Netherton/Blanefield

Illustrated Essays

(see also, The School, The Printworks and the Coubrough Family, The Blane Valley Railway, St Kessog’s RC Church, The Free Church, The War Memorial and John K Campbell’s account of growing up in early 20th century Strathblane.)

“Nothing is now left of Old Netherton save the smithy and the school-house, and its very name seems likely to perish, for the factory originally called Blane Printfield has expanded to such ample proportions, and covered its environs with so many workers’ houses that the whole of Netherton and neighbourhood with its post-office and railway station, is now usually, but improperly, called “Blanefield”.

John Guthrie Smith 1886

Netherton is the old name given to the part of the parish of Strathblane that is now known as Blanefield. Its character was transformed in the 19th century by the vast calico printworks whose smoking chimneys once dominated the area and from which row upon row of cramped workers’ cottages fanned out. After the closure of the works in 1898 much of this primitive accommodation was cleared and the area regained some of its rural character. Ironically, it became a popular destination for daytrippers and holiday-makers keen to escape the noise and grime of the city. Blane Avenue and Blane Crescent now take up much of the land once occupied by the printworks. Today the sole remnant of the printworks is its drying room at the junction of Blane Avenue and Station Road. This is now a private house.

View down Station Road from the main road, showing the tenements known as Burnside Row

Old Netherton

According to Guthrie Smith, the old village of Netherton stood at Thorn of Cuilt (around the junction of the main road with Station Road). It consisted of the smithy, the schoolhouse and two rows of cottages parallel with the road. They occupied the space where the former United Free Church and its manse now stand. It had two shops, one of which was also the ale house run by one Jenny Brash. Though little is known about her, she has given her name to both Jenny’s Burn, which flows down the Thorn of Cuilt and on down the left of Station Road, and “Jenny’s Lum” on the Campsies. This is a cleft in the rock which, when the burn in spate combines with a strong-south-west wind, produces spectacular spray that resembles smoke from a chimney.

The smith not only shoed horses but was also a wheelwright, vet, doctor and dentist. Before the days of a resident doctor in the parish, if there was a tooth to be pulled or a wound attended to, the blacksmith was the man for the job. To heal a cut, he would take a red-hot iron and use it to spread tar on the wound, thus disinfecting the skin and cauterising the wound. In winter it was a warm place to gather and catch up with the latest news. (See also John K Campbell’s account of growing up in this area in the early 20th century.)

The Smithy

The first public school had been erected in 1781. In 1854 it was demolished and rebuilt on the same site and a room for girls added. This structure, with a few additions, remained the village primary school right up to 1966, when it moved to its present site. Part of the old school is now a private house, as are both the former United Free Church and its adjoining manse.

The School

Two joined cottages (one now known as Netherton Cottage), apparently date from the mid-18th century and were probably once part of Netherton Farm.

The Printworks

Further up the hill, there were few buildings prior to the mid-19th century. The Rechabite Hall (56-58 Glasgow Road) was built around 1846 in connection with the temperance movement. Across the road Woodbank (63 Glasgow Road) had been built in the 1830s and once housed five households. But as the printworks grew and prospered, cottages and tenements sprang up in all directions, along with businesses to serve them.

The Blanefield Printworks

The 1861 Census for the area reflects the gulf between the proprietor and his workers. Anthony Park Coubrough, aged 48, describes himself as a “Calico printer employing 450 men, women and boys”. His home, Blanefield House (in the area now occupied by the Netherblane flats), boasted 16 rooms with at least one window. On the other side of the main road in part of Netherton Cottage, one of his workers, 30-year-old John Graham, shared one room with his wife and four children under seven.

The Noo Hooses

The 1862 Ordnance Survey map shows the tenements known as Burnside Row that had appeared in Station Road, as well as West Row and Wood Place, which right into the 20th century were known as “the noo hooses”. It also shows The Netherton Inn had appeared, right next to the former Rechabite Hall, which failed as a temperance venture and was turned into accommodation.

1862 Ordnance Survey Map showing “the noo hooses”

Netherton was in the midst of a population explosion even though mechanisation at the printworks resulted in cuts to the workforce. The 1881 Census records that in Wood Place alone there were 87 residents often living six or more to a room. By the time Guthrie Smith was writing in the mid-1880s, Netherton had not only acquired a station but also shops and a post office and must have seemed more like a small town than the hamlet he had once known.

