Shops, Businesses and Organisations in the Vale of Leven.

This is a list of the shops / pubs / business premises in Alexandria about 1950. Most of them were in Main Street and Bank Street, but there were others in what could be considered side streets and one or two of them had a Vale-wide following. By its nature it is a snap-shot and many of the businesses had other owners around that time. Some of them are also included.

NOTE: We would welcome any addition, corrections, new content or images appropriate for this page. If you can help please get in touch.

ALEXANDRIA SHOPS AND BUSINESSES ABOUT 1950

Alexandria shops

Where appropriate, the present owners / occupiers of these businesses have also been listed to help identify where they were located. This also helps to show the changes in the lines of business conducted in these shops. Most, but not all, of the wee corner shops have disappeared. All of the Vale Co-op shops have also gone, and there were many of them. And no longer is there a milliner in Alexandria nor a tobacconist’s nor a seller of sheet music. But there are still two excellent butchers, an equally good fish-shop and the range of food and drink is better than it was in 1950.

There are a number of types of businesses and shops which have increased greatly in the past 60 years or so – for instance, there are many more car-related businesses, but then again there are many more cars. There are now a variety of food take-aways and not just fish and chip shops. And of course there has been an almost unbelievable increase in personal grooming shops – hairdressers, beauty salons and tanning salons.

Alexandria is still a good shopping centre and when you include the shops at Antartex and in Lomond Galleries (Torpedo Factory) there is very little that you could buy in Alexandria in 1950 that you can’t buy to-day: perhaps a man’s suit and electrical white goods, although Aldi can fill part of that gap, and a bicycle. But there is a lot that you can buy now but not then. Compared to the carnage in other towns’ shopping centres the Vale has a lot to be thankful for.

The entries are listed from north of Alexandria to south. The lists follow each street through to its end before moving on to the next one and move firstly along the east side of those streets running broadly north-south before turning round to come back along the west side so that they finish approximately opposite where they started. On those streets which run from east to west they start on the north side and come back along the south side.

We are indebted to Willie Ronald who has contributed most of this information. Willie’s memory and knowledge of these times is encyclopaedic. The Street numbers are drawn from the Valuation Rolls.

Hardie Street, Levenvale

Main Street – North

Starting at the north end of Main Street, which then, as now, was known as Hillview Place, the premises were as follows:

These shops were part of the Govan Drive four-storey tenements which were demolished in 1976 and replaced with the 2 storey building which houses another 4 shops, with a different footprint from the original 4 in Hillview Place. Today these businesses are:

There was then a considerable gap consisting of the un-reclaimed Lyddite and some Maycrete Houses on the site now occupied by the Swimming Pool. The Torpedo factory was, of course, where it still stands, and immediately adjacent to its gatehouse was Glenview Place where there were the following shops, which carried no number in those days:

In 1950 there were no shops until the Co-op, but to-day there are two in the building which is now called Avenue Place – Bellezza Beauty Centre and Graham Wilson’s Photographers Studio.

In 1950 Main Street did not start officially until the Vale Co-op building opposite the Christie Park. There were 3 shops in that building and while the Co-op did shuffle the use of some of its shops on a regular basis, so that a grocers became a chemist or a dairy a fruiterer's for instance, in 1950 these shops were:

After the Co-op sold them, these shops had a variety of occupants including a pet shop, the Vale’s first Indian restaurant, the Star of India, in the l970’s–early 80s which became the Argyll Bar for a while. To-day only Sizzler’s carry-out shop survives as a business at 9 Main Street, the other shops having been converted to flats.

There were then a number of houses before the shops restarted with

North Street

Craft or Alexander Street

The Fountain

In the 1950’s the next shop was at 115 Main Street, but to-day there are a couple of businesses in what in the 1950s were houses:

The Bank of Scotland building marks the end of the older buildings in this part of Main Street. Everything south of here in the Town Centre dates from the 1970’s and there is not another older building housing a business until much further along Main Street at the Old Vale Bar. The present occupiers of the newer buildings are listed below the listing of the older buildings. Going back to the 1950’s buildings:

Mitchell Street

Main Street South

The “new” shops on the east Main Street stretch of the Town Centre are as follows:

A Lane

The west side of Main Street had its first shop in the Burnbrae housing scheme in 1950

Upper Bridge Street

All of the buildings between what had been Main Street School (now the Alexandria Leisure Centre) and what is now the Murray Agency (previously the Gas Showrooms) have long since been demolished as part of the Alexandria Town Centre redevelopment. A car park now occupies the site of 190 – 184 Main Street, while the buildings between 172 and 142 were replaced by a new row of shops. A list of the new shops appears at the end of this west Main Street description.

