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“Contemporary Account of Modern Blantyre” by Paul Veverka
Extracts from “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
It has been quite some time since a snapshot of contemporary life in Blantyre has been captured in writing. Not since the aforementioned Statistical account of 1952 written by Rev A MacKenzie, has the town been described in any great detail or from a modern perspective. There has been no other greater aesthetical change to Blantyre than in the intervening period from World War 2 until now, and especially so, during the 1970’s where commerce, industry and property in Blantyre saw radical change.
The following account sets out to describe Blantyre for future generations and was written by me during 2016 and 2017. It is in effect, a brief tour highlighting places and buildings that I believe are notable for future readers to look back upon. I say ‘brief’ here, for this entire chapter is expanded upon in far greater detail in my other books. For the record, it is not a statistical account, for which only the minister can write, but it would be amiss of me whilst writing a book of the epic magnitude of “Blantyre Explained” to have missed out the opportunity to describe contemporary Blantyre for future historians to ponder upon.
Heading down the hill from Greenhall into High Blantyre, one can’t help notice that the council have painted the stone built Greenhall Estate entrance pillars, a bright pink. I can only imagine that the planning officer was on holiday when that decision was made. The steep decline down into High Blantyre is unchanged for many years. Recent upgrades of the pavement on one side, installed a heel kerb, but there is no protection against the steep hillside. A retaining wall adorns the opposite side of the road, holding back the sloping farmlands. The carriageway is well used and well maintained.
At Shott, the large detached house sits hidden behind a twelve-foot stonewall. Enclosed, in its own private gardens, the residential building (now renovated) is amongst the most desirable in Blantyre and set in beautiful secluded surroundings. At time of writing, there are proposals to encircle Shott Farm with a new housing estate, although it is noted that the scheme is not at planning yet, and is on Greenbelt. Such an estate would considerably add to the size of High Blantyre. The road forms a slight bend at this location and a solar powered speed restriction sign is present nearby. In December 2015, planning application was lodged for the creation of 195 new homes on the farmland behind Shott.
Across the road is the Salveson Housing Estate. An extensive estate of whitewashed or roughcast bungalows, semi and detached homes is well maintained, some with very beautiful gardens and generally considered a safe place for children to play outside in the street. The community on the outskirts of the town is bordered on to the woodland of the Calder and towering above, nearby are the ruins of the former Greenhall Railway Viaduct.
We now find ourselves in High Blantyre, heading along to Main Street. Going eastwards, on the left beyond a couple of homes, is Kirk Care. This large brick built care home for the elderly and infirm is located at the junction of Main Street and Hunthill Road. An expansive complex of 2 storey detached buildings, the care home sits on the former site of High Blantyre Old Parish Church Halls and the former High Blantyre Primary School. It is well maintained with particular focus on wellbeing and the security of the residents. The corridors of the main building are lined with old photos of Blantyre.
On the opposite of Main Street, is the Craigmuir Housing Estate, with a 1980’s design of English Tudor facades, something unique and unusual for the area. These houses are in good repair with gardens to be proud of and are sited on the former High Blantyre Train Station. Craigmuir Road itself leads to a dead end. On its left, stands the High Blantyre Old Parish Church. Opened in 1863, the church has recently had its steeple extensively renovated and the bell tower restored. How nice it is again after decades to hear the bell ring in High Blantyre each Sunday at 10.40am. The Church has seen several new ministers since the Millennium, the most recent being Sarah Ross. The church has a painted red wooden arched door. The modern Church Hall is located to the east of the Church and is frequently used for meetings, venues, parties, Sunday school, fetes and charitable events. In May 2015, a tarmacadam disabled access was built near to the hall. Nearby the minister’s home, the Manse is located beyond the Hall car park. Of modern construction, this area has been home to centuries of High Blantyre ministers and the bungalow replaces a former larger detached manse house. Opposite the car park, and facing out on to Main Street is the former indoor bowling building, currently vacant and proposed to be turned into a shop or salon. The stone built one storey building looks out upon the 1977 Monument to the 1877 Dixons Pits disaster, situated just off Main Street in a small, triangular grassed area. This area is extremely well maintained with beautiful displays of flowers (usually magnolias and pansies) and well-trimmed shrubs. The whole scene makes me proud to live nearby, every time I walk past. The monument itself is cleaned periodically and at time of writing looks exceptional as the day it was erected. Clean and with several remembrance wreaths still in full colour from last year.
