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Hamilton, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

HAMILTON, a parish, burgh, and market-town, in the Middle ward of the county of Lanark; including the village of Fernigair, and containing 10,862 inhabitants, of whom 8876 are in the town, 11 miles (S. E. by E.) from Glasgow, and 38 (W. S. W.) from Edinburgh. This place appears to have been distinguished at a very early period as a royal residence, under the appellation of Cadzow, of which name, however, the origin and signification are now unknown. In 1153, and also in 1289, the monarchs held their courts here; and it continued to be a royal manor till the battle of Bannockburn, immediately after which it was conferred by Bruce upon Walter Fitzgilbert de Hamilton, ancestor of the present ducal family of that name, in whose possession it has ever since remained. In 1445, James II., by charter dated the 3rd of July, created James, then proprietor of the estate, first Lord Hamilton; and erected the manor of Cadzow into a barony, which took its name from the family of its possessor. In the year 1474, Lord Hamilton married the Princess Mary, eldest daughter of the king, and widow of the Earl of Arran, by virtue of which alliance his descendants were, after the death of James V., recognised by parliament as heirs of the Crown in the event of the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. On their accompanying that princess into France, they were created Dukes of Chatelherault in that kingdom; and they were subsequently made Dukes of Hamilton by Charles I., and Dukes of Brandon in England by Queen Anne.

Few events of historical importance have occurred to distinguish the town. A conflict took place in 1650 between the array of the Covenanters, consisting of 1500 horse under the command of Colonel Kerr, and the forces of General Lambert sent against them by Cromwell, when, after an obstinate resistance, in which Kerr and 100 of his men were killed, the Covenanters were dispersed. In 1679, a body of Covenanters defeated a detachment of the king's troops at Drumclog, in the neighbouring parish of Avondale: this happened on Sunday, the 1st of June, the Covenanters having assembled for worship; and in consequence of the success then gained, their numbers increased to about 4000. They marched to Glasgow with the intention of making themselves masters of that city, but being repulsed with the loss of several killed and wounded, they fell back upon Hamilton, where the more moderate drew up what is called the Hamilton Declaration. Weakened by internal divisions, and having lost the prestige of success acquired at Drumclog, they encamped on the 22nd of June at Bothwell moor, between the river Clyde and the town of Hamilton, from which position they were dislodged by the royal army under the Duke of Monmouth, being defeated with the loss of many killed, and 1200 of their number who were taken prisoners. In 1774, an accidental fire broke out in the town, which, raging for several days with unabated violence, reduced a considerable portion of it to ashes.

The TOWN is situated on a tract of elevated ground, about a mile from the confluence of the Avon with the Clyde, and considerably to the west of the ancient town, of which the only remains now existing are a small portion of an out-building belonging to the old hall in the pleasure-grounds of Hamilton Palace. It is intersected by the Cadzow burn, over which is a noble bridge of three arches, and by the roads leading to Glasgow and Edinburgh, on the line of the latter of which an elegant bridge of five arches was erected over the Clyde, by act of parliament, in 1780. Across the same river is Bothwell bridge, a very ancient structure on the road to Glasgow, of which the date is unknown, and which was lately widened and repaired: Bothwell bridge was the scene of the fight between Monmouth and the Covenanters, in 1679. A handsome bridge has been built over the Avon, on the London road; and across the same river is an ancient bridge of three arches, built by the monks of Lesmahagow. The houses are in general well built, and some additional houses have been lately erected. The streets are lighted with gas by a company of proprietary shareholders, who erected works for the purpose upon a very elegant plan: a company, also, has been formed to supply the town with water. A public library, supported by subscription, was opened in 1808, chiefly under the auspices of Dr. John Hume, which lately contained more than 3000 volumes; and a mechanics' institution was established within the last few years. The cavalry barracks occupy a large area surrounded with a wall, and comprise a riding-room, and an hospital, with stabling and the other usual accommodations. There are three masonic lodges, two gardeners' societies, and several building and friendly societies. Considerable improvements have taken place in the town by the formation of new streets. The market is on Friday; and five fairs are held in the year, which were formerly great marts for lint and wool, but at present are little more than large markets: two additional fairs or markets for cattle and the hiring of servants have been established with much success. The market for butchers' meat and the shambles are situated nearly in the middle of the town, on the bank of the Cadzow burn; the buildings are neat, and well adapted to the purpose.