The valuation Roll for the parish of 1890-91 provides a comprehensive picture of all the dwelling houses built in Netherton. They include many names that have since disappeared including Front Row, Back Row, North Row, North Gate, First Palace Row, Second Palace Row, Third Palace Row, Fourth Palace Row and Sunnyside, which was destroyed by a German land mine during the Clydebank Blitz of 1941. The only surviving printworkers’ cottages are Wood Place, West Row, part of New City Row and Blanefield Terrace. When they were later modernised, two or more single ends were knocked together to make larger dwellings.

The Noo Hooses, including Sunnyside (nearest) which was destroyed by a land mine dropped by a passing German bomber in 1941. Four people were killed.

In 1889 Robert McLintock, manager of the printworks, built Kessogbank (60 Glasgow Road), which has in its garden a feature of unknown vintage known as St Kessog’s Well. A stone plaque on the main road marks the spot where its waters enter the drainage system. In living memory there was a pump at the same spot.

By now, as John Guthrie Smith observed with disapproval, the name Netherton was being supplanted by Blanefield, the name chosen for the railway station when it opened in the 1860s.

The Second Aqueduct

The construction of the second aqueduct (1885-96) brought prosperity to the village as well as a small army of navvies, many of them Irish. In 1895 the shops at Netherton were built by David McGregor on the proceeds of the money that he had made supplying the needs of the navvies. Initially he had a large wooden structure at the back of the present building and the navvies would come up from their temporary accommodation at the factory on the football field to shop there. While the navvies were in the village, business was brisk and the new shop prospered. The venture suffered difficulties when the second aqueduct was completed, as a large part of the trade left and it took a number of years before it returned to profit. Underneath the shop was McGregor’s Hall. It became a popular little hall used for meetings, and playing games including carpet bowls. Another part of the basement was used for the community’s first telephone exchange. (This is the building that now houses Coffee at the Wilson’s and Shopsmart.)

Main Road showing (left) pump at St Kessog’s Well, former Rechabite Hall, Netherton Inn and (right) McGregor Building

Crosshill

As well as being a source of income for local businesses, the navvies were also a source of willing labour. In 1893 a number of them used their spare time to built for themselves and other Roman Catholics in the area, St Kessog’s Church, next to Kessogbank. After the completion of the church, Father Foley, the priest, announced that Mistress Muir, a local widow, wanted help with the building of a house at Crosshill. The navvies were reputedly partly paid with barrels of beer!

Crosshill Cottage, Glasgow Road, Blanefield. Widow Muir’s house and shop

The lady in the hat is Mrs Margaret Muir, the great grandmother of John and Kenneth Muir, who though both now retired, ran the local plumbing business for many years. The building of the house (27&29 Glasgow Road) was overseen by Mrs Muir’s son Daniel (as in Danny’s Brae, the lane that runs down the side of the house). The home was his first project after completing his apprenticeship. As can be seen in the picture, Mrs Muir ran a small drapery shop from one of her front rooms to supplement her income. According to Guthrie Smith, this part of Netherton was known as Crosshill because an old cross once stood there. It is also the spot at which the parish church looms into view. (The building is now two private houses, having been owned by the Water Board for many years.)

The Muir family has played an important role in the life of the parish, in terms of both the number of buildings they have built and of public service. They came to the parish from Fife in the 1850s to work in the building of the first aqueduct, then moved on to build the filter beds for the printworks. The building of Crosshill marked the start of the Muir Brothers building business, which expanded throughout the West of Scotland.

Printworks Closure 1898

1898 was a pivotal year for the community. The printworks closed. The reasons are many and complex: a famine in India, unrest in the Levant and South America, which reduced supplies of cotton and the centralisation of the cotton industry around Manchester, where economies of scale and shorter supply lines enabled factory owners to undercut the likes of the Blanefield Printworks. With little alternative local employment other than agriculture and the landed estates, most of the printworkers were forced to leave the area. Some found jobs at the printworks in Balloch. Others sought work in Glasgow or Clydebank. The population of the parish plummeted from 1,671 in 1891 to 880 in 1901, largely because of the depopulation of Netherton.

Holiday Destination

After the departure of many of the workers, houses were left empty and one could get the choice of a room and kitchen for as little as two shillings and sixpence per week. Many families from Clydeside used them as holiday homes, even though there were outside privies and water came from standpipes. After the landmine incident, Sunnyside and some of the bomb-damaged homes at the bottom of New City Row were demolished. The rest of the development was later bought and modernised, some by businessman John Paton and others by the colourful entrepreneur Maggie McIvor, known as “The Queen of the Barras”. Two or more single end dwellings were knocked into one to create pleasant cottage-style properties that are popular with first-time buyers and small households. In 2012 just 13 people were living in Wood Place, 74 fewer than in 1881! Remnants of tiny, barely wardrobe-sized one-room attic flats remained until recently in some of the eaves. The old communal wash-house was demolished in the 1970s.

