The Old Hamilton Town Hall & Police Station.

Robert Moore asked Historic Hamilton what the Building was before Bairds was built. So, I thought that I would send you some pictures with a brief detail of what the building was.

The old Town Hall.

Old TownhallWM

The old Town Hall stood on the site of Bairds Department Store and it stood pride of place on what was called the new cross, today known as the top cross and its entrance was at the corner of Duke Street & Quarry Street.

With its tall steeple and fancy appearance, it could have passed off as a church and the old town hall was indeed a grand building and like many of old Hamilton’s bygone buildings, its demise started with underground coal mines.

It was built in 1861 and it was used as the Town Hall and later the police station. At the top of its steeple, it had a weather vane the same as the one that is on the Old Parish Church and the now demolished old Tolbooth. Like many tall structures in Hamilton, the underground coal mines made these buildings unsafe and fear of collapse.

Hamilton Town Hall.WM.4.JPG

The Steeple of the building was the first section to be removed when it started to lean over Duke Street and it became in such a dangerous condition that in the 1950s it had to be taken down brick by brick.

The old town hall later was used as a police station and as the years went on it fell into even more disrepair. It was reported that the floor was so rotten that a police constable’s foot actually went through the floor.

Hamilton Town Hall.WM.4

The old building was finally demolished in 1963 making way for the brand new Bairds department store. The building stood on the same site for a total of 102 years. Soon the Bairds department store will become a new Wetherspoon’s hotel and restaurant. This will hopefully inject some life back into the top cross.

Old Townhall Bairds..JPG

OLD AVON MILL.

Old Avon Mill WM.

OLD AVON MILL.

On the banks of the River Avon, up until the mid-1990s, there once stood a Mill on the side of Avon Water, between Old Avon Bridge and Avon Bridge. The Mill originally was a 17th-century building and when it was in full operation it was used for grinding oats, peas, barley and wheat and it was the property of the Duke of Hamilton.
There were several houses, including the Miller’s dwelling, a lodge of the “High Parks” of Hamilton and some colliers’ dwellings, which bear the name of the Mill.

MAP.

The site on where the Mill stood was said to have had a building there since 1627, or earlier. Throughout the 19th century, it was run by the Fleming family who were a family of Miller’s and cattlemen.

The mill was once accessed from the Old Avon Bridge until in 1816, parliament commissioned the great engineer Thomas Telford, to design the New Avon Bridge which connected the Glasgow to Carlisle Highway. The bridge was built under the supervision of a Hamilton Mason called King. It is said, Thomas Telford’s (who was also the designer of the Caledonian Canal) bridges always looked better from beneath than above. Avon Bridge was no exception and when constructed, it came with a Toll House attached to the bridge.

Telford Bridge WM.

The New Avon Bridge was completed in 1825 and was immediately put to the test when the massive pillars for the Hamilton Palace were transported across it.

I found the first record of Alexander Fleming in 1841 and he was living at Avon Mill with his wife Marion. Marion was recorded as the ‘Mistress’ of Alexander and this is not to be confused with today’s meaning! In 1841 a ‘Mistress’ was the term given to a woman of higher social status, whether married or not.

Alexander was originally from Carmunnock and he married Marion Young at East Kilbride on the 27th of May 1821. In 1841 the family were living at Avon Mill along with a William Fleming, who could have been Alexander’s brother and they had 7 children, Marian, James, Stephen, Alexander, John, David & William. In 1841 Avon Mill seems to be making a good profit as Alexander was paying an annual rent of £120 to the Duke of Hamilton.

In 1851, the family are still happily living at the Mill with their children and they also had 3 servants living here with them who were Marion Carslaw, James Wilson & Gavin France.

Alexander continued to run the Mill to at least 1861 where he takes up a new lease at Raith Farm on the Hamilton Estates. He takes his son also called Alexander to work with him and his son David takes over the tenancy of Avon Mill and we first see him recorded in the 1871 Census as the tenant.

Old Picture of Avon Mill.

Alexander’s time at Raith farm was short as he dies here on the 10th of March 1866. His son Alexander Jr takes over the lease of Raith Farm where he lives until his death on the 13th of June 1912.

DEATH.

Alexander’s wife Marion also moves away from Raith Farm and she is next recorded on the 1871 Census where I found her living with her Daughter Marion at Crookedstone Farm in Hamilton. Marion’s daughter marries a man named John Torrance, who was the farmer of 100 Acres. Marion dies at Crookedstone Farm on the 29th of March 1891.

Marion Young Death.

David Fleming continues to run Avon Mill until 1915 where the Mill changes hands and David’s son Robert becomes the new Master Miller. Robert is the third generation of the Fleming family to work this mill. The family have been fully integrated into the Hamilton community for the past 70+ years.