A very considerable TRADE was formerly carried on here in malt, under the direction of the Society of Maltsters: this society is still kept up for convivial purposes, but the trade has altogether declined. The linen trade, also, which formed at one time almost the staple business of the place, has been wholly discontinued. The cotton trade, on its first introduction, flourished here for some years, and the town became the principal seat of the district for the weaving of imitation or Scotch cambrics. This branch of trade has been on the decline since 1792, but is still considerable, and affords employment to many of the inhabitants: there are at present about 1300 looms in the town, and fifty in the rural districts of the parish; and many females are engaged in winding and in tambouring. The old lace manufacture, introduced by one of the Duchesses of Hamilton, has for many years been decaying, and is now almost extinct. A new manufacture of lace, introduced some years since by a firm from Nottingham, is at present the most flourishing trade of Hamilton, and gives occupation to nearly 3000 women in the town and neighbourhood. The principal productions are, tamboured bobbinets, and black silk veils of various patterns, with other articles, for which there is a large and still increasing demand, for the markets of England, America, and the British colonies. Many very respectable houses are engaged in this trade, which, since its introduction here by Mr. Galloch, has been much improved. Large quantities of check shirts are also made in the town, and exported to Australia: the weaving of stockings is carried on to a limited extent; and the tanning of leather, at one time extensive, is conducted on a very small scale. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the Glasgow and Hamilton section of the Caledonian railway.

The present town, though not the original one, and though the larger part of it is comparatively modern, is of considerable antiquity, having in the reign of James II. been erected into a burgh by charter of that monarch, granted in 1456. In 1548 it was created a royal burgh by Queen Mary; and it continued to enjoy its privileges as such till 1670, when the inhabitants forfeited their rights by disuse, and accepted a new charter from Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, by which it became merely the chief burgh of the duchy of Hamilton. This charter, also, is now superseded by the late Municipal Corporations' act, by which the government is vested in a provost, three bailies, a treasurer, and a council of seven, assisted by a town-clerk and other officers. The provost and bailies are elected annually from the council, four of whom go out of office by rotation, every year, when four new ones are chosen by the qualified electors; the treasurer and the town-clerk are appointed by the corporation. Both the provost and the bailies are justices of the peace, by virtue of their office, with power to hold courts for the determination of all claims in actions of debt, and for the trial of all criminal cases not extending to life or limb, within the burgh. They used occasionally to hold a court for the recovery in a summary form of debts under forty shillings, but this court, from a doubt of its legality, has fallen into disuse: they still hold weekly courts for the recovery of debts and for civil actions to an unlimited amount, in which the town-clerk acts as assessor; and also police courts for the trial of misdemeanors and other offences not capital. On the back of the burgh seal is the inscription, "Hamiltoun 1695". The elective franchise was granted by act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV.; and the burgh has from that time, in conjunction with Lanark, Falkirk, Linlithgow, and Airdrie, returned one member to the imperial parliament: the right of election is vested in the proprietors or tenants and occupants of houses of the yearly value of £10 and upwards. The former court-house and prison, erected at the cross in the reign of King Charles I., were lately taken down; and the old town-hall was also disused. A new town-hall with public offices and a prison, the first stone of which was laid in 1834, has been built in lieu. It consists of a distinct range of building two stories high, comprising on the ground-floor a court-room thirty-seven feet long and thirty-two feet broad, three apartments for the sheriff's clerk, a record-room, and three rooms for the town-clerk, with an apartment for the sheriff-substitute, and another for the county procurator-fiscal: in the upper story are a large hall for county meetings, and other apartments. Behind is the prison, three stories high, containing forty-five cells, with a spacious day-room for debtors, and day-rooms for criminals; the lower part is appropriated as a bridewell, and the upper part to debtors. Between the public offices and the prison is the house of the governor, with requisite apartments, and a bath for the use of the prison. The trades' hall, in Church-street, erected in 1816, is a neat and appropriate building, comprising in the upper part a hall for the meetings of the trades, and in the lower a well-arranged tavern. The annual value of real property in the parish is £38,181.

