BRACKENHILL FARM.

BRACKENHILL FARM.
Researched & Written by Garry McCallum.

Brackenhill Farm WM2.JPG

Until 2017, Brackenhill Farm and its surrounding lands were situated in the quiet countryside, high up on a hill, on the outskirts of Hamilton. Its closest neighbour was Meikle Earnock, which was also at one point a small hamlet quite far out from the Hamilton Town Centre.

As Hamilton grew in size, it swallowed up little hamlets like Meikle Earnock and in turn, they all became known as a part of Hamilton. Brackenhill Farm had escaped this expansion of the town and even in the late 1990s, when Torheads was built upon, the Farm of Brackenhill always remained a little bit semi-rural.

In this year, 2018 another new area of Hamilton will be created taking its name from the little farm steading high up on the hill and we will see a new part of Hamilton being born called Brackenhill Park. The new luxury houses are currently being built in three sections by Stewart Milne, Bellway Homes and Barrat – who will finish the off development with their style of houses. The new houses will command views that stretch across Lanarkshire and when complete it will take on the semi-rural feel that Brackenhill Farm had in its day.

The first farmer which I found to be living here was in the year 1858, where a man named John Alston, appears in the old ordinance survey name book. It is unknown at the moment, if he was the man responsible for building the Farmhouse or if he was the person who first farmed the land, and in the old 1858 Ordinance Survey book, Brackenhill Farm is described as “A good Steading, occupied by the Proprietor. There is no other authority of any value to be had in the locality.”

John Alston then appears on the 1864 Valuation Roll of Hamilton where he is listed as the Owner and tenant of Brackenhill Farm.

1864 Valuation Roll Brackenhill Farm John Alsoton.

I wanted to find out a bit more about John Alston, so I decided to do some research on him. Before I tell you about this John Alston, I don’t want to confuse him with the John Alston who owned the Ranche. I found that John Alston was a man who was born in Hamilton c1803 to parents Thomas Alston – who was a Stone Quarrier and Janet Lawrie. The first records I found, told me that the farm consisted of 30 arable Acres.

As I started to research John Alston, I discovered very quickly that this poor man suffered the loss of most of his family. He spent most of his life at Brackenhill Farm and here is his story.

Alston Family Tree.

John Alston was born in 1803 in Hamilton and he married his wife Mary Miller on the 14th of June 1830 at Hamilton. Between them, they had 4 children in the space of 10 years. I first found John on the 1841 Census where he is living at 37 Shuttle Street in Glasgow, he is working as a Cow Feeder. He would have moved from Hamilton in the year 1841 as his third son John Lawrie was also born at Hamilton in the same year.

I don’t believe that John would have kept his family at 37 Shuttle Street for too long as it seemed to be quite a rough place. I found various newspaper reports of dark things going on in the mid-1800s, including two suicides at the very same address.

10 Years later we move onto the 1851 census and the Alston family moves downtown to the more upmarket 38 St. Andrew’s Square. John has his kids living here and a House Servant called Isabella Allen, but his wife is not recorded on the Census. I did a lot of searching and I could not find Mary and even her death is hard to find, but I soon established that she died between 1841 and 1851. John Alston never remarried which was very unusual in the 1800s and especially being a Hard-Working Farmer. I get a strong feeling that John Alston was heartbroken after his wife’s death.

City life was not to be long-lived for most of the family as they head back to Hamilton and this is when John Alston buys Brackenhill Farm. He bought the farm between 1851 and 1857 and as I stated, there is no found documents to support my theory that he built the farm but as I can’t find any reference to Brackenhill Farm before 1858, I am making an educated guess that he was indeed the man who built the farm steading and started farming the land.

Brackenhill Farm was now going to be a fully working dairy. On the 1861 Census return, Brackenhill Farm boasted of having 30 Acres. John’s son Thomas stays behind in Hitchesontown in Glasgow where he becomes a master Joiner and House Builder. He marries a local girl called Jane Russell and decides to make Glasgow his home.

Brackenhill Farm WM2

As the rest of the family settle into their new home at Brackenhill Farm, life seems to be going along well for John and apart from Thomas, his two other sons and daughter are still living with him. Between 1861 and 1871 he has a dairy maid living at the farm called Elizabeth Henderson.

