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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
‘Clydeview’ is the name of a former 3 storey tenement located at 245 to 251 Glasgow Road, of which only the ground floor remains today. It should not be confused by the shopping centre of the same name and of later build much further east.
The building has had other nicknames throughout the 20th Century including Cameron’s Buildings, Blantyre Social Club, The Post Office and Knights of St Columba, businesses located on the lower floor at one time or other but the building has primarily been called on all official census, valuation and documentation, simply “Clydeview”. It’s had a complicated, interesting history of changing use, which we fully explore now.
‘Clydeview’ was built in 3 storeys in 1880. Constructed of stone, shops were on the lower storey with up to 6 homes on the above 2 storeys. Opening out on to Glasgow Road pavement, it was built on a slight, rising incline heading up to the west, and therefore the doorways were stepped.
The constructor and original owner was Mr. Duncan Cameron, a flesher and spirit merchant whom in 1879 had been living at Woodburn Place. The 1881 census has Duncan aged 25 living with wife Margaret at their new buildings, let out also to others born outwith Blantyre. On the lower floor were 3 shops and in 1885 these are confirmed as Cameron’s Spirit Shop, Joseph Lister Barbers and the Independent Co-op shop. However, Cameron’s Buildings (as it was known in the 1881 Street Index was short lived under that ownership and by 1884 had been sold on.
New owner, Mr. Patrick Masterton, a spirit merchant (who did not live in Blantyre) is the likely source of the long standing name, “Clydeview” and likely responsible for not calling it Cameron’s Buildings anymore after 1884. Born in 1841, Patrick lived in Paisley and would let out these buildings as businesses and homes for others.
In November 1889, Patrick Masterton sought to renew his annual license at Hamilton Sherriff Court, a good indicator that he had been there at least a year. He is noted as being the Proprietor of the Public House.
Clydeview also comprised of a small, narrow 2 storey part to the building on its east, with a narrow lane separating from the 1891 Co-op building. As such Clydeview is earlier than the Co buildings.
19th Century Tenants and Shops
Amongst the first tenants were David Green, William Currie, David Archibald and Patrick Clark. In 1893, Patrick Masterson in recognition of the growing population, was amongst one of the prominent businessmen of Glasgow Road who would sign a petition asking for Stonefield to be made into a Burgh in Blantyre. However, this failed to happen and we’re left wondering what advantage this all was to the businessmen or their customers.
In 1895, the small shop in the 2 storey part was occupied by Thomas Henderson, a plumber. Patrick occupied the spirit shop and cellar and at the far west of the building on the lower 3 storey part was Henry Montague, a shoemaker who operated there only a short time until 1898.
In March 1898, about 10 years into ownership, Patrick decided to sell. The reason is unknown, but he was financially ok. On 23rd March that year he placed an advert in the Glasgow Herald selling his pub and the tenement houses above it, stating it had a rental potential of £117, 10s per year. It sold quickly and in July 1898, Patrick left Blantyre for good to run a hotel in Broxburn.
The next owner of Clydeview, was Thomas H Bennett & Co Ltd, a business of well known spirit merchants in Glasgow. Thomas and his son Thomas Junior owned several pubs in Glasgow at the time. However, they ran into an immediate problem upon acquiring Clydeview. The license was not permitted to be renewed. So, they would let out the building and 5 homes but as of 1898, there would never be another public house here. They also owned the buildings at Main Street, High Blantyre near the Auchinraith Vaults.
Thomas Henderson would continue to rent his little plumbers business from the small shop, something he did until just before WW1. The large ground floor shop, formerly the public house, was taken over in 1898 by Piscina Guiseppe, an ice cream manufacturer. This was a large ice cream parlour occupying the whole ground floor at 249-251 Glasgow Road and Piscina rented for £30 per year also up until just prior to WW1. It is observed that Blantyre had many ice cream parlours at the turn of the 20th Century, most all owned by Italian incomers, a trend that would continue for a couple of decades.
20th Century Shops and change of use
The trigger for the businesses changing use prior to WW1, wasn’t war itself, but was the liquidation of Thomas H Bennett & Co Ltd, which happened between 1910 and 1915. (The liquidators of this company however, would continue to own Clydeview right up until WW2 years.)
When liquidation happened, the little shop at 247 Glasgow Road became Joseph Britton Painters, and would remain there until the early 1920’s. The Valuation roll of 1915 also noted 6 houses in the building occupied and an empty stable at the rear. By the time WW1 had started, Blantyre Social Club occupied 249-251 Glasgow Road in the 3 storey part of Clydeview, with John Berry their secretary. Blantyre Social Club would remain there until the late 1920’s before relocating elsewhere.