The Kirkton Graveyard is an iconic and well-known scene in Blantyre. Unchanged for many years, the graveyard though has suffered recently, with some of the walls adjacent to the manse entirely collapsing. In some cases, the inlaid headstones into this part of the wall have fallen out and lay scattered on the grass. Indeed many gravestones in this old cemetery are face down or broken. It does make me sad, as some go back to the 1600’s. Others, including the stones remaining standing, are starting to weather considerably with the names being lost. Thankfully the Blantyre Heritage Group preserved the names in a small publication a few years back. The Kirk walls are listed, just as the Church is, so I hope that the appropriate heritage groups secure funding for them to be repaired. At present the gap in the wall, is covered with unsightly metal fence. Inside the cemetery, the two large trees continue to noticeably get larger each year, an iconic sight if queued nearby in traffic. The whole cemetery feels peaceful, surprisingly so, for such a busy junction at Kirkton Top Cross. Within the cemetery near the stepped entrance, a cairn has been erected which features stones from the former church steeple. The cemetery gates are now often unlocked, but the area is largely undisturbed and never seems to be visited too often. On the Main Street façade of the wall, is the Wardop Moore Stone Arch, which once housed a water well and seat. The arch in recent years looks like it has started to lean inwards towards the road at a slight incline, a sign perhaps that large tree roots are disturbing its construction. I fear in a decade or two, it will need rebuilt, and sincerely hope this heritage is not demolished.
We next leave the busy junction at Kirkton, with its traffic lights and head right, into Douglas Street. This street was widened considerably and features a combination of new and old homes. New flats three storey’s high are located on the junction with Main Street, built in sandstone to echo the nearby pub’s construction. Further down towards the expressway, detached houses of an older age are well kept and ensure the street contains older residences. With people becoming ever more energy saving conscious, some homes now have solar panels on the roof, a trend that has sprung up in recent years, and more so in the last 2 or 3 years in Blantyre. Near the expressway slip road, a modern brick built housing estate is built on elevated land, formerly the gardens of the Manse. The houses are well maintained with nice gardens and despite the proximity to the expressway, are relatively quiet.
Continuing under the A725 Expressway Bridge, we reach an area formerly known as Loanfoot. For the larger part of the last 2 decades, the roundabout here, accessing the on and off slipways of the A725, featured a large blue “H” symbolising nearby Hamilton Technology Park, ironically, not in Hamilton, but Blantyre. It was demolished in Winter 2014/2015 and only the concrete foundation is currently visible. I hope an appropriate feature for Blantyre ends up being placed there. The junction is always very busy with traffic. Recent attempts to beautify this are including grassing over part of the roundabout, planting new conifers and new gravel landscaping alongside the pavements.
Doubling back to Kirkton Top Cross, we head down High Blantyre Main Street, in a gentle slope downwards to the east. At its junction with Hunthill Road, sits the isolated Cornerstone Pub, with Lynsey Baird as landlady. The pub is well known, perhaps more so from its former name, Carrigans. In recent years, the pub has seen mixed fortunes, but has survived the test of time as being a public house in that spot for well over a Century. Adjacent is Schoolhouse lane, the modern small housing estate, taking its name from the former School Lane at that same location. A small triangular park is adjacent to the lane, although the rose beds in the last year have been grassed over by the council. The hedges are frequently maintained. In this little park are 2 large conifers. One has been storm damaged within the last 10 years, so they are now of unequal height, but still tall. The red brick and stonewalls of the former shops and homes are still visible. Next, on this same, northern side of Main Street is a large, triangular plot of land containing three storey modern flats called Lomond View. They sit on land that once belonged to former Blantyre pub owner, Matt Boyle, whose detached stone house was demolished to make way for the development in the years following the Millennium the flats are let out entirely.
