The Village of Chryston - North Lanarkshire - Scotland
During the years that the lands of Bedlay and the Mollins estate were in the possession of the Bishopric of Glasgow areas were cleared to
allow growing of grain, fruits, etc., and these were used by the monks and produce sold to families on the estates. These monks built their
own chapels, dormitories, mills, etc.
The Mill of Bedlay was one such mill and was used for grinding corn. It was set in close proximity to Bedlay House, its wheel turned by
water from a strong dam of two acres which stretched in front of the House and decanted into the Bothlin Burn. It was a "sucken mill"
which meant that the 10 landowners in the Baldermonoch Ward, in which the village stood, were compelled to use this mill. Each had a
share corresponding to the extent of his property. If, however, any of them desired their work done at any other mill, they could arrange this
provided they paid the miller a similar sum to that he would have received had he performed the work. The dam in due course fell into
disrepair and by 1800 the reservoir was filled up with earth and the bed of it lessened by sloping down of the almost perpendicular bank of
Bedlay House. The kiln of the mill was used by the villagers as a public hall and it is recorded that the first evangelistic meeting of the
Wesleyans in this neighbourhood was held there. The mill was demolished during the 1840s, as was the miller's house, which stood in the
"miller's field" adjoining the Well Brae.
Farming developed over the years, giving employment to the villagers and their families. One crop which apparently grew well was flax
("the lint in the bell"). Around 1732 weavers were brought from Holland to help in the commencement of "manefactorys for linnen". Three
mills were established locally for this product at Drumcavil, Bridgend and Croftfoot and weaving was carried out in the dwellings in the
village. The British Linen Company was founded in 1746 to assist those in the trade. It also started a banking service, known later as the
British Linen Bank, with facilities available to all. By the end of that century between 200-300 acres of flax were under cultivation in the
district. It is recorded that old village craftsmen produced "Stout Holland Sheetings and Shirting, umbrella linens, shawlcloths, fine linen
and damask for Glasgow". No doubt some of the work of the Chryston weavers found its way there.
The Railways arrive
Chryston Station with the signal box and level crossing and old station house. Scotland's first successful steam locomotive was placed on
the rails here on 10th May 1831. In the early years of the next century, with the gradual increase in the manufacture of
cotton goods, demand for linen material declined and flax became unwanted. Farms reverted to general crops and also
to the raising of cattle for meat and milk. Weaving continued in the village but on a lesser scale and was subject to
However, within these years two important events occurred to put Chryston firmly on the map.
The first was in 1826 when the Monkland & Kirkintilloch Railway was opened. It skirted the village to the east and north,
routed through Gartferry Glen, the ground given free by the laird of Bedlay.
Originally it had horsedrawn traffic and was a single line. In 1831 two steam locomotives were brought into service, both
built by Murdoch & Aitken of Glasgow, being the first assembled in the city. "No. 1" was actually placed on the line at
Chryston Station, which was on a site adjoining Gartferry Road where the signal box and crossing gates stood - about
100 yards from the present Miners' Club at Bridgend.
This was followed in 1831 by the opening of the Garnkirk & Glasgow Railway, which was built to link up with the
Monkland & Kirkintilloch line at Gartsherrie.
It was routed approximately one and a half miles south of Chryston and one mile south of Muirhead. It was used for both
passenger and mineral traffic and so opened up a direct link with Glasgow and the industries and businesses there.
It also opened up easier communication with other areas of the United Kingdom and abroad by use of the extensive
docks on the Clyde. Thus Chryston and Muirhead became focal points between two of the earliest railways in Scotland.
Within two years of the second of the above mentioned events, two industries had been established in the vicinity of the
railway at Garnkirk. In 1832 the Garnkirk Fireclay Company (known originally as the Garnkirk Colliery and Brickfield),
owned by Mark Sprot of Garnkirk House and his brother and let to James Murray & Co., was set up. It was reputed to be
one of the largest and most complete works in the United Kingdom, using a bed of fireclay 4 to 19 feet thick, of a
composition superior to that used elsewhere in the trade. The products were therefore of a high standard, the fireclay
bricks, ornamental vases, urns, etc., being highly sought after. It is recorded that in addition to an "immense wholesale
home trade" there were exports to France, Germany, Russia, the East and West Indies, U.S.A., and New Zealand. In 1869
three hundred men and boys were employed, and 200 tons of clay and about an equal weight of coal were being used
daily. There was an internal railway system, which had earlier extended to limestone pits in the Crowwood area and to
fireclay workings in the Woodhead locality. The fireclay pits were finally exhausted in 1895 but the works continued in
production until 1901, when the buildings were advertised for sale.
In 1833 the clay deposits owned by Dr James Jeffray of Cardowan House came into use, on the formation of the
Heathfield Fireclay Works of Peter Ferguson & Co., later Ferguson, Miller & Co., who continued in charge until about
In the years following there were changes in ownership. Trading continued under the name of Heathfield and Cardowan
Fire Clay Company and the works were considerably extended.