The PARISH extends nearly six miles in length, and is almost of the same breadth; being bounded on the north and north-east by the river Clyde, on the south and south-west by the parish of Glassford, on the east by the parishes of Dalziel, Cambusnethan, Dalserf, and Stonehouse, and on the west by Blantyre. It comprises 14,240 acres of land, of which about 8000 are arable and of good quality, 2000 woodland, and 2040 unprofitable or waste. The surface is generally level, occasionally varied with sloping ridges, but not rising into hills of any considerable elevation. The most fertile lands are the extensive vales on the south-western bank of the Clyde, where the soil is a deep rich loam; and on the north-eastern side of that river are a few hundred acres belonging to this parish, though they would seem to be more properly within that of Dalziel, which nearly surrounds them. In the middle of the parish the soil rests upon yellow clay, and is less fertile than in the valleys near the Clyde; the higher parts of the parish consist chiefly of gravel and sand, and are comparatively unproductive. The substrata are principally sandstone rock, appearing in great masses that are from under fifty to more than 300 feet in thickness; whinstone also prevails in some parts, and coal, limestone, and ironstone are found. The several strata of coal vary from twenty to twenty-four feet in average thickness. In this district the limestone is of various quality; that obtained in the south-west is excellent, and much used for building and also for agricultural purposes. The ironstone is found in seams about eighteen inches thick, and also in masses varying from very minute balls to others several inches in diameter, chiefly in the clay near the strata of coal. As yet the coal and limestone only have been wrought.

Among the crops produced are, wheat, which is grown on all the lands near the Clyde, and also on some few of the higher lands; and oats of various descriptions, of which the Polish, Essex, and Friesland species are predominant. Peas and beans are chiefly raised on the lower grounds. Barley, formerly more largely cultivated, is now seldom sown, except for preparing lands for artificial grasses; potatoes are produced in great quantities, and of good quality, and a little flax for domestic use. The system of agriculture, though varying in different parts, is generally advanced; there are some considerable dairy-farms, and much attention is paid to the breeding of cattle, in which many improvements have taken place within the last few years. Great improvement has also been made in draining and inclosing the lands; the fences are chiefly hedges, and are mostly well kept up. The pastures, especially in the low grounds bordering on the Clyde, are fertile; and attached to a few of the farms, and even to some of the houses in the town, are orchards which abound with fruit. Of late years, since fruit became so cheap, much less attention has been bestowed upon its cultivation here. There are various tracts of woodland in the parish, the principal of them being Bar-Michael wood near Bothwell bridge, Ross wood on the river Clyde, and Hamilton wood on the Avon and the Barncluith burn. Forest-trees of every kind thrive well, particularly on the lower lands. Oak is very prevalent, and many of the older trees have attained considerable size, several of those in Hamilton wood, said to be the remains of the ancient Caledonian forest, measuring thirty-six feet in girth. Larch and Scotch fir also thrive; and the banks of the rivers, where they have any elevation, are crowned with luxuriant foliage. Silver and spruce fir are grown with success; and the cedar of Lebanon has attained a tolerable size where it has been planted. In Hamilton wood are still preserved the famous breed of Scottish wild tattle, milk-white in colour, with black muzzles, horns, and hoofs. Freestone is found in several parts of the parish, of a good quality for building; and at present about fifty men are constantly employed in the various quarries.

The principal river is the Clyde, which rises in the heights of Crawford, and begins to bound the parish some miles below the falls at Lanark; it expands into a breadth varying from eighty to 100 yards, and is subject after rains to frequent inundations, by which the lands have at different times been much injured. The river Avon also, or Evan, as it is sometimes written, intersects the parish, receiving in its course six tributary streams; and there are three other streamlets or burns, which fall into the Clyde. The Avon rises on the west, near the borders of the county of Ayr, and after a picturesque course of several miles through the dale to which it gives name, enters the parish at Millheugh bridge, and a little below flows through a defile bounded on each side by majestic rocks of romantic aspect, rising to the height of 200 or 300 feet, and richly clothed, in some parts almost to their summits, with stately and venerable oaks. Nearly in the centre of this defile are the remains of Cadzow Castle, seated on a rock ascending perpendicularly to the height of 200 feet above the level of the river; and on the opposite bank is the bauqueting-house of the Duke of Hamilton, built after the model of Chatelherault, from which it takes its name. Not far from the extremity of the chasm, and about three miles from the entrance, are the gardens of Barncluith, the property of Lord Ruthven, rising in terraces from the western bank of the river, which, after forcing its way through this rocky channel, flows along the fertile valleys of the parish, and falls into the Clyde near Hamilton bridge. Of the several other streams that intersect the parish the principal are, Cadzow burn, which rises in Glassford, and after running through the town, falls into the Clyde at a short distance below Hamilton bridge; and Barncluith burn, which joins the Avon about half a mile from the town. The latter burn flows through Hamilton wood, forming in its way five or six falls, varying from five to six feet in height, and adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery. Both the Clyde and the Avon abound with fish, of which salmon, trout, par or samlet, silver-eels, and minnow are the most common; and pike, perch, lampreys, and roach are occasionally found: roach are the most uncommon.