Adjacent to Lomond View is Croftfoot. This is my own home. A detached farmhouse built in 1730, which sits down a red gravel driveway, surrounded by tall, mature trees. This former farm once had a dairy attached and in its glory days owned a significant portion of the land in High Blantyre. Centuries of land ownership have carved up the fields and land including the sale of land to the county in the early 1930’s for the purposes of building Kirkton Park. Croftfoot now has around 1 acre. The barn adjacent was converted lain 2014 by myself and is now my wife’s photography studio, Paula Veverka Photography. The buildings are in good repair. A vacant field currently exists beside the park, of 1/3 acre, once part of Sergeants Acre. The remaining 2/3rds of Sergeants acre contains 1970’s built bungalow and substantial garden owned by Mr. Hugh Gibson.
Further down Main Street are the former 1950’s Police Houses, which are well kept and look spacious. Small stone dyke walls and railings exist on the front gardens, a scene not likely to have changed since the houses were built. The gardens and externals of these private homes have recently been renovated, with many of the dark, overgrown trees now cut down, a few with new driveways created off of Main Street. Next, is the High Blantyre Baptist Church. A small, detached kit building situated on the site of the former church of the same name. The building is starting to show signs of its age, but has been maintained and is in use each Sunday.
Near vacant ground is a small tarmac car park leading into High Blantyre’s Kirkton Park. The park is relatively litter free and the play equipment is a good state of repair. The grass is cut often throughout summer and the surrounding mature trees on all four sides make it feel quite secluded and scenic. Exits lead to Main Street, to Park Crescent with the Broompark Avenue exit now closed over. The Council repaired the stone dyke in April 2015. As well as swings, there is a football court enclosed by high safety fences and a zip wire slide attraction. Sadly, the band, pond and lavatories of previous years are now gone.
We now approach the retail and commerce part of Main Street. Near the park is a row of renovated shops. As of September 2015, from west to east, these are Dazzling Doll’s Salon, Broons Deli, (formerly in 2015 Jimmy Mays Hot Food shop), The Post Office, McLean’s Newsagents, Tanning Salon and Gino’s Chip shop. An ATM also is available at this location.
Exploring the opposite side of Main Street, near Kirkton Cross is a modern 3-storey block of flats, built in stone. They are located on the corner of Douglas Street and Main Street, directly across from the triangular park. Next, is a small derelict one-storey cottage, directly across from the entrance to Croftfoot. It was built in 1823 and is currently owned by John Murray. The cottage slate roof has collapsed in recent years and the windows and door are bricked up. It is not listed and has no immediate plan to be developed or demolished. It represents the oldest house actually on the main street, the only older house being Croftfoot, which sits back off Main Street, despite its Main Street address. The little cottage is now covered in ivy and not watertight about 3m2 of rood missing.
Further eastwards is the Masonic Building. A former concert hall and pub, the 2 storey stone building often has many cars parked outside for meetings of that order. The external walls of the hall were painted in 2014. Adjacent to this building is a currently vacant building on the corner of Priestfield Street. Following the Millennium for a short time this was an Indian Restaurant, but is more famously and commonly known as the former Apollo Bar. The property is starting to show signs of age, despite several attempts to renovate or rejuvenate the externals.
Cycle lanes were introduced in Blantyre in March 2015. The council have delineated the 3-foot lanes with red coloured tarmac surfaces and these are especially apparent on the carriageway at Main Street and Auchinraith. Street Lights were also changed over that month from to low energy lights, which I have to admit now give a far dimmer white glow than the bright orange lights we have seen for many decades.
At Priestfield stands a large sycamore tree, itself now as tall as the nearby buildings. Adjacent, is a car park, which supports the Priestfield Community Hall, a single storey rectangular open plan property, which accommodates a community café each morning. Behind are the 2 storey white homes, mostly terraced, which formerly had flat, low roofs. This expansive estate is pleasantly divided by green communal areas, but houses in at the south by the busy A725 East Kilbride Expressway. Built on the former site of Priestfield Farm, these private homes were built in the late 1960’s, opening in the early 1970s and are generally well maintained, many with the current trend of solar panels on the roofs.
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