The first recorded marriage takes place at the farm when on the 29th March 1872 John’s daughter Mary marries another farmer from Meikle Earnock who went by the name of David Strachan. The Strachan’s were probably their closest neighbours and would have been another well-known farming family. David Strachan later becomes the rock of the family and lives and works at Brackenhill Farm.Mary Alston & David Strachan Marraige.jpg

This was a double celebration as John Lawrie Alston also marries Elizabeth Strachan (David Strachan’s sister) at the Meikle Earnock farm on the very same day. I find this strange as to why the two families did not hold a joint wedding. Why would two farming families living so close together marry at different places on the same day? Was there a fallout, or was it simply just a case of two proud fathers wanting to hold a wedding at their own farm? Perhaps we will never know! I have my own thoughts that the Alston’s and the Strachan’s were a close family and like today a lot of farming families prefer to marry their own kind and within their community.

John Alston & Elizabeth Stachan Marraige 1874.jpg

Sadly, John Lawrie dies at Brackenhill Farm on the 14th of November 1874 and he dies of bronchitis. Thomas Alston was the informant of the death and on the 10th of November 1878, James Alston also dies of congestion of the lungs. John has lost two sons in the space of 4 years and both have died as the direct cause of a respiratory problem. His wife remarries another farmer called Andrew Baird, who was a farmer at Townhead Farm in Coatbridge. It is unknown currently if this is the same Baird’s who later own Brackenhill Farm.

In the meantime, John’s daughter Mary has been living over at Leighstonehall Farm with her husband David Strachan. They have been working on Leighstonehall Farm for roughly around 10 years.

John Alston Death 1890..1.5

John Alston lived to the grand age of 86. He died at Brackenhill Farm on the 11th of January 1890 and the cause of his death was Senile Decay. His son in law David Strachan was the person who registered his death.

Brackenhill Farm is left to Thomas Alston in his fathers will. Thomas’s wife dies at Glasgow and he moves back to Brackenhill Farm as the new owner, however as he was a Master Joiner and House builder, farming wasn’t his forte. His sister and brother in law David Strachan also move to the farmhouse and David takes over the Farm.

The 1891 census return lists Thomas as a Visitor but I believe that he moved back to his family home to escape the smoggy Glasgow air. Perhaps the fresh country air was what he needed as he had been diagnosed with cardiac disease.
Thomas died at Brackenhill on the 7th of October 1893. His brother in law David was the person who registered the death.

Brackenhill Farm for its first time has a new owner which does not bear the Alston name. David Strachan takes over the farm and continues to work the land and when we see the family recorded as living here in 1901, he has 1 Ploughman also living here who went by the name of Thomas Baird. I believe this man is no relation to the Baird family who will later become owners of Brackenhill.

Mary Strachan becomes the fifth and final member of the Alston family to die at Brackenhill, she dies on the 7th of July 1904 and the cause was a haemorrhage.

1911 Census Brackenhill Farm.jpg

David Strachan continues to live on the farm where he sees out the rest of his years and we last see David recorded on the 1911 Census, where he has his daughter Mary and his sister Janet living here with him. David also dies at Brackenhill on the 19th of August 1917, he lived to the grand old age of 86.

Brackenhill Farm WM3

After the death of David Strachan, the Farm gets bought by Thomas W Watson, who was the son of Sir John Watson the 1st Baronet of Earnock. The farm for the very first time now has a Tenant Farmer working the land. The tenants are called William and Mary Berry. They are renting the Farm for £126 per annum.

As we track the tenant farmers throughout the years we see that in 1925 Gilbert Berry is now the tenant farmer, paying £125 per Annum and when we move on to 1930, it is still owned by Thomas Watson of Neilsland, and the tenant farmer is a man named William Wood, who was paying an annual rent of £195.

On the 21st of March 1935, Thomas Watson dies, and the farm is now in the ownership of Douglas Hamilton Watson and William Wood is still the tenant.

Douglas Hamilton Watson died on the 20th November 1958, and by this time the lands which the Watsons owned were starting to be sold off. The farm is sold and is now back in private ownership.

At this point, I needed help to identify who the recent farmers were, so I turned to the readers of Historic Hamilton for help and at that point, I managed to speak to Scott Baird and Ross Power.

Ross managed to fill in the gaps with the recent farmers and he told me that Alexander Thomson was the owner, who I believe would have purchased the farm from the Watson Family.

Alexander Thomson later sold the farm around 1968, to a man named Bill Boreland who ran it up until he eventually sold it off and the very last owners of Brackenhill Farm were the Baird’s. The Baird’s being a well-known farming family in Hamilton.

The Baird’s purchased Brackenhill Farm on the 27th of March 1973 and they continued to live here until they sold the houses and the land off to Stewart Milne Homes in 2017. When I spoke to a representative of Stewart Milne homes they told me that the negotiations between the Baird’s lasted for 13 years.

This was indeed the end of an era for the little farmhouse high up on the Brackenhill. There has been a family living on the farm since at least 1857 and possibly even earlier and the sale of the land has ended 161 years of farming around this little farm steading.

