The Last Tannery in Hamilton.

The Hamilton Tannery December 1958..JPG

Greenside Skin works, or better known as “The Tannery” was built by Thomas Naismith in the year 1700, and it was a purpose-built Tannery situated next to the old slaughterhouse on Muir Street.

TanneryLocation from Back Row..JPG

The location of Greenside Skin Works, was roughly where the new flats are situated at the side of Back Row. It was a two-storey structure built on the banks of the Cadzow burn and the Tannery stood on this site for 258 years.

Tannery 1904water..JPG

The Naismith’s who owned the Tannery had also owned other properties in Hamilton, one was on Almada Street, which in 1819 it was known as the road from Ayrshire and Glasgow and the second property, was a large house on Church Street, right next to the entrance of the Old Parish Church. In the year 1819 there were also properties on Cadzow Street and Townhead Street that were owned by a William Naismith and a Jason Naismith, however, at the moment I can’t confirm if these people are from the same family.

The Tannery was passed through generations of the Naismith’s up until 1888, where it was sold to a firm of curriers called Gibson and Gillon who were also an established Currier and Leather Merchant who ran their business from 8 Postgate.

The Tannery was eventually sold 4 years later in 1892 to a man from Perth, this man was called William Murdoch and he ran the Tannery business up until 1942 where it was eventually shut down.

William Murdoch married a Hamilton girl called Jeanie Smith-Lochhead who was from Selkirk Street. They lived in Hamilton and William died 7 years after he closed the Tannery. He died at his home Inchyra, 16 Auchingramont Road and he was 91 years old. William had a son who he named John, after his father. John Murdoch lived in Hamilton and he also lived right up to the grand old age of 96, he died in 1997. If one of our readers think that they may be related to John Murdock, who died in this year, then please let us know.

John Murdoch Birth 1900..JPG

The Historic building was left to go to ruin and lo and behold the Town Council bought the building from John Murdoch. Time had eventually caught up with the old Greenside Skin Works and demolition started in December 1958, the old Tannery was no more. People who had known about the Tannery and who also saw it every day did regret the demolition of the building, but that’s the price of progress.

Written by Garry McCallum,
Historic Hamilton.

Hamilton’s Cholera pit.

The Hamilton Cholera Burial site.

A cholera pit was a burial place used in a time of emergency when the disease was prevalent. Such mass graves were often unmarked and were placed in remote or specially selected locations. Public fears of contagion, lack of space within existing churchyards and restrictions placed on the movements of people from location to location also contributed to their establishment and use. Many of the victims were poor and lacked the funds for memorial stones, however memorials were sometimes added at a later date.

The marker stone for the mass cholera burial.

Often the bodies of Cholera victims were wrapped in cotton or linen and doused in coal-tar or pitch before placing into a coffin. Each burial was in a pit 8 ft deep and liberally sprinkled with quicklime. The bodies were sometimes burnt before interment.

As Scottish industry flourished and more people were drawn towards urban areas, overcrowding became a serious problem. The result was overcrowding and slum areas, which were to become the scourge of Scotland’s towns & cities for many years. Conditions in the slums were appalling.

Hamilton was no exception to this illness and by 1831 there were around 10,000 people living in the town and most of the inhabitants of the burgh lived in, or near, the triangle bounded by Muir Wynd, Castle Street and Cadzow Street. There were very few toilets and the few that were here, were shared by hundreds of people, so the cholera epidemic in Hamilton would have spread very quickly.

The bodies of these poor people would have to be buried somewhere, and as the Old Hamilton parish church was quite full and they didn’t want to risk contamination, they dug a cholera pit over the wall to the west of the church yard. The bodies didn’t rest in peace for too long though, as 56 years later in 1881, the Hamilton Bowling club were looking for new ground and acquired the land where the mass grave was and built their brand new bowling green.

Today the Hamilton Bowling club-house now sits on the land where the poor cholera victims are buried and the marker stone has indeed been moved twice from it’s original position but it has been kept as a mark of respect to the poor souls and it sits proudly beside the entrance of the club-house.

Cholera Cemetery.
The Hamilton Bowling Club.

There is an estimated 137 people buried at this site and sadly their names are lost in the mist of time, maybe one day the names of these old Hamiltonian’s will be found through family research and other resources, if they do then I for one would like to see a plaque dedicated to them.

Cholera Cemetery.3
The marker stone that reads: This stone marks the graves of the many poor who died of cholera 1832.