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You are here: Information & History | General History - Roads & Bridges

General History

Mounds & Cairns Holy Wells Proprietors Statistical Accs.

Place Names Lost History Roads & Bridges
General History - Roads & Bridges

Roads and bridges have throughout time, established a means to travel, trade and communicate with other settlements, determine the site of cities, and provide a quick and efficient method of transportation. They have provided a framework for development, adapting to the changes of the economic and social needs of traffic through the ages. These changes have brought about speed, comfort and safety in ensuring the travellers passage from point of origin, to destination. From the cart, the rail and the car, Stonehouse has seen, and can still evidence, the advancement of technology and design of roads and bridges.

In determining the route of roads from their early origins, their planning was made much easier by the absence of hedgerows, fencing and man made obstacles. However, the early roads were influenced by rivers in avoiding flooding and the need for fording.

The first recorded era of road development in the parish was the Romans who invaded Scotland in 80AD. The Romans adapted and realigned many of the primitive track ways of the Celtic tribe, the Damnii, who had settled here during the Roman occupation. This road system was constructed between the 1st and 2nd century, and resulted in the framework for the present road system of today.

From the Roman occupation of Scotland, until the 18th century, little is known of the roads in Lanarkshire. The Roman roads fell into disrepair, with all but a few traces of their former existence remaining. In relation to the Roman road passing through the parish of Stonehouse, further information can be found in “Wha’s like us? A History of Stonehouse”.

As trading between towns and villages increased, footpaths, tracks and drove roads developed a network of roads across the country. Earthen tracks were most suitable for the early forms of transportation such as carts, wagons and horseback, but as the means of transportation improved, with the introduction of scheduled coaches, it was clear there was a need to invest in, and coordinate, new highways with more permanent river crossings.

During the 18th century Lanarkshire increased its productivity output in shipping, engineering, coal and weaving. It became evident that the industrial revolution would require to develop and expand a road network able to cope with the demands placed upon it. With traffic ever increasing, new, lasting and better maintained surfaces would be necessary to ensure the changing face of transportation and pressures on existing roads were addressed. The 1790 Statistical Account of Stonehouse stated in relation to roads, “They are much hurt by the carriage of coal and lime. Materials to mend them are ill to be got” further adding that there were no turnpikes in the parish in this year.

The authorities lobbied Parliament to borrow appropriate finances to construct new highways. This finance was secured by the introduction of tolls which were authorised to be levied on travellers and traders who used the roads. This initiative resulted in Turnpike Roads, which continued until their demise under the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878.

Around 1836, the Edinburgh to Ayr turnpike road was introduced passing through Stonehouse, with toll houses at Meadowside Cottage (East Bar Toll) Lockhart Street, and at Tinto View (West Bar Toll) at the junction of Townhead Street and Sidehead Road. Initially one road man was responsible for the stretch of road between the Glessart Brig and Overton. When the turnpike road opened, a coach service was available between Edinburgh and Ayr daily, as well as the twice a day coach from Strathaven to Glasgow, via Stonehouse and a direct service every morning from the Buckshead Inn to Glasgow, returning the same day. There was also a regular, twice weekly postal (carrier) service between the village and Glasgow. The Post Office was formerly situated at the Cross where Quintiliani’s chip shop is located (1859).

The first mail coach from London to Glasgow via Carluke was introduced about 1790, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that public pressure necessitated the need for new and improved roads. The management responsibility for roads at this time was under the authority of the county. In an Act of 1803, commissioners (Trust) were appointed with the powers to provide half the finances for improving roads from public funds, provided the other half was met by the landowners. The Trust enlisted the services of Thomas Telford (1757-1834) who had the task of constructing new roads and bridges. The responsibility of improving and maintaining the principle turnpike roads throughout Scotland was placed with Turnpike Trusts, with the lesser roads continuing to be maintained by the Parish Statute Labour Trusts.

During the turnpike era, 22 Turnpike Trusts existed in Lanarkshire servicing nearly 370 miles of roads throughout the county. The income from these trusts was collected from tolls payable from road users passing through the network of toll bars situated on the turnpike roads.

Thomas Telford's last road construction in Lanarkshire was the Edinburgh to Ayr Road, from Midlothian, near Shotts, by Newmains, Canderside, Stonehouse and Strathaven to Loudonhill (1820-1823). There were also extensive bridge constructions over the Cander Water (Cander bridge 1821) and over the Avon between Stonehouse and Strathaven (1821), which later collapsed in 1927. The Woodlands bridge rested only a hundred yards up river of the Cander railway viaduct, built in 1863 and later demolished in 1942. The Woodlands bridge was later replaced by the Cander bridge of today in 1966, over the site of the former Cander railway viaduct of which the foundations can still be seen in the gorge below.

In 1816 Scot John Loudon Macadam (1756-1836) became a prominent reformer of road administration, though most will remember him for his techniques in road surfacing, which still bears his name today, whereby he used a method of road surfacing that took account of the ever changing mode and increase in traffic. The Nationalisation of the roads, which was under consideration at the time, was strongly criticised by Macadam who thought that the result would probably be that the Government would utilise the roads as a source of revenue instead of attending to their maintenance as a public service!

During the early years of the turnpike era, many of the trusts were found to be badly organised and co-ordinated in relation to working with other authorities. The number of trusts and tolls caused many instances of delay and inconvenience to travellers in reaching their destination. Further ineffectiveness of management was caused by trusts having to renew their licenses every time they expired, until an Act of Parliament in 1830, which enabled all licenses to be renewed at the same time.