Life seems to be quiet living on the banks of the Avon, but on Saturday the 12th of October 1895, a fire break’s out at the Mill. It happened around midnight when a stack containing thirty-four tons of straw caught alight. The stack was standing not far from the Mill and it belonged to Mr Thomas Wilson a grain dealer. On that night the wind was high, and the flames soon spread to John Torrance’s stack. (John Torrance being the brother in law of David Fleming)

The fire engine from Hamilton was sent for and luckily the wind blowing in the other direction prevented the rest of the haystacks and the Mill from catching alight. The fire burned until 4 o’ clock on the Sunday morning and it consumed both stacks. The damage done amounted to £120, and it was covered by the insurance.

Avon Mill Pic..WMjpg

David Fleming died at Avon Mill on the on the 2nd of March 1911 and an obituary was written in the Scotsman. It read: The Late Mr David Fleming of Avon Mill who died at his residence was one of the oldest and best-known agriculturists in Lanarkshire. He was in his seventy-seventh year, and when a boy went to Hamilton with his father from East Kilbride. About 1860 his father took a lease of Raith Farm on the Hamilton Estate, and David was given Avon Mill where he remained up to the end. A noted breeder of prize taker of Ayrshire Cattle shows in the county and not infrequently he acted as judge of Ayrshire stock.

So, the family tradition continues at Avon Mill and now the 4th generation of Fleming’s are working the Mill. Brothers David & Robert Fleming are now joint owners. Between 1915 and 1920, they form a partnership (D&R Fleming) and thy buy Avon Mill from the Duke of Hamilton. They are overseeing the day to day duties and running the mill as their own business.

Around 1920, the Duke of Hamilton is starting to sell off his assets, the Palace is subsiding, and he is about to turn his back on Hamilton, so perhaps the Fleming brothers got a good price for Avon Mill.

Old Avon Mill - Old HamiltonWM.

Robert Fleming eventually moved from Avon Mill to “The Bungalows” which was adjacent to the Mill. He died at his house on 7th of August 1948, he was 69 years old. His brother David was the person who registered his death.

“Robert Fleming who had a lifelong connection with the Mill was well known among the farming community, in the west of Scotland. He was a widower and 69 years of age. An office-bearer in St. Johns church, Hamilton he had a lifelong connection with the congregation. He was predeceased by his wife some years ago”.

What became of David Fleming is unknown. After Roberts death, the trail goes cold and I can’t find what happened to the Family. I would like to think that there are still descendants of the Flemings living in Hamilton, perhaps if any of our readers know of any family members who worked at Avon Mill then you can let us know.

Old Avon Mill RuinWM.

The Avon Mill survived over three centuries, only to be destroyed by fire in 1963. After the fire destroyed the Mill it sat as a ruin on the banks of the River Avon and it was a beautiful ruin that looked almost ornamental.

Avon Mill6

In September 1985 a Hamilton Businessman had plans to build a £1 Million hotel complex at the old Avon Mill and Toll House. Mr Oreste Pisano applied for planning permission to turn the ruins of the old mill on the banks of the river Avon into a 30-bedroom split level hotel. He also applied to upgrade the derelict Toll House on Carlisle road into staff accommodation.

Avon Mill8

Mr Pisano in 1985 owned the Pinnochio Italian restaurant in Kemp Street and the Italian Connection furniture shop in Duke Street said that it would be a very big project that would create jobs not only in the building of the hotel but should also provide work for 30 people in the running of it.

The planning permission was refused and one of the reasons as to why was because of the Old Avon Bridge. The Old bridge prevented the building of the hotel nearby because no one could work out exactly who owned it, therefore putting a stop to the work.

Avon Mill5.jpg

Legend has it that the old Avon bridge – the first bridge beyond the mill – was built on the whim of a rich priest. Wanting to vote on a matter in town, he lost his chance because the river was too swollen to cross.
After much expenditure, the situation was rectified and our priest, with his own special crossing point, was secure of casting his vote for evermore.

Avon Mill1

The ruin was to become a listed building and it sat undisturbed since the flames went out in 1963. It was illegally demolished in the 1990s, possibly by Mr Pisano, however, I can’t confirm if this was him that instructed the bulldozers to knock down the Mill.

Avon Mill3
It was a criminal act and Hamilton was robbed of its historic Mill which had stood on this spot since 1627. The old connection to our past was taken from us and without our consent.

Avon Mill2

So, what has become of the land where the mill once stood? Well, there is a luxury house built on its site and yes, the old Toll House has been converted to a modern home. Did Mr Oreste Pisano finally get his wish? Or has someone taken his idea? Who knows!

Avon Mill9

In May 2015 I went down to the former site of the Old Avon Mill to see how the new house was coming along and I managed to get some pictures. There is little evidence of the Mill, with old a few parts lying around. The old wall which housed the water wheel is still there and apart from that, there is nothing else to indicate that this was a working Mill, which was home to generations of the same family, who were born, worked and died here.

Avon Mill10

Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton. © 2018

THE ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND IN CADZOW STREET TO CLOSE AFTER 115 YEARS IN THE TOWN.

Royal Bank Of ScotlandWM

THE ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND TO CLOSE.
 
