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From Burnbank to Spittal. The definitive history of Blantyre’s Glasgow Road, every building, accurately researched, presented with bespoke graphics, exciting new photos and comments from thousands of readers. From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.
We begin this definitive, epic journey of historical analysis of Blantyre’s Glasgow Road at its most eastern end, at the Parish boundary we recognize at Burnbank. However, just before we immerse ourselves in all things ‘Blantyre’ lets start a little further eastwards again beyond the boundary of the Park Burn, something worth doing to explore what was happening on the outskirts of Blantyre centuries ago and how it helped shape the roads we know today.
Forgotten Former Farms
Like much of Blantyre and the surrounding villages of the time, this land was initially rural with fields and hedge rows as far as one could see, all in open expanses. Roy’s Military Map of 1752 denotes the area as largely being farm fields belonging to two former farms. ‘Newhouse’ on the Blantyre side and ‘Nether’ or “Nitherhous” on the opposing, lower Burnbank side.
Both of those ancient, former farms are no longer there and indeed the names are now lost and forgotten to time. What is apparent from Roy’s map and the previous graphic, is that the main road from Glasgow to Hamilton was along what we now know as Glasgow Road with Blantyre at that time being some 14 miles from the centre of the City. You’ll notice also that it was one straight road, (as military and main roads often were), going from Blantyre, past ‘Newhouse’, later to become Springwells and past ‘Nitherhous’, a name that would later evolve into the more recognizable name of ‘Greenfield.’
Road Splits & Bends
When we think of this area in a modern context, a long straight road at this point, certainly does not come to mind. Where Blantyre now merges into Burnbank, it’s quite evident there’s a huge awkward bend in the modern road near the modern Parkburn Industrial Estate.
The bend is easily explained and was not there on Roy’s map of 1752. The road originally ran in a straight line directly into the village of Burnbank, but today is in a different more westerly position, branching off from the former straight road now with that awkward sharp turn. The following graphic shows a black dotted line for the former Burnbank road overlaid with modern road map. The split in the large circle, is the boundary. So why did this happen?
Well, to answer that, we need to go back to the former farm, ‘Nitherhous.’ which could be found in land tax rolls for Hamilton in the 1600’s. There is no reference to this farm by the tax rolls of 1797 and one can only assume it was demolished. Instead later in 1859 maps on that exact land, still slightly outwith Blantyre and within the enclosures formerly denoted on Roy’s map, is the farm of ‘Greenfield.’ i.e. Nitherhous became Greenfield, most likely due to new ownership or a rebuild of the property.
During the early 1800’s, the main Glasgow to Hamilton Road split at the Blantyre boundary. No longer just one road, but now with a main southern road leading to Burnbank (as we know it today) and the northern road leading into Greenfield Farm and later into Greenfield Village, a road no longer there. In 1859, the configuration at the Blantyre boundary looked as shown above.
To the north where the roads crossed the Park Burn at the Blantyre boundary, they were bridged with stone bridges, the larger one being the Greenfield Bridge to the south. Benchmarks or Masonry marks on the map indicate the bridges were likely built of stone, perhaps from the nearby former quarry behind Limetree, to the left of the southern road.
On the Blantyre side of the boundary to the north, the split can be seen more easily on the 1859 map. A footway to the north of the road, which even then would be just a rough dirt track, barely large enough for two carts to pass, crossed the split and continued on the southern road to Burnbank. We see the bridge locations at each point, the road crossing over the Park Burn, the dotted line signifying the Parish Boundary. The map suggests some woodland around either bank of the burn.
We tend to think nowadays of Burnbank being our most immediate neighbour to Blantyre, the two almost merging. However, it is worth remembering that at one time, a whole other village separated the two, in the form of Greenfield, which evolved from a single farm, to being a whole community. Burnbank, takes its name from the Wellshaw Burn, also known as the Shawburn running through the east of the village, and not the more westerly and distant Park Burn. Wellshaw Burn has been culverted for most of its passage through modern Burnbank. In historic times this stream’s confluence with the Clyde lay within the district but now lies in neighbouring Whitehill. The area around the burn was still open country in some regards as late as the 1901 Census which records a Romany family “living in a field near Shawburn, Burnbank.
