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

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14,000 likes on Historic Hamilton.

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This month we have reached another milestone on our Facebook page. We have now got over 14,000 followers!
 
We would like to say thank you to every single one of you for stopping by and spending time with us on Historic Hamilton.
 
After today we will be going offline for a while as we will be moving house. We are moving back to Hamilton after being away from the town for nearly 20 years, so new things on the horizon for the McCallum family.
 
Historic Hamilton should be back in a couple of weeks, please keep sending us your pictures, stories and family research requests as we will pick them up on our return.
 
Thanks again for your support and see you all soon…..

AWARD FOR ANNSFIELD ROAD NEWSAGENT.

Alex Fotheringham 1985WM.

In 1985 Alex Fotheringham was making news instead of selling it. He was elected, president of the Scottish Council of the national federation of retail newsagents.
 
In 1985 Mr Fotheringham’s family had owned the newsagent’s shop at 20 Annsfield Road for more than 50 years.
 
His new post put him in charge of an organisation which represented the interests of 3,000 Newsagent members throughout Scotland.
 
Mr Fotheringham who was 50 at the time said that his wife Ellen, along with his three grown-up children, Anne, Andrew & Ellenor would be helping out in the shop during his presidential time with the organisation.
 
What are your memories of Alex Fotheringham’s Newsagents on Annsfield Road?

The Hamilton Town Hotel 1985.

Hamilton Town Hotel 1985.

The Hamilton Town Hotel 1985.

3 – Course Business Lunch for only £2. With business lunches also available at ‘Pinkies’. Why in 1985 go anywhere else in Hamilton?

The Hamilton Town Hotel will bring back many memories for a lot of people. I can remember when this was called O’Neill’s in the late 90s.

What are your memories of the Town Hotel & Pinkies?

Sergeant John Wilson

Wilson-medal-768x847

For Bravery in the Field – 21st to 24th December 1917.
Written by Barrie Duncan of the Low Parks Museum.

100 years ago, on 21st December 1917, a four-man patrol from the 10th Scottish Rifles left the relative safety of their trenches and crept into no man’s land. Their objective was to establish the condition of the enemy’s defences and to try and establish the identity of the German unit defending them. It wasn’t until three days later, on Christmas Eve 1917, that two of the patrol would drag themselves back into the British lines – wounded, dehydrated, and suffering from exposure and frost-bite – while the other two members were presumed dead.

The two men who made it back to the British trenches on 24th December 1917 were Sergeant John Wilson, and Lance Corporal John Thomson. Both men were awarded the Military Medal for their actions on the patrol, but within a few days Lance Corporal Thomson had succumbed to his wounds, and Sergeant Wilson would ultimately have both his legs amputated as a result of wounds exacerbated by frost-bite.
The patrol that set-out on 21st December 1917 comprised of four men; Second Lieutenant Ewen, Sergeant Wilson, Lance Corporal Thomson, and Private Aberdeen. Sergeant Wilson had led a similar patrol on the previous evening when a German post was encountered, but this was too well defended for them to try and rush in an effort to secure prisoners.

The patrol came up to what they thought was the German lines, but which actually turned out to be a small section of abandoned trench that the German forces were using as an observation and listening post.

The lone German sentry was successfully captured by the patrol and while returning to their own lines they encountered and were attacked by a German patrol comprising of between 12 and 15 men. In the ensuing fight, the German prisoner was killed, and all four men of the British patrol became casualties.

Lieutenant Ewen was thought to have been killed outright, and Private Aberdeen was badly wounded. Wilson and Thomson, both wounded, were able to get away, using the myriad of shell-holes as cover. Looking back, they saw the forms of Lieutenant Ewen and Private Aberdeen being dragged away towards the German lines.

Using the cover of darkness, Wilson and Thomson dragged themselves to what they thought was the British lines, only to find they had lost their way in the confusion of no man’s land and were actually near the parapet of the German trenches. It took them almost three days to make their way back to the British lines, as by this time Thomson was almost incapacitated through blood loss and the effects of exposure and Wilson had to physically drag him, even although he himself was wounded and suffering from frost-bite.

Having survived all this, the unfortunate pair were almost met with the cruel fate of being killed by their own men, as when they first reached the British lines they were fired upon by the wary soldiers manning the trenches. On Christmas Eve they met a British patrol who assisted them back to the 10th Battalion’s lines.

The fate of Lieutenant Ewen and Private Aberdeen would not be known by the Battalion for some time. Wilson and Thomson had assumed Lieutenant Ewen killed in the fighting against the German patrol.

