‘Lavvies’ at Bervie Probus

Chris Greene introduced Raymond Sutton who gave a fascinating presentation to Bervie Probus Club on the closes of Montrose and its “lavvies.”

There are 164 closes in Montrose with their main purpose being to provide a link between the east and west elements of the town to the main thoroughfare although, in days long gone, it was also common for cows, pigs and chickens to be kept in the closes.

Many of them have been renovated with new paths being laid complete with the French drains and the walls painted.

Located off the closes, many wash houses still exist with their original Belfast sinks and wringers. Very strict rotas and conditions were in place for the use of the wash house. Water was only piped to Montrose in 1902 and residents only got two hours per day to collect what they needed. Another amenity situated off the close was the “lavvie” as there was not enough space in the homes to accommodate them and, as there was no electric lighting, a candle had to be used to light the way. A number of wash houses and lavvies are being kept in their original condition as a look into the past.

At the bottom of some of these closes, many exceptional fine houses can be found such as Straton House which has a wig window on the stairs between the ground and first floors.

To the north of Straton House is situated a half close which is a dead end and is the only one in Montrose.

In early times it was known as “Grahams Vennel” and has had numerous names over the years depending on the name of the proprietor at the time, but is now known a 5 Castle Place.

In 1587, James VI gifted the ancient hospital lands to the town council for the express purpose of providing a hospital for the poor. William Smart’s house on Swapps Close was procured for this and some eight poor were selected to live in the King James Hospital. They were each provided with a blue gown to wear hence their nickname the “bluegowns.’’

Some closes are inaccessible today as shop frontages have been built across them leaving dead spaces behind.