A Town, not a village


Did you know Blantyre is officially a “town” and has been for some time. Blantyre being described as only a ‘village’, is an old, in accurate notion not many people under 50 years old use and there’s good reason for that, for the former village of Blantyre became a town in May 1975.

Fondly but incorrectly referenced, some Blantyre residents of a ‘certain age’ will I’m sure always refer to Blantyre as a village, as they remember the old days and descriptions or perhaps be simply unaware the change was made. It’s a mindset that won’t change for some people, and no big deal really, as the term “village” conjures up images of small, quaint, friendly places.

When I enquired in 2012 to South Lanarkshire Council Planning, they confirmed to me that Blantyre is a ‘town’ rather than village. I decided to investigate more just in case. Other historians don’t seem to have written much about this before. Some clarification was much needed, especially after I noticed a rogue assumption elsewhere that Blantyre “couldn’t be a town, as it didn’t have a town hall or mayor“, despite those two requirements only applying to classifications in England!  (Of course in Scotland, there are no mayors, official post holders known as Convenors, Provosts, or Lord Provosts depending on the local authority).

However, you can see perhaps how the mistake is made. Pathe News referred to Blantyre as a town as early as 1930’s, despite it still being officially a village back then. Many other newspaper reports prior to WW2 described Blantyre as a town or village, or simply didn’t bother at all about finding out the real classification for their reports. Rightly or wrongly, an elderly generation perpetuated the term ‘village’, even beyond its “sell by date” in 1975.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 23.31.18

Extract from South Lanarkshire Council showing towns and villages in the region.

So, some evidence.

The Scottish Government shared their clarification with Blantyre Project, after enquiry, adding, “A town is usually a place with a lot of houses. Generally, the difference between towns and villages or hamlets is the sort of economy they have. People in towns such as Blantyre usually get money from industry (factories etc.), commerce (shops etc.) and public service (working for the town), not agriculture (growing food), as may have been the case in Blantyre in previous Centuries.  The subject can be difficult for people who lived on either side of the 1973 Government Act who may not wish to adopt change.

Although modern wards consider population size, the number of people who live in a place does not in isolation tell us if it is a town or a village although it can be a factor in helping to classify designations. For example Bothwell nearby to you has less than half the population of Blantyre but residents there often refer to themselves as a ‘conservation village’. For the record, when referring to Blantyre, we use the classification, town, but it would be worth checking with the local authority. We hope this clarifies your enquiry.”

Classification of land in Scotland is actually different from the rest of the UK. With exception of crown,  Parishes, Burghs, boundaries, councils and subsequent later wards are all treated differently, thanks to Scots Law. 

South Lanarkshire Council wrote back to me, backed up by Hamilton Reference Library, commenting, 

“The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 was an Act of Parliament of the UK that altered local government in Scotland on 16 May 1975. That day, the county council was abolished and the area absorbed into the larger Strathclyde region, which itself was divided into new Council Areas in 1996. With it came the declassifications of Parish’s within Lanarkshire, and a modern step forward to reclassifying and acknowledging growth in villages and towns. Although towns and new towns existed in Lanarkshire prior to 1975, the recognition that some villages were prospering or growing beyond village classification had to be incorporated, leaving Lanarkshire with 13 towns of “Biggar, Blantyre, Bothwell, Cambuslang, Carluke, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Larkhall, Lanark, Lesmahagow, Rutherglen, Strathaven and Uddingston. The classification of ‘town’ was assigned to Blantyre due to it’s size, nature of it’s economy being industry based, a quantum shift away from agriculture and farming and on the noted basis that it held a regular market and fair, something a village does not.”

The evidence was there in black and white and it changed the way I describe Blantyre, always taking care to mention it’s a town, rather than darting back and forth between village and town.

With South Lanarkshire Council, the recognised authority on the subject confirming Blantyre is a town, the Scottish Government, reference library officials and land registration all confirming the same, with not one small reference left to us being a village, the case was clear and closed. Blantyre is now a town.

The Village

It would be amiss of me in this article not to mention that the Village of Blantyre once started out at the small populated centre around Kirkton Cross. Other little hamlets or villages nearby like Stonefield, Auchinraith and Barnhill grew to merge and helped construct the mass populated area we know as Blantyre today. We refer commonly today as the village area in Blantyre, now being beside Station Road, named after the former Mill Works Village created by mill owners in the early 19th Century. It’s good that at least the name “The Village” is still part of the town of Blantyre and is certainly a term used only to describe that area. We’re about to have TWO villages in Blantyre, with the current Avant Homes development in High Blantyre being officially named “Greenhall Village”.

I still don’t mind hearing Blantyre described as a Village or a town but ahead of publishing a definitive book of a million words about Blantyre, I needed to put this to bed, clear up the assumption and with fact, correct it once and for all. If you see Blantyre is currently a Village written anywhere in a modern setting, it’s wrong.

It’s no big deal really but it’s highly likely that Blantyre will still be described as a ‘Village’ by some, for this remaining generation before the term finally dies out and we all end up using the proper reference of a town.

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