The “Noo Hooses” today

Laundry

In the early 20th century Blanefield gradually picked itself up. The printworks company store was turned into a laundry by a family called Spark. who operated it until they sold it to Peter Taylor who continued to run it as a laundry. It was kept busy laundering sheets, hard collars, table cloths and napkins that were sent to them mostly by the people living in the “big houses”. When cleaning items such lace curtains, they were placed on a large frame specially made. There was also a large brass barrel that could take up to 60 sheets and the water was heated in a large coal fired boiler. The drying green was the triangle of land between Station Road and Glasgow Road opposite the school house. Coal was carted to the laundry from the railway station. In 1932 the laundry moved down Station Road having sold the premises to the Lennoxtown Friendly Victualling Society or Co-operative as it was also known. The building now houses Roots, the hairdressers and a take-away called Chillies.

The original co-op, a branch of the Lennoxtown Friendly Victualling Society, managed by William Linning

Post Office

The building that became Blanefield Post Office on the main road was built in 1893 by two brothers who initially operated it as a grocers. For many years the post master was George Marshall, who recorded local scenes in postcards, including this one.

Blanefield Post Office

In 1947 Lena Gove took over as post mistress and the business remained in her family for 57 years. In 2004 the Post Office function was transferred to Strathblane and the building became a private house.

Exchange

First Telephone Numbers (from Nan McGregor)

In the first decade of the 20th century, telephones reached the village with two companies – The National Telephone Company and the Glasgow Corporation Municipal Telephones – competing for business. Both these companies were taken over by the Post Office and the general use of telephones spread quickly after an initial 17 subscribers. The first telephone exchange was established in the basement of McGregor’s shop and was operated by spinsters Jean and Nan McGregor.

Following the installation of an automatic exchange, The Stirling Observer of the 6th January 1949 paid tribute to both of them on their retiral after 39 years of service at the telephone exchange. Their bravery during the bombing at Blanefield and the efficiency, patience and sympathy with which they carried out their duties were warmly applauded. Each was presented with a substantial wallet of notes donated by the telephone subscribers. Before the exchange was automated, it was quite common for the subscriber to call the exchange and tell Miss McGregor that he/she would be at such and such a house if a call came for them!

Nan & Jean McGregor (Strathblane’s telephonists)

Yarrow House

Yarrow House was built as a guest house, tea room and market garden (a precursor of the modern garden centre) by a William Wallace, who had been the gardener at Campsie Dene House for shipbuilder Sit Alfred Yarrow in the early 1900s. He also planned to grow vegetables and transport them to Glasgow by train. The venture failed because the freight costs were prohibitive. It went into liquidation, leading to a lengthy court case, beginning in 1907. For a time it became the site of Campbell’s Tearoom, when it moved from Milngavie Road. The premises were taken over by Peter Lyall who ran a haulage and taxi business, as well as continuing with the tea room and running a successful garage business. In this picture, which may have been to celebrate VE (Victory in Europe) Day in 1945, note the cigarette vending machine in the porch and the vintage petrol pumps. The garage was later run by Mr Lyall’s son-in-law Davy McGregor, the brother of telephonists Jean and Nan. For a period, a room in the garage was used twice a week by the Royal Bank of Scotland to service its customers. It is now a private home.

Yarrow House which became Lyall’s Garage. Davy McGregor (Left) and Peter Lyall.

Edwardian House Building

In the decade before the First World War, a number of houses were built in this part of Glasgow Road, many of them by Daniel Muir’s company. They included the three double villas at Crosshill (26 to 36 Glasgow Road), built in 1908 using bricks and other material retrieved from a printworks built on what is now the football field but never used, other than as a store and accommodation for navvies working on the second aqueduct. (The villas lay empty for long after they were finished, and Mr Muir was never paid because the speculator who had commissioned them went into liquidation.) The Muirs also built Holmlea, Glenlyon, Primrose Cottage and Gamesley.

Holmlea, Glasgow Road, Blanefield: Daniel and Mary Muir 1911

Village Club, Bowling Green, Tennis Courts and public park

And it was during this time that the community acquired its bowling green, Village Club and tennis courts, all of which are still going strong in 2023. Blanefield Bowling Club had been formed in 1880 with the blessing of printworks proprietor, Anthony Park Coubrough, who donated the green on land between the works and the station yard.