It has been announced that the Royal Bank of Scotland is to close 62 of its branches throughout Scotland. Our branch which has stood in Cadzow Street for 115 Years has been confirmed as one of these branches. The new age digital world of online banking has brought the demises of high street banks and for this reason, Cadzow Street will lose an old familiar shop.
 
Hamilton Cadzow Street branch opened as an office of the National Bank of Scotland in October 1902. Hamilton at that time was already a thriving and important town with a population of around 7,600 people. Serval successful decades of coal mining brought considerable wealth to the area, as shown in the numerous fine buildings which were erected in Hamilton and particularly in Cadzow Street around the turn of the twentieth century.
 
The bank agreed to open a branch in the town at the request of William Dykes Loudon who was a local solicitor and town councillor, who believed that Hamilton could provide enough banking business to support another branch, in addition to the several which were already open in Hamilton.
 
National Bank of Scotland had been founded in Edinburgh in 1825 with more shareholders than any other bank in Britain. By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was operating around 125 branches in Towns and Villages throughout Scotland.
National Bank’s Hamilton branch first opened on the 20th of October 1902, with William Loudon himself as its agent. In its early years, the branch operated from Hamilton’s Masonic halls, originally near the bottom of Cadzow Street and Lower Auchingramont Road.
 
Just as William Loudon and the Bank’s directors had expected, the new branch was an immediate success. It was located in a thriving area of the town, with trams beginning to run along Cadzow Street in 1903, and the impressive new Municipal Buildings being opened in 1907.
 
Nevertheless, difficult times were on the horizon when the first world war broke out in 1914, the banking industry found itself facing new challenges. Levels of trade were reduced, money market rates were low, and staff shortages became severe as many Bank clerks of military age enlisted. William Loudon and two members of his staff from the Cadzow Street branch were among 439 employees of the National Bank of Scotland who left their posts to join the war effort.
 
After the war, business returned to normal, but Hamilton itself was changing. The coal mining industry had been severely affected by controls on exports and a shortage of workers during the war, and it never again returned to the levels of productivity that it had experienced at the turn of the century. Numerous Pits in the area were closed during the 1920s and 930s.
 
When the second world war began in 1939 the Banks resumed the special duties which governed their activities in wartime. Five men from the National Bank of Scotland’s Cadzow Street branch left to join the war. Meanwhile, the premises of the branch were also undergoing a change wherein 1942, the bank bought the site of 50 Cadzow Street and set about preparing it for use as a bank branch.
 
In fact, this was not the first time that 50 Cadzow Street had housed a Bank. In the 1860s and 1870s, the building had been owned by the Hamilton branch of the City of Glasgow Bank. This bank collapsed with huge debts and much publicity in 1878, leaving many of its shareholders, including serval citizens of Hamilton financially ruined. (Lewis Potter of Udston House in Burnbank was one of the men who went to prison as a direct result of the collapse of the Bank.)
 
In the early years of the twentieth century, the building had been occupied by a branch of Mercantile Bank of Scotland. More recently it had served as a shop of Peter Wyper & Sons but by the end of the war 50 Cadzow Street had become a bank once more and National Bank of Scotland’s Hamilton Brach was, at last, the sole occupant of premises of its own.
 
The Cadzow Street branch continued to trade successfully throughout the 1940s and 1950s, as new industries moved into the area replacing the old coalmining jobs. New housing was also built around the Town.
 
In 1959, the National Bank of Scotland merged with the Commercial Bank of Scotland, and 50 Cadzow Street branch became part of the National Commercial Bank of Scotland. In 1969 another merger occurred, this time between the National Commercial Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The new bank, with 693 branches enjoyed over 40 percent of Scottish Banking business.
 
The Royal Bank of Scotland now found itself with three branches in Hamilton, all located on Cadzow Street, there was the old National Bank at number 50, a former Commercial Bank Branch at number 88, and the original Royal Bank Branch at number 105. All three branches remained open, although the branch at 88 Cadzow Street was relocated in 1972 to Duke Street, in order to give a better geographical coverage of the town, particularly in the growing shopping area.
 
The branch at 50 Cadzow Street remained in its own premises and in 1980, a cashline machine was installed for the first time. The interior of the premises was also refurbished in the early 1980s and again in the mid-1990, but the exterior remains as much as it did when the branch first opened here in 1902. The branch absorbed the business of 105 Cadzow Street branch upon its closure.
 
Today and 115 years after it first opened its doors for business, Hamilton’s Cadzow Street branch continues to offer a full range of Banking services to our community, but for how long?
Royal Bank Of Scotland1

The Hamilton Town Guide, 1980.

Old Hamilton Tour Guide..JPG

Who can remember the old map of Hamilton that was situated at the top of the precinct?

This picture was taken in 1980 and the map box had the words ‘Hamilton Town Guide’ written on it. It also had little buttons at the bottom of the glass plate that lit up lights to show where places were.

Today the map box and also the Duke Street bridge are all gone and the open air precinct is now got a roof over it.