Torheads Farm and Lake.

Torheads Farm and Lake.
By Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton.

Torheads Lake1.JPG

The large lands, once owned by the Watson family, stretched over 2000 acres all the way from Earnock past Torheads and down to Fairhill and Meikle Earnock and at Torheads, there is very little written about this part of Sir John Watson’s land. I wanted to tell you the story about the Torheads lake but when I started to research the lands of Torhead I thought that I would do this area of Hamilton some justice, and tell you about the people who once lived here.

Torheads Lake takes its name after Torheads Farm, which was a farm steading situated south of Hamilton Town Centre and the farmland stretched across 57 acres and it was surrounded by fields and woodland as far as the eye could see.

The first owner that I have found was a farmer called William Gardiner who was born on the sixteenth of September 1810, to parents William Gardiner Snr and Janet Hart. William Gardiner who from 1841, owned the farm and he lived here with his wife Margaret Wilson and their nine children who were called William, Janet, Margaret, John, Jane, Andrew, James, Robert and Bethia.

It seems that William was an outgoing social person, who liked to take part in things within his community. One thing that he always took part in was the local Annual Ploughing matches, where in February 1849, he judged a Ploughing Match in Hamilton and later on in 1856, he appears in the Glasgow Hearld as coming in 4th place in a ploughing competition where the Duke of Hamilton was in attendance handing out medals to the winners on this day.

William Gardiner had owned Torheads from at least 1841 up until 1863, where things seem to take a turn for the worse for William as in April 1863, he files for Bankruptcy and he loses his Farm at Torheads. At the age of 53, poor William after working at the farm his whole life is left with nothing. Torheads Farm was later overseen by the Heirs of D. Marshall Esq and was factored by Thomas Dykes of Hamilton. After 1863, the trail goes cold and I can’t find any further info on what became of William and his family.

Ellen Wilson Born at Torheads 1873.

Moving on, the next family that I found living at Torheads was the Wilson Family. In 1865, the farm steading was leased to John Wilson who was a man from Avondale in Lanarkshire and he took over Torheads and became the new tenant farmer.
John Wilson who was married to Elizabeth Blackwood leased Torheads from 1865, up until his death 17th May 1884. In the time that John and his wife Elizabeth lived on the farm, they had six children born at Torheads who were John, James, Elizabeth, Ellen, Robert & Euphemina.

As Sir John Watson started to extend his coal mining empire, he snapped up all of the land and properties around Midstonehall and Earnock, which began with the purchase of the Midstonehall Estate in April 1871. Sir John Watson wanting to put his own stamp on Midstonehall House then changed it’s name to Neilston House taking the name from a nearby Farm Steading which was to be then locally known as the Old Neilston House.

Tor Lake 1877 WM.JPG
Sir John Watson moved on and extended his land portfolio and bought the land at Torheads and in the year 1873, he arranged for a water supply pipe to be run from Neisland Mansion House to the Torheads marshy land which surrounded Torheads Farm at this time. The area was formerly known as the “Tally Ho” and it was transformed into a small lake. When the lake was constructed, a varied selection of trees were planted to form an arboretum on both sides of the glen and a rockery was also created to give it a much grander appearance.

I have to mention that the name “Tally Ho” could possibly have been used in reference to a hunting ground, but this is just my thoughts on it. The Tor Lake was more than likely designed by a Dundee man named David Mitchell, who was a former gardener of the Duke of Hamilton. David Mitchell had also helped build the beautiful gardens at the Grand Neilsland House.

In the year 1895, a man named Robert Maxwell, who was a road foreman, is now living at Torheads and renting from Sir John Watson. As Robert was a foreman, I would say that the house at Torheads was a ‘Perk of the Job’ house. Robert Maxwell, even though was living in the farmhouse and as I stated, was not a farmer, he was a Foreman and did not seem to have lived here for long, as only 10 years later the land at Torheads, is being used once again as a working farm. Robert Nisbet who was a Dairyman is now the tenant farmer and running Torheads as a milk dairy. He is now leasing part of Torheads from the Watsons and once more this tenancy is a short one as Robert died of heart failure at the age of 47, on the 21st of November 1908.