Burnbank has existed in one form or another since at least the late fifteenth century when a grant of lands was made to Sir John Hamilton of Newton. A further grant of lands to Sir John Hamilton of Zhisselberry (which is later recorded as Whistleberry) also included the lands in and around Burnbank. At this time the extent of the area accepted as Burnbank included the modern districts of Whitehill and Hillhouse and the area around Peacock Cross on the Burnbank Hamilton border. Predominantly rural, with a number of plantations (Whistleberry Plantation and Backmuir Plantation being most prominent) to feed the lace industry in Burnbank and Hamilton which had been sponsored since before 1778 by the then Duchess of Hamilton Elizabeth Campbell, 1st Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon. With the Industrial Revolution, Burnbank lost its rural identity becoming a mining village. Burnbank, like Blantyre, Springwells and Greenfield, was therefore a village in its own right.
The population of Burnbank had grown so great by the 1870’s that a committee of citizens decided to apply for the erection of a Burgh of Burnbank. At the same time residents of Burnbank’s western neighbour Blantyre re-acted by petitioning for the erection of a Burgh of Blantyre. Both cases came before the Sheriff Court sitting at Glasgow. The Sheriff gave extra time for the petitioners for both causes to familiarise themselves with the arguments of their opponents and to respond in turn. The Provost and Burgesses of the existing Burgh of Hamilton, alarmed at the prospect of one (or possibly both) petitions being successful and thus creating a heavily industrialised, modern and vibrant western rival in turn petitioned the Parliament of the United Kingdom giving rise to the Burgh of Hamilton Act 1878. Blantyre was refused to become a Burgh, but by this Act, Burnbank was absorbed into Hamilton – ending its own burghal aspirations.
Greenfield, once our nearest neighbour
Greenfield was a village or hamlet in its own right. The sleepy, rural scene with just a farm owned by the Potter family, denoted in 1859 maps, was short-lived and this whole area would quickly give way to industry with the discovery of coal. As the population expanded in the 1860’s and 1870’s workers came to find employment in Greenfield Collieries Pits 1 and 2, as well as the newly formed Greenfield Foundry which sat on the boundary itself (explored later) and of course in 1870 with the arrival of Robertson’s Aerated Water Factory just over the boundary in Springwells.
During the 1870’s and 1880’s, many more houses were built. Miners lived in tied cottages at both Old and New Greenfield Rows, the latter built on the banks of the Park Burn. All these miners homes were small and hemmed in by railway lines.
Greenfield quickly became an established village, with its own pubs, school and even its own station, which would later be rebranded Burnbank Station. The railway branched off the nearby busy, Strathaven junction. Railways featured heavily on the dirty landscape, not just the passenger lines, but several sidings to assist the heavy industries.
Greenfield was incorporated into the burgh of Hamilton in 1878, although as the surrounding population grew, it quickly became known as Burnbank itself. Running through the centre of Greenfield was the old Glasgow to Hamilton Road, branded with a street address, officially known as ‘Glasgow Road’, as it was in Blantyre in the 1890’s, turning sharply at the bend on the left of the above graphic, heading up, towards Blantyre.
With the demolition of Greenfield Farm between 1898 and 1910 and subsequent closure of the colliery, the name ‘Greenfield’ would decline more and more throughout the 20th Century, slowly replaced by Burnbank, in time being built upon right up to the Blantyre boundary.
When in 1903 tramlines were laid along Glasgow Road in Blantyre, Greenfield and Burnbank, this only served to further populate the area with good access to homes and businesses for all. It was an affordable means to readily travel in and out of each village. Convenient tram stops were situated all along Glasgow Road, primarily beside major businesses or public buildings. Even by 1903, it was safe to say the rural charm of this area had well and truly gone.
In 1907, a new street was formed in Greenfield/Burnbank, just off Glasgow Road, near the bend before crossing into Blantyre. It was to be a dead end, but constructed wide, the Park Burn at the end of end with earthworks formed to protect against flooding. Birdsfield Street was created and was to officially belong in Hamilton Parish, despite its name connections to the Brick & Tile works and Farm a short distance away in High Blantyre.