Blantyre Social Club
Originally from just before WW1 at 249-251 Glasgow Road in the ‘Clydeview’ building, they were forced to move premises in the late 1920’s when the main Post Office relocated from Stonefield Road to Clydeview.
However, they didn’t move far relocating to 253 – 257 Glasgow Road next door. When they moved, they bought the adjacent building for address 253 Glasgow Road was owned and occupied by the club outright. The premises were licensed. Managed by a committee of 12 people in the early 20th Century, the notable characters being Mr. Thomas Price (president), Mr. John Clements (Vice president), Mr. Thomas McGuire (Treasurer), Mr. Thomas McCool (Secretary), Mr. William Corrigan, Mr. Terrence Mulvaney, Mr. George Stein, Mr. Peter Quinn, Mr. Patrick Taggart, Mr. William Weir, Mr. John Davie, Mr. Michael Duffy and John Crookston. They may have had their own quoting club of the same name.
Sheriff Boyd Berry in Glasgow refused the renewal of their club license on 5th June 1931. Almost a month later on 30th June these 12 members were in front of the court charged with being the persons responsible for a club which was kept mainly for the supply of alcohol in respect that intoxicated people were frequently seen to leave the premises. The accused all pleaded guilty and fined 20 shillings or 10 days imprisonment. Their new building later became the Y.M.C.A.
Pre WW2 years
There were several outbuildings to the rear, most likely washhouses and toilets as well as storage for the businesses. In 1925 M. Campbell & Co had taken over the small shop at 247 Glasgow Road but only for a short time. It is unknown what their trade was, despite searching.
In the late 1920’s Clydeview lower floor at 249-251 Glasgow Road became the Blantyre Post Office and it would remain there until 1954 before moving to their new, larger premises at the corner of Logan Street. The Clydeview Post Office was apparently very cramped and unsuitable for the type of work being carried out by the postal authorities, conditions that they had suffered for years. It was woefully inadequate and workers delighted in being told they were moving.
In 1930, there were 6 upper houses continuing to be rented from the liquidators of Thomas H Bennett & Co Ltd and the small shop at 247 had become Umbeto Schivone’s Ice Cream Shop, which existed only a short time until 1935.
Tenants of the house above the small shop had to make a hurried escape, when fire broke out in a new fish and chip shop at 247 Glasgow Road on Friday 11th October 1935. Within a few minutes the inside of the shop was a raging furnace.
The property was two-storey and the house above was occupied by a Mr Thomas Rusk, a widower, and his family. They had to beat a hasty retreat, and had no time to remove any of their belongings. The No. 2 branch premises of Blantyre Co-Operative Society was only separated by eight feet from the fish shop. Employees tackled the flames with extinguishers, and assistance was given by men carrying pails of water. The flames were thus held in check until the arrival of the Cambuslang detachment of Lanark County Fire Brigade. The fish shop, which has been closed for several months, was to have been opened that day by Mr. Charles Gray, Halfway, Cambuslang. It was completely gutted, but the house above was saved, although damaged by water.
It wasn’t the first time a chip shop would go on fire at this location. When Gray’s fish shop became Pat McNally’s Fish & Chip shop, it went on fire again in the early 1970’s, as this dramatic photos shows.
The shop in the eastern end would change use a few times in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s it became the “Pat McNally’s Fish and Chipshop” then a chip shop owned by Maggie Bell. In 1976, for short time, the “Shat In Chinese Takeaway.” Ariel & Art Cabs occupied the west shop in the 2 storey part during the mid 1970’s. It does not appear that the upper storey (within the 2 storey part) of the building was used by that time, the window bricked up.
The Copper Kettle was a former café located at 249 – 251 Glasgow Road in late 1960’s to early 1970’s and still there in 1973. It was run by a Mrs Watson and sold sandwiches, coffees and teas, cakes, biscuits and the like.
Shat In Chinese Takeaway
The Shat-In was a former Chinese Restaurant and takeaway, one of the first to arrive in Blantyre during the early to mid 1970s. The ‘unfortunate’ sounding business name is named after the Hong Kong racecourse of the same name, and was a common name for takeaways all over the UK at the time. It was located at 249 Glasgow Road. You could sit in to have a meal or takeout. The Shat In was originally located further along Glasgow Road near Herbertson Street but moved to the 249 Glasgow Road location at Clydeview around 1976. The takeaway was on the left, the restaurant on the right to the west. The restaurant became the Sun House Cantonese Takeaway in 1976.