1905 Map of Torheads1.
After the death of Robert Nisbet, the farm is partly leased – yet again from the Watson’s and it was a cow feeder who went by the name of Alexander Baird, who was now overseeing Torhead Farm. Now, I know that a lot of you can relate to the name Baird as they have been a long established family of milkmen in the town.

The Bairds worked on Torheads farm from around 1910, and I have traced this family still living here in 1930, where around this time the lease seems to change hands and there is now a man named Alexander Robertson who also seems to be involved in the farm. The Bairds in Hamilton are still to this day a family of milkmen, they have Dairies in High Patrick Street, Portland Place and I believe that they have farms around the Muttonhole Road area.

Torheads Walk..JPG

I have still got much research to do on Torheads Farm and Lake and I will probably update this story for Historic Hamilton when I gather more information on it. On Sunday the 23rd of April 2017 I visited the swampy marshy land with my two sons Daniel and Ryan and as we approached the field we were greeted by two big deer, which unbeknown to us were standing watching as we walked past.

When we got as close as about 200 yards they bolted and both jumped over a big high metal fence to get away and I don’t know who got the biggest fright, them or us.

Torheads Swamp..JPG

As we approached what was once called the Taly Ho and walked down through the fields and eventually reached old Torhead Lake I was trying to imagine the fun that the Watson’s would have had when they were entertaining their guests with a game of curling. We only managed to get as far as the edge of the lake but it was a hard obstacle to tackle as the overgrown hedges and trees stopped us from going straight through. This area has now been left to mother nature.

Torheads Bricks..JPG

When I went on my trip to Torhead Lake, I was trying to find if there was still evidence of the Boat House that was seen in the picture of the Watson’s curling on the Lake. I never got as deep into the swamp as I would have liked to, but this will be another adventure for another day.

Brick at Torheads..JPG

I would like to ask our readers who live in Pembury Crescent – have you noticed any evidence of brickwork through the dense overgrown trees? For those of you who didn’t know, if you live in the row of houses from 17 to 37, where your back garden looks onto trees, you face the old Torheads Lake.

Torheads Farm 1971.1.JPG

FIVE HAMILTON MINERS ENTOMBED, ONE BODY RECOVERED.

Neilsland Colliery1.JPG

On Wednesday the 26th of April 1916, a tragic incident occurred at Neilsland Colliery, owned by John Watson and sadly five men were killed. The coal miners went to work not knowing what tragic events were about to happen that day. A party of men were selected to work in one of the old shafts, when one of the worst pit accidents that had occurred in the district for many years took place about midday, when an old shaft at Eddlewood collapsed and entombed the workmen.

The shaft was formerly Eddlewood No. 3, but some five or six years previous, it was filled up, and the coal to which it gave entrance, was worked from Neilsland. On Wednesday five men were employed in driving roads into the Eddlewood ell coal, take out the pillars which still remained in the workings around the old shaft. Their names were:
Hugh Scott, in charge of the party, married, 30 Low-waters;

Robert Robertson, married, 229 Low-waters;

John Shaw, single, 136 Eddlewood Rowe;

Robert Leadbetter, married, 103 Beckford Street;

George Stewart, married, 187 Low-waters.

Robert Brownlie, a shaftsman, who was giving Hugh Scott a hand, had finished his shift and was leaving for the surface. When he got some distance off, he heard a loud rumbling noise, and fearing an accident he sent word to the officials. Mr James Cook, the resident manager, and Mr James Houston, under-manager, who were in another portion of the pit, immediately proceeded to the scene, but found their course barred by an irresistible river of soft glutty debris flowing like a stream of lava through the workings and filling up every available space.

