Notes On Miner's Houses Part XIV

(From Our Own Correspondent)

From Slamannan To Airdrie

Is my last communication, I disposed of the least reputable mining villages lying between Slamannan and Airdrie; and now, in my concluding letter regarding colliers' houses in Scotland, I have only to deal with several hamlets of which I am able to speak in generally favourable terms. Leaving Slamannan, a walk of twenty minutes takes us to Bowatson, a row of houses belonging to Mr John Watson, whose pits are in the neighbourhood. The first four houses in the row are occupied rent free, the tenants being the superior servants of the company. They are rooms and kitchens, with a scullery entering from the kitchen and a larder from the room. Wooden floors are laid in both apartments, which are large, and ventilation is secured by back and front doors. The first house we enter is nicely furnished and faultlessly clean. It is not enough to say that this is a model miner's dwelling ; the fact is that James Baird of Cambusdoon does not live and move and have his potential being in a better-appointed household. Next door the domestic arrangements are of much the same character. The remaining houses in the row - single apartments and rooms and kitchens - are all substantial and well finished, although they have not the same air of order and cleanliness as those first visited. The background is also in excellent order, large ashpits and closets being provided. Good spring water and plenty of it is had at Bowatson.

The Burn Row, also belonging to Mr Watson, is reached half a mile farther along the road. It is a village of some pretensions as to size, consisting as it does of two old rows and three new brick rows. Giving our attention first to an old row of nine stone houses, we find that they are single apartments with wooden floors, and that the beds are placed against the back wall, in which there is no window. They are poor houses, rented at 1s 3d a week. On the opposite, side of the road, which, by the way, is in a disgraceful state, is what appears to be a still older row of single apartments, the interiors being quite as dark and uninviting as those we have just quitted. The houses in the new rows, which are of brick, have high ceilings and a small window at the back. They are much healthier places to live in than the others, and the rent is 1s 6d a week. There are also in the village a few room-and-kitchen houses with scullery, for which a rent of 1s 9d a week is charged. The old rows are not provided with ashpits or closets, and the cleanliness of the village is looked after by a man who was recently appointed for this purpose. Water is taken from a going pit, and after being filtered is led into a large barrel at the end of the village. In rainy weather it is said to be dirty, but at the time of my visit it looked well enough.

Leaving Burn Row, we cross the fields and climb the slope leading to Binniehill, of which Mr Watson is proprietor. This is a large village, consisting of old rows, constructed without regard to comfort, with low ceilings, insufficient light, and faulty ventilation. There are also several new rows hardly out of the plasterer's hands, which have been erected in accordance with modern notions of health and convenience. At present some of them are very damp on the backwalls. They are, however, well raised from the ground, with lofty ceilings and apartments of fair size, and will doubtless become dry in summer. There is a great want of ashpits and closets at Binniehill, but a large place of this kind was being erected at the time of my visit. It is built right over the water-course partly supplying the village with cooking water, which will not be safely available when this outhouse comes into use. It seems rather extraordinary to erect such a structure on this particular spot. The water is collected in a pond at hand, and is led through a drain underground, and delivered at the mouth of an iron pipe a dozen feet or so in length. I went to see the pond, which is not fenced in any way, and, I was told, is polluted by children. Another source of supply is from No. 9 Pit, an old working which receives additions from Nos. 3 and 7 going pits. In summer the people have generally to depend upon this pit water. At Binniehill, as at Newfieldykes, less than a quarter of a mile away, there are large families living in small two-roomed houses seven, eight, and nine persons being common numbers.

Newfieldykes consists of two rows of single apartments and rooms and kitchens, some of them being unoccupied. They are old houses having no back windows, and there are no out houses of any kind in connection with them. Water is got in various places in winter, and in summer it is difficult to be found anywhere.

Whiterigg, belonging to Messrs Black & Co. is a large village, consisting, for the most part, of new brick rows, and a large square, also new, called Airdriehill Square. These are excellent two-roomed houses, with wash-houses and ashpits and closets behind. The rent is 2s a week. There is, however, an old row in Whiterigg, consisting of very inferior houses. There are no back windows, and the interiors are poor in the extreme, both as to accommodation and furniture. Everybody declares that they are not fit for human beings to stay in, and I quite agree with everybody. They are not decently habitable even for Irish human beings, the least tidy of the mining class, who seem to keep this row all to themselves. Pit water is used at Whiterigg.

Northstone Rigg, belonging to Mr Rankin, comprises two rows of old houses having earthen floors and no back windows. Surface water, occasionally mixed with moss and burn water, is used here. In rainy weather it becomes discoloured, and in summer it is very scarce.

At Upper Avonhead the houses, which are of brick, belong to Mr Muir, and have been barely a year in occupancy. Large room and kitchen houses, with wooden, flows and high ceilings, are rented at 12s a month. Water is got from the moss, or anywhere. In summer the difficulty is to procure any supply by which the necessities of the household may be met.

Meadowfield, belonging to Messrs Black & Co., and Longrigend, belonging to Messrs Nimmo & Co., are modern villages of inferior character. The houses are by no means first-class, the sanitary arrangements are defective, and the roads are in a very unpleasant condition.

At Drumrig End is a new row of 18 capital room and kitchen houses belonging to Mr John Nimmo. They are large and well-constructed, and outside are coal cellars for all the tenants and ashpits and closets. The water here is said to be very dirty in wet weather. At the Lodge, removed by a single field from Drumrig End, the houses belong to Mr Watson. They are poor single apartments, with very small back windows, and the rent is 5s a month.

Longrig, belonging to Mr James Nimmo, consists of two long rows of brick houses, which seem to be thin, and are complained of as being cold and damp. Pit and surface water are got here, and in summer the people require to forage about for it. This is also the rule as to water at Wester Longrig, where there are several rows of new brick houses belonging to Mr Gemmill. A supply is sometimes got from a farmer in the neighbourhood; who charges 1/2d for each "rake."

In another letter, I shall have something to say about a model mining town in England. [Glasgow Herald 9 March 1875]