Rural Village to Suburbia

Rural Village to Suburbia

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An settlement in the vicinity of Newton Mearns can be traced back to the 13th Century. This settlement was possibly sited at Robshill, clustered round a wooden castle built by Herbet Maxwell, approximately where the Robshill Court flats are today.

 This settlement was separate from the older settlement  which A. Boyd Scott in his book “Old Days and Ways in Newton Mearns” describes as being at Kirkhill, near to  a castle built by Roland de Mearns, possibly near to the site of the present Mearns Castle. 

The thatched cottages pre 1900
The thatched cottages pre 1900
The thatched cottages pre 1900
The Main Street c 1916

 

The later village, which came to be known as Newton (New Town), centred around the Main Street which ran approximately on the line of the present shopping mall.  The village remained fairly isolated until the building of he “new line” in 1832. This new road from Glasgow to the Ayrshire boundary, the present A77,  became the main road and the Newton became the focus for new development.

In the late 19th Century the inhabitants had to collect their water, either from the end of the Main Street or from the “Tea Well” which was situated on a steep hill which ran down from Robshill and was known as the Tea Well Brae.  It was claimed that the water from the Tea Well made a better cup of tea than the water pumped at the Barrhead Road end of the Main Street. 

At the end of the Main Street nearest to Robshill, there was a collection of buildings known as “Teapot Close”. It is thought that the name arose from the fact that the houses were near enough to the Tea Well to be able to send a child for a teapotful of water.

The Tea Well Today
The Tea Well Today
The Tea Well
The Drinking Fountain 

 

The building of the bus garage caused the water in the Tea Well to run brown, but by that time the houses had running water. This had been made possible in the late nineteenth century by the generosity of William Mann of Whitecraigs House who funded the installation of a gravitational water scheme for the village. In his memory, his daughter presented the village with a drinking fountain, which stood originally at the Cross and was a popular meeting place. Today it stands at the Ayr Road entrance to the shopping centre, but it is now dry.

Mearns Village had many interesting names for buildings. Marble Arch was the entry to a courtyard with several homes at ground level. Outside stairs led to an open landing with more homes and two more attic homes above that. All together there were homes for ten or twelve families who all shared the wash house and the toilets.

Ashview Terrace from the bus garage
Ashview Terrace from the bus garage

The Doctor’s Buildings were built by Dr Mackinlay at a cost of £1000 to replace the old thatched cottages. He then rented out the houses to provide better living conditions for the villagers. Other names were Ashview Terrace, a tenement building on the Barrhead Road looking over to the bus garage, Castleview Dairy, Hope House, Prospect House, owned by the Russell family and the Botanic Gardens. There was a farm at Robshill and two tennis courts. Pictures of some of these are in the picture gallery.

At the start of the 20th century, development took place along Main Street, Barrhead Road and south of the Cross, where cottages and two storey properties were built. To see a map of the village click here.

Houses south of the cross
Houses south of the cross

Following the First World War, the local authority built a small housing development at Townhead Road. This was followed by more local authority housing south of the Cross from Moorhill Road to Netherplace Road.

In the 1930’s, a large development of private housing was completed north east of the Cross, when the area from Larchfield Avenue to Hazelwood Avenue came into being. This was known locally as “down the avenues.” A local builder, William Maver, also built bungalows south east of the Cross at Arthurlie Drive and Gilmourton Crescent . Another small area of private housing was built at St. Vigeans Avenue and on the adjoining area along Ayr Road.  Building ceased when war broke out in 1939 and did not really begin again until the 1950s. Since then, house building has continued and now there is little left of the open countryside which used to exist.

Three main blocks of shops
Three main blocks of shops

Three main blocks of shops were also built, one (pictured above) on the site of the Ayr Road entrance to “The Avenue Shopping Centre”, another further north. Today these are almost all fast food outlets. A third, on the east side of Ayr Road, south of the Cross, is currently occupied by  Eric Smith, the jeweller. A fourth block was started where the BP filling station is now sited, but this was never completed due to the outbreak of war and remained as a brick shell until it was demolished sometime in the 1950s.

Building of Andersons Garage, on the site now occupied by  ASDA , was started in 1902 and considerably extended in later years. Commercial development also saw the building in 1932 of the large bus depot (pictured below) for Western SMT on Barrhead Road. It was relocated to Thornliebank in 1968 and the buildings were demolished.

Andersons Garage
Andersons Garage

A hospital for the care of children with tuberculosis at Mearnskirk (pictured below) had been planned by  Glasgow Corporation as early as 1913 but development was delayed by the outbreak of the first world war. When it opened in 1930, it was known as Mearnskirk Hospital for Children. It was expanded during the Second World War when it was taken over by the Emergency Medical Service and used for military personnel. Post war, with the improvements in child health, the nature of the service at Mearnskirk changed. Adult patients were admitted, a Thoracic Unit opened in 1946 and the Ear, Nose and Throat unit in 1948. By 1959 Mearnskirk was a general hospital and it closed in the 1990’s.

Mearnskirk Hospital
Mearnskirk Hospital

The war and the immediate years after it, saw no further development of the village. In the mid 1950’s more local authority housing was built between Netherplace Road and Barrhead Road. Prior to the war, property in the Main Street had deteriorated and during the war years it had been allowed to deteriorate even further until  many of the buildings were in a ruinous state.

