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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.
There’s a little one storey, detached cottage, which still exists to this day at 259 Glasgow Road. Sometime between 1876 and 1880, the Gray family who had already built their neighbouring tenement constructed a small cottage, as home for their son, grocer John Gray. His first child was due in 1878 and the cottage may have been built in time to coincide with that life event.
Original ownership and the likely constructor was Mr. Robert Gray, the father of John, who initially called it “Milne Cottage”. The name would change in that first decade to become “Broomknowe Cottage”, a name that is still even today the official name of the building.
The cottage was set back slightly from Glasgow Road, but still opened out on to it. Situated on a long, rectangular plot, it had a path leading from the road up to the doorway, with plenty room at the back gardens. Being a family of grocers, this land would have been put to good use and it is telling that during their occupancy, the back gardens were never built upon. They would have provided an ideal place to securely grow vegetables for sale in their shop at nearby Gray’s Buildings.
In 1881, the occupants were John Gray (36), wife Agnes (35), son Robert (3), daughter Agnes (2) and domestic servant Jane Hamilton (18). John is noted in that census as being a grocer employing 1 man and 1 boy.
Following the death of Robert Gray in 1879, the cottage passed to his widow, Mary Gray who continued to rent it out to her son John right up until her own death in 1901. In 1895, the rent was £18 per annum.
In 1901, John Gray, who had been living and renting this cottage for over 20 years, inherited it. He was still living there in 1905, but before WW1, as he became older, (perhaps to retire) he moved next door to the upper flat at Grays Buildings. His son Robert junior then rented Broomknowe Cottage. By 1915, Robert Gray (37) was an electrical engineer, considered in age to be ‘too old’ for the wartime initial draft and so in those rough years, he continued to rent the cottage for the modest rate of £18 per annum and conducted his grocer business, established by his grandfather 2 generations earlier. Robert continued to live at Broomknowe Cottage before moving away.
During World War Two and immediately after, the Aitkenhead family lived in the cottage, occupying it solely as a house.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mr. Felix McLaughlin, a car hirer conducted his business from the building, which had now become a business for the first time. Felix would go on later to establish a funeral parlour and had telephone number Blantyre 373.
The little garden once at the front was landscaped over with hardstanding to accommodate parked vehicles for the business. Metal railings were erected in the 1970’s to fence off the street and pedestrians.
In later years it continued as a Funeral Parlour, taken over by Joseph Potts and has had that use for many years now at time of writing in 2017. Premises at the back have been, in post Millennium years occupied by Kennedy Travel, then from 2015, Kennedy Coachworks.
Clydesdale Bank Building
Known to be in Blantyre since at least 1879, the Clydesdale Bank was not in the 1875 valuation roll, but was in Naismith’s Directory of 1879, meaning a likely construction date between 1876 and 1878. Then known as the Clydesdale Banking Company, the business was founded in Glasgow in 1838 and became limited in 1882.
The detached house, garden and bank office has been wholly owned by the Clydesdale Bank for most of its lifetime. An early, small outbuilding at the back may have been a store for the bank manager’s garden. The first agent was Mr. Hugh McCallum, who would be manager until the late 1880’s.
The building is quite distinctive and unique for Glasgow Road. Not built in a traditional tenement style, this property has a pitched roof above bay windows on the west side and is 2 storey high. Constructed of stone with a slate roof it has a central doorway, a double window on the east and bay windows and single window on the west. An attic room above the bay windows gives the tall building an impression of being 3 storey on one side. Wooden soffits are ornately carved in curves and spirals and still exist today, suggesting the initial good choice and use of quality hardwood timbers. These wooden features make the building instantly recognizable to locals, as no other building on Glasgow Road has that unusual style. Perhaps it was the Bank’s way of showing the importance and uniqueness of this property.
By 1895, the next bank manager was George Campbell who would manage the bank until the end of the First World War. The rent value of the bank prior to the war was £70 per annum, but only £60 following the war as the country struggled to piece back normality. The bank manager lived in the building in the upper house and would work downstairs in the office, overseeing clerks and early tellers.
The building would be given address 261 Glasgow Road prior to WW1 and by 1920, the next manager and agent was J. Thomson who would manage the bank well into the late 1930’s.
Clydesdale Bank was sold in 1920. However, it continued to operate independently under the same name and was always referred to as an affiliate, not a subsidiary. The Glasgow banks suffered more than others in the depressed economy of the inter-war period and from being the largest lender in Scotland in 1920, it fell to fifth place by 1939. Despite this, the Bank continued to open branches, particularly in areas enjoying export growth, and the network increased from 158 in 1919 to 205 branches in 1939, one of which was still Blantyre.
