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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
Origins & Evolution of Church Street
Like all the southern side streets leading off Glasgow Road, Church Street had its humble beginnings as a field boundary between two fields, in particular at this location, on the former farm of Stonefield. The boundary became a track in the 19th Century and the track would towards the turn of the 20th Century, be renamed Church Street, after the Stonefield Parish Church.
Like Jackson Street further to the east, Church Street was to be a dead-end street, a cul-de-sac if you like, just as it is today. During the 19th Century the street ran only the length of the church. However, by 1910, decent quality stone homes, mostly semidetached had been built on either side of the street, most of which still exist today. These homes were initially owned by Rev John Burleigh and the Batters family. In 1912, a motor house and store was built on the far south western side, the constructor being William Adam of High Blantyre.
In 1970, Mr. Barrett started a small bus business at Craig Street but had to move in 1973 when plans of redevelopment began to unfold. He moved to this former motor house at 19 Church Street taking over from the Baxter’s Bluebird Buses. Barrett manufactured car body sills.
The history of Church Street is explored in other Blantyre Project books. Whilst the distance from Church Street to Logan Street may seem relatively short, a lot has happened in this section of Glasgow Road and we begin by looking at the early beginnings of these properties.
Abbeygreen was the former Manse house for the nearby Burleigh Church (East United Free Church) and had address 4 Church Street adjoining to Abbeygreen Building at 2 Church Street.
Located on the eastern side of Church Street near the Glasgow Road junction, the first mention in documentation appears to be in 1901, where the Rev John Burleigh, then a 50-year-old widower was living with 28-year-old Grace Cameron, a domestic servant hailing from Stonehouse. John’s previous wife Marion Braid, 6 years his junior, died on 7th July 1892 at a young age and consequently, he had moved out of his previous home at Coatshill Cottage where he had lived since 1889 with his wife and father in law Andrew Braid (b1912- d1897), a retired grocer.
Abbeygreen Manse house is described as having 5 rooms each with one window or more. In 1905, the manse was owned and occupied by the Rev John Burleigh. According to the valuation roll that year, the buildings were split into two and was called Abbeygreen Manse and Abbeygreen Building, which was let out to Mrs. Grace Lennox (who is not the same Grace noted as a servant girl earlier. This Grace was older and had lived at Abbey Green Building since 1901 when she is noted as being 66 years old).
By 1911, John Burleigh was 60 years old and still single, but living with 35 year old servant Grace Hunter. John would pass away in 1922, leaving the house to a Janet Burleigh, possibly a sister. The adjacent building at 2 Church Street was also owned by Mrs Janet Burleigh. The rateable value of the manse did not change for several decades.
By 1930, Janet still owned adjacent 4 Church Street, often referred to by just the name “Abbeygreen”. However, she was not living there at that time. She also owned consulting rooms, which was the hall at 141 Glasgow Road. Abbeygreen is still shown on the 1936 map, although by that time it was not noted as being the manse. It appears that following John Burleigh’s death in 1922, the East United Free Church operated from a temporary manse at 306 Glasgow Road, which was simply a house. By 1930, that arrangement did not exist anymore and it appears the new minister at the church moved into the old Stonefield Parish Church Manse in Herbertson Street, as Stonefield Parish Church by 1930 had built a brand new, sizeable manse at 34 Auchinraith Road.
Abbeygreen for a time fell into dereliction but was later home to the Braidwood family of builders. During the mid 1970’s it fell under compulsory purchase order and the last owner before it’s demolition was a lady, who is now elderly and lives in Hamilton. Many people remember the large, beautiful garden at this former house.
Abbeygreen Building was a former large, tall building of several homes, which were located at 2 Church Street. The name first appears in the 1901 census and the construction was likely around that time, the previous homes on that site showing a different configuration on the 1898 map. Abbeygreen Building is not to be confused by the former adjacent Abbeygreen Manse. It is likely given ownership by Rev John Burleigh, that he was the constructor and person who created the name Abbeygreen. Strong evidence for this is the fact that Rev Burleigh was born at Abbeygreen in Lesmahagow. i.e. he named his new plot of land, after his birthplace.
The entrance to the houses was crammed into a small space adjacent to the manse at the Hall at the corner of Glasgow Road, and faced out on to Church Street looking across to the imposing height of the Stonefield Parish Church. There are no steps shown on the maps indicating the homes located in Abbeygreen Building were likely all on the one storey.
