner of Priory Street, and as these wonderful photos show, youth listened!
Winifred Margaret Ewing (b1929) is a Scottish nationalist, lawyer and prominent Scottish National Party (SNP) politician who was a Member of Parliament (Hamilton 1967–70; Moray and Nairn 74–79), Member of the European Parliament (Highlands and Islands 1975–1999) and Member of the Scottish Parliament (Highlands and Islands 1999–2003). Now 88, her by-election victory in 1967 was significant in Scottish political history and began a surge of support for the SNP. She was SNP President from 1987 to 2005.
Wooden Office, Yard & Field
The suggestion that there was a stable or small field opposite the Toll House is an interesting one and needed further investigation. At a time before any elderly recollections and not previously written about, this book explores these old 19th Century group of buildings, which during the 1850’s were the only buildings on the south side of Glasgow Road between Stonefield Farm and Stonefield Road!
The 1859 map does indeed show an enclosure, walled or fenced off, ideal as a paddock for horses at the opposite toll house. A small rectangular building, narrow on plan is shown where the entrance to Priory Street would eventually be, which could well have been for animals.
This was land belonging to John Coats of Blantyreferme. However, by 1898, the field and little building was rented to William Rinn of nearby Hall Street. It was an unimpressive building, made of wood and only had a rent of £1, 6 per annum in 1895. That year it was being used as a wooden office for Blantyre Miners Association. By 1905 it was being rented differently by Archibald Borland, a cattle dealer and it changed use again in 1915 when the building and field was used as an office with yard for William Jamieson, a slater of 38 George Street , Hamilton.
The wooden building was gone by 1920 and the last owners of the field prior to the Council acquiring it, was by Alexander P Smith of Hamilton.
Exclusively researched for the first time is the next building to the west. ‘Coats Buildings’ was a mid to late 19th Century census name for several buildings gathered in the same area on the south of Glasgow Road directly opposite the junction of Station Road.
The small populated centre highlighted is thought to be amongst the oldest known buildings along the whole of the Glasgow to Hamilton Road. They comprised of 8 tenement homes (at the corner of what would become Priory Street), included the Stonefield Tavern building, an adjacent separate 2 storey house and adjoining shop to the west with later additions to the rear.
When first built, they were the only buildings on Glasgow Road between Stonefield Farm and Stonefield Road, sitting in isolation in farmlands. Let’s look at each in turn.
These former three 2 storey stone tenements were located behind the Stonefield Tavern building and had their eastern frontage on to a field (which later became Priory Street). Being so old and demolished for many decades, they’re often forgotten about and largely unknown to people alive today. They occupied a north to south direction in 2 blocks, totaling 8 homes. Built between 1832 and 1859, they were constructed around the same time of the old tollhouse directly opposite. The upper storeys were accessed by steps to the rear and a small gap or lane separated the building from others.
The constructor is unknown but they may have originally been associated with nearby Woodhouse (near the top of Station Road) and used to service travellers at the toll stopping point. A firm history for these tenements however, can thankfully be traced from 1859 onwards, shown on the map of that era, with fields surrounding them in all directions.
Born in 1834, John Coats was the son of local farming parents, John and Elizabeth Coats. John Junior grew up on Blantyreferme (much further to the northwest) on the banks of the River Clyde, often working on the family farm and indeed in the 1861 census was still living and working there, aged 27. Sometime between 1862 and 1864 not long after tolls were abolished, Mr. John Coats Snr acquired the tenements and the other properties beside them either through purchase or inheritance. It is from 1865 or so that we see these buildings collectively being referred to as “Coats Buildings”, something that would continue for half a Century in official documentation.
The tenement houses were primarily let out to labourers and miners, workmen and their families. John Coats Jnr looked to have moved up to Stonefield with brother, Thomas in the early to mid 1860’s looking after their father’s interests but did not live in these tenements, opting instead to stay in a house to the west of the Stonefield Tavern building, also under his ownership.
In 1875, Coat’s Buildings is noted as 10 houses (these 8 houses and 2 explored shortly). That year the tenants were Mr Boyd (a shoemaker), James Bruce, Mrs Henderson, John Virtue, Neil Greenhorn, Matthew Wilson, Robert Anderson and other unnamed tenants rents for less than £4 per year (perhaps several people temporarily in the one house). Thomas Coats died in 1877, his share, unsuccessfully advertised, then passed to John Coats Jnr, his brother in late 1877. ‘Coat’s Buildings’ is in the 1881 Blantyre Street Index.
John Coat Jnr’s ownership of these 8 homes continued until his death in 1890, aged 57 with his trustees continuing to look out for the Coats family interests until just before WW1. Prior to the outbreak of war, the 8 tenement homes were bought by Mrs. Jessie Rae, the proprietrix of the nearby Stonefield Tavern and she would own the tenements for the remainder of their time as homes. Merry & Cunningham (Coalmasters) had bought the mineral rights to dig below this area and by the time of the First World War, these tenements, (before Priory Street), had addresses 225 Glasgow Road, the same address as the nearby public house cellar.
