John Gardner & Co.

Steeplejacks

Colour photograph of John Gardner & Co.'s invoice for lightning conductor at the Glasgow School of Art, 1899

John Gardner & Co. were 'lightning conductor manufacturers and fixers, and repairers of chimney stalks and church spires'. 1 The firm was founded before 1867 by John Gardner (c. 1846–1897). He also had a brickmaking and building company, which eventually became Gardner & Shaw, moving to Craigton Brickworks, Paisley Road West, around 1871. 2

Gardner & Shaw erected new warehouses on the corner of Morrison Street and Paisley Road around 1876, probably part of the extensive Co-operative Wholesale Society complex there. 3 In 1878, the brickfield began losing money, and the firm was declared bankrupt in 1881. 4 Rather than face his creditors, Gardner absconded to South Africa, abandoning his wife and five children in Glasgow. 5 When his six-year-old daughter died in 1884, the family noted her father as 'deceased'. 6 In fact, it was not until 1897 that Gardner died in a London hospital, having finally returned from Johannesburg. 7

Gardner's two sons, John Junior and James, continued the business as John Gardner & Co. James the steeplejack described himself as a 'chimney stalk repairer', while John Junior opened a wholesale ironmongery and paraffin-lamp manufacturers. 8 This prospered, and John moved his growing family to a newly-built house overlooking the boating pond, bowling greens and other leisure facilities of Alexandra Park, Dennistoun. 9

In 1901, James Gardner retired from the steeplejack firm. John Gardner Junior's ironmongery and lamp-making business continued, despite a fire in 1903, and he joined Glasgow's mercantile elite as an active member of the Incorporated Trades House in 1910–12. 10 In 1914 his elder son went to Philadelphia to gain business experience, but returned to enlist in the army, and won the Military Cross for gallantry. 11

Notes:

1: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1865–77.

2: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1866–71.

3: Glasgow Herald, 11 September 1875, p. 2; John R. Hume, The Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow: Blackie, 1974, p. 240.

4: Glasgow Herald, 7 May 1881, p. 8; Scotsman, 7 May, p. 8; 30 June 1881, p. 4.

5: Glasgow Herald, 7 May 1881, p. 8.

6: Glasgow Herald, 23 July 1884, p. 1.

7: Glasgow Herald, 26 April 1897, p. 1.

8: Glasgow Post Office directories, 1883–97.

9: Censuses, 1871, 1881 and 1891, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 24 May 2012].

10: Scotsman, 23 June 1903, p. 4; 17 September 1910, p. 8; 21 September 1912, p. 7.

11: Scotsman, 28 June 1916, p. 8.