The Licensed Houses Established - Various Buildings - Buttries Managers
From the introduction of the public works, or, say, from the year 1850, Armadale grew rapidly, until by the end of that decade the town had taken proper shape, and all the principal places of business that were to enjoy the trade of the district for a considerable time were established.
The first houses to be built in South Street were erected by a Mr. Rennie, of Bathgate, in 1856, on the east side of the road at the foot of a thick fir plantation. Two tenements were built here, one behind the other, and the Robert Peel Police Act having passed into law, Mr. Rennie, with a view to providing a police station for Armadale, caused the house at the north end of the back tenement to be constructed in the form of a but and a ben, that is, a room at each side of the door, and off the room at the north side, which was meant for the office, two cells were constructed, with a narrow slot of a window in each. This building, however, when police came to be stationed in Armadale .shortly afterwards, was not preferred by the authorities. The front tenement consisted, as at present, of two shops and three dwelling-houses. The shops were rented by Mr. Thomas Bishop, who obtained a public-house licence for the south one and carried on a grocery business, attended by his daughter, in the other. Mr. Bishop, on giving up this business, handed it over to Mr. John Calderhead, his brother-in-law, who, after a long and successful career, was succeeded by his daughter, Mrs John Forsyth, who acquired the property by purchase in about 1900. Mr. Forsyth immediately afterwards erected a new and up-to-date building on the opposite side of the road, and, after transferring the licence, sold the business to Mr. William Gibson.
The space at the south-east corner of the Cross was next built upon by Mr. John Wilson, and here a licensed grocery business was carried on by Messrs Matthew and John Wilson, and afterwards by Mr. Matthew Wilson. Mr Murray, the tenant of Springfield Farm, built the Crown Hotel in 1857, when Mr. James Bishop, from Airdrie, entered the hotel, where, for a short time, he carried on the public-house business and grocery business jointly, with separate doors hence the reason of there being two doors in front of the hotel.
Mr James Beveridge built the "Buckshead Tavern" in 1858; Mrs Mary Campbell the "Railway Tavern," now the "Masonic Arms," in 1859; and Mrs Ann Young the "Star Inn," almost against the tollhouse, on the north-east corner of the Cross, in 1861. Mr. James Verrier built on the north-west corner of the Cross in 1862. In quick succession a number of licensed grocery businesses were established :-John Aitken and Archibald Gall, in South Street; Matthew Donaldson and John Finlay, in West Main Street; M. and J. Wilson, M. Donaldson, and James Wylie, in East Main Street; with Hugh M'Kinnon and Henry Halbert, who had porter and ale licences in East Main Street.
Mr Reid, feeling disposed to sell the old Inn, the feu, and all his property thereon, offered it for sale in "Bathgate Hotel" in 1858. Mr. Wilson, being the tenant of the Inn was naturally very anxious to purchase the property, but was not inclined to give any more for it than was absolutely necessary. He knew the conditions, and that the upset price was £850, and noted that there were only a few working men in the room of the Hotel, along with Mr. Mungo Chapman, the auctioneer, and believing he was not going to meet with opposition, Mr. Wilson retired downstairs to get something to eat, and remained out of the saleroom until the time at which the property was to be put up for offers had struck on the clock. He then bethought himself that it was time to look in and offer his price, but. he was too late. At the appointed hour, the auctioneer, having read the conditions, inquired if there were any one in the company prepared to offer? Mr. Wm. Edwards, who had, a few years before, come to the district as oversman in the pit for Mr. Watson of Bathville, offered £5 on the upset price, and there being no other offer, the property was knocked down to him just as Mr. Wilson's footsteps were heard on the stair advancing towards the room. On making inquiry of the auctioneer if he would soon be putting the property up for sale, and receiving the answer that it had just been sold to Mr. Edwards, Mr. Wilson looked as if he had received a sudden shock, and on learning that Mr. Edwards had the property knocked down to him for £855, Mr. Wilson promptly offered Mr. Edwards a substantial sum for his bargain, which was refused. The following year Mr. Edwards took possession of the Inn, and Mr. Wilson crossed over the street to the Crown Hotel. Mr. Wilson, however, had a predilection for farming, and immediately on his entering the Crown Hotel he had the chance of Stonerigg Farm, on the north-east corner of Polkemmet estate, and embraced it. Instead, however, of entering upon the farm himself, he engaged a trustworthy manager, in the person of Mr. John Calderhead. A few years later Mr. Wilson vacated the Crown Hotel and entered upon a lease of Whitockbrae Farm, where he continued till his death. Mr. Wilson was succeeded in the Hotel by Mr. Wm. Short, whose stay was also short. He was succeeded by Mr. Robert Barclay, in whose term, in the later years of the sixties, the old single-storey building adjoining was raised to a level with the hotel and the upper part converted into a hall. Mr. Barclay was followed in 1871 by Mr. James Walker, a butcher, who carried on business in the same block of buildings, and who, on entering the Hotel, was supposed to confine himself to that business alone. Instead of doing this, however, he gave up his former shop, and engaged another in South Street, opposite the hotel courtyard, and by placing Mr. Wm. Baird, a one-armed butcher, there, as manager, in whose name the business was conducted, he was able to continue his connection in that line. Mr. Walker also built a byre at the top end of the courtyard, where milk cows were kept, and by converting the house at the west end of the building, next to the Police Station, into a dairy, he supplied the villagers with milk, so that on Sundays by those who desired to quench their thirst with something more fiery than the produce of the cow, the dairy was found a convenient place to be supplied.
