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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
Coats House & Bake-house
Sometime between 1832 and 1859, a 2-storey house was constructed westwards and adjacent to the changing house (later Stonefield Tavern). L-shaped on plan, it was distinctive in its appearance from other early buildings at this location for the stonework was whitewashed and with no pavement outside it, painting would have been something required often due to the mire and dirt on the 19th Century Glasgow Road.
Of slightly lower height than the Stonefield Tavern, it was tied to the adjacent building and had a small shop to the west. To the rear was a yard with a well, fenced off from the surrounding expansive fields of Stonefield to the south.
Between 1862 and 1864 John Coats acquired the building and it is known his brother Thomas and sister Elizabeth Coats lived in this house along with him. The siblings, who grew up on Blantyreferme would be involved with the early formation of Stonefield Tavern as a proper public house and living at this location next door would have been ideal. Dixon’s Rows would then be built behind the property, further back to the south.
Coat’s House was occupied by John Coats in 1881 and that year he was only sharing with Archibald Boreland, a cattle dealer utilising a nearby field belonging to Coats. Boreland would live and work there for around 3 decades building a large, wooden cattle shed to the rear of the house. He was initially a carter and rented the house for £15 per year. The shed was there in 1910 but demolished by the 1920’s.
In the 1870’s Coat’s shop was situated at Glasgow Road, directly opposite the track and junction that was to become Station Road.
Adjacent to his house, the shop that decade was occupied by Mr. M.C Young and used as a grocers. However, on 17th February 1882, John Coats advertised in the Glasgow Herald for a new tenant for the shop. This was responded to by the newly established Blantyre Stonefield Independent Co-operative Society in 1884, who wished to run their first bake-house.
By 1885, a kiln for the Co-op bake-house was situated in the rear yard and the shop, formed a frontage for selling the Co-op bakery products to passers-by, one of the very first Co-op shops in Blantyre. This arrangement would continue only for a few years for the Co-op expanded rapidly and soon had a bakery and bake-house on their own land with no requirement to rent or use these premises.
Owner, John Coats died aged 57 on 28th September 1890 his affairs in a poor state. This little shop, would however, continue as a bake-house for others although the shop and bake-house was reduced in size to make way for the building of the large, tall Co-op premises further west. The little shop was left a ruin by the 1910’s when Mrs. Jessie Rae took ownership of all of the former Coat’s buildings, including the adjacent Tavern.
Prior to WW1, this created a property gap on Glasgow Road between Coats whitewashed house and the Co-op’s 3 storey dedicated taller building to the west. The gap was a prime spot for billboards being erected, offering good advertising space and is seen in the following excellent photo.
Coats whitewashed House was completely demolished in the late 1920’s, along with the ruinous shop, which had existing for 7 or 8 decades. The entire site between the Stonefield Tavern and the Co-op Building was cleared and leveled by 1936, perhaps as a general tidy up of the area upon the building of Priory Street nearby. This site would not be built upon again until the 1950’s when the Co-op expanded by building their popular ‘Emporium’.
After being vacant for over 2 decades, the space between Stonefield Tavern and the Co-op tall building was built upon again when the Blantyre Co-operative Society expanded their existing premises to the immediate west.
By 1954, the Co-op had acquired the vacant ground formerly the site of John Coats house and bake-house and their plan was to extend their Co-op building adjacent. It was to be a modern, brick and timber constructed building which would become known as the ‘Co-op Emporium’. The modern facade incorporated 9 distinctive circular porthole type windows, a unique feature unlike anything in Blantyre. The upper storey had mainly glass windows, which in subsequent years would be boarded up.
When it opened in 1954, crowds of people flocked to see the new building and a small ceremony was conducted by Daniel Morrison, the manager of the nearby Co-op. The event coincided with the formal end of remaining rationed items and the timing close to a few other co-op shops becoming self service, or more like modern supermarkets.
In the following picture, Daniel addresses the crowd upon opening. Others have incorrectly suggested this was Gordon Jackson, the famous actor at the ceremony. It was definitely not, although he does have resemblance.
