Craighead House

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Blantyre Houses
Craighead House

Craighead House on the outskirts of Blantyre, photographed in 1870 by Thomas Annan.Craighead House on the outskirts of Blantyre, photographed in 1870 by Thomas Annan.

The house sat on the Blantyre side of the River Clyde, just before Bothwell Bridge. (behind Ireland Alloys)

THE seat of George Alston, Esq., is situated in the parish of Blantyre and county of Lanark. The house is placed on the left bank of the river Clyde, and in a position commanding the most beautiful views of the surrounding scenery, that of the historic bridge of Bothwell being particularly fine. 

The house and estate were sold at the beginning of the 19th century to James Smith, son of a West Indies merchant in Glasgow, James Smith of Craigend (d 1786). After James Jnr’s death c 1815, his nephew sold Craighead to another Glasgow merchant, Thomas McCall, who made considerable additions to the house.

Yet another Glasgow merchant, George Alston of Muirburn, acquired the property in the 1860s.

Craighead House on the outskirts of Blantyre, photographed in 1870 by Thomas Annan.

Following on from that, it went to an organisation “Jesuit Fathers” of the Roman Catholic Church as was used as a religious retreat and a school of learning for young men entering into the Catholic priesthood.



Craighead House

Roman Catholic Rally at Blantyre

It is many a long year since Sir Walter Scott wrote that World famous novel, “Old Mortality”, but it is not universally known that he wrote the last chapter in Craighead Retreat House, Blantyre – in fact Craighead is the “Fairy Knowe” mentioned in that book. One could well imagine the inspiration Scott would receive from his surroundings – one of the most beautiful spots in the district. There they would have no trim conventional lawns – no “keep off the grass” notices – but just vast silent wooded grounds extending down to the banks of the Clyde.

There one may wander at will in the shaded silence and listen to the wind sighing softly among the trees. Then, in one of the niches in the rocks down by the river-side in solitary splendour stands a shrine of our Blessed Lady of Lourdes and here in this wild solemn spot may kneel the pilgrims in supplication.

And amongst these beautiful surroundings the annual rally of the Knights and Handmaids and Solemn Procession of the Blessed Sacrament took place on Sunday, amidst the warm sunshine of a June day.

What a long imposing procession it was, headed by St. Joseph’s Silver Band, Blantyre and composed of Knights and Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament, Knights of St. Andrew, Knights of St. Columba, Brothers of the Third Order of S.S. Francis and Domonic, the clergy and members of public bodies and religious sisterhood, all assembled before the St. Joseph’s alter on the lawn and then together with the celebrant – Rev. Father Dinlay, S.J. – who carried the Blessed Sacrament, proceeded in procession to St. Mary’s alter and from thence to St. Bride’s alter where simultaneous sermons took place, the band playing beautiful selections meanwhile.

Fully five thousand spectators were present, but overall the most solemn spiritual air rested, and the hush that fell upon the huge crowds as the Blessed Sacraments passes slowly on its ample proof of the religious fervour that exists in the precincts of Craighead Retreat House.

Motherwell Times article Friday June 6th, 1924.

Reproduced by permission of the British Library.

Sent in by Charles Fox.

Craighead Retreat 1937
Craighead –  school of learning for young men entering into the Catholic priesthood. 1937

The mansion lay empty in the late 1990′s until it was destroyed completely by fire on 18th February 2002. Contractors subsequently demolished the remains to make it safe.


Whilst transcribing the 1851 Census I found the following record for Craighead House, the house was owned by two Spinsters, Mary and Jessie Brown who had eight servants. (Living like millionaires and not knowing the fortune in Black Gold that lay beneath their land)

Mary Brown, 70, Jessie Brown, 59 – Landed Proprietors.

Servants: Charles Brotherton – Butler, 43, Janet Syme – Dairy Maid, 33, Marion Watson – Cook, 36, Jessie Grewer – House Maid, 25, Marion Lindsay – Laundress, 28, Margaret Anderson – Ladies Maid, 25, all unmarried. James Dalgleish – Master Gardener and employer of one man, 39, was married with one son and lived in the Gardiners House.

Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman remembers, “There was also a fairly large brickworks off the Whistleberry Road, I remember this place with its large furnaces lighting up the area when the furnace doors were open, its as if you could feel the heat and you were at least 100 yds from the entrance to the works, I do believe it went under the unique name of, THE BLANTYRE BRICKWORKS.”

Margaret Duncan: I was born and lived in the coachman’s house in the grounds of this beautiful estate till I was 7. It was an idyllic childhood even tho’ we had no electricity but we had chickens, an orchard & amazing freedom – we moved in 1958 to John Street, Blantyre as dad was allergic to dry rot. I remember Brother Riley allowing me to swing from his big sleeves.

Helen Dyer: I wish I’d known all this history when I was in school.. it just amazes me that I was born and raised there and didn’t know the half of it.

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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