All of these buildings were demolished after the first phase of redevelopment and have been replaced by the grass and trees which stand on the Main Street in front of the Overton Street car park.

Overton Street

Gilmour Street

Hill Street

The shops in the “new” building in Main Street.

The business premises in the side streets off Main Street start with:

North Street

North Street in 2010

The numbering system in North Street has completely disappeared and most of the north side of the street is occupied by business units. It is very much the car repair centre in the Vale and includes, from the top of the street:

Lennox Street

Lennox Street in 2010

Craft Street / Alexander Street

Craft Street / Alexander Street 2010

None of the original buildings survived the Alexandria Town Centre redevelopment. The only 2 buildings in Alexander Street which are now used for non-housing purposes are:

India Street

Mitchell Street

All of the buildings in Mitchell Street were demolished (except the Vale Co-op department store on the corner of Bank Street and which had a Bank Street address; it is now Iceland) and the Street disappeared, although Mitchell Way closely follows the line of Mitchell Street.

Random Street

Church Street

Albert Street

Overtoun Street (it was only later that it was changed to Overton Street)

Of these premises, none have survived until now on their original sites, most disappearing in the Town Centre redevelopment of the early 1970’s. Overton Street in 2010 has 2 businesses on it now:

Gilmour Street

Hill Street

In 2010 the largest group of shops in buildings which did not exist in the early 1950s is in Mitchell Way, which replaced Mitchell Street and the top of Random Street in the 1970’s. The local MP, Ian Campbell, opened the development in 1976. In the 34 years of it existence, there has been a fair turnover of shops in Mitchell Way, and only 2 premises continue in the same use since then – the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Council offices, although in this case the name of the Council has changed as a result of local government re-organisation. Many of the shops are now closed, but this is at least partly because of the plans to demolish the south-east block of flats / shops, which has been announced but not acted upon so far.

Mitchell Way

Some of the Mitchell Way shops in years gone by were very popular. These included:

Bank Street

Back to 1950.

Susannah Street

Steven Street

Ferry Loan

St Mary’s School

Edith Place (202-198 Bank Street) is the only one of the 1950’s buildings still standing between the Hall and the Station Bar.

Station Road - The Railway Bridge - John Street

Mitchell Street

Susannah Street

Apart from the Gospel Hall all of these premises have disappeared under grass, car parks, the houses of McAllister Road and new housing on Susannah Street.

Steven Street

Ferry Loan

Bridge Street

John Street

Bridge Street

Leven Street

Thomas Street

John Street

Shops which have opened since the 1950’s

There have been a number of shops which opened in Alexandria on sites which did not exist in the 1950’s. These include:

Tullichewan Shops

In the 1950’s a new row of shops was opened on Tullichewan Drive at the entrance to Tullichewan Housing Estate. The original occupants were various Vale Co-op shops, but the Co-op cut back and eventually moved out completely. The shops were general stores and later shop-owners included (this is not a complete list):

Rosshead Shops

Two shops opened in Rosshead virtually as soon as it was built. They were:

The Antartex shopping complex

This is located in buildings which formerly housed the Antartex sheepskin clothing factory and factory shop and before that was part of the UTR’s Craft Works. It is a popular destination not only with bus trippers who visit every day, but also with locals. Its shops now include:

Lomond Industrial Estate

Lomond Galleries

The former Torpedo Factory building housed the Vale’s first factory outlets complex when it opened in 1997 as Loch Lomond Factory Outlets. To begin with it was a great success but suffered when Lomond Shores opened and is not as busy as it used to be. However, the current retail outlets still provide a very useful range of goods at very competitive prices. They are complementary to the shops in Alexandria town centre and don’t compete with any of them. They are all worth being the first stop if you’re looking for something in their particular lines of business. The shops include:

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"For those we loved are scattered,
and some in death sleep soun',
and the old oak tree sae bonnie,
has long since been cut doon".