The photos show the timber roof trusses being constructed in 1954 on Glasgow Road, from the nearby vantage point of Station Road. Gordon Cook who kindly shared this photo added it may even have been on his first visit to David Livingstone Centre.
The Co-op Emporium was very much part of the series of Co-op Buildings in this location. It could also be accessed from the adjacent Co-op funeral parlour. It was to serve Blantyre well. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, it sold furniture, ornaments and haberdashery, ladies, men and children’s clothing and was the place to go to get school uniforms. By the early 1970’s the upstairs sold vinyl records, radios and radiograms. The address was 227 Glasgow Road, even although the Tavern next door is 225-229.
Upstairs also had a payment desk where people could pay for their hire purchase goods or spend their collected “divi”. The idea of co-operative trading revolutionised retailing with the dividend, often known as “divi”, and the “divi number” became a part of British life. Many Blantyre residents remember their divi number, some still using it for modern banking pin codes. The way in which co-operative retail societies run on behalf of their members sets them apart from their modern-day competitors. The dividend was and still is a financial reward to members based on each member’s level of trade with the society. The distribution of profits on the basis of turnover rather than capital invested is a fundamental difference between a co-operative and most private sector enterprises. Co-op points cards currently today pay a 4% divided.
By the late 1970’s, the Emporium like many of Glasgow Road’s buildings was boarded up in 1980 and was still vacant in 1981, until shortly after when the Clydesdale Bank moved in.
By 1981, the Emporium was lying vacant and derelict, awaiting another use. It attracted the interest of the Clydesdale Bank in the early 1980’s, who were to move from their location further westwards to this more modern building. For nearly 4 decades, the Clydesdale Bank became a well-known feature in Blantyre at this location directly across from Glasgow Road.
The Clydesdale Bank is known to have been in Blantyre since 1879. By 1909, it was one of two banks in Blantyre. In 1930, according to the valuation roll, the Commercial & Clydesdale Bank was leasing the lower floor of 301 Main Street within the Gardiner Place building at High Blantyre. It was renting from John Allan McKillop. During the 1950’s and 1960s, if a woman worker got pregnant, she had to leave the banks employment for good. At that time also, it was a branch of the British Linen Bank, changing to the Clydesdale Bank as we know it today around 1969/70
In 1986, Ernest Barrie was convicted for armed robbery at Blantyre’s Clydesdale Bank. The bank was robbed again by others around the Millennium.
Rather than dwell on that, let’s note importantly that it was a good source of employment for many people in the local area over the years and a vital service for all customers. In the latter 20th Century, it was largely a choice between Clydesdale and RBOS for banking in the town.
On Wednesday 13th April 2016, Clydesdale Bank issued a statement advising that their Blantyre branch would close between July and September 2016, along with 8 other Scottish branches, stating it was necessary due to changes in the way people bank and the popularity of online banking. Needless to say many customers were angry and disappointed. It meant having to bank elsewhere or being forced to learn how to bank online.
The bank actually closed for the last time on Glasgow Road on Tuesday 23rd August 2016, the signs removed and fittings stripped out on Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th August 2016, immediately after. It sat derelict for a few months before an announcement that Glen Travel were to relocate from Clydeview Shopping Centre.
Throughout all of 2017, Glen Travel have been renovating the former Co-op Emporium / Clydesdale Bank. The large vaults inside have been removed, the ATM is away and the travel agents will soon have impressive frontage on to Glasgow Road in a prime advertising spot. As of October 2017, their latest update on progress is a view to opening at the end of the year.
Stonefield Independent Co-op Buildings
To the immediate west and joined to the Co-op Emporium were 2 separate Co-op buildings. A 3 storey tall tenement and a 2 storey tenement further west, the original Co-op older building. Lets look at each in order of their addresses, starting at 235-239 Glasgow Road, the 3 storey tenement.
These buildings were owned by the Stonefield Independent Co-operative Society, a separate company and different from the Blantyre Co-operative Society who owned other Co-op buildings in Blantyre. The two should not be confused, especially looking at these early beginnings, as is often the case.