He had in fact been wounded and taken prisoner. He recovered from his wounds, although he spent the remainder of the War as a prisoner in Germany. Ewen was a chemist and druggist in Aberdeen in civilian life; he had originally served as a private soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps before being granted his commission and had only been serving with the 10th Scottish Rifles for a short time before commanding the fateful patrol.

Private Archibald Aberdeen was also wounded and taken prisoner. He succumbed to his wounds and died the next day, on 22nd December 1917. Private Aberdeen was buried by his German captors in a French cemetery behind their lines. In 1924, Private Aberdeen’s remains were reburied by the Imperial War Graves Commission in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery among his comrades who died in the War.

Wilson and Thomson were awarded their Military Medals on 1st January 1918. Three days later, on 4th January, Lance Corporal John Barr Thomson died of his wounds and the hardships suffered during his ordeal in no man’s land. John Thomson was from Hamilton, Scotland, and was 38 years old at the time of his death. He is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

Sergeant John Wilson was also from Hamilton. He had joined the 6th Scottish Rifles, the local Territorial Force Battalion of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in 1912. John was a compositor with his local newspaper, The Hamilton Advertiser. Embodied for active service when war was declared in August 1914, John first went to France with the 6th Scottish Rifles in March 1915.

Like Lieutenant Ewen, Sergeant Wilson was only transferred to the 10th Scottish Rifles a few months before he took part in the patrol. He had already been wounded in action, and had also served for a short time with an Officer Cadet School where he was considered for training as an officer. During the December patrol described above, Wilson had suffered a gun shot wound to the left thigh.

In addition he suffered severe frost-bite as result of spending so long in wet, freezing conditions. The damage to his legs was severe enough to result in him having both legs amputated, and he was discharged from the army on medical grounds in April 1918, aged 24.

Military Medal of Sergeant John Wilson, on display in Low Parks Museum (obverse – left, reverse – right)

If you would like to see more of these exhibitions, then you can see the fantastic display at the Low Parks Museum.

HAMILTON GROCER’S SHOP RAIDED May 1921.

Police Recover Goods and Make Arrests.

Bob MacTaggart
On Friday the 20th of May 921, the premises of Mr Alexander Proudfoot-Begg, who was a licensed grocer on Low Waters, Hamilton, was broken into late on Friday night or in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The booty comprises salmon, 37 lbs. of cheese, bottles of port wine, sherry, claret, beer, 20 lbs of butter, and £5 in money. According to the information supplied by the police, a considerable portion of the booty was recovered.

During the week after it happened, Chief Constable Clark reported that attempts to enter shops in Hamilton have been frustrated by the vigilance of the police. Soon after the occurrence was referred to, Constables Docherty and Walker, they were early on the scene, and, after a smart round-up, they apprehended two men, who were before the Court on Monday the 23rd in connection with the affair.

The two accused, who have been remitted to the Sheriff, are Joseph White (28), miner, 158 Low Waters, Hamilton, and Robert MacTaggart, junior (31), miner, 121 Low Waters, Hamilton. The charge against them is that of breaking into the licensed grocery premises mentioned and stealing the provisions and money enumerated.

It turns out that Robert or Bob as he was better known was indeed no stranger to trouble and this was not a one-off incident. Five years later, on Friday the 27th of May 1926, there was a fight which had taken place at The Ranche Pub.

This fight is still known of today, as it involved many police officers and of course Robert MacTaggart. It was nearly five years to the day of the break-in at the Grocers where ‘Bob’ MacTaggart had a few too many pints and had been challenging people to a fight out in the street and being already barred from the Ranche, he had it in his head that he was still going to go in and have a pint.

The owner had called the police and Bob was apprehended, but as the Ranche was a tough working Man’s Pub the regulars did not like what they were seeing and tried to free Bob from the custody of the police and then a mass riot broke out involving around 100 men. This was also watched by many hundreds of men outside.

More back up was needed and police officers from Hamilton and Blantyre were called for assistance. The riot act was read and there were many arrests, this included Bob MacTaggart, who received a six-month prison sentence.

Several years after the riot Bob McTaggart with his wife and children emigrated to Canada where he lived until he was in his seventies and died after losing a leg in a lift accident.

With thanks to Alan McTaggart for sending us a picture of Bob McTaggart.

Alan told us: here is a picture of Cadzow St Anne’s football team 1910-1911 a young Robert”Boab”McTaggart is standing back row 3rd from the Left-hand side this is a photo my late father Robert McTaggart had hanging in his house he was the owner of Croftwood store and was well known by many as “Big Rab” or “Boab” hope you find this interesting. Alan.