In the 1930’s, the upper storey of Coat’s Tenement Houses was removed, including part of the building to the south. We know the area was mined below so this may have been due to subsidence or perhaps simply due to the deteriorating age. However, a single ground storey was left, notably later that decade facing out on to Priory Street. Sometime after 1950, it was used as a store for the public house.
That single storey, once part of Coats Tenement houses remains today and was recently renovated by Nicola’s Hair Salon in 2017, punching through new doors and windows to create her modern business from that excellent, busy location.
Nicola’s Hair & Beauty Salon
Local lady, Nicola Gordon had a busy springtime during 2017 and as a result, there’s a new business in town. Her unisex hair and beauty salon opened its doors for business on Friday 23rd June at 6 Priory Street, G72 0AY in the lower remaining floor of Coat’s tenements. (which prior to the 1930s had address 225 Glasgow Road). The small property behind the Stonefield Tavern underwent a complete renovation, most notably with a new entrance and window installed near the junction of Glasgow Road.
When writing this book, Nicola commented upon opening, “I’m excited to open up a new salon in a great location in Blantyre. All the locals have been so friendly and helpful. Can’t wait to see what the future holds, thanks so much x”. This is a busy, popular location and it’s fantastic to see these storage premises suddenly become a visible, viable, public business and being put to proper use again. Wishing Nicola and staff all the very best for the future.
The Stonefield Tavern is one of Blantyre’s best known pubs. Situated in a prime location on the south side of Glasgow Road, directly opposite the junction of Station Road, it has good frontage opening directly out on to the pavement and remains popular to this day.
It may surprise you however, to learn that as an official ‘public house’, its late Victorian roots are relatively ‘recent’, from a similar era to the likes of the Westend Bar, Blakely’s Pub and Auchinraith Vaults, although of course nowhere near as old as the early Georgian era Blantyre pubs that still exist like the Hoolets or Village Bar. As a property with a slightly different use though, we can go back before Victorian times.
The building is noted on Forests 1816 map and was likely constructed around that time as part of the gathering of buildings around the old tollhouse, purposely built and sited to service passing travellers. Perhaps used first as an inn or place to rest. The proximity to a small paddock field made the building an ideal changing house. (A changing house was a place to rest, to feed and change horses, a place for the traveller to stay overnight, get something to eat and drink). The changing house was tied to an adjacent 2 storey house and shop further to the west and following 1832, also to 8 tenement homes immediately to the south behind it.
Built of stone, the changing house was 2 storey with a slated roof. It had 3 upper windows and was entered from Glasgow Road. The upper storey was accessed via 2 sets of steps at the rear yard. The lack of any ‘P.H’ marking on the 1859 map is telling that it was not recognised as a public house yet at that time.
Between 1862 and 1864, Mr. John Coats of Blantyreferme, then in his late 20’s started managing the changing house for his father, the 8 tenements behind it and the house and shop to the west of it. For near 30 years, the business became part of several buildings known as “Coats Buildings”. John was a farmer’s son but by 1875, he is noted as being a spirit dealer. His younger sister, Elizabeth Coats (b1837 Blantyreferme) ran the changing house and is noted in census of that decade as being a hotelier or innkeeper.
It appears at some point in the 1870’s, the name “Stonefield Tavern” was established, (most likely in 1877 when John Coats Jnr fully acquired the building from his brother Thomas who had died) and we first see the building being recognised properly as a Public House, a place for the general public to wander in for ale. This coincides with several other pubs being constructed along Glasgow Road. The dates also coincide with the construction of nearby Dixon’s Rows. The tavern was just a stone throw from those miner’s ‘raws’. As the hamlet of Stonefield expanded rapidly in the 1870’s and 1880’s, its likely many a weary miner called into the tavern for a pint. It had and still has a long association with Tennents Caledonian Brewery (Wellpark) in Glasgow.
In the 1881 census, at 47 years old John Coats is still a single man, noted as a spirit merchant living in the adjacent house. His business may have initially drastically suffered when so many miners from the adjacent streets behind the pub were killed in the Pit Explosion of 1877, something like all in Blantyre, he would have been sympathetic to. In 1885, beside the tavern was an empty shop owned also by John Coats. Blantyre’s population was rising sharply and business at the Tavern would have been steady enough, although so many other pubs nearby was soon to have an impact.
Change in ownership
In 1890, John Coats died and with no children, his bankrupted estate in 1891 was subsequently nursed and repaired up until WW1 by his trustees. Following his death, Mr. Thomas Rae a spirit merchant of McGhie Street, Hamilton rented the tavern, which in 1895 he did for £36/year. Thomas also ran the ‘Old House’ in Rutherglen. Born in 1862 in East Kilbride, his father had owned the Torrance Hotel. After eventually selling this inheritance, Thomas bought the County Hotel in Cadzow Street, Hamilton. His business interests were consolidated in 1895, when as a partnership with Mr James Craig (his sister’s husband) they took over J&A Yuill in Broomielaw, Glasgow. He was a successful man owning many homes in the surrounding District and shareholder of multiple businesses including Hamilton Aerated Water Company. Thomas kept Mastiff dogs at the tavern to assist security.
