Blantyre Village Works School

1890s Blantyre  Works Schoolhouse & Chapel (PV collection)

1890s Blantyre Works Schoolhouse & Chapel (PV collection)

I’m excited to show this photo, which I dont believe has ever been published or seen in general public. Pictured in some remarkable detail is the Blantyre Village Works School, near to the birthplace of David Livingstone.

A crowd of 26 people most likely the pupils and teachers, face out towards Station Road. In the background on the right is Waterloo Row homes.

In 1828, Henry Monteith & Co, the mill owners constructed on a site North of the Village, and South of Shuttle Row, this small school.  The building was not only a school for the mill workers, but also served as a chapel when required and could seat up to 400 people. Its dual purpose was reflected in its architecture, with the windows taking on a religious building appearance. A chimney on the side indicates the classes were heated by coal fires with small coal chutes visible in the foreground for the coal deliveries to the cellar. The school was well thought out when built. There was no peering in the windows, with the cills being 7 foot high. Indeed, it was likely like that to stop any distractions for pupils inside who were unable to look out. The schoolmaster lived in a free house next to the building.

When it opened, 136 pupils attended to the school, with 56 of them in evening classes, but numbers rose with the popularity of employment at the mills. The school operated during the week. A schoolmaster was appointed whose salary was £20 per year by 1846. Monteith’s also provided him with a free house and garden.

The building also functioned as a Sunday School and Community Hall and sat on one side of a quadrangle of mill workers homes. As part of the Free church,  the minister’s stipend was paid, one-half by the proprietors of the works, and the other half from the seat-rents.

David Livingstone had a soiree in 1856 when he returned from Africa. Described in 1859 as, “A large schoolhouse capable of containing about 250 pupils. It belongs solely to the “Blantyre Works” Co: [Company] by whom a Salary is paid to the Teacher, in addition to what is received from the pupils. It receives no support, whatever, from the Parish, being originally intended for children of the people employed in the Works.”A library was established in 1864.

During the Waterloo Row fire of 1928, many of the families sought refuge in this old building.

In 1930, shortly after the David Livingstone Memorial opened, the school became a tearoom, cashing in on the popularity of the nearby new Memorial Centre, although was not the official tearoom itself for the centre (which was located on the lower floor of the Shuttle Row side buildings). It had a short life as a tearoom.

It is noted that the Committee of the Livingstone Centre decided in December 1929, that the old school should not be transferred to the grounds, following lack of response to an appeal to raise funds to renovate it.  With land needed for housing shortages and the nearby quadrangle of old homes demolished, the site was cleared in the early 1930s and is shown as gone by the 1936 map.

2 responses to “Blantyre Village Works School

  1. Paul – thanks for mentioning more of Waterloo Row. Does this say that all the houses in the quadrangle were demolished sometime after the Waterloo Row fire? Regards to you and Paula and Annalily. Mike & Mary Lou.


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