The street was adjacent to an old detached house named ‘Limetree’, built of stone in one and a half storeys with a large, arched doorway, facing out on to Glasgow Road. Limetree is still there today.
On Birdsfield Street, two small semi detached villas were built that year on the south side. However, it is the large red sandstone building directly opposite them that is of interest and worthy of inclusion in this book. Many people in Blantyre will remember the former Trades Hotel, or as it was also commonly known, the Model Hostel or to give its official title, the Blantyre Lodging House.
The building was so well known, often associated with Blantyre despite sitting on the opposing bank of the official boundary. In a book hat explores all of Glasgow Roads’ buildings, it would be amiss of me not to mention it here. After all, it did sit just off Glasgow Road and even had a convenient tram stop. The Lodging House is shown in the highlighted area of this 1910 map above.
Blantyre Lodging House
Blantyre Lodging House was located at Birdsfield Street in Burnbank. Its identity was often blurry, for whilst it initially carried the name Blantyre Lodging House, it was certainly located over the Parkburn boundary, and into Hamilton Parish, rather than Blantyre. As such, I do still consider this a Hamilton building.
It was built by public subscription with the company Blantyre Lodging House Ltd asking for people to subscribe with shares. Subscription closed on Friday 5th July 1907. Take up was great with directors thinking they may have had to close the subscription before the actual closing date. The prospectus asking for shares had been published slightly earlier on Friday 21st June 1907 and appeared in local newspapers like “The Motherwell Times.”
It cost £8,000 with the amount raised from 2000 x £1 cumulative preference shares and a further 6000 x £1 ordinary shares. A 5s deposit could be made payable on application with the balance permitted to be paid up.
James Bell of Motherwell was Architect and one of five directors. The other directors were James Burns, the town clerk of Motherwell, Thomas Chambers a wood merchant of Motherwell, Blantyre’s own James Kelly, spirit merchant and justice of the Peace and David Kemp, a painter of Motherwell.
The company was proposed to be formed on 21st June 1907 with the purposes of constructing a model lodge house. It was noted an excellent site had been found already at that time. It was conveniently sited, near public works and with a tram stopping right outside the gate. It was considered the finest location for building such a lodging house.
It opened on Saturday 3rd October 1908 as “Blantyre Lodging House”, with all the latest fixtures and fittings. When it first opened there was a handy tram stop just outside at the Glasgow Road, at the entrance to Birdsfield Street. The triple storey building was made of sandstone and was entirely fenced off. When it opened, there was plenty of ground surrounding it offering recreational space foe the residents, or if they wanted to sit out on forms (seats). These seats were placed outside at various intervals for the lodgers. This was considered very important, for it was noted at the time that none of the other model lodging houses in Lanarkshire, or indeed Scotland offered a place for residents to sit outside, smoke and enjoy themselves without actually being on a public street.
The lodgers came in through a big entrance hall, after which it had a large well lit dining hall and a recreation room with kitchen on the ground floor, modern toilets and changing facilities as well as drying rooms were all at the back. A small shop was located within the building, exclusively selling items to residents.
The whole building was advertised as being well ventilated (a must in these hostels) and the big stone staircase led up to dormitories on the first and second floors. These were subdivided into wooden cubicles, which could accommodate 260 guests, each with a bed. Older folk may remember the iron stairway at the back which was the emergency route in case of fire, which in these places was always a hazard, in fact the ceilings were made out of asbestos or some similar fire retardant material.
Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, shares often came up for sale in local newspapers as they passed hands.
Local historian and resident, Gordon Cook added, “I’m pretty sure a lot of the shareholders then were Blantyre residents too, the shares came up for sale from time to time. Some men preferred to live there permanently though not out of necessity. When, around 1973 I waited for the Motherwell bus at 5:20 a.m. the men could be heard at the ‘model’ coughing in increasing numbers as they began to wake up.