The Stonefield Independent Co-operative Society (SICS) was formed in 1884 when they first opened their bake-house nearby. It served as an alternative (but similar) to the larger Blantyre Co-operative Society, who had opened a year before them at Station Road.
In 1891, the SICS built their own 2 storey premises to the west of this location, which we’ll explore shortly. Their success meant expansion was required and in 1907, the SICS acquired land to build a larger, more impressive building facing out on to Glasgow Road not far from the junction of Station Road. Constructed of stone with slate roofs, the building was well built and remains standing today, shops on the lower ground floor, homes above. In later years the gable would be reinforced in brick.
Remember, the 3 storey building was an ‘expansion’ of the original adjoining to the west. The building is symmetrical and upper homes have bay windows. Large stone chimneys still stand, unusual for remaining Glasgow Road tenements. On the upper storey, the crest of the Stonefield Independent Co-op and dating stone can be seen near the top gutter.
The original shops were the Co-op Bread shop and Drapery at 233 Glasgow Road. These included an office, 2 homes above and a stable at the rear as shown on our 1910 map. Horses were used to pull several delivery carts, the vehicles themselves stored in the outbuildings at the back of the original co-op next door.
235 Glasgow Road had 4 houses with ground at the back and at 237, a further 5 houses. The Co-op would advertise often for staff and workers and in 1916, a Co-op baker was getting paid 44 shillings with a 1 shilling bonus/wk. The configuration of these shops remained like this right through until post WW2 years although the stable had gone by 1930’s as mechanized vehicles became the norm.
In 1925 the SICS acquired the Bethany Hall across the road on the north side at 266 Glasgow Road. This was to be their hall for dances and parties, but the trade depression of the 1920’s and difficult trading conditions saw them sell it in 1931 when it became the unemployment exchange. Selling assets was a sign that things were not well and competition with the larger, more successful Blantyre Co-operative Society was having an effect.
By 1929, Thomas McCool was Secretary of the Stonefield Independent Co-operative Society and he had a few tough years ahead of him steering the business into trying to be more successful, to no avail.
After 48 years of operating, and much deliberation, on the evening of Saturday 30th April 1932, the Stonefield Independent Co-op Society ceased trading independently and merged with the larger Blantyre Co-operative Society. The properties and shops owned by SICS were valued at £11,000 and incredibly were taken over by the Blantyre Co-op for a mere £2,500, a bargain. Members of SICS were enrolled into the Blantyre Co-op automatically, their debts and orders taken on board, like for like.
SICS was most likely unable to compete with so many shops that Blantyre Co-op had and perhaps was a victim to private enterprise and growing commerce all over Blantyre as a whole. At the time of the merger, their membership was only 270 people, yet the Blantyre Co-op had over 3,000 customers. The merger however was ultimately successful and the Co-op would continue to dominate Blantyre’s shops in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the 20th Century, hugely extending the premises to the rear.
Blantyre Co-operative Society continued to let the 11 homes in this block out to miners and their families. With Blantyre Co-op already had Central Number 1 premises to the east near Herbertson Street, following 1932, the buildings acquired at 235-239 Glasgow Road became known as “Blantyre Co-op Number Two”.
Following 1972 when the Co-op was Nationally rebranded and integrated into SCWS Retail Group, the localized nature of Co-ops was somewhat diminished and parts of the building were let out to others.
233 Glasgow Road was retained as the Co-op Funeral Parlour, a place for arrangement funerals, which still exists today. For several years, the late Elaine Campbell McQuade was the manageress of the shop. 237 Glasgow Road became ‘J Estees’, then in the late 1980’s and 90’s ‘Clyde Star’, which was a grocers, stationers and video shop. Around the Millennium the Post Office sited temporarily at Clydeview Shopping Centre, moved to the rear of the supermarket, now occupied by ‘Londis’ since 1994, still trading today. The last shop to the west, within the tall Co-op building became the Old Mill Barbers, then later Agnew’s Café, which remains a popular shop today, especially amongst school children at lunchtimes.
