Window on the Past - shops and businesses

Old Lanark
Old Lanark

Ninety years ago, long before there were any ‘development trusts’ and ‘enterprise groups’, towns like Lanark found other ways to ‘sell’ themselves to the outside world.

Back in the 20s there was a craze for issuing free maps of your given area, paid for by local advertising, for distribution throughout the country.

These maps, mostly printed by a specialist publishing company in England, had the dual purpose of attracting visitors to your town and advertise businesses to local residents.

There is a rare survivor of one of those ‘Town Maps’ for Lanark, dating back to 1925.

The truly fascinating parts of this frail but still intact document are the businesses from mainly Lanark but also Carluke which advertised in it.

Only one of them has survived the 91 years since the map was published but perhaps older Gazette readers will still recall at least some of them in their heyday.

It was, of course, still the Golden Age of silent cinema and, sure enough, the Lanark Picture House in the Castlegate (eventually The Rio, destroyed by fire in the 50s and now the site of the Lidl supermarket) advertised itself as “The Palace of the World’s Best Pictures”.

This was a good decade before the far larger and luxurious Regal (now the Vogue Bingo Club) was built and took away much of its custom.

The Picture House’s invitation to the people of Lanark was “Come when you are worried; we are sure to amuse you!”

In Bannatyne Street (pictured) The Temperance Hotel advertised its alcohol-free premises, its function suite “suitable for excursion parties”. It also incorporated a family bakers for those who prefered a pie to a pint.

In Cleghorn Road Thomas Kay was advertising what was then a common dual service at that time, being both a joiner and a funeral director.

Obviously his woodworking skills could be turned to building coffins and his joiners cart could also double as a hearse.

Another versatile business was run by GP Train in Carluke High Street who made and sold everything from picture frames to fishing rods.

That famed Lanark chemist of old, JD Hilston advertised its potions for the ails of both humans and animals, its “Famed Lanark Sheep Dip” on offer to local farmers. The business had managed to bag the unforgettable telephone number of ‘Lanark 123’.

There is also an advert for the one surviving business from 1925 – the Gazette!

In these days we grandly claimed to “Shine a light on the Upperward” with “crisp, snappy and up-to-date news”.

Meanwhile, the Hislop Brothers promised to take “Anything, anywhere, anytime” with their brand new motor lorry based at their yard in the Castlegate, and Brown’s Cycle Company in High Street, Lanark, promised not only to sell you a bike or motorcycle but also “build one to your exact specifications”.

Others promoting their wares included Lanark’s “memorial sculptor” James Dickson, the Carluke Steam Laundry in that town’s Sandy Road (telephone Carluke 8); J O’Leary in Lanark’s Wellgate offering “hand-sewn boots and shoes” and painter and decorator Hugh Lind in the Wellgatehead who specialised in shop sign-writing; he certainly seemed to have a lot of work in the thriving Lanark and Carluke High Streets of his day!

There is also evidence in the publication that the small, independent shops that formed the economic backbone of our area at the time weren’t frightened to have a pop at the growing competition from big business.

A prominent Lanark town centre butcher of the time, Robert Gilbert, took on the then-nationwide craze for Bovril by stating: “Don’t exist on extracts. Live on Gilbert’s prime ox-beef!”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this business is its adddress, 108 High Street. That shop went on to become Alexander’s and then Damn Delicious Butchers.

While names change, butcher shops seem to remain butcher shops for generations in towns like Lanark.