BSL Launch Recite Me assistive technology myaccountMyAccount login image

Hamilton's royal past

Hamilton was originally known as Cadzow, derived from the Celtic word Cadihou, the name of the 6th century summer hunting lodge of Rederech, ruler of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde. It was here in 568AD that St Kentigern (St Mungo), the patron saint of Glasgow, converted the king of the Britons and his queen, Langoreth to Christianity.

During the 12th century the area was created a Royal Barony by David I and under the rule of Robert the Bruce, was given to Walter FitzGilbert of Hameldone in Northumberland. Walter's descendant Sir James Hamilton married Mary Stewart, the sister of James III, and was created Lord Hamilton. The Barony continued to be called Cadzow until 1445 when a charter from James II to the first Lord Hamilton allowed the town and district to be renamed Hamilton. It became a Royal Burgh in 1548-49.

Cadzow Castle, originally built during the reign of Alexander II on the site of the hunting lodge, was rebuilt around 1530 for Sir James Hamilton of Finnart who, in 1568, gave shelter to Mary, Queen of Scots, after her dramatic escape from Loch Leven Castle. The town and castle were subsequently razed by the Crown in reprisal against the actions of the Marquis. In the 18th century, Cadzow Castle was rebuilt as a folly and, now owned by Historic Scotland, is situated within the grounds of Chatelherault Country Park not far from the park's magnificent Chatelherault hunting lodge, named after the Duke of Chatelherault, the title bestowed upon James Hamilton by Henry II of France in the 16th century.

Chatelherault was designed in the 1730s by the famous Scottish architect William Adam, who also built Hamilton Old Parish Church in 1734. The church, the only one Adam ever built, is the oldest building in Hamilton still used for its original purpose. Of the other great landmarks commissioned by the Hamilton family, only the Mausoleum, the family tomb with its 120ft high dome, built in the mid-1800s, still stands. The magnificent Hamilton Palace which stood nearby in the Low Parks area was demolished in the 1920s and is now part of Strathclyde Country Park.

During the 17th century Hamilton was the main stopping place for the Scotland to England stagecoach. The coaching inn is now the Low Parks Museum on Muir Street. (The old route south through Muir Wynd had long been recognised as difficult for coaches. To avoid this route, a new highway was constructed in 1819 by Thomas Telford that included a bridge over the Cadzow Burn - and the commercial heart of the town shifted to Cadzow Street).

In 1791 Hamilton Parish had just over 5000 residents but within 100 years that figure had increased by 700% to more than 35,000 due to the cotton and coal industry booms and the opening of the Caledonian Central Railway Station.

With the end of the mining boom and the lack of alternative employment, Hamilton was declared a distressed area in 1931. However a survey carried out in 1948 showed that the face of the town had changed yet again. Large numbers of people in the town were employed in public administration and the professions, some employed locally and others commuting to Glasgow and the surrounding area.

William Cullen, one of the leading physicians and chemists of the 18th century was born in Hamilton in 1710. He was a founding member of the Royal Medical Society, before returning to general practice in Hamilton in 1736. One of his famous pupils was anatomist and obstetrician William Hunter. Cullen encouraged original research among his pupils, one of whom was Joseph Black the founder of modern chemistry. Cullen's theories on latent heat and thermodynamics were taken up by James Watt to improve steam engines, sparking the Industrial Revolution. Cullen co-founded the Glasgow Medical School in 1744 and in 1777 he published papers suggesting that disease was the result of disturbances in the nervous system which became Europe's principal text on the classification and treatment of disease. His ideas survive in the terms 'nervous energy' and 'neuroses' which Cullen coined.