A Tayside Tearoom

The day trippers from Dundee in the 1950s would turn left on leaving the ferry pier and make their way to the Braes. They passed by the Tayside Tearooms and considered whether to pop in for a cuppa or wait until they returned on their way home. After all, they could call in at Café Newport on the High Street or buy ice creams from Tommy Bain with his cart on the Braes.

But a hundred years earlier, those Dundonians who wanted to avoid the crowds on the Braes were encouraged to make their way to the right, up Boat Brae and along the main road towards Woodhaven. A five-minute walk would take them to the ideal spot.

The following advert appeared in the People’s Journal on 15 May 1858, in other local newspapers through the summer, and even in the 1858 Dundee Directory:


It sounds perfect, and no doubt it was. Overlooking the river, in the calm surroundings of West Newport, it offered just the place to spend a relaxing afternoon, with a mouth-watering range of refreshments available.

The proprietor, James Chapman, was a well-known Dundee confectioner who had a business at 121 Murraygate. He had moved into his Newport house a few years earlier and was to stay there for over 60 years. Its location provided the perfect opportunity to expand his business venture by catering for the more discerning Dundee escapee. His home was Yewbank (like all houses on West Road it was named after a plant) but it is now simply 68 West Road.

So where were the ‘Public Gardens and Refreshment Rooms’?

My first thought was that they were in his own garden with teas available in his parlour or a summer house overlooking the river. But the grounds are small, access is only through the house, his wife had a young and expanding family and the house had only 3 rooms at that time.
My second was that one or more nearby gardens on West Road were opened to the public – an early ‘Newport’s Gardens Scheme’. They certainly would be a very attractive and tranquil location, a world away from the grime, smoke and smells of industrial Dundee.

We shall probably never know which it was, but my money is on his own property. Either way, Newport’s summer facilities with houses rented out ‘for the season’ now had an added attraction.

Peoples Journal, 15 May 1858, British Newspaper Archive
Obituary, James Chapman, Courier, Dundee 23 Mar 1915 p4
The Post Office Dundee Directory … for 1858-59
1861 Census, Registration District 431, Forgan, Fife, Enumeration District 3, Page 25,26

Surprising Origin of the ‘Old Granary’, Newport

Old GranaryThe granary which stood at the top of the High Street until 1968 was always assumed to have humble beginnings. But it turns out that this was not quite the case – and it was thanks to a programme last week about the River Forth in the Channel 4 series Britain at Low Tide that I made the connection.

In 1802 John Hay, who had been proprietor of the lands of Newport since 1784, feued a piece of his ground at Newport harbour to John Stein of Kennetpans. Hay granted Stein the right to build a granary, if he wished, and also to bring vessels into the harbour at Newport and to ship corn from the granary.

Stein certainly did wish to build the granary and he acted pretty promptly because a plan of Tayfield dated 1805 shows the granary in place. But why should a businessman from Kennetpans (close by the Clackmannanshire Bridge) be interested in the Newport harbour area?

In a word – whisky.

John Stein is credited with pioneering whisky as an industry and his distillery at Kennetpans, the subject of the television programme, was the first industrial-scale producer of the spirit. No doubt he saw the harbour at Newport with a newly-built granary as an important stage in getting the barley from the fields of North Fife to his distilleries on the Forth or possibly further afield. Remember, this was at a time when transport by sea was the most economical means of transporting large quantities of goods. Further proof of the importance of the granary at that time is that William Haig, distiller at Kincaple, and John Pitcairn, excise officer at Kincaple, were witnesses to the purchase of the ground. (The distilling families of Haig and Jameson were related to the Steins by marriage.)

John Hay didn’t miss out – he received shore dues of 1 plack Scots for each boll of grain delivered out of the granary and shipped from the harbour.

However, for whatever reason, in 1828 John Stein’s heir, John Stein of Ashford, Kent, sold the granary to James Wilson – a Cupar corn merchant. It subsequently passed to George Kerr Harrower, corn merchant, and then to James Ronald, another corn merchant. But by this time – the late 1860s – shipping corn by sea from Newport was becoming less profitable and James Ronald converted the building into housing around 1870.

The old granary was home to many Newport families for almost a hundred years.

The Granary Lane housing complex now stands on the site of the granary and the adjoining original Newport gasworks.

Sasine: John Hay to John Stein, 1802, RS 32/53/499 (extract here);
Sasine: John Stein to James Wilson, recorded 5 January 1829, see abridgement 4604 of 1829;
RHP 30436, Photocopy of Plan of Tayfield, 1805;
all at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Channel 4 Television Britain at Low Tide, Series 3, Programme 2.

Homework: How much is 1 plack Scots per boll of grain today?