In 1825 the introduction of the railways created a network of rail lines throughout Scotland, ending the long distance haulage of goods by coach and cart. Trains were more cost effective and efficient than stage coaches, thus not able to compete, resulted in the end of the turnpike system. The evolution of the train also caused a great loss in custom to many old coaching inns, such as the Black Bull and the Buckshead. This transportation revolution also meant a halt to major road improvements, with financial resources being targeted at local minor roads, linking rural villages with the advancing rail network.

Hamilton Advertiser, June 27th 1863
“We hereby call an adjourned meeting of the trustees of Stonehouse Parish Roads, to be held within the Black Bull Inn (Meikle’s) there, on Thursday the 9th of July next, at twelve o’clock noon, for the purpose of transacting the general business of the trust, in the terms of the local and general statutes. Signed James Mitchell, Trustee, James Hamilton, Trustee and Matthew Hamilton, Clerk”.

In 1878 the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act transferred maintenance management of the Turnpike and Statute Labour Roads to the control of County Road Trusts.

The toll system ended and Stonehouse became part of the Middle Ward of Lanark, when three wards were created to manage road maintenance. In 1883 the last toll bars in Lanarkshire were dismantled and the control of the road network became the responsibility of the County Road Boards. These were appointed by the County Road Trustees until 1889, when the County Councils came into being.

With the development of the motor vehicle in the late 19th century, resources were needed to cope with the ever increasing traffic. Initially the introduction of the motor car was met with great opposition from the general public, as it was seen as a fast, polluting, health hazard to the safety of citizens. Until 1896 the ‘Man and Flag Act’ required a person to walk, waving a red flag in front of any motorised vehicle for the safety of residents in towns and villages, as was the case for Mr Riddell’s thresher from Lockhart Street.

Fortunately this act was repealed and in 1903 the Motor Car Act was established, ushering in a new era in road transportation and management. Various other Acts in the early 20th century ensured measures to improve the road network. This was done in response to the rapidly advancing technological developments in transportation, with the standardisation of road specifications aiding the harmonisation of the county road system.

With the introduction of the motorcar and road improvements, a motorised transport service was soon available. The following extract recalls the event of the first motor car in the village:

January 1897
Considerable excitement was occasioned on Saturday afternoon when the motor car built by Messrs. J & C Stirling, of Hamilton, was driven to the door of Mr C. Stirling in Vicars Road. Numerous comments were made as to the propelling power, and it is just a pity that a close examination was not allowed to be made, as the Messrs. Stirling might have profited by the inventive genius of Stonehouse, which has its station about the Cross. The absence of noise and smell was very favourably noticed, and we will be proud to hear of the continued success of the enterprising firm.

The first omnibuses in the village were operated by John Ferrie around 1920. His charabanc (Maxwell) also doubled as a delivery lorry for fruit and veg. Mr Burns, the owner of the Black Bull Hotel, also operated a bus hire service at the time, using an ‘Albion’.

Around 1923 the first passenger service was established by Robert Hamilton and James Letham Watson, ‘Admiral’ by name. Using Lancier buses from their garage in New Street, a regular service was run from Stonehouse to Glasgow and Larkhall to Darvel via Stonehouse and Strathaven. The late Henry MacFarlane worked as a conductor on the buses as a fourteen year old boy and remembers well many of the villagers who worked for ‘Admirals’, including driver Jimmy Black and conductresses Alice McInnes (Todd), Esther Kirkland and Cissy Ferguson. A popular stop on the journey was the ‘fountain’ at the corner of Kirk Street. This was a well used for refreshments and collecting water. Unfortunately, due to poor road surfaces, and constant repairs to the Lanciers, the service became unreliable and was eventually run off the road in 1927 by GOC (General Omnibus Company), the forerunner of SMT (Scottish Motor Traction Corporation).

Several other firms tried to operate a bus service in the village, including Baxters, Torrance, Covenanters and the Lanarkshire Bus Company. Most of these were owner driven, but none were able to make an impression in what was the survival of the fittest. With privatisation in the early 1980’s came a succession of bus companies including a local firm operated today by George Whitelaw. Located at Lochpark Industrial Estate, this company has thrived for many years now, holding off fierce competition.

Most bridges in Lanarkshire, including Stonehouse, were built before the introduction of steam propelled and motorised transport. These bridges were made to the requirements of the day, and in many cases upgraded to cope with the changing face of transportation and increased demands on roads. Many of these old bridges were of square span, masonry arch construction, for horse traffic, but generally capable of coping with the heavy goods traffic of today. However, some bridges such as the Woodlands bridge (Thomas Telford 1821) and the Linthaugh bridge (c1772) are less able to facilitate the pressures and practicalities of of modern day traffic. Both bridges have suffered through weathering and deterioration of the sandstone, which have affected their ability to cope with heavy traffic. The railway viaduct crossing the Avon was constructed by the Arrol Bros. in 1904 (demolished 1984).

Linthaugh bridge throughout its long history has served the village well as a popular alternative route for accessing Hamilton, Quarter and outlying villages. In 1771, two bridges including Linthaugh Bridge were swept away by floods. The Linthaugh Bridge was rebuilt a year or two after the event, partly funded by private contribution and partly from county funds. In constant need of repair, the bridge was, for a decade, merely an access for farmers and fishermen, when a landslide on the Millheugh Road resulted in its closure. However, Millheugh Road was reopened in 1998 after a long fought campaign by residents, the community council and local councillors. United endeavours in 1993 also ensured work began on the opening of the first phase of the A71 bypass, after 25 years of campaigning to protect property and improve the safety of residents in the predominantly ‘Conservation Area’ of Stonehouse. The campaign continues to complete the bypass.

Evidence of former bridges spanning the Avon can still be evidenced, such as Millers bridge, South of the ‘Meetings’, on both banks, and another midway between the Linthaugh bridge and the Holm farm on the South side.

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