In pre WW2 years the hostel, perhaps reflecting it was not in Blantyre, was known as the “Trades Hotel”. It was then known as the Model Hostel and home to many homeless people or those down on their luck.
Mr. Hugh McClelland (known as Hughie) was a local character who lived in the Model Lodge in Burnbank, Hamilton, not far from Springwells. He roamed around the Blantyre and Burnbank areas living on handouts from local inhabitants. He was tall, had long unkept hair, wore a ragged coat, and the legs of his trousers were ragged and frayed, all of which gave him a wild appearance.
When drunk, he would rant and rave at the top of his voice. Not knowing he was harmless, strangers would run away from him in terror, but it was claimed Hughie was a well-educated and knowledgeable man who had turned his back on the world and fallen on harder times.
Blantyre Project Social Media:
James Stirling: “I can remember Hughie. He used to walk out in front of the Chieftain bus when it went up Hill Street and when it stopped he would comb his hair by looking in one of the windows.”
Betty McLean: “I too remember Hughie. One Friday night I was helping to scrub the floor in the Salvation Army in Forrest St. It was dark and the door opened, in came Hughie saying, ‘I’m Jesus the son of God.’ We girls screamed. He was a harmless soul but scared us that night.”
The building was bought over by Tool Hire company ‘Noel Kegg’ in early 1975 and they traded there until 2010, for a while also known as Toolstop (the name of Noel’s sons company).
In 2010, Toolstop moved to larger location nearer the M74. In August 2014, the building was wrapped in scaffolding, many people speculating that it was to be renovated. However, on Thursday 6th October 2016, the building was completely demolished, as below in our photo that day.
Anyway, we digress. Let’s get back to Blantyre and the boundary itself. The official Blantyre Parish boundary at this location is the Park Burn, a stream which rises at Blantyre Park, further and higher to the south west. Other tributaries like the Red Burn flow into it further to the west and it flows in a north easterly direction towards the River Clyde, its confluence not far from Bothwell Bridge. The boundary is marked by a heavy dotted line on some of the previous maps in this chapter.
The boundary was crossed by going over either of two bridges. Highlighted in the larger circle below was the main Greenfield Bridge, adjacent to the Greenfield Foundry. Known as the Greenfield Bridge it dated from between 1747 and 1822 and allowed people to cross from Hamilton Parish into Blantyre. This bridge was made of stone with a footpath on its eastern side, that road being the Glasgow Road. It likely had improvements made in 1903 when trams started crossing into Blantyre.
Work to improve the bridge appears to have taken place in 1933 when the tramlines in this area were removed, for the 1936 map carriageway looks slightly wider with pavements on either side. Hamilton Town Council agreed on Wednesday 18th January 1933 to ascertain from the Ministry of Transport if a grant would be available for the widening of the road and bridges if it was arranged to proceed with a reconstruction and widening of the thoroughfare from Birdsfield Street, Burnbank to the burgh of Hamilton’s boundary at Greenfield Foundry at Blantyre. In the event no grant being available, the Town Council decided to lift the tramway rails and setts and to relay the roadway in the same fashion as had been done slightly earlier in Blantyre.
The approaches had earth embankments with the bridge elevated above the burn. The bridge existed post WW2, but was demolished in the second half of the 20th Century, redundant when the Park Burn was culverted at that location. The bridge would have been exactly where the junction is today into Park Burn Court Industrial Estate. The whole area lies on a low lying plain and it took the creation of the long culvert to finally stop flooding in this region.
To the east, a smaller bridge, perhaps made of timber or stone of a less substantial nature existed. This bridge may have been very old as part of the original Glasgow to Hamilton road before the sharp bend and southern more substantial road was created. In the late 19th Century, this bridge primarily was used by miners accessing the nearby Greenfield Colliery and also by families living at the tied Greenfield New Rows beside the bridge. The smaller bridge is also no longer there, its site now where the first junction is within the modern Park Burn Industrial Estate.
Want to know more about the birth and evolution of Springwell? I have conducted research at my cost, time and expense, made available here
Ready? Let’s begin out journey along Glasgow Road. Starting with its South side from Burnbank to Auchinraith Road here >>>
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