Harrowslaw DriveWM1

In May 2018, the first houses on the land are complete and the first new people have moved in. This will be the start of possibly another 161 years of occupation on this land and in the coming years, I personally believe that we will be joined on to East Kilbride.

I am lucky enough to be moving into the first phase of the development in June. The second field, at the start of the Stewart Milne development on Meikle Earnock Road, will now be known as Harrowslaw Drive. The name of the new street will keep some sort of reference to the land that has been farmed here for the past 161 years.

Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton. © 2018

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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

We’re keeping the town’s history alive.

Historic Hamilton is a non-profit organisation which is dedicated to researching Hamilton’s past and its people. As well as documenting the town’s history we also like to talk about all things Hamilton. What happens in Hamilton today is just as important as its past.
Earnock Rows5
We also cover family research and have access to many genealogy websites which is all subscription based. If there is a story in your family and the people who are being researched were from Hamilton we will research your family tree free of charge, which will be done at our own discretion. We also like to help where we can to try to solve a family mystery for someone who may be stuck in finding someone.
Marion Young Death.
Historic Hamilton is run by Garry McCallum and all stories and research are done in his spare time. We do encourage all of our group members to get involved with the site and our readers are at the heart of what we do. All of your comments are highly valued and we enjoy reading them.
If you have an old family photo or story that you would like to share, then please send them to us. This, in turn, will persevere your memories and not to mention document your pictures and stories for future generations. We also have readers who visit our Facebook page and websites from all over the world on a daily basis, so your pictures are viewed in many countries.
Thank you for stopping by and spending time with is.
Garry McCallum.
Historic Hamilton.

HUGH SCOTT. 1912-1997

Hugh Scott.
The generations of our ancestors who have over the past decades and centuries were definitely a tough bunch of people. People made do with what they had, and they also worked to the best of their ability to be strong in adverse situations.
 
In 1978 an old age pensioner called Hugh Scott was a direct example of a tough old Hamiltonian. He was born on the Eighteenth of December 1912 to parents John Scott, who was a coal miner and Mary Johnstone. Hugh was born in 82 Albert Buildings which would have been a tied house at Earnock Colliery. The house came with his father’s job as a coal miner.
 
At the moment I don’t have many details to go on about Hugh’s upbringing or what he did in his younger years. When he was an adult, he served in the Tank Corps during the Second World War and after the war, he worked as a loader driver at Drumclog Sandpit where he continued to work until he retired.
 
Sadly, Hugh’s marriage to Helen Mary Boyle broke down and this is where his run of bad luck started. He found himself homeless and although a succession of friends and relatives gave him lodgings he was eventually forced to live rough.
 
Hugh’s story made headlines in the Hamilton Advertiser in December 1978 where he fell on hard times and his birthday was the forthcoming week where was about to turn 66 years old. He told the reporter of the Advertiser that he wasn’t looking forward to his birthday, not to Christmas.
 
Hugh had become so destitute and he was living in a tent on the banks of the river Avon on the outskirts of the Town. He “Moved In” around 6 months prior while most people were taking their Fair Holiday, after spending some time in living in a cave under the nearby road bridge.
Avon Mill7
There were very bad storms in December 1978 and the small tent which Hugh bought from a Tinker had been his only shelter, and with the winter starting to set in he wasn’t looking forward to the New Year either.
 
Blankets and old curtains kept Hugh warm at night and protected him from the nocturnal prowling’s of his regular visitors, moles, field mice & weasels. He used a candle to give him light and he had a five-gallon drum as a fireplace while water for washing and drinking came from the river itself and a nearby spring.
 
Most of his meals came from various halls and hostels in Hamilton, while the animals around his tent made a regular habit of raiding his home for any available food, sometimes eating his soap. But it was just not four-legged predators which Hugh had to deal with.
 
At one-point children cruelly raided Hugh’s tent and threw his clothes and other items into the river. The storms also brought another threat of flooding.
 
However, Hugh who was a well-known figure in Hamilton did manage to weather all the storms, but he did not know how much longer he could last as the last storm to his nearly blew his tent away and the rising water was nearly up to his campsite.
 
The council inspected Hugh’s tent and told him that he couldn’t live in these conditions and they promised him that they would help, but a considerable time had passed since the inspection and there seemed to be no hurry to rehouse Hugh.
 
Hugh called to the council offices on many occasions only to be told that they did not have a house for him and that he had to try again later, so the Hamilton Advertiser enquired to the council on Hugh’s behalf and they told the reporter that “he was very close to the top of the housing list for a two bedroom apartment in Burnbank”.
 