By 1905, his wife Jane Rae rented the Stonefield Tavern as landlady. She came from the Craig family (spirit merchants in Blantyre who owned the West End and newly built Old Original Bar). Jane was also a spirit dealer living at Hamilton and would have been delighted to catch a tram car each morning taking her directly from her home to the exact location at a tram stop outside the public house in Blantyre. This short commute would have seemed very modern in those times. Renting the pub from John Coats Trustees, she also was renting a store for the pub in the nearby Co-op buildings not far to the west. Employed in 1905, was barman Frederick Pirie who lived nearby at Coats Tenements. He later kept chickens and sold eggs as a WW1 sideline. Another barman, Malcolm Mitchell was from nearby Annfield Terrace.
Burglary at Stonefield Tavern
Just over 110 years ago, John Davidson, a miner living at adjacent Coats Tenements and Daniel McGuire, miner, of nearby Dixon’s Rows were charged at Hamilton Sheriff Court with attempting to break into the Stonefield Tavern on Tuesday morning of the 6th August 1907. Evidence showed that the masonry of the window sill had been smashed with a causey-set, a stanchion torn away and glass broken. The accused were disturbed and ran away without entering the premises. Sheriff Thomson sent each of the accused to prison for 60 days. This would have been highly embarrassing for the families of these young adults, living so close by to the scene of their crime.
Post WW1 Years
By 1915, postal addresses had been allocated to Glasgow Road and Stonefield Taverns’ cellar was 225 Glasgow Road, with the Tavern known as 227-229 Glasgow Road, something still maintained today. By that year, the pub and 8 tenement houses behind it had been bought outright by the Rae family.
Mrs. Jessie Rae, a spirit dealer from Hamilton owned and managed the pub right up until WW2 one of the longest serving owners, far surpassing Thomas or Jane Rae. As proprietrix, she kept a watchful eye over her bar staff and ran a ‘tight ship’. The pub was also known shortly after locally as Fred Rae’s.
Sometime in the 1960’s, the upper storey was boarded up and used for storage. People may remember the large advertising billboard that adorned the gable end. In the second half of the 20th Century other owners and landlords included Teddy McGuiness in the 1960’s, which gave the pub its familiar nickname “Teddies”. During the 1970’s May Maxwell was landlady, her parents Sammy and Maimie Maxwell managing the business before her. Other landlords and ladies included couple, Ivor and Josephine. Jim Queen was another owner and Katie Ferry managing.
In post Millennium years, the Tavern was owned by ‘Punch Taverns’, but closed in 2007. In 2008, a Blantyre man teamed up with former Rangers and Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram to buy the pub. James ‘Stan’ Gordon (44), has a strong connection with the Ibrox club, and intended to create a Rangers theme for the popular Glasgow Road hostelry, which he opened with a weekend of celebrations on 4th and 5th of October 2008. Stan enlisted the help of best friend John ‘Bomber’ Brown, the former Rangers player, and initially hoped to get other Rangers stars, such as Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant, involved.
Stan told reporters at the time, “John Brown is my best pal so through him I know most of the Rangers players, and got friendly with Andy Goram. Andy and his missus, and me and my girlfriend, regularly meet up, and we got talking about going in for something like this. I’m a Blantyre man and I was a regular at the Stonefield Tavern but it’s been closed for about seven months, so we spoke to Punch Taverns and agreed a deal for the lease.” Goram, a part-time coach with First Division club Clyde at that time, where Brown was manager, was expected to spend more time in the bar than Stan, who intended to continue in his offshore job.
Stan said: “Andy’s part-time at Broadwood so he has more time than me, but he’s also more experienced at running a bar. Even with that, we’re going to get people round about us who know exactly what they’re doing, and we’ll appoint a bar manager. Our object is to make money from the bar but we’re not looking for millions. We’re hoping to get after-dinner nights going, with people like John Brown, and nights for ex-players. We want to make it a Rangers theme bar and get players to come down quite regularly, so that if people go to the Stonefield Tavern there’s a good chance of meeting them. Everything’s looking good at the moment.”
The pub is currently managed by company “Teddies Two Ltd” and still has strong connections to Rangers even now in 2017 following a troublesome few years for the football club. Many regulars are loyal supporters. There are regular karaoke evenings, quiz nights, a darts team and charity evenings like race nights. Ex Rangers players visit often, especially on charity nights. The pub has a friendly, pleasant atmosphere and the days of brawls, seem to be long gone. Staff are polite and attentive. Despite the sign outside saying Stonefield Tavern, it is known primarily today for its former owner and Rangers nickname, ‘Teddies’. The name spelling with “ies” rather than “y” as confirmed by the business social media website.
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