Midland Bank had acquired the North of Scotland Bank in 1923 but the management had fiercely resisted any attempt to merge with Clydesdale. However, the changed competitive market after the Second World War meant that the two banks could not remain separate and in 1950 this was reconsidered and they were amalgamated to become the Clydesdale and North of Scotland Bank (soon shortened to Clydesdale Bank).
Post WW2 Years
The resident Bank Manager in the 1950’s was Mr Blaikie. The downstairs were all tellers and the safe and secure area where a large locked safe occupied a large part of the floor. Upstairs as well as the bank managers home were old ledgers and document storage. Another manager was Mr. McAustin. This was an era when all transactions were hand written, even into the 1960’s with fountain pens. Clerks would get annoyed at this practice as it would often be messy.
By 1969, mergers elsewhere had reduced the number of Scottish banks to three with Clydesdale Bank now being the smallest.
Another bank manager was Mr. William Cumming who lived with this wife Toni and 3 sons in the upper storey. However, after his adopted son David, drowned in the River Clyde in 1975, the Cumming family moved away to Partick. Around that time, Mrs. McQuade was a cleaning lady on the premises.
In 1983, the Clydesdale Bank moved location further eastwards to the former Co-op Emporium Building. It was a more modern building and more functional for the bank, who was by then up against competition in Blantyre not just from Royal Bank of Scotland, but also the arrival of the ‘Abbey National’ at Clydeview Shopping Centre.
261 Glasgow Road then became a bookmakers and the external stonework entirely whitewashed in the mid 1980’s completely changing the look of the building. Ladbrokes continue to operate their business from the lower ground floor. The upper floor had become ‘Crawford Mason Layers’ and remained there until 2013 when the lawyers became ‘Lanarkshire Law Practice.’
In 1989 National Australia Bank bought the Clydesdale bank for £420m with bank branding changing. In 2016, the Clydesdale Bank announced their departure from Blantyre after being there for nearly 140 years. Their building next to Broomknowe Cottage still looks in good condition and is well used.
West of the Clydesdale Bank was Minto’s Land. Initially in the late 19th Century, this was just one cottage but the Minto family later in the 20th Century expanded their ownership by building tenements in front of it.
The former cottage was stone built, of single storey and sat off Glasgow Road, at the southern end of a long, rectangular plot. The Constructor and original owner was William Minto, a warehouseman who also owned other Blantyre cottages by name of Belmont, Mossgiel at 306 Glasgow Road and Castleview near Coatshill.
William Minto was born in Blantyre and lived at Castleview Cottage, Blantyre during the 1880’s. He was the son of James Minto a Blantyre coachman. Sometime between 1882 and 1884, William bought a vacant plot of land not far from the corner of Stonefield Road and built a cottage for his son Robert S Minto. He initially called it “Stonefield Cottage” and it is noted as that name in the 1885 Valuation roll situated right beside the bank, however, later in that decade, the cottage was renamed to ‘Dervoch Cottage’, perhaps due to confusion caused by another property called Stonefield Cottage further west along Glasgow Road.
In 1885, Robert S Minto, was a 28 year old watchmaker renting his father’s cottage in the district of Stonefield. Robert conducted his business in the adjacent tenement building, “Broompark Place”. Robert lived at Dervoch Cottage until the end of 1891 with his wife Annie and a teenage servant girl, Jessie Skinner.
William Francis Benham
The next tenant of Dervoch Cottage in 1893 was Mr William Francis Benham, a travelling salesman. Born in Edinburgh, William Francis (Frank) Benham arrived in Blantyre that year with wife, Lizzie Craig & 3 daughters.
His initial time in Dervoch Cottage was likely sorrowful, when the couple lost a child, William Junior in 1895. This may have prompted a move from Dervoch Cottage which they were renting from William Minto for £17 a year. The couple moved shortly after, but remained living and working in Blantyre.
William Francis Benham would go on to form his own shop nearby at 11 Stonefield Road, the family becoming well known in Stonefield. He took ownership of the Old Original Bar in 1917 for a short time, living at both Station Road then later, ‘Craigrock’ on Glasgow Road. William died in 1925.
By 1905, joiner John Hunter was renting Dervoch Cottage for £15 a year, and this tradesman was perhaps a good contact for William Minto, who constructed large, new tenement buildings at the front of the cottage around this era, the cottage losing its large front garden. The cottage was accessed via an eastern path leading down the whole length of the plot, alongside the bank.
