KEITH’S BUILDINGS OF CADZOW STREET.
Written by Garry McCallum – HistoricHamilton.
I am always being asked about the big building at the side of Cadzow Bridge and what it was used for.
This red sandstone building is called Keith’s buildings, and it is one of Hamilton’s old surviving properties, that has graced Cadzow Glen since its construction was complete in 1903.
The Keith family business was started in Hamilton by James Keith, who was a grocer, who moved to Hamilton from Holytown in 1856. He had started his business in Holytown in 1849 and when he moved to Hamilton – presumably to grow his business, he opened his small grocers shop at 78 Cadzow Street, he was renting the shop and house above from a well-known surgeon called Dr Wharrie.
The Keith’s would have their business in Cadzow Street for the next 111 years. By the year 1859, James Keith had entered the Town Council and was now fully involved in how Hamilton was run so this would have given him a huge advantage over his competitors in Cadzow Street. In modern times, we have seen this same sort of influence with a certain nightclub owner. It has, however, been documented that not only was James Keith a great employer but he was a man of great nature, who was Kind and well respected by many. In 1895 James Keith would later move up the political ladder and become the towns, Lord Provost.
James Keith’s only son, who was called Henry Shanks Keith, had taken over the family business when his father died on the 21st of March 1901. He was responsible for the grand sandstone building that we see today. The construction of Keith’s buildings was done in conjunction with the widening of Cadzow Bridge and it was designed by Bonn & Baptie structural engineers.
It began in the year 1901 and was completed by 1903. The grandeur of the building can be best seen when you stroll under Cadzow Bridge along the Glen, however, when you walk down Cadzow Street the entrance to the building just looks like a normal old sandstone shop and it fits in nicely with the rest of the buildings on that side of the street. Thankfully, this Hamilton building is Grade A listed and it can’t be demolished, but on a sadder note, it is now just rotting away.
As I stated, Keith or Keith’s Buildings as it is called was named after its owner, the wealthy businessman and lord provost of Hamilton, Sir Henry Shanks Keith. Sir Henry Keith, had chosen this site to build his property because, at the turn of the 20th century, Cadzow Street was the best place to go for shopping and Cadzow Street was at the heart of everything in the town and not to mention it was the finest thoroughfare in the burgh. When you entered Hamilton from Glasgow, Keith’s department store was the first shop that caught your eye and the store became the finest delicatessen in Hamilton and at the turn of the 20th century, Cadzow Street had more to offer than its Quarry Street neighbour.
The exact address for this building is 84- 90 Cadzow Street and the building itself was purposely designed to be a large commercial property, with its design of continental and mostly Parisian and Viennese styles and looking at it from Cadzow Bridge, it really stood out from the rest of Cadzow Street. It is built to approximately a square plan and above the bridge level it has a 2 storey and dormer-less attic and it has 4 storeys below the bridge level. The building also has its own lift installed inside it and on each floor, below ground level was a store room where the Keith’s kept their stock.
When the business was in full operation and because of the size of the building they had to transfer money around quite quickly, so they used a pulley system attached to the ceiling where the money would be put in plastic cylinders and transported all over the building.
On the Cadzow Street entrance, there are 3 wide key blocked segmental arches, linked by segment headed doorways and below on the ground level, there is a segmental terraced space with one arch. Like many of Hamilton’s buildings, the stone is a red colour and would have been brought in from of the many neighbouring Quarry’s that surrounded Hamilton and Lanarkshire.
Keith’s store offered a fine choice of foods, it was run as a delicatessen for a time and you could say it was Hamilton’s first supermarket. The shop sold fine meats, steaks, gammon and all poultry. They imported meat from Ireland. They also sold tea, coffee, dried fruit and fresh fruit. They were also Wine importers, wholesale & retail grocers.
Around the 1890s the family saw a gap in the market for affordable whisky and in 1901 they started to produce their very own. They used the cellars at Cadzow Glen as the whisky bond. The whisky was stored here for a minimum of ten years to mature. When the ten years had passed, they started to bottle their whisky and production commenced on the 30th of August 1911 – they gave it the appropriate name of ‘Keith’s Cadzow Blend’ or KCB for short.