Mr Wm. Gibb took over the butcher's shop vacated by Mr. Walker in the hotel buildings and continued in the business, and later, on Mr. Walker's demise, he became tenant of the dairy premises also, where he has since continued his butchery business. Mr. Walker died in 1874 and Mrs Walker shortly afterwards gave up the business. She was followed in the tenancy by Mr. Wm. Orr, who, after a short time, failed in business, and was sold out on the 12th August, 1876. Mr. Orr was followed in the Hotel by Mr. Lewis Potter, a blacksmith, from Fauldhouse. It was in Mr. Potter's time that the only aerated water works that Armadale has ever boasted of were established, William Potter, a son of the proprietor of the Hotel, setting up his machinery in Mr. Walker's old byre in the back yard, and enjoying a good trade. Mr. William M'Combie, now of the St Michael's Hotel, Linlithgow, entered the Crown Hotel in 1879. At once Mr. and Mrs M'Combie proved themselves thoroughly well adapted for catering for the general and travelling public, and enjoyed great prosperity, until, after a ten-years' lease, Mr. M'Combie removed to the Palace Hotel, Linlithgow. Mr. Adam Wilson, the youngest son of Mr. John Wilson, before referred to in connection with the Hotel, succeeded Mr. M'Combie, and a few years after his becoming tenant, Mr. Wm. Gibb, butcher, in the same building, bought the property from Mr. Murray, and after holding it for a few years, disposed of it to Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson, previous to this, had acquired the property known at one time as the Buckshead Tavern, and latterly as the West End Vaults, on the demise of Mr. Alex. Beveridge, whose father built the Inn in 1858. Mr. Wilson, who was Provost of the Burgh from 1900, died suddenly in October, 1905, leaving a widow and a large family under the care of a trustee. The Hotel was thereupon sold to Mr. George Simpson, Polmont, who entered into the establishment on the 28th May of the present year, 1906.
Before and after the Crown Hotel was built, many other buildings were being rapidly rushed up, and for many years the clang of the mason's trowel and the sound of the joiner's hammer and saw rang among the woods of Boarbauchlaw. The fast-increasing population had to be housed. Messrs Russell and Son built Russell's Row, in East Main Street, and Russell's Square, in West Main Street, and Hardhill Row, long since demolished. Mr. Watson had a row of houses built, with a large provision store at the end of it, on the extreme west of Bathville estate, and a row of a half-dozen houses further east. The long row was, and is still, known as Bathville Row, whilst the short one, which was tenanted by "gaffers,'' was known as the "Quality Row."
Buttries Company built Buttries Row, in North Street, and Mount Pleasant and the "Quality Rows " in South Street. The Shotts Company accommodated their workers at the Cappers, and the Coltness Company at Woodend. The works, offices, and provision stores (for it must be understood that in those days the Companies kept their own provision store, and woe unto the worker who went elsewhere for his goods), were the first to be built. Buttries Company, to be in a central position, built their store and office at the southmost part of the estate, on the Whitburn Road, on the edge of the Moss. Those buildings were erected, in 1854, with bricks brought from Broompark Works, near Torphichen, but this evidently proved too expensive a method, and so the Company set to making bricks for their own purposes, behind the store, on the site of the present Bowling Green, from which the material was had for building the managers' .and the storeman's cottages. A little to the north of these cottages a row of brick houses of the room and kitchen type were put up to accommodate the oversmen in the work, and from this fact the block was designated “The Quality" and sometimes "The Dandy Row." At the end of this row were the workshops for the blacksmiths and the joiners. Mount Pleasant Row, built in 1856, although single-room houses, with floors of broad, square bricks set into the earth and fixed with lime, were considered "class," and were occupied by the best class of workmen with small families. Buttries Rows, in North Street, being room and kitchen houses, were chiefly occupied by men with large families or those in high places. The first manager of the Monkland Iron Company's Works was Mr. John Alexander, who resided at Northrigg Row. Mr. Alexander was a tall man, and wore a high, flat-topped felt hat, which was easily observable when he was approaching the works over the hill, and when the hat was seen the labourers who might be idling their time would pass round the words. "The Hat", and all would be most intent on their work when he approached. But one day, after finding this out, Mr. Alexander reached the work by a different route, wearing a cap, and found the men sitting idle, and enjoying themselves, much to their discomfort. Mr. Alexander left to join the Bairds, of Gartsherrie, and succeeded so well that he built and endowed what is known as the Alexander Hospital, in Coatbridge. Mr. Alexander was succeeded by Mr. John Blyth. Mr. Blyth proved a very popular manager, and when leaving in the spring of 1862, he was presented by the workmen with a gold watch. He was followed in the management by Mr. James Clark, who afterwards removed to Annbank, Ayrshire, taking a large number of his workmen with him. Mr. Robert Martin, who had been underground oversman under Mr. Clark, was promoted to the complete charge, a position he held until 1882. After Mr. Martin, Mr. James Cooper was appointed, being an old servant to the company, and it was during Mr. Cooper's term that the works changed hands, when Mr. Duncan, the general manager to the Monkland Iron and Coal Company at Calderbank, and a Mr. Henderson, of Airdrie, joined forces and became joint proprietors, trading under the name of the Armadale Coal Company. Mr. William Hunter, who had conducted the work below ground, was appointed oversman, and Mr. Thos. Anderson manager. Mr. Anderson, becoming too old to attend the works, retired, leaving Mr. Hunter in charge. In 1900 the works was sold to the United Collieries Company, Ltd., Mr. Duncan taking over the general superintendence of a large district of the company's works. Mr. Wm. Hunter, at the winter examination in 1904 for first-class mining engineers, was awarded his certificate, and the following year he was promoted to the management of the United Collieries Company's works at Loganlea, and was followed in the Armadale works underground charge by Mr. John Bishop, transferred from Polkemmet.
Meantime the Shotts, Bathville, and Coltness Works were developing in the district, but it will be less confusing if they be dealt with in a separate chapter. And now since we have gone so far with this subject, let us go back again to notice another.