By WW1 years, Dervoch Cottage had an address of 263 Glasgow Road and William Minto had been living at Vale View, East Finchley, in London until his death in 1918. Peter Muir, a stableman was the rented tenant in the years immediately before and after the death of William Minto. Peter Muir lived there until the early 1920’s.
Dervoch Cottage was inherited in 1918 by William Minto’s son, Martin Orme Minto, who owned the cottage, along with others in Blantyre until World War 2. Tenants changed in these intervening war years too. In 1925 William Pretsell, a general builder was renting, then James Stewart, a retired man by 1930.
Behind the cottage was Carfin Street, part of the Dixon’s Miner’s Raws and at one point there was a back entrance to the cottage from the raws. In post WW2 years the cottage passed to Michael (Mick) Devlin, a popular and well known man in the area.
However, due to the creeping age of Dervoch Cottage, it became unfit for purpose in the late 1950’s and by 1960 had become a ruin, something confirmed by 1962 maps. The building lay derelict in a partially collapsed state until the 1990’s when it was cleared to make way for modern, contemporary houses named Valerio Court.
Electric Street Lights
Electricity started to replace gas street lamps in the 1920’s throughout Blantyre. However, it wasn’t without its problems. On Saturday 28th January 1922, in the middle of Winter and long dark nights, inconvenience was caused to Blantyre residents through the failure of electric street lights. We take street lighting for granted these days and outages are very rare. However, on this dark weekend in 1922 a leakage in the cable, caused the failure of the newly installed electric lights in Glasgow Road. The main thoroughfare, got dark around 3.30pm and on a busy Saturday, locals were left fumbling along the pavements in the complete dark. However, it was the shopkeepers who felt the inconvenience. They had only just weeks before discarded their gas equipment in favour of this new technology. Light was restored to the town the next day.
Minto’s Buildings was a former 3 storey large stone tenement at 265 Glasgow Road, situated immediately adjacent to the Clydesdale Bank and the 2 storey Broompark Place. The property was situated not far from the eastern side of the junction of Stonefield Road.
The tenement was built between 1902 and 1903 on Minto’s Land, a long, rectangular plot of land that already had a cottage named “Dervoch Cottage” on it, also owned by the Minto family. A small wall and a few trees were removed upon construction of the building. The little front garden was fenced off by a wooden fence, blocking off the pavement in front of it. Opening out on to Glasgow Road, the building was imposing at 3 storeys, being even taller than the fairly tall bank next door. An internal stair let to the upper 2 floors.
With Dervoch Cottage situated at the rear, access was required to be maintained, so a large pend* close was built on the east of the building, allowing through access to Minto’s rear yard and of course leading down to the cottage. These were spacious homes by comparison to other tenements with only 8 homes in all of the 3 storeys. There were no shops in the property.
- Note: ‘Pend’ is a Scottish architectural term referring to a passageway that passes through a building, often from a street through to a courtyard or ‘back court’, and typically designed for vehicular rather than exclusively pedestrian access. A pend is distinct from a vennel or a close, as it has rooms directly above it.
The original owner was Mr. William Minto, a warehouseman of Castleview Blantyre, who would later live in London following WW1. In 1903, the completed building attracted families from nearby, upgrading their rented accommodation. Amongst them John Hunter and Peter Clark who moved from nearby Calder Street and also Alexander Christie, a tailor who moved from Central Buildings.
During WW1, the 8 homes were rented out for rents between £10, 5 shillings and £13, 10 shillings. William Minto’s tenants were families Trainer, Forrest, McCutcheon, Carmichael, Nimmo, Steele, Crombie and Duncan.
When William died in 1918, Minto’s buildings remained in the family passing to Martin Orme Minto, who was absent, living in Michigan, USA.
Ownership of Minto’s Buildings would remain in this family for some time. In the 1960’s families including the Ross and Steele family lived in the building. It would take until the 1970’s for the building to be demolished, no longer fit for purpose in the modern era and in desperate need of repairs, rewiring and plumbing.
When Minto’s Buildings were demolished, it created a gap between the bank and Broompark Place, a gap which still exists today. Grassed over, a couple of trees planted in the 1970’s are now quite tall. Today, the rest of Minto’s Land, where the yard and cottage once were is now modern day Valerio Court, with at least 4 of these modern homes on the plot.
Our location line drawing below shows how it once looked against a modern context. How much simpler a building’s history is to tell, when it didn’t change hands often and contained no shops!
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