Knights of St Columba
When the Post Office moved out of Clydeview in 1954, the ground floor on the 2 storey part was split and became Ashley F Mack joiners business, which had telephone number 341. The other side was Robert White Plumbers & Electricians, with telephone 380. By the end of the 1950’s, both these shops combined again to become the ‘Knights of St Columba’. This social club would remain at this location before moving to dedicated premises at Carlowrie Avenue in Coatshill during the 1970’s. It was a popular club, liked putting on entertainment and was heavily involved in charitable work for the community. They subsequently became ‘The Columba Club.’
By the 1980’s, the 3 storey building started to have a dangerous lean, as this photo from 1983 shows. At almost 100 years, it was becoming dangerous and later that decade something drastic was done to make it safe. The trigger for this was a storm which caused the stone chimney to come crashing in through the roof of Ariel & Art Cabs, forcing them to move to the Industrial Estate. The upper 2 storeys were removed very carefully, some say stone by stone, hand by hand. Contrary to what others have written it was not entirely demolished and rebuilt, but actually the lower ground floor of the 3 storey part was retained. The 2 storey part completely demolished. Receiving a new pitched roof and render roughcast over the gables, it re-opened as the Sun House Chinese Takeaway in the 1980’s, which still trades under that name today.
Phew! We told you this was a complex building!
Sun House Chinese Takeaway
Takeaway and offsales. The Sun House is a contemporary Chinese takeaway with address 249-251 Glasgow Road, G72 0YS. The business established in 1976 and was initially located further east on Glasgow Road not far from Herbertson Street. By the 1980’s, following Glasgow Road redevelopment, it was at this new location. Sun House also delivered cigarettes and alcohol, and indeed people of Blantyre are known to order just 1 bag of chips to validate their delivery of booze and fags too. Indeed, it was noted that by ordering food with the alcohol order, it arrived faster to ensure the food didn’t get cold! The curries are reputed to be very good. Mrs. Lee owns the Sun House, at one time owned another takeaway across the road, but not anymore, retaining only the Sun House. In February 2017, planning permission was given to change the use of the Sun House to become a café, sandwich shop as well as takeaway, something that as of October 2017, has not yet happened.
Finally, some modern photos taken in October 2017 by Alex Rochead, proving that the lower existing floor IS still the original building and NOT rebuilt from scratch as some would incorrectly have you believe.
We next arrive at interesting tenement which still stands today. ‘Grays Buildings’, or more recently known as the YMCA building, directly across Glasgow Road from Joanna Terrace.
However, before we delve into the detail, we’re going to tell a nice little story to set the scene, a story belonging to the ‘Gray family’ the original constructors. The tale was first offered to the late Blantyre historian Neil Gordon in 1979 perhaps as a myth, but it is retold below after our correction of dates and providing facts exclusively related to the event.
At Barnhill on the western side of Blantyre on Bardykes Road stands a cottage known as Brownlie cottage, named after a family who lived there for many generations. One day in 1813, the same year explorer David Livingstone was born, Mr Brownlie was leaving his cottage and shocked and surprised to find an abandoned new born baby girl in a basket, which was sitting on his doorstep in the lane that now leads on to Glenfruin Road. A note was pinned on the shawl, asking the Brownlie family to take the child in and raise her as their own and requesting specifically that the baby be called Mary.
Now, just a week before this, Mrs Brownlie had given birth to a baby girl of their own, whom , by co-incidence and in fashion with the day, they had already named Mary. Still, the kind soul she was and unable to trace parents, she took the newly found baby in and raised the child as her own.
She was keen to grant the request regarding the child’s Christian name but she could not possibly consider raising two children with the same name, Mary Brownlie. So she gave the baby another surname and had her christened as Mary ‘Blantyre.’
A heart warming tale and one which has relevance to our book, for little Mary Blantyre would grow up and marry Robert Gray, an incomer to Blantyre ,a grocer born in Lanark in 1808.
Robert and Mary Gray (Blantyre) settled down in Stonefield in the mid 19th Century and it is known they were living at Coats Buildings in 1865, with their grown up family. However, by the 1871 census, they were living in their own building, “Grays Building”. It was constructed in 1868 and 1869 and opened in Autumn of that year, a license provided in October for Robert’s new grocers shop. This makes it, with exception of the Stonefield Tavern, the oldest existing building on all the south of Glasgow Road.