In 1905, according to the valuation roll, Abbeygreen Building was 6 small homes, a shop and a workshop. Five of the six homes were occupied that year. Renting from John were Mrs Grace Lennox, Mr William Garwood (Captain of the Salvation Army), Mrs Mary Taggart, Mr Thomas Westwood (miner), and Mr Alexander McCaig (miner). Mr Robert Hunter was renting the shop and running it as a laundry service. Mrs Nellie Lennox rented the workshop working from it as a dressmaker. Overall Rev John Burleigh was receiving an annual rent that year from his tenants of £72 (£8,000 today).
By 1915, John Burleigh owned the adjacent halls at 141 Glasgow Road on the corner of Church Street (explored next), his manse and also 7 homes, indicating that in that previous decade he had split one of the homes further into two although his rental income remained roughly the same. His tenants in 1915 were Dr James H Naismith, Thomas Steel (labourer), David Russell (miner), Priscilla McIlwraith, George Gray (Clerk), Alexander McCaig (Insurance agent) and David McCaig (miner). There was no evidence of any shop or workshop by 1915.
Following John’s death in 1922, Mrs Janet Burleigh inherited the properties. According to the 1925 census, the halls at 141 Glasgow Road were by then shops. The 7 houses were let to Mary Ann Heggison, Mary White, John Campbell and the previous occupants named McCaig, McIlwraith and Russell an arrangement that hadn’t changed by 1930.
The site of the old Abbeygreen Building is now a vacant piece of land, which is partially fenced off and in recent years has started to sprout woodland. The adjacent former manse and halls are also no longer there, also vacant land.
Abbeygreen Hall & Consulting Rooms
At the western corner of Church Street and Glasgow Road, exactly on the junction was the former Abbeygreen Hall & Consulting Rooms. This 2 storey stone tenement building, adjacent to Abbeygreen may have once had the name ‘Bothwellview” on account of it facing northwards and perhaps being able to see over the Clyde Braes at one point. It was situated directly across from John Street, so this is entirely possible.
In 1891, the Rev John Burleigh was living at Coatshill Cottage further west. A year later when his wife died, he acquired this rectangular plot of land and constructed Halls for use by the community and should not be confused or called the Burleigh Church Hall, which existed at Herbertson Street.
The Abbeygreen hall & its rooms were entered from Glasgow Road, the building having only 1 door facing out on to the pavement. There were no windows or doors on the gables. John was minister at the nearby Burleigh Church and was well respected and known to many, pictured here from the St Andrews Church website.
During 1895, it is noted that a shop existed in the ground floor of the building, presumably the hall and rooms being on the upper floor. That year both hall and shop were empty. The hall would certainly have been accessible for many when trams started running up and down Glasgow Road in front of it in 1903.
Incredibly, we can date this photo rather accurately. Trams ran from October 1903 and where the billboard is on waste ground, the Masonic Hall construction had started in May 1904, so this creates a 6 months window for when this picture was taken. The long northerly shadows suggesting winter. The postcard very likely taken to celebrate the start of the tram service. The Stonefield Parish Church is behind the hall, although the picture makes it look like it had a steeple (which it didn’t!)
By 1905, the hall was again marked ‘empty’ on the valuation roll, although not to say it wasn’t being used often. The shop was occupied by Robert Hunter, a laundryman. Shortly after both hall and shop were given the official address 141 Glasgow Road. The laundry was short lived for by 1915 during war years, beside the hall, within this building was Dr. James H Naismith’s surgery. It was the start of a peppered history associated with the wellbeing of Blantyre’s population.
Sometime around the end of WW1, Rev John Burleigh moved the requirement for the halls to the vacant and unused Blantyre Works School room and Hall in the Village. The former hall at 141 Glasgow Road and Dr Naismith’s surgery were divided and became 2 homes, occupied by Andrew Gillespie and Mrs Ann Jane Higgison, renting for £12 and £7 per annum. It is unknown why the hall moved, but it may simply have been to create the rental opportunity of £19 per annum, whereas before was next to nothing.
John Burleigh died in 1922 and his estate was inherited by his widow, Janet. It is perhaps telling of the character of Janet Burleigh and her reported caring and assistance to local individuals on the fact that by 1925, the homes were no longer being rented, but instead the rooms were being used by Percival M Hancock, a chemist subletting to William Greenlie Chemists. This was to be the start of a prolonged period where the building would be used for medicine and looking after the health of Stonefield’s residents.