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The redevelopment of the Vale of Leven town centre in the 1970's forced the closure and demolition of many long established, local businesses.

Duncan McLean, a well known local Burnsian and poet penned the following verses to mark these events and to mourn the passing of all of these businesses.

Duncan's poem, "The Wail o' the Vale" is humourous, knowledgeable and poignant. He accurately reflects the feelings of many of us who knew the centre of Vale before it was systematically destroyed.

 

The Wail o’ the Vale

As I look roon aboot me
an’ see what they have done,
They’ve torn the beauty fae ye
And created ye a slum,
No’ any Cosy Corner, Nae Bank, Nae
Co-op, nae Pawn,
McKim and Kerr and Duffy,
And Don di Felice awe gone.

Victoria and Albert, Steven, Mitchell, John,
Alexander, some say Craft street,
Noo where can we awe staun?
Matha Thompson’s, Kelly’s, Jack’s, McNaughton’s tae,
The Fountain Bar, McLeran’s and Boardman’s Grapes, away.

Susanna hud a school o’ fame,
The Main Street it hud wan the same,
The gas works hud its lights pit oot,
And the auld Vale laundry’s doon tae soot,
The auld Hibs hall in Random Street,
Where many a yin danced wi happy feet,
It’s nae longer staunin’ there,
And come tae that it’s aw laid bare.

John Angus wis the baker, who made the guid tea-bread.
McLetchie wis the man who cam tae fetch ye when ye deid.
And there’s no anither Melly if yer lookin fur a feed.

Matha Haggerty, a plumber, Kinloch wis wan an aw,
Their places staun nae longer,
They too have hud tae fa’,
Wull Tyler wis the Jiner, doon Tooraladdie lane,
The Shincut oot o’ Bridge Street,
Intae Bank Street, near the train.

Nae Donald Hunter, Cannon or Co-operative coal,
And aw that’s left o’ where they were,
Is jist a great big hole.
Johnnie Bain’s garage, Sarah White’s wee shop,
Anither bit o’ Bridge Street that’s hud an awfy knock.

No any midnight grocer
Nae fruiter man named Dan,
No any Bunny Baxter, anither barber man,
Nae Granny Smith, Nae Mrs Moss,
And Riddy Broonin he’s a loss.

Nae Burgess and Buchanan,
Who collected aw the rents,
And if ye didny pey them,
Then ye hud tae pitch a tent,
Doon alang the Leven side on the Cricket park,
Or else it wis a flittin’ soon efter it wis dark.

Cherly Smith, the Slater, hud a place in Mitchell Street,
Bob Martin wis his neebor jist alang the same wee street,
He worked in his auld smiddy and he made an awfy din,
But some aulder yins they tell me it belanged tae Jock McGinn.

Nae Argyll or Millburn Terrace,
It’s enough tae make ye greet,
In that wan in the Main Street,
That’s where Dick man did yer feet,
And if ye still think ye need him,
tae gi’e yer feet a treat,
Then ye’ll get him no faur fae me,
Alang in Middleton Street.

John Glen’s in Castle Danger,
Wi’ pumps an’ paraffin ile,
He takes ye up the hill noo, aw dressed in tails and tile,
He’s worth it, every penny, fur dae’in it in style,
He’ll tak’ ye our tae Cardross but no fur wulks or tea,
He’ll huv ye done well fired, and awfy deid ye’ll be.

Noo some will likely question aw av hud tae say,
But this wis how it wis laid oot, in aboot ma day,
But when the change is completed and the beauty’s aw restored,
Then we will hiv whit we can call,
The beautiful Vale once more.

Noo there’s plenty a could write aboot.
If a took time tae think,
For a hiv plenty paper and av plenty pen and ink,
But if you don’t mind,
I’ll jist sit doon and hae anither drink!

 

Duncan McLean

 

 

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