Some of the people who worked at the whisky bond were Frank McGrory who was the Blender, Eddie Summers who was the store man and the well known Beef McTaggart was the Lorry Driver.
Henry Keith wanted to make his whisky a worldwide product, and around the beginning of the twentieth century, he was advertising all over the United Kingdom. Adverts were in all the local and national papers and the adverts stated, “Possibly the oldest whisky in the world offered at this price”
The company of James Keith was still thriving through both world wars. Henry Shanks Keith had died on 9th of July 1944. The business was passed to his son John thus making way for the third generation of this family run the business.
Rations during World War Two were in force, and Keith’s was no exception to the rules, however, the rules were bent a little. In 1947 Messrs. James Keith Ltd got into a spot of bother for selling too much Whisky to Bothwell Golf Club and they were told that they would be obliged to restrict the quantity of whisky sold to the Bothwell Golf Club owing to recent regulations.
The Convenor submitted a statement of the quantities of whisky supplied to the Club in the years 1939 and 1946 which showed the Club had obtained from Messrs. Keith, a larger amount of whisky in 1946 than they had purchased in 1939. The allocation now offered to the Club would be 18 bottles of whisky per month or roughly 4 bottles a week. It was agreed to conserve the supplies and to ensure that there should be a fair distribution amongst members, to restrict the sale of whisky to one bottle on Wednesday and three on Saturdays. It was also agreed that no large whiskies be supplied.
John Keith was also a Major with the 6th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) During the 1st world war 1914-18 was wounded at Festubert. John H Keith was the new owner of Keith’s buildings and he continued to run the family business and he was to be the last member of the Keith family to be Managing Director of this family owned company.
John H Keith continued to run the family business up until 1961 when it was taken over by Messrs David Sandeman of Pall Mall London. I would take a wild guess that the company of Keith’s was sold due to declining sales and competition from the new supermarkets and corner shops emerging all over the local area.
The new owners tried to make something of Keith’s and they also kept the name, but only 6 years later they closed the doors on Hamilton’s first Super Market. This was the end of an 118-year era passed down from father to son and the 1970s were just around the corner, what was to become of this grand old building?
Messrs David Sandeman closed Keith’s and they stated that it was no longer possible for them to trade from Cadzow Street because of excessive burdens in the form of Selective Employment Tax, Heavy Local Rates and ‘other government impositions’. (Nothing has changed in 2017)
They did try to find other smaller premises in Hamilton but without success. The manager of Keith’s at the time was called Alex Wylie and he had worked for Keith’s for 30 years and because of his great work at Keith’s, his job was safeguarded and he was transferred to the sister store at Bothwell.
I asked you what was to become of Keith’s? The building was eventually bought by businessman Armando Russo and his Associated Rentals Company. Russo held substantial properties all around the town centre and still to this day, his company owns Keith’s and many more properties in Hamilton and for reasons unknown to many, Russo owned derelict buildings which he refused to sell.
One example of this was the old derelict Regal Cinema, this took the Hamilton Town Council Ten years of negotiations to buy it from Russo. The old Regal was later demolished and its land turned into a car park.
The doors of Keith’s were opened back up again, but not to be a delicatessen or whisky bond some of the people who used the building were Netty and Ian Kane. Netty, used the building as a Café and Amusements whilst Ian, ran a Taxi firm from it and I have heard that Ian Kane was the first person in Scotland to own a Black Hackney Cab. There was also a clothes shop and Fancy dress on the top floor of Keith’s and it was later used as a gym.
The doors closed again for the last time at the end of the 80s and would remain closed. In December 1994 workmen were carrying out maintenance on paving slabs at the side of Keith’s and when they lifted the slabs they made a shocking discovery.
They found themselves staring into a very deep cellar which took you down to the basement of the building where they kept old Whisky barrels. This was found to be one of Three Cellars deemed unsafe by the council and the roofs of them had become quite dilapidated.
If a car had to park on the pavement at the side of Keith’s then it would have fallen straight through. After a series of Meetings with Armando Russo, the council agreed to fill in the cellars with concrete to avoid the roof collapsing as it was a danger to the public.
