Harts Land started off as a vacant field, indeed there is no evidence that anything at all existed at its location prior to the 1870’s. In 1875, William and Thomas Hart (brothers) bought this land, which was adjacent to Glasgow Road. It was fenced off in a large square, marking their boundaries and they proceeded to construct 2 storey stone tenements (a ground floor and first floor) along Glasgow Road, stretching from Greenside Place along westwards towards the entrance to the public Park. To put this first into its modern context, Harts Land would have been on the current small patch of grass between Glasgow Road and the circular hardstanding that leads into the park at the Sports Centre.
Named after the owners, Harts Land or was sometimes referred to by the local dialect as “Herts Laun”. Their tenement building was one of the earliest tenements in Glasgow Road and their venture was to become well known, with the property attracting and let out to many other businesses. Inscribed on the chimney at the corner of Greenside Place was the date 1876, but it was the inscribed date of 1875 above the central close that gives away its construction commencement. The building was constructed well, made of stone with a slated roof. At around 47m (154 foot), it was one of the most prominent buildings in Blantyre during the 1870s. In total Harts Land comprised of around 2,500 square metres, but was not just confined to the commercial and retail business tenement on the Glasgow Road. Within Harts Land, were 2 blocks of homes. A detached block with 8 small homes and another detached block facing on to Greenside Place with 6 slightly larger homes which were constructed by the Greenside Property Company. All these homes were double storey with steps at the rear allowing access to the upper floor. At the back, behind the tenement were outside toilets.
The main tenement on Glasgow Road was originally subdivided into 4 shops with a central pedestrian pend close allowing access through to the back yard. At either end of the block, were larger double sized shops. The upstairs above the shops were let out as homes. William and Thomas established their own businesses there and it is known that at least some of the family lived on the premises. Tenants appear to have been easy to find, and the homes may have been particularly attractive for families with the Stonefield Primary school opening across the road in 1875.
By 1879, Harts Laun had many established businesses. J Anderson was a haircutter there, Alex Forrest a spirit merchant, Thomas Hart himself as a tobacconist, William Hart himself as a Plumber, ironmonger and gas fitter, Patrick McDonald in the sales room at one end, Allan McKendrick a carter and William Nisbet in the other sales room.
By 1891, a census reveals Thomas and William not living there, perhaps their success had outgrown their accommodation and they had moved elsewhere. However, Williams son and daughter William 8, and Eliza 5, were still there living with their grandmother Elizabeth Hart, aged 63.
Sometime between 1898 and 1910, one of the salesrooms gave way to become the Central Bar. At the other end of the building the other salesroom, was subdivided to become two rooms, one which would eventually become the Cosy Corner pub. i.e the 6 subdivisions became 7. Another change that occurred in this time period is that nearby Greenside Place, was renamed as Greenside Street. (Newspaper reports following 1910 refer to Greenside Street)
In 1918, a resident at Harts Land, Mary Lynch was charged with harbouring an absent soldier who was escaping WW1 service. She was looking after the man, who turned out to be her nephew, whilst her husband fought at the front. Police found him below the bed.
By 1936, all the homes at the back of the tenement had been demolished, only lasting 60 years or so. This would indicate they were probably not well built, or were damp or had poor facilities. They could also have been affected by mining activity, such was the case for many Glasgow Road Buildings. By the time the Glasgow Road trams had stopped running, only the Harts Tenement building on Glasgow Road existed within their Harts original boundaries. The area nearby was allegedly known as “the stud” due to the abundance of children that grew up there, but this is heresay only with no documented evidence.
Pre WW2 families who lived at Hart’s Land included Begg, Bracklin, Cavanagh, Cosgrove, Clyde, Cornfield, Darroch, Doherty, Flynn, Gainer, Graham, Hart, Heffron, Higgison, Irvine, Kerr, Love, Lynch, Mahon, Marray, Martin, Macdonald, McGarvie, McGlyn, McGuiness, McKenney, McKinstra, McQuade, McShane, McWilliams, Mullen, Murray, Neil, Owens, Poland, Regan, Rennie, Stocks, Thomson and Watson. Many of these families were Roman Catholics and miners, something that may have led to the Celtic connections affirmed to pubs within the tenement block at Hart’s Land.
Post WW2, the families living above the shops included The Davidsons, Guys, Harrisons, Hawkins, Lynch, McFadden, McGarveys, McInally, McMahon and Valerios.
By the 1960’s and 1970’s the tenements were still being used for commercial and residential purposes. People of a certain generation may remember going from east to west, The Cosy Corner Pub at the corner, Devanney’ shop, a barber named McGarvey, Peter Valerio’s Ice Cream Parlour, Bradley Cobblers, Mrs Guy’s sweet shop and finally at the western end, Fallon’s Bar. (previously Sullivan’s Bar, formerly The Central Bar.) Some may also remember other shops of the era in this building such as Adams Shop, TV Services or Jimmy Cleary’s Glasgow Road shop.
In 1976, The Central Bar was subjected to fire from vandals, but reopened again shortly after. However, by then many businesses were boarded up, being relocated or in some case, retired. Harts Land was demolished in 1978, succumbing to the development of Glasgow Road, like many other adjacent tenements.
Harts Land won’t be forgotten, as today Blantyre Community Committee (of which I am chairperson of), hosts the annual Festive Lights switch on and Christmas Market event for our town on that exact square piece of land! I wonder what William and Thomas Hart would have thought if they knew one day in the future THOUSANDS of Blantyre people would cram into their piece land to celebrate our community and the wonderful time of year that is Christmas!
Update: I need to update the graphic. In 1930, the houses on Greenside Street were owned by Greenside Property Company Ltd.
On social media:
Henry Hambley I remember Mrs Guy’s sweet shop but not for the obvious reason. Her son, Billy ( I think) ran a driving school and he taught me to drive in an Austin 1100 ! Passed my test first time thanks to him. I think he moved to Hamilton and ran a similar shop i.e. newsagent and groceries at Low Waters.