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Hamilton Palace

Hamilton Palace is said to have been the largest and finest non-royal residence in Europe .

The barony of Cadzow was granted to the Hamilton family by Robert the Bruce around 1315. Although there was an earlier castle or mansion, known as The Orchard, Hamilton Palace was the main home of the Hamilton family from at least 1591 until 1919.

The three-storied building with towers at each end was later enlarged as part of the 'Great Design' by Duchess Anne and William, third Duke of Hamilton, in the late 1600s. The crowning glory was the new south front, which included a stunning entrance 'portico' in a style never before seen in Scotland .

Hamilton Palace was at its grandest in the mid-1800s, when it was massively enlarged and enhanced by Alexander, tenth Duke of Hamilton. The design by David Hamilton, the leading Glasgow architect, included a new north front with a monumental entrance porch supported by massive columns; a servants' wing; and offices and stables.

The interior was designed to provide a grand setting for one of the finest collections of art treasures in Europe .

However, rising debts led to a sale of the art collections in 1882, after which the Hamilton family spent little time in the Palace. In 1919, they moved to Dungavel near Strathaven, and then to their present home at Lennoxlove, East Lothian in 1946.

In 1889, the twelfth Duke had leased out the coal rights under the Low Parks, and a further lease of 1915 led to the removal of coal under the Palace itself. This sealed the Palace's fate, and the building was sold to demolition contractors in 1921.

The destruction of Hamilton Palace and the dispersal of its art collections is now regarded as one of the greatest ever losses to our national heritage.