In 2006, the building itself was found to be in poor condition after lying empty since the early 90’s and it was agreed that no less than £500,000 would be set aside for possible spending on Keith’s Buildings. This money was funded by the Hamilton Ahead Initiative, run by the Town Council. It is unclear if this money was ever spent on Keith’s Buildings, but when you put things into perspective, this is a 117-year-old building and it still has a lot of potential to offer to our town so I would imagine it would be in their best interest to invest some money into it.
Today, Keith’s is admired by many people who pass by it and the grand old building is still owned by the late Armando Russo’s company Associated Rentals.
I have done some research to find out what exactly is happening with Keith’s and I am pleased to say that there is currently an offer of Intent to purchase by a man named William Campbell. I don’t know who this man is, but I would assume he is some sort of developer.
Keith’s is a Grade A building and it is protected, so Mr Campbell if you are reading this story of our historic building – that is known as Keith’s buildings, then can I ask, please talk to South Lanarkshire Council and see if an agreement can be reached to give this historic building to the People of Hamilton. This building would make a perfect Hub for our community.
Written by Garry McCallum
THE HAMILTON TOLBOOTH 1642-1954
Like many towns in Scotland Hamilton had its very own tolbooth. The tollbooth in Hamilton was so grand that some thought it was a church. It was noted that in its day, this jail was one of the grandest jails in Scotland.4
The tolbooth was erected in the reign of Charles the First, around the year 1642, there is no actual exact date for the construction but the old tolbooth stood as a silent reminder of the days of long ago.
When the tolbooth was still standing in 1941 a newspaper account in the Hamilton Advertiser read “The vicinity of the jail has changed much since 1642, no doubt then it would be the civic centre of the town. Anyone having a look at it today can see evidence that the levels of the adjoining roadway have been raised more than once since its erection.”
The north-east corner had been splayed off and corbelled over when built. This would indicate that at the time of its being built there were other buildings very close to it and the splay on the corner would be made to give room for persons passing through. It would have been one picturesque feature still left of the ‘Old Hamilton’.
The old jail would was at the heart of the town and it sat between the Hamilton Palace and what we now know as the Old Town. To put things in to perspective, the old Jail sat on the land that now occupies the roundabout between Asda and the Museum and the Kids play park on the palace grounds.
Today if the jail was still standing, you could walk down Castle Street and see its imposing tower.
The old jail of Hamilton in 1642 was one of the most ornate buildings in the town and you would think that the men of Hamilton in 1642 must have loved a jail more than they loved a Kirk, but to be fair to our own fellow townsmen of that time, it should be noted that very likely Hamiltonians in 1642 would have no hand in the erection of the Jail. It was more than likely to have been built by foreign hands.
There was a French look about the building, in the time of the Stewarts there was much coming and going between France and Scotland and no doubt French artisans had a hand in the building of the old jail.
The Tolbooth acted as the most important building in the burgh as it was the council chamber, court house and jail. The town council fitted a clock in 1656 at a cost of £314-13s-8d (Roughly £23,777.47 in today’s money) and four years later, a further £45 was spent on a new Tolbooth bell, weighing 8 stones 8lbs.
In 1666 John Pate who was the town officer, was paid an annual salary of £30 “For keeping of the clock and ringing the bell” On the ground floor of the Tolbooth there were three booths, or shops, which were let annually, providing extra income for the burgh revenues.
Outside the Tolbooth were the burgh stocks where wrongdoers were padlocked by the ankles. In the year 1670, James Hamilton, a merchant, was “to be brought publicly to the market cross, and be laid in the stocks” for striking his parents and uttering “Vile and Unchristian expressions”.
The council chambers which were recognised by many throughout the nineteenth century were built in 1798 and this building joined on to the tolbooth and not only was it the council chambers, it was used as the court house and jail.
On the balcony of the old jail, the prisoners were shown to the abusive public and later on towards the end of the nineteenth century life inside the jail was not always without its comforts; visitors were allowed to bring food and drink and “Merry Parties” were held, with the compliance of the poorly paid jailers. However, for some it was a short last walk to the Gallowshill.