Dr. David Keir Fisher
In 1925, the chemist was taken over by the arrival of Dr. David Keir Fisher who would operate a doctor’s surgery there for 5 years until leaving Blantyre in 1930. David lived at “The Cairns” at Station Road and rented his surgery space and consulting rooms from Janet Burleigh. He may have left Blantyre due to possibly feeling redundant upon the building of the Health Institute in Victoria Street.
Born on 22nd March 1894, his parents could not afford to fund his medical training, so Fisher worked as a dental technician for 5 years to save enough to become a medical student in 1913. The next year he joined the 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, serving in Gallipoli & Egypt, and transferring to a field ambulance unit after recovering from wounds. After the war he returned to studies in both medicine and dentistry, qualifying in both disciplines in 1923. He then worked in general practice in Blantyre, returning to Glasgow in 1930 to work as an anesthetist based at the Dental Hospital.
Appointed a consultant (primarily at the Dental Hospital, but also at the Royal Infirmary) on the inception of the NHS in 1948, he retired from GRI in 1959 and the Dental Hospital in 1961. Fisher was a dental anesthetist in the traditional style, but hypnotherapy was a major clinical interest and he founded the Scottish branch of the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis.
Predeceased by his wife, he had a daughter and twin sons. He maintained strong links with the church and remained active into retirement, travelling to the Upper Nile in his 90th year, and contributing considerably to the discussion of a clinical meeting only two weeks before his death in Dec 1985.
During researching this book, a Blantyre resident, Mr. Taylor showed this plaque from Dr. Fisher’s former surgery. It reveals further information, such that his telephone number was Blantyre 93.
Using the plaque, we know his 1923-1930 surgery was open 9am – 10am except Sundays, 2pm to 3pm and 7pm to 8pm except Wednesdays and Sundays. The plaque probably came off the front of the building outside his surgery when the property was demolished in 1979.
After Dr. Fisher moved away, the ground floor had a short spell as Young’s Fruit Shop, certainly there in 1933. In 1937 Janet Burleigh had moved away and passed away that year too, at Cathcart, Glasgow. That same year, the following photo was taken showing a post tram era, renovated road surface and Church Street leading off to the left.
One of the only Telephone Boxes in Blantyre at the time was located at the corner, perhaps due to its proximity to the nearby Telephone Exchange.
The photo shows a huge crack rippling up the side of the Abbeygreen Hall, caused by subsidence, which was so prevalent in this area. Indeed the nearby Church Steeple had been removed the previous decade and in the following decade a nearby tenement in Logan Street collapsed. In this photo, the crack looks repaired.
The new building owners in post WW2 years appears to be the Masonic, buying the building attached to their own and continuing to let out the shop. In the 1950’s and 1960’s it was occupied by a Dr. Hutchison’s surgery and latterly before its demolition in 1979, it had been 2 homes.
David Allen & Sons Billposting Ltd
This is perhaps a good time to talk about advertising billboards, something that was commonplace throughout the 20th Century on the many gables along Glasgow Road. David Allen & Sons Billposting Ltd were a national advertising business known to exist in 1916 and was part of the larger David Allen company formed in 1857. Their Head Office for Scotland was at 21 and 23 Cathcart Street, Greenock and they made their money by leasing wooden hoardings from building owners and charging customers to advertise on them. In some cases, the business attempted to buy the hoarding outright, to ensure they didn’t have to rent it themselves. This was commonplace, but created a mixture of leased and owned hoardings. They did this throughout Scotland in the first half of the 20th Century, and Blantyre was no exception. The company leased gable walls of buildings, (mostly on Glasgow Road) to advertise.
In 1930, according to the valuation roll, amongst the places leased was the gable of 57 Glasgow Road (Chambers Land). They also owned and advertised on the hoarding next to the Central Garage at 163 Glasgow Road. They also owned hoarding and a sign on the gable of 225 Glasgow Road belonging to Margaret Nelson and their own hoarding at 289 Glasgow Road. They also leased hoarding on the side gable of 254 Glasgow Road (now Good Taste Takeaway), which faced on to Station Road in 1930, but was later obscured when the Broadway Cinema was built.
They also leased the hoarding on the gable of 244 Glasgow Road (now Stacks Café), on the north side, facing into the park. They leased a board at Craighead near the racing track. They owned the hoarding at 2 John Street, near the Castle Vaults. Also, they owned a billboard hoarding at 14 Merry’s Rows on the western side of the street at Low Blantyre. At number 5 and 6 Stonefield Road, they leased hoarding for advertising from Hamilton Investment & building society. At High Blantyre, they owned a hoarding near Lint Butts at Main Street, directly across from Cemetery Road. They also owned and advertised on Whistleberry Bridge.
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