The early years
Built on a long, narrow strip of land, this building may have sat alone in fields with nothing around it when first built. The 2 storey, detached tenement had shops on the ground floor and homes on the upper. The property and yard was entirely fenced off with stone gate posts to the east side providing a wide entrance to the back. The pillars still exist today. Built of stone with a slate roof, there were 5 upper windows on the front facing out to Glasgow Road, with 1 window on either gable side offering at the time views up and down the road. There were 2 doors and three large windows on the lower floor. One, large central stone chimney towered above Glasgow Road with gable chimneys either end.
To the rear was plenty of space in the back yard, which was put to good use. Several buildings were constructed at the back including a granary, a stable, a hayloft and a slaughterhouse. Beyond that to the south was a large plot of land used for growing vegetables for sale in the front grocers shop. A water pump was situated in the rear yard and small glass or greenhouses, although these had been cleared by 1930.
Robert Gray became a master grocer in his lifetime. The 1875 valuation roll has him owning and occupying the house above, as well as licensed grocers shop on the lower floor, and of course, the aforementioned buildings to the rear. However, Robert Gray’s ownership of the building was fairly short lived and when he died in 1879, aged 71, it passed to his wife Mary Gray who was by then 66 years old.
In 1881, Grays Buildings are noted being called as such in the Street Index and that year the shops were a butchers, a licensed grocers and a drapers. These were being run by the 2 sons and a daughter of Mary Gray. In the house above that year were Mary (68), daughter Mary (42) and son Arthur (28). Another son John Gray lived in a small cottage named “Milne”, immediately next door.
Their businesses would have thrived in those early times, but faced more and more competition as further buildings sprang up around them, competing with their drapers, butchers and grocery businesses. By 1895, elderly Mary was 82 years old and the businesses were run by “J&A Gray”, most likely standing for John and Arthur Gray, brothers, and the sons of Mary.
Mary Gray (Blantyre) died on 21st October 1901, aged 88 and ‘Grays ‘Buildings were inherited by her oldest son John Gray.
John Gray was a master grocer and wine merchant, born in Blantyre in 1844, the son of Robert and Mary Gray. During his life he married Agnes Semple Murdoch and had a son whom he named Robert junior. In 1901 he took ownership of his parent’s legacy in Grays Buildings. He moved from his nearby cottage into the upper floor of Grays Buildings and let his son Robert rent the cottage from him.
By 1915, Grays Buildings had address 253, 255 and 257 Glasgow Road, the house being 253 with a rated value of £30 per annum. He would continue to run the granary, slaughterhouse, hayloft and stables for the rest of his life, as well of course as the licensed grocers shop.
On 1st January 1928, just shortly after the New Year Bells, John Gray died at 253 Glasgow Road, aged 84. He had been suffering from dementia amongst other things and his son, Robert was present. It was an end to the name “Gray’s Buildings”, having existed for over 6 decades, but not of course to the building itself, which was about to go on to serve an important function for the community as a whole. The Blantyre Social Club moved in during 1928, and found themselves in trouble with the law over licensing laws relating to the sale of alcohol. Joseph McCool was secretary. Between 1936 and 1938, the Blantyre Social Club closed at this location, becoming the Y.M.C.A.
Between 1940 and 1945, the Y.M.C.A building was used as the “Home Guard” training headquarters. Behind it, the former slaughterhouse and granary used also for wartime training as volunteers practiced attack and defend war-games, adjacent to some home made trenches. For a short time following the war, children would sneak in when the YMCA wasn’t holding functions or classes on and play soldiers in those trenches. Post WW2, the Thomson family moved in above the hall.
Shelter for Homeless Families
During 1948, ten families were rendered homeless when fire ravaged through their Watson Street homes in High Blantyre. Almost 40 people lost their homes and most of their possessions, being forced to stay temporarily after the fire in the YMCA on Glasgow Road. The fire had started early one morning at 12 Watson Street and destroyed the two-storey building. Temporary repairs were carried out at one end of the building to ensure the families adjacent were protected and could remain there. The fire was believed to have originated in the upper storey in the home of Mr. and Mrs. McNulty and their four children. Within half an hour the roof the building was on fire, as was the two shops on the lower floor, burning furiously. Mrs. McNulty’s cries for help caught the attention of her neighbours who raised the alarm. Householders made a vain attempt to put the fire out with buckets of water but were unsuccessful. Similar attempts were made to rescue possessions.