Accounts of life in the old jail make interesting reading. The penalties for what are now regarded as comparatively trivial offences were severe to the point of being vicious. There is a record of a woman “an Egyptian,” being convicted of the theft of wine and sentenced to death. One of her accomplices was ordered to be whipped “on the bare back.”
Capital sentences were carried out at the top of Muir Street, the Gallows being at what was variously known as “Doomster’s Hill,” Gallows Hill,” and the “Deil’s Elbow.” The location was roughly opposite the present site of the Bay Horse.
The tolbooth was the seat of “Justice” for not only Hamilton but for the whole of the old middle Ward of Lanarkshire. In addition, the offenders against criminal law who were dealt with, there was a proportionately large number of debtors. Public punishment was inflicted, and many a prisoner had the terrifying experience of being the target for sundry missiles from an angry crowd.
As stated there appears to have been no restriction on feasting and drinking and it was a commonplace to see bottles handed in and out without hindrance.
There was only one turnkey and hard labour was unknown. Indeed, the jailer seemed to regard his charges as decent fellows who ought not to be imposed upon any more than was absolutely necessary. His “coigne of vantage” was a shop he occupied under the belfry, from where he could see all that was going on.
Debtors in the jail led what was, in the circumstances, quite a jolly life, with eating, drinking, singing and dancing. Accepting their loose confinement with more than resignation, they showed little grief. Perhaps they were relieved whom they owed money.
Prisoners were, on occasion allowed out of the tolbooth for a walk or to attend a funeral. Some must have been favoured by the jailer, for it is on record that one so abused his privilege that the jailer threatened to lock him out if he persisted in returning late!
Figures available for the years 1823-1835 give an idea of the proportion of the prisoners in the tolbooth who were debtors. (The figures do not include all Hamilton offenders, however, as some were dealt with in Glasgow.) In 1823, of the total number of inmates, 45 were criminals and 50 were debtors. The following year debtors numbered the same, but there were five fewer criminals.
From then debtors tended to decline and criminals to increase. Only once in 1831, were there over 100 criminals, the number being 102. Then there were 48 debtors, an advance of 17 on the previous year. The following year saw an increase of six debtors, and a decrease of four criminals, but for the first half of 1835 debtors were reduced to a bare 23, with 61 criminals.
In 1835 it was reported that the building, although handsome in its day, had deteriorated and would “soon all be removed, except the steeple, town clock, and bell.”
Despite the rather farcically lax treatment of some prisoners, however, life in the tolbooth was grim. At long last it aroused public feeling and in 1839 the new court and prison was built in Beckford Street, leaving the tolbooth a rare relic of the days when law was sternly enforced.
Plans for the extensive alterations to the tolbooth and old council chambers in 1860 are still in existence. They show that a new clock face was to be installed and the upper part of the tower to be reconstructed. The plans were drawn up in the Hamilton Palace.
The first indication of the perilous state of the building was revealed in the summer of 1949 when a Hamilton man, who was examining a plaque fixed to the wall of the tolbooth (The plaque read: Drs Cullen and Hunter practiced in premises across the street) at its junction with the old council chambers fell through the ash footpath when it suddenly subsided. At this point the Cadzow Burn is conducted under the building by a culvert, and examination showed that this was in a very dangerous condition, probably due to mineral workings and also through erosion from the action of the Burn.
No sign of damage to the culvert had been apparent and it was reported to the Town council. Regret was expressed in the town council that the old Jail was doomed, the foundations having been damaged to such an extent by flooding that the building was liable to collapse.
Following this an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the building taken over as an ancient monument, the cost of the repair work being prohibitive. An inspection at the end of 1949 revealed that there were no signs of fracture in the stonework above ground level on the clock tower, although part of the foundation would require to be examined further when the jail was removed.
The tower five inches off the plumb in one direction and three inches in another. This did not mean however, that the building was not stable. It was anticipated that it would be possible to retain the tower.
The council made plans to underpin and strengthen the foundations of the tower as it was in a very bad state of repair and it was hoped that the remedial measures which are to be taken would prevent the need to demolish it.