It seemed that the council were indeed very aware of Hugh’s situation and they offered to alleviate his homelessness by putting Hugh into the Hamilton Home, but Hugh would have nothing to do with that. The Hamilton Home, or better known as the Poor House was the last resort for poor people who were destitute, and it was indeed not a very nice place to live.
 
Hugh Scott was a tough old soldier and he continued to live in his tent on the banks of the river Avon. He told the reporter of the Hamilton Advertiser “All that I need for a happy Christmas is to have a roof over my head, even if it’s a hut”.
 
I am sure that Hugh did get his council house not long after he appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser. Hugh was well-known in Hamilton I know that there will be a lot of our readers who knew him, so perhaps you could let us know where he got his new house?
 
Hugh continued lived in Hamilton and he lived to the grand old age of 84 where he died in 1997.
 
Did you know Hugh Scott, or do you remember the story of him living in the Tent on the banks of the Avon? Let us know!

1978 Hamilton Weddings.

All the wedding pictures featured in this Album are from the year 1978. 1978 was a popular year for weddings in…

Posted by Historic Hamilton on Saturday, April 14, 2018

BECKFORD STREET PREFABS 1946.

Beckford Street Prefabs 1946.

The new consignment of Prefabricated house started to arrive in Hamilton in 1946. In March 1946 Beckford Street was a very busy place when people of all ages were flocking to Beckford Street to see the new prefabs which were erected.

There was a consignment of 18 Houses built on the site and the first tenants were to move in April 1946. All the Tarran Type Houses were built with the walls constructed of concrete slabs bolted together at the back.

Each block was a house in its self with front and back doors and the houses consisted of a Livingroom, two bedrooms, kitchenette, bathroom, wc and a lobby. The prefabs only had one fire to heat the whole house and the bedrooms were fitted with plug sockets so that an electric fire could be plugged in.
Hot air from the fire in the living rooms was passed through channels near the ceiling to each of the bedrooms. The hot water in the prefabs was transported from an electric boiler in the kitchenette.

In 1946 the kitchen equipment was at the time installed with the most modern cupboards with hooks, shelves or racks. A coal bunker was also provided and it was situated at the back door and they also came with sheds for storing prams, cycles and garden tools.

In 1946 Prefabricated Houses were being turned out at the rate of 50 per week at the factory of Messrs Tarran, Ltd, at Mossend. Some months later a new machine was installed at the Mossend plant and they would increase their output to 100 Prefabs per week.

The Beckford Street Prefabs paved the way for these types of Houses to be built in Hamilton. They proved to be very popular with people who were wanting a change from their old tenements with shared toilets.

After the Beckford Street prefabs were built, Hamilton received altogether another 54 Tarran type Prefabs. The prefabs were later constructed at May Street, Cadzow Square and Glebe Street.

With this proving popular Aluminium Houses were also Built at throughout Hamilton which consisted of 12 at Holyrood Street; 10 at Rose Crescent; 11 at Mill Road; and 10 at Donaldson Street & George Street.

Did you live in a Hamilton Prefab, or do you have a picture of one? If you do, then Let us know.

Thomas Hamilton & Helen Lochore.

Thomas Hamilton.

Seeing old faces from the past is really great if you find out that you are related to the people in them. This picture was taken in December 1946 and in the picture, we have Mr Thomas Hamilton & Helen Lochore who in this year were celebrating their Dimond wedding anniversary.

Thomas & Helen were born and bred in Hamilton, they were natives of the Ducal Town and they lived in the Hamilton their whole lives and between them they had 9 children, 7 of whom survived to adulthood. They had 12 grandchildren & 7 great grandchildren, so there is every chance that their descendants still live in the town today.

For their Dimond wedding anniversary in 1946 they held their party at the Liberal Club Rooms on Brandon Street where they shared their day with their friends and family.

When they married they lived at Helens house at 3 Fore Row where they spent most of their years and in 1946 they lived at 142 Almada Street and Thomas who was very well known in the town and was a ‘Kenspeckle’ figure in junior football circles. He spent all of his working life working for the Hamilton Advertiser working in the print room. When he retired early in 1929 he had given 51 year’s service to the Hamilton Advertiser.

Thomas was secretary of the Lanarkshire junior football association for 48 years and Lanarkshire junior league secretary from the beginning of the first world war until 1939.

They had two sons who lost their lives in the great war of 1914-1918.

The parents of Thomas were called James Hamilton who was a Joiner & his mother was called Margaret Polson. When Thomas married he lived at the family home which was at 5 Park Road.

 

Margaret Polson.
Margaret Polson.

 

Helen Lochore’s parents were called John Lochore who was a Handloom Weaver & Helen Millar.

Hamiltopn Wedding.

Are you a descendant of Thomas & Helen? If you are, then let us know where in the world you live now.