From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
Between 1876 and 1878, two business partners jumped on the construction bandwagon and embarked on a venture to build their own tenements on Glasgow Road. At a time when nearby Henderson’s Buildings were being built, a plot of land further west was secured, between two tracks that would eventually become Jackson Street and Herbertson Street.
Mr John Crow of 5 Afton Crescent, Paisley Rd, Glasgow and James Davidson, a grocer were the owners from afar. Seeing that William Roberts, (a joiner who would go on to build nearby Roberts Land) was once of the first tenants, it may be likely that he was their builder. The name ‘Avon’ may have simply been a reference to the beautiful woodland river stretching from Drumclog to Larkhall, a scenic beauty spot in those Victorian times.
Built of stone with slate roof, the property was L shaped on plan, partly on Glasgow Road and partly on the track which would become Jackson Street.
The building was unusual in that the corner had a rounded roof, curved, rather than more traditional angular on most other Glasgow Road tenements. It was 2 storey and initially consisted of 4 upper homes and 4 lower ground floor shops, all with early addresses 1 – 6 Avon Buildings. Four tall prominent chimneys faced out on to Glasgow Road.
The Avon Buildings were located at the corner of the junction of Glasgow Road and Jackson Street and adjacent to the Police Station. In 1879, Mr. Charles Clark was a carter living at these premises. Also at that time, J&G Hogg operated a short lived medical practice named ‘The Stonefield Medical Hall.”
In 1885, the premises were entirely let our, the owners choosing not to live there. Shops were occupied by (from east to west), Walter Getty saddlers, the middle 2 shops occupied by Blantyre Co-operative Society and the last shop at the corner was Andrew Graham’s Dairy. One of the owners, Mr. Crow was associated with the Co-operative Society and was already managing the first Co-op Shop which opened in 1883 nearby at Henderson’s Buildings.
During the remainder of the 1880’s, the flourishing Blantyre Co-operative Society were quickly establishing a presence in this area of Stonefield and it was quite apparent they sought out commercial opportunity at every turn.
By 1895, Blantyre Co-operative Society Ltd completely owned Avon Buildings, their secretary John Hamilton of Auchinraith managing the premises. It was likely bought in the late 1880’s. The Co-operative expanded the outbuildings at the back, building a store and stables, closing off the open courtyard by a high wall at the back of the building on Jackson Street. This forced the only entrance into the rear through a large pend close on Jackson Street, something which secured the co-op acquisition significantly. The stables kept working horses, kept for their deliveries when pulling cairts (carts) around Blantyre.
Speaking of this back courtyard, elderly man Thomas Hartman recalls this area as a child in the 1930’s commenting, “You went through between the buildings into a cobble stoned square. From there it was possible to enter each and every store for the delivery of goods. The public was not allowed to use this entrance, especially with all the horses mingling around. I can still hear the clip-clop of hoofs on the cobble stones and the shout of “Whooh Nelly!” and of course the habitual smell of dung in the air. I remember this was a closed in type square (courtyard) where all sounds and smells being accentuated by the surrounding buildings. It was hustle and bustle of a certain kind. I know about this, for there was I, standing outside the entrance with my pall and shovel, waiting for the , you know what.”
In 1895 William Batters, the Blantyre plumber lived in one of the homes. The other 3 homes were occupied by the Dunlop, Clark and Fleming families. Tenants rented for around £8 or £9 per year. The 4 shops were still there. Getty Saddlers still at the same location, the Co-op running the 2 central shops but having now moved into the larger corner shop at Jackson Street, Graham’s dairy vacated by then.
By 1905, the Co-op had turned the Jackson Street side of the building, south of the pend close into their Committee Rooms and offices with registered address 1 Jackson Street. At the rear, a coach house was built which would later become a garage to house delivery vehicles. The rest of the building was to change use dramatically as houses and shops were subdivided to maximize rental and retail opportunities. This appears to be common practice throughout Blantyre in the 1900s-1920’s before fashion for larger homes became more desirable. In 1905, instead of 4 shops and 4 homes, there were now 6 shops, 2 workshops at the rear courtyard, the stables, coach house and 10 homes, all contained inside the original building and yard imprint. The businesses were now all owned by the Blantyre Co-operative Society having evicted all private shopkeepers. Those running the shops were now employees.
Prior to WW1 Avon Buildings Co-op shops included a boot shop, repair workshop and butchers shop with back stores. Proper departments were forming too with shops for Hardware, Dairy, Drapery and Grocery. Tenants were mostly employees with jobs such as vanman, flesher and bootmaker.
Need for Expansion
Avon Buildings were initially allocated odd numbered postal addresses of 107-125 Glasgow Road and 1-3 Herbertson Street. With such a flurry of commercial activity here, the Co-op along with other shops in Low and High Blantyre had established themselves as a major factor in Blantyre retail business. Private rented shops like Getty’s saddlers shop were forced to move to other nearby properties.
By 1910, new larger premises were needed and planned. The perfect opportunity arose for the Co-op in 1909 when the old Police Station next door to the east was abandoned, presenting opportunity for buildings and land, right next door to their own building. However, the County Council, owners of the old police station buildings and land, likely knew this for discussions were protracted and lengthy, most like through the Co-op not willing to pay the asking price.
However, a deal was done and by 1915, not too long after the First World War had started, the Co-op owned the old Police station, note in the valuation roll that year as being “empty”. The police station was demolished by Blantyre Co-operative Society Ltd between April and October 1915, the land entirely cleared at the corner of Herbertson Street by the start of November 1915, paving the way for their new, large Central Premises.
We leave the name Avon Buildings behind in 1915, for following WW1, the premises despite existing until 1979 were later known as part of the Co-operative Buildings, an extension if you like of their Central Premises. The name “Avon” confined to history. In 1915, Avon Buildings had 7 shops and 9 houses.
Once their Central Premises were built, the whole building including Avon Buildings were later given new modern addresses 111 – 127 Glasgow Road, with numbers 107 and 109 disappearing when outbuildings at the back were cleared. We pick up the rest of this buildings history when exploring the Co-operative Central Premises next. Today the site is the western part of the Auchinraith Trading Estate.