A certain amount of the tolbooth wall was to be left to give the tower support and this was also going to be underpinned.
Messrs John C Burns of Larkhall were appointed the job of demolition of the old council chambers.
They were to carry out the work at the end of January 1951 weather permitted. As part of their contract they were allowed to take the stone, but it was not allowed to use again for building, it was to be used as rubble.
When the old council chambers were being taken down workmen discovered in the foundation stone, near a fireplace on ground level a Scroll on which was written, in meticulous and still-legible hand writing: “This Town House was built in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Eight. And in the Thirty-Eight year of the reign of His Majesty, King George the Third.” The scroll also contained the names of the civic dignitaries of the day.
It is unknown where this scroll is now kept, Hopefully in the Hamilton Museum.
Hamilton’s link with the old past comes to an end.
The Tolbooth was finally demolished on the morning of Thursday the 21st of January 1954 when a charge of 25 pounds of gelignite exploded at the base of the old tolbooth steeple and sent it tumbling to the ground.
Its fall was witnessed by scores of people, some of them within the Palace grounds and others at vantage points in Castle Street, Muir Street and even in Cadzow Street. To set the appropriate funeral note, one of the workmen climbed to the belfry and for about half-an-hour until 11:18 a.m. tolled the Bell. As this sound, has not been heard for several years, the attention of many more people than would have watched was attracted.
Those who saw the final touches being put to the preparations for the big bang included the Provost Mrs Mary s. Ewart, The Town Clerk (Mr James Kelly), the burgh surveyor (Mr James A. Whyte), senior police officers and a group of pupils from the Hamilton Academy, who were accompanied by the rector, Mr E. G. MacNaughton, M.A.
After everyone had been asked (and some persuaded) to go beyond the danger limits, a whistle blew at 11:43 a.m. Immediately came the deep-throated roar of the explosion. The base of the steeple, where a number of holes had been drilled to take the gelignite, was shattered instantly and within a few seconds the whole structure had crumbled before everyone’s eyes.
The steeple came to rest exactly where expected, with the weather vane which for so long had topped the proud and once-handsome tower at the foot of a small tree. It had been feared that the rubble might block the course of the adjoining Cadzow Burn and that part of the stone culvert might collapse with vibration, but only a little of the stonework entered the water, and the culvert remained intact. Surprisingly little rubble fell in Castle Street.
When the remains were examined immediately after the demolition, the clock bell was seen nesting among the masonry, and it was still intact. The bell bore the inscription “Thomas Mears, London. 1802.”
Close by were the shattered dials of the clock, with its cogs and wheels scattered around. Clear of the main mass was the weather vane, on which before the explosion a sparrow had alighted for a brief moment.
There was a plaque that was attached to the base of the tower commemorating the fact that Drs Cullen and Hunter practised in premises across the street was removed an hour before the demolition. (Hopefully this plaque is kept safe at the Low Parks Museum)
The bell from the Tolbooth was later earmarked to be installed at the Municipal Buildings (The Hamilton Town House & Library) as the old bell from the Townhouse was sold to a Glasgow firm. It is unknown if this actually did happen, or if the Bell went straight to the Hamilton museum.
HAMILTON FROM ABOVE.
This picture was taken in 1928 and you can notice the changes that the town has gone through in the last 87 Years.
As you can see, there is no M74 at the top of the picture but a road leading up to Motherwell. You can also see the line where the grand avenue of trees lead from the Palace up to the Duke’s hunting lodge at Chatelherault.
Tuphall Road (A) is shown from it’s junction with Quarry Street and Bent Road, with the Gasholder (B) to it’s right. The back of Johnstone Street tenements (C) has Woodside School beyond.
Selkirk Street (D) ran through from Portland Place (E) to cross Tuphall Road. Scott Street (F) and Butterburn Park Street (G) climb, uninterrupted, from Tuphall Road and across Burnblea Street (H).
Low Patrick Street (J) has the old Hippodrome at its foot. Central Station (K) and the former Town Hall are on the Left of the picture.
The fields at the bottom of the picture would be later built on as the construction of much needed council housing got under way.