The output over the years was varied and included firebricks, tiles, ornamental vases, chimney pots, sewerage pipes and
The firm continued into the late 1960s and just prior to that time about 100 men were employed. The works were in time
demolished as were the nearby houses of Heathfield village where some of the workers resided.
In addition to the lime pits in the area of Garnkirk and Crowwood, there were also deposits of hard blue lime on parts of
the Bedlay estate. This was extensively used in the Monklands iron works.
Following the closure of the Garnkirk Fireclay Works in 1901, part of the area was taken over by Henry Bros. of Saracen
Works for the manufacture of tubes. This company was later bought out by Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd., continuing
production until 1933, when work was transferred to Corby. Several workers and their families moved there too.
Nearby, a little further up Woodhead Road and to the south of the railway line, a distillery was opened on 25th July 1900
by Gartloch Distillers Company.
Shortly after it came into operation there was a complaint of pollution of the Bothlin Burn due to the effluence from the
factory, but within a month this was corrected. By 1922 two million gallons of water were being used weekly in the
production, the amounts being agreed by the Cadder Parish Council. Production continued until 30th November 1927.
The production buildings were not demolished until 1935, and the bonded warehouses until 1987, by which time they were in a dangerous
condition and unused.
The only visible buildings remaining are the former houses of the Inland Revenue Officers, Iro Villas. The rows of houses
usually referred to as Distillery Cottages were demolished in the 1990s.
In 1902 James Nimmo & Company Ltd. began sinking bores for coal in the area around Bridgend. This was followed in
1905-06 by two shafts being sunk to form Auchengeich Colliery. Number 1 shaft was wood-lined and square in shape and
normally worked to 75 fathoms (137.16 metres) with emergency operation to 175 fathoms (320 metres). Number 2 was a
brick-lined circular shaft operating down to 175 fathoms. The near proximity of the Monklands-Kirkintilloch railway
provided an easy method for the output of the colliery to reach the North British railway system (later L.N.E.R.) at Lenzie or
the Forth and Clyde Canal for distribution to Glasgow, central Scotland, Edinburgh and the east. Also, by going south to
Gartsherrie Junction distribution was obtained through the extended Glasgow-Garnkirk railway, by then part of the
Caledonian Railway (and from 1923 the London, Midland & Scottish Railway).
In addition to the coal mining a battery of coking ovens was erected producing coke from the high coking coal and
extracting tar, sulphate of ammonia, napthalene and benzol. A large gasometer was also erected and gas fed to the
Glasgow Corporation Provan Works.
On 14th March 1931 a very real help was afforded to the workforce by the opening of baths at the colliery, among the first
in Scotland. Altogether there were 900 lockers available for their clothes. This was also a boon to the women at home
where in many cases availability of hot water was not on tap and space for washing confined. The total workforce was
1,100 of which 950 were undergound. Sadly there were two serious disasters in the lifetime of the colliery. In 1931 five
lives were lost and 47 in 1959. Due to the seriousness of the latter the workings had to be flooded to quench the fire
which erupted. No further production was found possible. The workforce was dispersed to neighbouring Cardowan and
Bedlay collieries and others in the area. The shafts were infilled and all buildings demolished. The waste bings were in
course used in the construction of new motorways. Since that time all local collieries have closed.
In 1910 the building firm of Allan Bros., Watson & Henderson took over the firm of Mitchell which had premises at the
west of Chryston Main Street. They later moved to their present site in Lindsaybeg Road where at one period up to 60 men
were employed. Many of the Council houses in this district and beyond were built by the firm. In the 1950s, following the
deaths of Mr Watson and Mr Henderson, the firm became known as Allan Bros. It has continued to the present day with contracts locally
and further afield.
Around 1910-15 the bakery business of A. W. Gillies & Sons Ltd. was launched. The first bakehouse was behind buildings in Lindsaybeg
Road and the output carried to a shop situated in the building known as Oakbank. In 1918 the business was transferred across the road to
a larger shop (where the La Campanola restaurant now stands) with a modern bakehouse behind on the site now occupied by Clark's
shops. Home deliveries were effected initially by borse-drawn vans but later by a fleet of motor vans. Branch shops were opened in time in
Chryston, Stepps, Gartcosh, Coatbridge and Airdrie. The products were of high quality and gained many top awards at the London
Exhibitions and elsewhere. The business was bought out by a multiple concern in the 1950s and the various shops closed.