The scene at the Cross improved greatly around 1950, when the open area next to Andersons Garage was attractively landscaped with flower beds and a seating area. The area at the front of the bowling green was also landscaped with planting areas and seating. People arriving at Mearns Cross, particularly in the summer months, were presented with a pleasant scene. Newton Mearns at this time was still very much a rural village, surrounded by open countryside with pleasant country roads - a walker’s paradise.

The majority of the villagers found employment locally at the printworks at Netherplace, owned by Wallace and Company,  Andersons Garage, the Western SMT Depot, Mearnskirk Hospital, local shops and on the farms. Those who commuted to the City had a plentiful supply of local bus services.

The everyday needs of the people in Newton Mearns  were well catered for, with two butchers, three bakers, three newsagents, four grocers (Bringan’s, pictured below), two hairdressers, three banks, a sweet shop, a pharmacist, a fishmonger, a fruit shop, a shoe shop, a dairy, a dry cleaner, a haberdashery, a tea room, a cobblers, a jenny a’ things, a post office and a petrol station. There was also a veterinary practice and a doctor’s surgery. Most shopkeepers knew all their customers by name.

Bringan's Grocers
Bringan's Grocers

Transport links were excellent and provided by the Western SMT bus service. Buses left the village every 15 minutes for Glasgow. The journey time was 25 minutes and the route terminated at Waterloo Street bus station, a few yards from Central station.

There was also a 15 minute service on the Ayr / Glasgow route which passed through the village, as did all the other services to and from Ayrshire. Effectively, there was a 10 minute service to and from Glasgow. Many of the bus drivers and conductresses were local or well known to the locals, “Fearless” Freddy and his conductress Grace being among the best known and remembered.

A weekly, two journey season on the buses in 1958 was six shillings and eight pence (34p)   

The social scene in the village was varied. The Horticultural Society, Mearns Amateur Football Club, the Bowling Club, Mearns Players Dramatic Club and the British Legion all had enthusiastic members. In addition to this  the Church organisations were well supported.  If you tired of the village scene then there was always the Tudor  cinema at Giffnock and a further three cinemas at Shawlands. In Glasgow there was a whole host of entertainment to be enjoyed and with a bus service back to Mearns until after midnight, the last bus was 12.15 am, travel was not a problem.

Education was well provided for at the local school, which took pupils up to third year secondary stage. For those passing the Qualifying Examination, a five year course was available at Eastwood Senior Secondary School at Seres Road in Clarkston, later renamed as Williamwood when the new Eastwood High was built at Capelrig.

Newton Mearns in the 1950s was quite an ideal place to live, situated on the fringe of the countryside and within easy commuting distance of the city. This was a fact that had caught the attention of major house builders.

In the late 1950s,  work on new speculative housing , mainly  bungalows, appeared in various locations. As the 1960s progressed, so did the number of houses being built, removing much of the countryside which had given the area its initial appeal.

During this time the volume of traffic through the village was starting to increase and the decision was taken to widen the Ayr Road from Eastwood Toll to the Malletsheugh. This work involved removing large areas from the gardens of houses along the Ayr Road. The visual impact on the area of the widened road was considerable and particularly so at the area around the Cross where the landscaped area had to be completely removed to allow Andersons petrol station to be re-sited.

It had been known for some time that the Main Street was to be developed and during the 1960’s much of the property there was emptied and demolished. When in 1968 the Western SMT Depot was closed, this led to another large derelict area of ground.

By 1970, Newton Mearns village had taken on a rather sad appearance with all the derelict areas. People were anxious to see the long talked about new development take place. By 1972, they had their answer. The new Mearns Shopping centre opened in 1972 (pictured below).The visual impact of the building was what might be kindly described by some as a “bold statement.” For many, its gaunt appearance with unrelieved facing brick exteriors was not quite what they had hoped for. However it did offer a new concept in shopping with a covered, heated Mall. There was also a major supermarket in it operated by Messrs William Low, together with various other retailers.

Mearns Shopping Centre
Mearns Shopping Centre

Sadly, the opening of the new centre meant the end for many of the local shopkeepers who lost their business premises. The original concept of the new centre was that the local retailers would be housed in the units just outside the mall in Mackinlay Place, where lower rentals would be charged. Sadly, even this concession did not allow them to continue trading and most simply gave up. For many inhabitants, this really was the end of Newton Mearns as a village.

With the new centre in place, house building gathered momentum with many different developers keen to get into an expanding area.

In 1988, a further major change took place.  Andersons Garage had ceased trading in 1980, making a valuable site available. This resulted in major expansion plans to upgrade and expand the Mearns Shopping Centre. Despite a major protest from Wm Low, the main supermarket in the shopping centre, their unit was closed down. Barrhead Road was diverted to the junction with Townhead Road and on the ground formerly occupied by Andersons Garage, Barrhead Road and Wm Low’s supermarket, the new ASDA store was built. The mall was refurbished and extended and at the north end, a new unit for Marks and Spencer was erected. The external appearance was improved by incorporating new cladding and a new two storey car park was built over the site of  the Western SMT Depot.  

Plans are in place for a further extension to the shopping centre and, in addition to this, a large commercial development is underway at Greenlaw.

Today, no physical trace of the old village of Newton Mearns remains.

 

 


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