Co-op Original Building
Adjacent to the 3 storey Stonefield Independent Co-op Society’s (SICS) Building to the west is the older 2 storey premises. It still stands today. This was the Stonefield Independent Co-op’s original fully owned premises.
Again, the beginnings of this building are associated with SICS and not Blantyre Co-operative Society. Constructed in 1891 from stone, the 2 storey building was built with a pend close, leading through to the back. This was a typical design detail of the era as it permitted buildings to later be built next to it, without closing off access. The Stonefield Independent Co-op had a large rear on a long, rectangular plot of land, with Dixon’s Raws to the south. Dating is easy for this building as there is a huge “1891” carved into the masonry on the façade facing on to Glasgow Road, easily seen today. These premises would later be allocated postal addresses 239 – 243 Glasgow Road.
The SICS formed in 1884 at the nearby rented bake-house. Mr F McDade was instrumental is steering the Co-op in these early years and indeed in 1889, was presented with a gold watch for his achievements. Such wonderful gifts were reserved for deserving staff members. The actual watch is pictured, having been sold at auction in 2017 in England for a considerable sum.
More notably was Thomas Carrigan, a salesmen for the Co-op from its humble beginnings and would go on to become the longest serving Co Manager for 33 years before retiring in 1927. Thomas lived in the new premises from 1891 and in his career would notably have to pilot the society through trade depression in the 1920s. His wife was mistress of Auchentibber RC School. In 1889, Thomas also received a gold watch, particularly for increasing numbers of customers.
Shops & Tenants
In 1895, it is noted that there were 2 shops, a bake-house and 4 houses. The original tenants were Patrick Quinn a labourer, David Kerr a justiceman and also Secretary of the SICS, James Canning a miner and aforementioned Thomas Carrigan. The 2 smaller homes were let for £6 a year, the 2 larger for £9. All homes were on the upper floor.
In 1905, nearby spirit merchant Jessie Rae of Stonefield Tavern was renting a small store at the back yard. The Stonefield Independent Co-op was taken over by Blantyre Co-operative Society in 1932. Both the 3 storey and 2 storey buildings they acquired are shown in this photo from 1979, courtesy of local man, James McGuire.
241 Glasgow Road lower shop in this building next to the pend close, was the Co Drapery & Boot shop, but by 1915 had become the Co Butchers, where it would remain right up until near the Millennium, before becoming the current Peters Family Butchers.
243 Glasgow Road, the original Co Hardware and Grocery shop remained as such until the 1950’s when it became self service, effectively turning into a small supermarket. How Blantyre families would marvel at being able to actually touch the goods! The shop in later years became MacKintosh Carpets & Furniture, which closed in September 2010. Today, located at the western end of the building, it is now the St Andrew’s Hospice Charity Shop.
The old outbuildings were demolished at the back sometime in the 1950’s and the Blantyre Co-op extensively extended the premises to the south. In 1967, several windows were often smashed in a spate of vandalism.
This wasn’t the only renovation that took place. Along with several other buildings at this location in Glasgow Road, both on the south and north sides for the Millennium, shops were given similar makeovers, when dark green shop signs and white, black or silver embossed signage. The idea was to bring back some character and uniformity to the street, but within a couple of years, desire for own logos and signs, saw shopkeepers settle back into providing their own signage and putting their own stamp on their premises. The Co Buildings are fondly remembered by all.
J Estees Furniture Shop
Estees was a former furniture shop and convenience store located in the 3 storey expansion of the Co-op. During the 1980’s, they occupied both shops where the funeral parlour and Londis/post office currently. You could walk from one part to the other at the middle. It had a hairdressers in the back of the shop. It sold pretty much all sorts of items for the house and notably had a large wicker chair in the window for several years during the early 1980’s. It sold gifts, stationery and offered a photocopy service. Jim and Margaret Taylor were owners. Video Vision took over both shops after Estees moved out around 87, then later split to the Co Funeral Parlour and Clyde Star.
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