YMCA is sometimes perceived to be primarily a place for homeless young people; however, it offered a broad range of programmes such as sports, personal fitness, child care, overnight camping, outings, employment readiness programmes, training programmes, advice services, immigrant services, conference centres, and educational activities as methods of promoting its values. There is no doubt that from as early as 1938, this was an important organisation for Blantyre, in the days before proper community centres. Financial support for local associations was derived from programme fees, membership dues, community chests, foundation grants, charitable contributions, sustaining memberships, and corporate sponsors.
Children took great delight in escaping the tensions of the war years by being able to go on organized trips and outings. These 3 teenagers were on a Blantyre YMCA outing in 1945. On the left Blantyre youths, Tom Ashbridge, in middle an unknown handsome chap and on the right Thomas Buchanan. How smartly these young men were dressed for this exciting field trip.
We have to note just how much the YMCA was used. A small café was located inside the centre, and the halls held different kinds of classes for many decades right up until the 1990’s. Gymnastics, Tap Dancing, The Red Cross and many youth discos. During the 1960’s the Blantyre Discussion Group would meet there.
Between the 1940’s until 1960s the upper storey remained as homes and it is known Andrena Black a local lady was born there in 1961. At the vacant plot at the back of the yard, by the 1960’s a small woodland had sprung up between the outbuildings and Calder Street.
Blantyre YMCA Football Club was also based there coached by Tommy Chassels. They started out as “Cherrytree United” but were allowed to change name in June 1952. The Blantyre Miners Welfare held a gala day in Blantyre up until 1960 but stopped when the larger YMCA and Community Council events started in the public park. However, the Welfare would resume galas in 1978 and suddenly Blantyre often had TWO gala days each summer!
In the early 1970’s, the upper storey was made use of as halls also. By this time the building had no permanent residents. It meant dances downstairs in the hall, could also be held upstairs, even at the same time! Mr Park of Fernslea Avenue did a lot of charitable work for the YMCA as did many volunteers in Blantyre.
From 1972 until the late 1970’s, YMCA discos were a popular event in Blantyre. It was the place to be if you were between 9 and 13 years old. Youth discos occurred every Saturday night from 6pm until 8pm the children naming the disco, “The Roxy”. Mr. Sandy Nisbet was responsible for supervising the kids along with his then girlfriend, Alma. Local man, Jimmy Whelan remembers the “Roxy” by his poem of the same name, kindly shared here:
“Doon the Roxy on a Saturday night,
Dressed to kill oh what a sight,
Struttin oor stuff oan the dance flair,
The whole of Blantyre seemed to be there.
Two bob tae get in or a tin a beans,
Ten bob for sweeties that was yer means,
Music kicks aff wae some rock n roll,
Smoochin some burd tae a wee bit of soul,
Smelly toilets and flaking paint,
Fae oor crowd ye got nae complaint,
Loads of great memories in that wee hall,
Generations of people having a ball.
Another memory to be wiped away,
Gone forever the Y.M.C.A.
At least there calling it a fancy name,
But the Spice of Life just is’nae the same.”
Kids had a blast, especially around annual parties like Easter, Christmas and Halloween, where apple bobbing was especially fun!
During the 1980’s for a time, although the YMCA continued to be in use, a Health & Lifestyle centre was based there, a kind of home help for elderly people within the community. However, by the 1990’s the building was used less and less and in post Millennium years became closed and started to become derelict. Even as late as 2010, some of the windows were boarded up, security cameras installed and warnings to trespassers adorned the façade.
By 2013, however, the building got a new lease of life. Shops on the lower floor were renovated by new owners, former homes on the top, given new windows and a makeover. The Spice of Life Indian Takeaway moved into the eastern shop and William Hill bookmakers into the west at 253 Glasgow Road. This configuration still exists today and as of time of writing in 2017, it may surprise many to know that little 2 storey building is currently almost 150 years old!
Before we leave Gray’s Buildings, a note for just some of the many businesses that were located out of sight, at the rear yard. Mr. William McSeveney owned a coachbuilders shop in a small garage/ workshop at the back of Blantyre YMCA in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Previous to this he had run the garage further west beside the Old Original Bar. In 2009 it was G Valets and following 2010, became Stoddart’s Accident Repairs and a carwash. As you see, Gray’s Buildings certainly had a packed and interesting history.
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