Hamilton Palace, the seat of his grace the Duke of Hamilton, situated on the borders of the town, about half a mile westward of the confluence of the Avon and the Clyde, was originally a square tower of very small dimensions. The more ancient part of the present mansion was built in 1590, and nearly rebuilt about the year 1720; considerable additions have been made to the building since 1822, and at present it is one of the most splendid structures in the kingdom. Its north front is 264 feet in length, and three stories in height, with a stately portico of duplicated Corinthian columns, each thirty feet high, three feet in diameter, and formed of one single block, and the columns together supporting a triangular pediment. To the west is a wing 100 feet in length, appropriated for offices and servants' apartments; and in the rear of the building is a corridor of recent addition, in which are baths and various appendages for the use of the family. The entrance hall is lofty, and richly embellished; and the state apartments, which are extremely spacious, are magnificently decorated throughout, and ornamented with sculpture. The dining-room is seventy feet in length and thirty feet wide, and has numerous embellishments, among which is a tripod of exquisite beauty standing on a pedestal of African marble: the other apartments, also, abound with costly vases, cabinets, specimens of mosaic, gems, and other rare and interesting curiosities. The gallery, which is 120 feet long, twenty feet wide, and twenty feet high, contains an extensive and very valuable collection of paintings by the most eminent masters of the Italian and Flemish schools, and many family portraits. At the upper end is the throne used by his grace when ambassador at the court of Petersburgh, and on one side of it is a bust of Augustus, and on the other one of Tiberius, both of oriental porphyry: at the opposite end of the gallery is a beautiful door of black marble, surmounted by a pediment supported on two pillars of green porphyry. The library contains a large collection of well-assorted volumes, and of prints, the latter alone being valued at £10,000. There are some stables, built between the palace and the town, on a scale adapted to the style of the palace; and the grounds abound with stately timber, and with every variety and beauty of scenery. The banqueting-house of Chatelherault was erected in 1732, by the then duke, after a model of the citadel of that name in France; it is built of red freestone, and decorated with four square towers, and, with its numerous pinnacles and other ornaments, forms a conspicuous object on the eastern side of the river Avon. Among various interesting works of taste it contains a small but choice collection of paintings; and the grounds, in which is an extensive flower-garden, are tastefully embellished. Earnock House, a seat in the parish, formerly belonging to the ancient family of Roberton, is beautifully situated in its western part, on an elevated site surrounded with flourishing plantations; the house is of modern erection, well adapted for its purpose, and the gardens and pleasure-grounds are agreeably laid out. Ross is a spacious mansion, situated in grounds comprehending much agreeable scenery: Nielsland is also a handsome residence, with an extensive demesne; and there are some good houses at Fair Hill, Grovemount, Edlewood, and Fairholme. Of Barncluith the principal feature is the gardens previously noticed; and many of the ancient seats of different branches of the Hamilton family have become farm-houses. The chief landed proprietor is the Duke of Hamilton, who owns more than one-half of the parish.