Acting with commendable promptitude Mr Cook and Mr Houston got the men in the other sections warned, to make their escape and they all succeeded in doing so. The five men employed in the old Eddlewood Ell coal were cut off, and from the first, no hope was entertained of finding them alive.

When the flow of material had subsided, every possible effort to reach the missing men was made by the management and many willing hands. About ten o’clock the body of Robert Robertson was recovered. He had apparently been swept forward by the rush of the incoming debris and was well within reach. The body, embedded in mud, bore no injuries death having resulted from suffocation.

When the serious nature of the accident was revealed, Mr Robert McLaren, H.M. Inspection of Mines, and Mr J. B. Thomson, the manager for Messrs John Watson (Ltd.) were communicated with, and were quickly at the scene of the calamity, bringing their experience and knowledge to bear on the work of rescue.
A rescue brigade from Coatbridge was summoned, but owing to the hopelessness of the situation, their services were not used. Mr John Robertson, miners’ agent also visited the scene.

The next day on The Thursday, the huge cavity caused on the surface by the falling in, of the loose filling-up material was several fathoms deep, (12.8 Meters) and the management had it fenced round. Vigorous efforts were maintained both on the Thursday and Friday to discover a trace of the other four men, but without success.

Public Enquiry

On Wednesday, the 7th June 1916 a public enquiry was held and it was stated that the body of Robert Robertson was recovered late on the same day, but the others have not yet been found, though the efforts of the management have been unsparing, and are still being prosecuted vigorously to reach the place where the four workers were caught in the irresistible inflow of washer sludge.

Mr Robert McLaren and Mr McElhanney represented His Majesty’s Inspectorate; Mr Craig, writer, Glasgow, appeared for the coal masters; and Mr Robert Smillie represented the interests of the miners. Duplicate plans of the workings and of the section where the accident occurred were shown during the evidence, followed by all the parties, including his Lordship and the jury.
The first witness was Robert Brownlie, shaftsman, Eddlewood, the last of those who escaped to see the deceased alive.

He had been commissioned to assist the five men now deceased who were employed driving mine through the Ell coal in the vicinity of the old shaft. The men were working in accordance with the regulations that is believing that they were nearing the old shank they were boring the strata to a depth fifteen feet straight ahead and on both flanks, in order locate the shaft and keep clear of it.

Nothing in these bores, as Robert Brownlie said, indicated conditions beyond the normal, the little water issuing from the holes being, in their opinion, but the expected accumulation in the rock. Besides assisting in the bores, witness putting up brattice cloth deflect the air current. His shift being finished about midday, he left the party to proceed to the pithead, the others coming out of their working place to take their “piece.”

He had gone some distance on his way when heard a terrific noise accompanied by the crashing of wood and the overturning of hutches. He realised what had happened, and fled, pushing forward a workman (Penman), whom he met, but to whom he had no time to make an explanation, and shouting on others. Mr Robert McLaren. H.M. Inspector, said it was to Robert Brownie’s coolness that Penman’s life was saved.

In reply to the Inspector, the witness said that he was satisfied there was at least 15 feet of coal between the workmen and the old shaft, but as the roof was soft thought the bursting in may have come from that quarter.

A few other witnesses were examined, including representatives of the management, Mr Robert Smillie said the jury could see their way to add to their verdict that considered it very dangerous practice to fill disused shafts with liquid sludge from the washers, and that the matter should be further looked into, he believed they would doing a service to the mining community by at least making the Government give this matter their attention.

When Mr Craig had set out address the Jury, his Lordship made a suggestion for a rider which met the views of all parties. The, jury thereafter unanimously found that the men had met their death by the sludge from the disused shaft bursting into the workings and overwhelming them, but there was not Sufficient evidence to enable them make a finding the precise cause of the accident.

In accordance with Lordship’s suggestion, added a rider to the effect that there was sufficient evidence to warrant them calling attention the danger which might arise when disused shafts were filled with liquid sludge and the approach thereto of mineral workings.