1904 Glen Mhor New Workmen's Houses

Our continued look at the development of Glen Mhor through plans associated with the site, brings us to the 12th September 1904, when planning permission was submitted for new workmen's houses. With plans being drawn up by during August 1904 by local firm Ross & Macbeth, who we've discussed previously.

That's the case on the outside comments as seen below: 

While inside the plans, it highlights that these are alterations to existing housing. This is confirmed by the small overhead site map (see later in this article), which shows the existing housing stock on the northeast end of the distillery. Before we delve in, it is worth remembering that this area of Glen Mhor was once mooted as the place for a small warehouse, which didn't make sense to myself or Alan Winchester and led to some speculation on our part. Through the existence of this site map, we can once and for all put to bed that the small warehouse was not constructed. 

We also seem to be missing the original planning application for these workmen's houses to be built. While this remains missing in action, these alterations clearly show us their original pre-1904 form and the incoming amendments, so not a huge loss.

This modest extension would only occupy the ground floor and provide an additional bedroom (10 foot in length) along with a washhouse and boiler. To accommodate this, the existing drain would have to be removed and replaced with an iron equivalent. 

Let's remind ourselves of the site today:

The presence of these two residential buildings raises the question as to whether they once formed part of the distillery - after all seems unusual to have such a small space of land not utilised by Glen Mhor - or if they once did belong to the distillery and were sold off to workers at some stage? This is possible and we see it today at Benromach where one of the original cottages is privately owned, as much as the distillery owners would like the land for their expansion plans, there's nothing that can be done.

So, let's jump back in time to the 1980s and look at Telford Street once again:

You can clearly see the two white buildings in situ on the left, while to the righthand side, there are the two distillery cottages that once existed and we'll cover in due course. The overhead map also gives the impression that the white house on the corner of Telford Street is on private land in 1904. This does seem to have been reduced in the above overhead aerial photograph and it something worth monitoring in future updates as further distillery expansion encroaches onto its border. 

Let's return to the worker's 1904 cottage on these plans, and from the construct and positioning of the site plan, it has to be the building that is sitting in front of the line of warehousing, centrally, remembering that all the warehousing was not yet constructed as seen in the above 1980s image. The map also confirms the ownership of the surrounding land with Sir K.J. Matheson, who we've covered previously.

Of interest is the question as to why only one such building when it is clear, room existed on both sides for further housing? The foundations to this worker's house now likely reside under the roundabout and A862, which is an extremely busy road. 

While it is easy to focus on the house plans, my attention is drawn back to the overhead map of the site (see above) in 1904. I do question its accuracy in some aspects as you'll see it doesn't show the main warehouse that ran the width of the site - something you cannot miss unless it was left out for ease. While the shapes of the buildings on the plan come across like some form of Tetris building block array, we're starting to see the formation of a new Glen Mhor and all the buildings that created the convoluted assortment that has confused many for years; particularly if you look at the photographs taken from the canal side.

What the map clearly shows (and this is confirmed by subsequent plans that I've yet to publish) is the creation of a building on the right hand side of the Still House. This is a major discovery, as it confirms that some part of the 1898 alterations were actually implemented, as until now many believed these did not arrive until circa 1925. 

Below is the final layout of the Glen Mhor production buildings as noted in the 1985, just months before it was demolished. The red line shows the original Still House outline while the Spirit Store is outlined in yellow:

We'll identify the other additions in due course, which will be a fun element of this research project. From the overhead drawing, there is also the suggestion of some form of addition on the left hand side of the Still House. This is likely to be the new tank that was planned as part of the 1898 alterations to appear on that side.

So, while on paper, these Workmen House alterations, increase the facilities for those living at this address. It is the overhead map that gives us added insight into the development of the site and that all of the effort that went into the planning, application and approval of the 1898 expansion plans was not in vain. 

To gain more insight into the existence of this house we can turn to the Inverness Burgh Directories¹, which confirm the Telford Street location and that it was also the only Glen Mhor accommodation during this period and suggests that the other distillery cottage-like building (on the left hand side in front of the production buildings) may have had a more formal use. 

The worker's house is noted in the 1899 volume, confirming that it was constructed prior to these 1904 amendments. I am still looking for earlier editions that cover the period when Glen Mhor was constructed and established, but it is my belief that this worker's house may have been built around 1896-1897, and these accommodations are briefly mentioned in the Trade Brewer's Supplement published in 1898, confirming their presence

'Near the entrance gates of the Distillery are three neat and substantial cottages, with gardens attached, for the work-people, several of whom are permitted to reside on the premises.' 

This confirms their existence and the suggestion that neat could also mean new, especially as the whole site was just a couple of years old when the writer visited in 1898. However, the number of three is likely to mean that the Workmen's Houses were split with into an upper and lower cottage. Perhaps this went even further with the rooms themselves counting as accommodation, although this goes against the suggestion of them being substantial. Least we forget some of the conditions peopled lived in during these era, which might explain the terminology. The visitor could have also counted the additional cottage-like building opposite as the third as well - a small but understandable mistake. 

This seems a likely possibility as the upstairs accommodation was reached by a set of external stairs at the back of the house, leaving the downstairs to be accessed at the front of the house.

Overall, I feel confident as to when these were built and the location. Thanks to the Burgh records, we know that Robert Robertson was resident in the cottage in his role as brewer and William Reid was also a resident, being a maltman. Potentially, they may have had families present also. It would make sense that the more skilled workers (as opposed to the manual workers) would have had accommodation included in their package. Often we overlook just how manually intensive distilling was during this period and the prospect of learning new skills and rising up to the desirable and prestigious role of distiller, would have come with perks.

Robert Robertson was married on Friday 20th August 1897, so it is likely that this was family accommodation with Kate also residing here before their move to Glen Albyn house in the 1920s when the next door distillery was acquired. Yes, I know, too much detail from just one set of random plans involving a new extension for a room, washhouse and boiler. It shows even the most modest of alternations can furnish us with so much detail and new found understanding.

¹ we will be releasing a full section devoted to the Inverness Burgh Records in due course.

My thanks to Rose for working her magic on these photographs. We've watermarked the images from the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness to protect the originals, which are referenced as R65 Telford Street - Dean of Guild Plans. As with any images on this website, please ask first before using and always give credit. My thanks to the Centre for their continued assistance.