Hamilton parish formerly comprised the chapelry of Machan, now the parish of Dalserf; and it also appears that the church was granted by David I., together with the lands belonging to it, to the abbey of Glasgow, and was afterwards appropriated to the deanery of that see. The parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Hamilton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr. There are two ministers, the first of whom has a stipend of about £314, whereof £2. 15. arise from a bequest for communion elements; £107. 10. are allowed by the Duke of Hamilton in lieu of manse and glebe: the second minister has a stipend of rather less amount, with a manse, but no glebe. The church was made collegiate under the influence of the first Lord Hamilton, in 1451; and a new church was consequently built, which was finished in April 1462: it was endowed for a provost and eight prebendaries, and contained a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, for which a chaplain was appointed. This building, which was of hewn stone, consisted of a nave, choir, and transepts, of elegant design, and continued till 1732, when it fell into decay, since which time it has been greatly dilapidated, nothing of it now remaining but one of the transepts, still used as a burying-place for the Hamilton family. The present parish church, situated in the southern part of the town, is a handsome structure of circular form, erected after a design by the elder Adam, architect; and is adapted to a congregation of 800. A second church in connexion with the Estabhshment, and capable of containing 1021 persons, was some years ago erected by subscription; it was known as St. John's church, and was occupied by the minister of the second charge, until the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, when it was appropriated by the members of the Free Church for their own use. There are several congregations of the United Presbyterian Church; also places of worship for Independents and others. The Episcopalians in Hamilton and its neighbourhood have lately formed themselves into a congregation, and there is also a congregation of Roman Catholics, who purchased ground a few years ago for the erection of a chapel. The grammar school is of ancient origin, and in 1588 was endowed by Lord John Hamilton with £20 Scotch per annum; it affords a liberal education to about forty children, and is under the patronage of the corporation. The master's salary is £34, and the fees on the average amount to £60: the school-house is a venerable building, nearly in the centre of the town. The Duke's Hospital, for a certain number of aged men, was originally built in the old town, but was removed to the present; it is an ancient building with a belfry, situated near the Cross, and was formerly inhabited by the pensioners, but has for some years been let out, and the receipts applied to their use along with the ordinary proceeds. An hospital was built in 1775, in Muir-street, by William Aikman, Esq., for four aged men, who have each a residence in the building, with a certain endowment. Mr. John Rae bequeathed to the town council a sum of money which, together with some bequests by other benefactors, produces an annual interest of £9. 2. 4., distributed among poor housekeepers according to the will of the testators. Mr. Robertson, of this town, and sheriff-clerk of Lanark, in conjunction with Mr. Lyon, left £4 per annum for nine aged men; and Miss Christian Allan, in 1785, left to the Kirk Session £50, in trust for the benefit of the poor. Mr. William Torbuet bequeathed to the same trustees an orchard that lets at £10 per annum; and they have also a legacy of £50, the interest of which is divided among five female housekeepers named by them; another legacy of £50, of which only £30 were paid, for clothing the indigent poor; and a donation of £100, the interest of which is applied to the instruction of twelve children. Another bequest has been made recently.

Among the ANTIQUITIES in the parish, the most conspicuous are the remains of Cadzow Castle, previously noticed as occupying the summit of a precipitous rock rising from the river Avon, in Hamilton woods. It has been repaired at various times. The keep, with the fosse around it, a narrow bridge over the fosse, and a well within the walls, are still in good preservation; and several vaults, with part of the walls of the chapel, may yet be distinctly traced. Darngaber Castle, in the south-east of the parish, supposed to have been founded by Thomas, son of Sir John de Hamilton, lord of Cadzow, occupied an elevated site at the extremity of a point of land near the confluence of two rivulets: the only remains are, portions of the foundations, which appear to have consisted of flat unhewn and uncemented stones; and some vaults, that seem to have been constructed at a much earlier period. At Meikle Earnoch, two miles south of the town, is a tumulus about twelve feet in diameter, and eight feet high, which appears to have been originally of larger dimensions. On opening it several urns were found, containing human bones nearly reduced to ashes; they were all of baked earth, without inscription, but some of them were decorated with mouldings. Near Meikle Earnoch, in a field on the lands of Stonehall, is a small mound called the Martyr's Grave, which is regarded with much veneration by the country-people: it has always been left untouched by the plough, and is said to mark the place where one of the Covenanters was buried. To the north of Hamilton Palace is a mount supposed to have been in remoter ages a seat for the administration of justice; it is about thirty feet in diameter at the base, and fifteen feet high, and near it is a stone cross four feet in height, without inscription. This cross is thought to have been the market cross of the old town, called Netherton, which, previously to the erection of the upper or present town of Hamilton, occupied this part. In the south of the parish is a portion of a cromlech, consisting of one stone of about six feet, which, having declined greatly from its erect position, was replaced by the tenant of a neighbouring farm. The celebrated Dr. Cullen was born in this parish in 1714, and for several years was a magistrate of Hamilton. The father of the late Professor Millar, of Glasgow, was parochial clergyman here; as was also the father of the late Dr. Baillie, of London, and of his distinguished sister, Joanna Baillie.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis