A Short History of Bardykes House

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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A Short History of Bardykes House


Bardykes HouseThis is the research my brother Sandy Wilkie, did last year, hope it’s of interest to you, Bill. He means to continue with this and I will forward anything to you that I feel you may enjoy reading.


Bardykes House on Bardykes Road in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire (now known as Bardykes Farm and Bardykes Farm Nursery), was designed in the late 1800’s by a Glasgow architect who is now becoming rather famous, though not quite as much of a household name yet, as the City’s other world renowned architect, Charles Reny-MacIntosh.

Alexander Greek ThompsonHis name was Alexander Thompson but as there were two British architects of that name registered at the same time, our Alexander’s name was amended to differentiate them, by reflecting his own very individual and idiosyncratic design style based on his southern European ideals, to become known as the Scottish based, “Alexander Greek Thompson”. (9 April 1817 – 22 March 1875)

And so he remained as a “Greek” specialist, designing many fine examples of “Bardykes-esque” churches, public buildings and blocks of upmarket residential terraces of housing in and around Glasgow, for many years – indeed, most are now “Listed” and many of those which have fallen into disrepair, are currently being renovated.

His time and innovative skills were much sought after by Glasgow’s fast growing breed of very competitive early entrepreneurs as they vied with each other to see who could work in or live in, the most unique architectural creations near the banks of the Clyde or on the West Coast of Scotland!

These 19th Century versions of the modern day TV’s “Apprentice” programme, were in fact the many rich, successful merchants and traders who had blossomed in synch with the growth of the Clyde Shipyards, west central Scotland Coal mines and Lanarkshire Steelworks, as they strived to supply the demands of the never ceasing-to-grow tentacles of the British Empire as its presence spread and extended, literally into every corner of the world.

Wilkies FarmBardykes House was just one in a long string of Estate Houses built along the length of the Clyde tributary generally known as the River Calder – correct and original name being the Rotten Calder, so called because of the stench that came from it emanating from the amount of waste it gathered and carried as it flowed to the Clyde! (Untrue actually, but IS the correct name on the OS Map!). The locals’ nickname for it is the “Cawther” – there is a Water Fall known as the “Cawther’s High Falls” just behind Bardykes where allegedly, there were many suicides during the Depression in the 30’s as the burgeoning growth of the Industrial Revolution went into reverse and the demands from the Empire declined as it gradually became a mere “Commonwealth” of Nations!

This impressive chain of shooting and farming estates with their even more impressive “Big Hooses”, were of mixed ownership – some were privately owned by merchants as above but also some by the BCB (British Coal Board). Many were actually owned by the original Duke of Hamilton who resided in nearby Hamilton Palace (now also gone after it fell into a state of disrepair in the early 20th Century). The Duke was French in origin, from where he brought the world famous “White Cattle” (those specimens with horns even longer than the better known Highland Cattle) and which allegedly “haunt-the-hoose o’ onybody wha disnae look efter them richt” and who built the magnificently restored adjacent “Chatelherault Hunting Lodge”, so called after his Massif Central French country estate.

These Big Hooses consisted of many mystical names, some quite magical in sound but most of which sadly, with the passage of time, haven’t survived the rigours of 2 World Wars or the 3rd generation family business syndrome – names such as, Caldergrove.
It was positioned directly across the river from us, set up high on the cliff edge looming eerily down over us. Owned for many years by 2 elderly ladies, spinster sisters, Jenny & Bertha Waddell who ran a mobile Children’s theatre – it did the rounds of schools in the days pre-TV and computers. It’s demise was relatively recent – it burned down amidst suspicion, speculation and rumour about missing weans, in the 1970’s, soon after one sister DISAPPEARED (never heard of since!) and the other was found dead, at the top of the cliffside one October morning, by a policeman who was responding to a call about “something fishy up in the Waddell’s house”!! Somewhere, I have some old “Super-8 cine” footage of the fire as I looked over the canyon towards the flames, taken during the night.

Other names in the line of the famous “Blantyre Big Hooses”, included, Calderglen, Calderside, Crossbow House, Crossbasket Castle, Cawther Mill House, Calderside Farmhouse, Green Croft House, Shott House, Basket Farm, Malcolmwood Farm, Aller’s Farm (Dughillock), Flemington House, Mid Lettrick House and Farm, Greenhall (which was the UK Head Office of the old “English Electric Company”), Pattenholme, Coatshill House, and another adjacent to Bardykes, Milheugh.

Crossbasket CastleSome unbelievable stories abound about these “Big Hoose” neighbours of ours from my childhood days. For instance, from when I delivered milk into Crossbasket Castle (shit scared) in the late 1950’s, by which time it had deteriorated to such an extent, that the “Little” family who had owned it for many years but who had all fallen out with each other, all shapes and sizes of them lived in separate rooms or flats or corners or floors or wings or outhouses or turrets or basements or cellars! Each grizzly old “Little” ordered their own individual a half pint or pint or doubler (quart ) bottle to be delivered to THEIR door in one of these godforsaken hidey-holes in the decrepit old castle! Yet the overall bill was paid for each month by the family “book-keeper” from Thomson McLintock, accountants in Blythswood Square! (The Miss Little who frightened me most, was a hunchback who was “stationed” at the far end of a long dark, damp corridor in the castle, a corridor in which even for me as an 8 year-old slave milkboy, had to “keep ma heid doon so’s no tae bang it aff the roof!). The “Big” Miss Little, was different – her bill was also paid by the “accountant” but she lived in a lovely wee cottage on the banks of the Cawther!

Bardykes HouseThe Jackson family who commissioned the design and construction of Bardykes (now officially a “B Listed Building”), fitted into that earlier description of the prosperous Glasgow commercial scene perfectly, as they were the owners of a substantial group of Tea Plantations in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Ceylonese tea was a massively successful product for many years, so much so, that the Jacksons actually had ANOTHER Bardykes, an exact replica, in Ceylon!

At Flemington House in the month of June in the early 60’s, Hamish Robb the owner of both the “Big Hoose” and the farm, waved his wife and kids goodbye as they set off in their Rover car, for a summer holiday down in Seamill where he was due to join them next day after finishing the hay – he never arrived. He’d committed suicide with the powerful shotgun he kept to keep the crows away, within minutes of them departing – apparently, he bad brucellossis. Nowadays, when you look out from the back garden of Bardykes, you look directly into the ruins of what was once Flemington House – his widow is still alive but NEVER went back into the house and now lives in a Hamilton flat. The 2 kids are still around. One is married and has a family but built a new house in the grounds and still farms from there – the other is unmarried and lives alone in an old cottage, that you can see from that vantage point at Bardykes.

CalderglenCalderglen, to the north of Bardykes, is famous for the 2 generations of the “Suckle” family who lived there. One son was a local GP until his retirement.
The house was sold in the eighties when it became a nursing home. Also worth noting, that just where the Cawther joins the Clyde, is the home
of one of the Worlds best known Explorers and Missionaries, none other than David Livingstone! Little known facts about the Boy David, include the one about his great grandfather having fought at Culloden and his Great grandfather living on firstly Mull and then the island of Ulva as a crofter, before the kelp Industry went belly-up and the local Church of Scotland minister gave him a reference to come and work in the Mill just along from Bardykes. That’s where David was born before starting his sojourns to Africa.

I met his great great grandson recently when I was on a charity bike ride entitled, “From Birth to Burial” (born in Blantyre, buried in Westminster Abbey) – that’s fascinating isn’t it? Shows to me anyway, just how short History really is! Btw, 2013 is the 200th Anniversary of Livingstone’s birth, so there!

Anyway, back to Bardykes.
I can’t go into too much of the history of the Jackson family, except that at one time they weren’t known as the “Jackson Five” but locally as the “Jackson Tea-Men”! The last of them lived and died in the house and was known NOT to my father, but rather to my mother – really strange ‘cos my mum wasn’t local but was in fact, a Falkirk Bairn. She was a District nurse who worked in that capacity from Greenock and Galashiels to Bannockburn and Blantyre – her very first patient visit was to, guess where, Bardykes to tend the ailing Mrs Jackson. She was rather nervous on that first visit to the Big Red Hoose in the late 40’s – it still had gas lights and everything about is was, well, BLACK! She lived alone in the house with but a maid to look after her, a horseman, yes a horseman to operate as a gardener and odd job man who would take her out when she was well, in the pony and trap or Landolet.

Nurse McCracken (ma mammy), was shown in via the servants entrance, through the dreary kitchen with all the servants bells still on the wall, and on under the darkened ceilings and maroon cornice-ing, across the ebony like floorboards, passed the darkened skirting boards and wooden wall panels and up the almost blind staircase with its highly varnished and polished bannister and eventually, up to the gate – THEE gate, the WEE gate, the one kept locked at the top of the stairs to keep pesky weans out, but more importantly, to keep senile old men and women, in! Mrs Jackson died rather mysteriously shortly after nurse McCracken started visiting her regularly and though she seemed to be making sound progress over the months, alas, it wasn’t to be – she never fully recovered from her fever and passed away peacefully early into the winter. No-one local attended the funeral, in fact, no-one ever heard about a funeral being held! Her maid moved back to her family in Strathaven and the Horseman sold the horses and then he too disappeared. The house fell into considerable disrepair thereafter and was eventually bought by “Speculator” as my dad described him, a Mr Loan from Helensburgh who planned to get a hotel licence then sell it to “The Brewers” for a handsome profit. However that never came to pass and after further deterioration, he eventually sold it via Joe Daly (father of Alan) and Jimmy Rusk (local council valuer and father of the famous hairdresser family), to Peter and Margaret Wilkie. They were almost homeless at that time, because the 2 nearby farms in High Blantyre known as Birdsfield and Bellsfield, (we milked the cows at the latter and filled it on the former), were being “taken” by the 5th District Council via a “Compulsory Purchase Order”, to build Council Houses, demolition actually started whilst we were still living on the site!

On 5th April 1957, mum and dad plus their 3 weans under 5, Dinky the Alsation dog and Minky the tortoise-shell cat, moved in on the horse-drawn milk float pulled by Janet (or was it Nell? – Janet was a liver chestnut Irish mare and Nell was a more flighty black mare), to Bardykes.

Written by Sandy Wilkie and sent in by Margo Haughen nee Wilkie.

Fascinating and great that the owners have put down some history to Bardykes.

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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