Blanefield Bowling Club established in 1880.

In 1907 the club moved to new premises leased from Leddriegreen Estate.  It celebrated its centenary on the same site in 2007.

The opening of the current bowling club in 1907.

Four years later in June 1911 the Village Club was opened, coinciding with the coronation of George V. Donated to the community by Mr (later Sir) Alfred Yarrow, the Clyde shipbuilder, who lived at Campsie Dene House, it replaced the club that had functioned in the old cottage in Dumbrock Road. The new club, which is a charming example of the Arts & Crafts style that was much in vogue at the time, was built by Muir Brothers and offered a range of activities including billiards, snooker and a reading room. No intoxicating liquor was to be consumed on the premises. Annual family membership was 10 shillings. The Village Club is no longer a membership club and alcohol is no longer taboo. It continues to host many activities, ranging from dog training classes to Strathblane Heritage meetings. https://villageclub1911.org/

The Village Club

In 1913 the tennis courts opened behind the Village Club, thanks to another lease from Leddriegreen Estate. Meanwhile the opening of the public park in 1908 provided local footballers with a pitch used to this day.

By 1911 the population of the parish once more topped 1000 and swelled to a much larger number in summer, thanks to the continued availability of cheap accommodation in the remaining former printworkers’ cottages. By 1921 the parish population had risen to 1,274.

Edmonstone Hall

After the First World War, Gwendolyn Edmonstone, mother of the present Sir Archibald, expressed a wish to do something beneficial for the parish. The result was the opening of the Edmonstone Hall at Crosshill on land that had been used for recruiting rallies during the war. Again, the builders were Muir Brothers and it opened in October 1926. Over the years it has been the venue for a variety of societies and social events, including Burns Suppers, badminton and ballet classes.  https://edmonstonehall.co.uk/

The Netherton Inn (Blane Valley Inn)

Building Plans for the rebuilding of The Netherton Inn in 1895.

According to John Guthrie Smith, The Netherton Inn was established by Allan Ewing, a former forester from the Carbeth estate, who built it as a small shop and dwelling not long after the construction of the adjacent Rechabite Hall in 1846. We know from the Ordnance Survey map published in 1862 that it was already operating as a public house by that date.  The 1865 valuation records give the proprietor’s name as Allan’s widow (Mrs A Ewing) and the publican as James Norval. In 1880 Archibald Glendinning is recorded as being the occupier of the inn, which was then a simple one-storey building. However, in 1895 a proposal was produced for “Plans of Alterations etc to Mrs Glendinning’s Public House, Blanefield.” The result was a much-admired two-storey building with what today would be referred to as “mock Tudor” timber decoration on the front. By the 1930s the pub had been taken over by the Gray family who continued to run it right into the 1970s. The timber decoration was later removed and the building renamed The Blane Valley Inn. It closed in 2019 and was converted into a private house.

The Blane Valley Inn (formerly The Netherton) before it closed as a pub.

Housing

The first local authority housing in what was formerly known as Netherton consisted of 75,77,79 and 81 Glasgow Road in 1927. Again, builder Daniel Muir and slater William Wallace were involved. Next were houses at Station Road, followed in 1939 by numbers 1-12 Ballewan Crescent. The work was halted by the Second World War and only resumed in the 1950s when the crescent was completed.

First Council Houses. Glasgow Road.

Meanwhile the 1930s saw the beginning of private housing development at Campsie Dene Road and on individual sites throughout the area.

The entire community underwent another transformation in the 1960s, which saw the construction of private estates throughout the parish by various developers. Burnside Row in Station Road was demolished to make way for a Weir housing development. Taylor Woodrow built Southview Drive and Campsie View Drive, while John Lawrence developed the Kirkhouse Estate. These developments had the effect of uniting the two villages of Blanefield and Strathblane (formerly Netherton and Edenkiln). Even the modern inhabitants are often confused about where one village finishes and the other begins. (The answer is the point at which the South Burn crosses under the main road near the bottom of Kirkhouse Road.)

In 1886 John Guthrie Smith described how over 40 years printworks proprietor Anthony Park Coubrough, had turned a “small plain tenement” into “a handsome, well-appointed house, surrounded by gardens and well-kept grounds”. (In the 1861 Census, Blanefield House had 16 rooms with at least one window. By 1901 Mr Coubrough’s son, Anthony Sykes Coubrough, was living there with his wife and three servants and the number of rooms had risen to 25!

In the 1950s it was turned into the Blane Valley Hotel, which became a popular venue for dances and receptions. It was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Netherblane flats.

Blanefield House

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