In 1919 the railway monopoly of travel to Glasgow from Garnkirk Station was broken when Thomas and William Rankin,
trading as Rankin Bros., introduced an omnibus service to the city. Within a short time there was a regular service
between Cumbernauld and Glasgow, timed to suit those who worked in the city, and as the fleet of vehicles grew more
commuters moved to this mode of travel. From a timetable issued in 1923 the journey from Chryston to Glasgow took 45
minutes, from Muirhead 42 minutes and from Cumbernauld 1 hour 10 minutes-not really much different to current running
In due course Rankins built up a fleet of buses of varying size and seating capacity to suit either local travel or touring to
beauty spots and trips. They even in 1923 installed a wireless set on a bus conveying a party of golfers from Glasgow to
Edinburgh. The Kirkintilloch Herald of 23rd May of that year records it as follows: "A decided novelty was tried on one of
the buses owned by Messrs. Rankin Bros., the Chryston motor firm. A new Leyland 40-seater, conveying a party of golfers
from Glasgow to Edinburgh, was fitted with a two-valve wireless set in a two-valve amplifier. The experiment is believed to
be the first tried on buses or charabancs in Scotland. The company had a thoroughly enjoyable concert on their way
home. Despite vibrations of the motor, the items were well heard." Opposition from other bus companies soon began,
provided by General Omnibuses, Lawsons and Alexanders. In 1929, Rankins' fleet of buses was bought out and
subsequently became part of the Alexander fleet. Rankin retained the garage and petrol station in Muirhead, opposite the public park, later
occupied by Clelland and recently by MacLaren, but at roof level one still sees the name "Rankin's Garage" set out in concrete, a fitting
monument to T. L. Rankin, who from his early business at the Chryston Cycle Depot became one of the pioneers of bus travel.
The initiative of the Rankin Brothers was matched in earlier years by the various contractors who established road services in horse-drawn
vehicles, to complement the developing steam railway service. Among the early haulage contractors were Robert McAlpine, William
Rankin, John Graham, William Dodds, James Campbell of Moodiesburn, James McFarlane, James Clelland, William Carslaw and William
Wilson, all of whom were known in the area. For the commuter James McMillan, followed by John McCall, also of Chryston, provided
horse-drawn carriages and traps to and from Garnkirk Station. When petrol-driven transport became available William Collison ran a Ford
6-seater-three persons seated each side-with tarpaulin top and sides to give some protection in inclement weather. On such days the
vehicle sometimes carried more than the quota for which it was designed! In addition, Wilson and Rankin later provided taxis for hire. Most
persons it must be said used "Shanks's Pony" and walked to and from the station, and had down to a fine art the time required to be in
sight of the station for their particular train. Many commuters had their "own" travelling compartment and fellow travellers, and much news
and probably gossip was exchanged on the daily journeys. Pupils attending Coatbridge High School or Technical College also used rail
travel, although from 1924 Carmichael provided a bus service from Chryston to Coatbridge. As bus services increased, passengers by rail
became fewer and fewer. Freight traffic also decreased, as road transport took over, and eventually Garnkirk Station closed, on 5th March
1960. Now only "Station Road" remains as a reminder of this mode of local commuting.
There were other businesses in what is termed service industries - blacksmiths, builders, joiners, slaters and chimney sweeps,
shoemakers, tailors and outfitters, grocers and newsagents, chemists (Thomas McLean was the first and his business name is still to the
fore), barbers and ladies' hairdressers, garages/petrol stations, fruiterers, bakers, painters and so on.
Two new industries commenced in the 1960s. The first of these was Charcon Ltd., now Charcon Scotland E.E.C., on the site of the former
Auchengeich Colliery, originally manufacturing concrete slabs and similar products but now into other building commodities.
The second to be established was that of Devro Ltd., situated on the south side of Gartferry Road about a quarter of a mile from
Moodiesburn. The site was marked out in 1964 by a tree-planting ceremony and the building was opened the following year. Formerly part
of the Johnson & Johnson group, the factory produces sausage casings made from collagen, a naturally occurring protein found in
animals. The first production unit was soon followed by others in 1969 and 1974, to meet the rapid growth of the company and the
increased demand, which included exports, commenced in 1972, to Denmark, Germany and Norway.
In 1976 The Duke of Edinburgh visited the factory, and he made a further visit in 1982 to see his award scheme in operation. In that year
greenhouses were erected on the eastern side of the building for a "Redgro" scheme whereby the hot water, which until then had been
waste, was used to heat the houses and enable cultivation of tomatoes for sale through the market. The scheme has since been
discontinued. In April 1991 there was a management buy-out at a cost of £107.7 million, financed by Charterhouse Development Capital
Ltd. The entire European operation is based at the offices and manufacturing plant at Moodiesburn and at their other plant at Bellshill.
They are the largest employers in this area.
Additional employment for local people is provided in small industrial units at the top of Woodhead Road, on the site of the former Garnkirk
village. More recently a business complex has been built on the site of the old Chryston Higher Grade School. It was officially opened by Mr
Bruce Millan, EEC Commissioner, on 22nd March 1991.
The Tunnel Bridge over the Monkland & Kirkintilloch
Railway. There was originally a tunnel at this point but
it was opened out to a cutting and bridge in 1831-32
Garnkirk Station looking west towards Stepps,
as it was when it closed in 1960
A ticket from 1924 when the Woman's Guild
travelled to Strathyre for their picnic.
Heathfield Fireclay Works
Loading fireclay pipes at Heathfield
Auchengeich Colliery in its early days
Horse drawn baker's van