Hamilton Palace, pp.39-46.



     It is a reverend thing to see an ancient castle not in decay, or to see a fair timber tree sound and perfect; how much more to behold an ancient family, which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time. 


HAMILTON PALACE is at present receiving an addition and enlargement, which will render it one of the most magnificent private residences, and assuredly the finest specimen of classic architecture in the kingdom. A considerable portion of the old house has been allowed to remain; but the oldest part, erected in the year 1591, has been removed to make room for the new building. That part of the old building still remaining, which was formerly the principal front, was erected, we believe, about the beginning of last century. It consists of a centre, and two deep wings projecting in front at right angles, thus forming three sides of a square. The general effect is heavy, but rather grand, and would, no doubt, be considered very superior at the period of its erection. Had the old structure been altogether removed, the Architect would certainly have been enabled to produce a building more complete and perfect as a whole, than the Palace can now be; but it would have been almost a subject of regret had this been done, and so fine an old structure taken down; particularly as there seems no reason to think that the effect of the new building will be injured by the dissimilarity of the old. The two fronts cannot by any possibility be seen in one view, even angularly, but must always be examined separately; and it does not appear to be absolutely required that the opposite fronts of a building should present the same style of ornament, when this is the case. That unity of effect which is essentially necessary in classic architecture, seems to be sufficiently preserved, when, as is the case here, all that can possibly come into one view is complete in itself, while the dissimilarity of the separate portions affords variety, which when judiciously used is always agreeable.

The new part of the Palace, of which the front is shown in the engraving, was begun in 1824, and is now nearly completed externally. The designs were furnished by David Hamilton, Esq. Architect, Glasgow. The principal front, which has a northern aspect, is 263 feet in length, and 60 feet in height. It is divided into three stories or floors; a rustic basement story, the principal floor, in which are the public apartments, and a chamber floor above. The elevation of this front exhibits, supported on a rustic basement, an exceedingly splendid example of the Corinthian order, taken from the remains of the Temple of Jupiter Stator at Rome, one of the most enriched and correct of the ancient specimens of that order, which the rude hand of time has left us to admire and imitate. We believe that of this once gorgeous temple, three pillars and a portion of the entablature are all that now remain. Mr. Hamilton has, with great judgment, selected this style for the Palace, as its susceptibility of ornament and decoration is more in character with such a mansion than any other he could have chosen, and its light and airy graces are peculiarly suited to the low situation in which it was to be erected.

In its length the front is broken by three projections, one at each end, and one in the centre, which gives variety and effect to the elevation. From the centre projection, the Portico, under which is the grand entrance, stands boldly out, rearing aloft its magnificent columns, with their enriched Corinthian capitals, and supporting an equally enriched entablature and pediment. The Portico consists of two rows of six columns, one behind the other, by which the depth and grandeur of effect is greatly increased. The pillars are thirty feet six inches in height, and three feet two inches in diameter, each formed of an entire stone. In the tympanum of the pediment, the family arms are carved in bas relief. This splendid portico rests on a projecting part of the rustic basement, and in front there is a grand entrance stair, which ascends right and left into it. The projecting portions at each extremity of the façade are ornamented by double pillasters on either side of a window, which on each floor lights this part of the building; and the receding portions, on both sides of the portico, have four windows on each flat, well proportioned and ornamented by cornices, pillasters and trusses. The whole elevation is surmounted by a very rich entablature and projecting cornice. At the west end of the building is the kitchen wing, the front of which extends 100 feet in length. The gateway to the kitchen court is ornamented by four pillasters having Attic capitals, and a dintell corniced pediment, under which there is a lofty archway opening to the court within.

The mere extent and height of the north front, of itself gives it an air of magnificence and grandeur; the richness of the entablature and the pillasters, the just proportions of the windows, and the elegance of their cornices and pediments add to this; but the splendour of the Portico, and great stair arrests and rivets the attention of the spectator, and excites even feelings of the sublime. The principal ornament however of this building, after all that can be said of its individual beauties, and they are great indeed, is the admirable proportion of its various parts, and their subordination to each other; so that instead of attracting separately, or standing forth, as if each looking for individual and particular admiration, they blend their beauties and create one harmonious and perfect whole. Notwithstanding the extent of the façade on either side, so well proportioned is it to the Portico, that the dignity and effect of the latter, is neither diminished nor injured, but on the contrary heightened by the grandeur of the other. nor does the Portico present the appearance which it too often does in modern architecture, seeming as if it had nothing to do with the rest of the building, for it is here an integral portion of the whole. Neither does it diminish, or render insignificant, the other parts, but rather seems to shed a portion of its grandeur over them. This unity or harmony of effect, when obtained, is the highest perfection in all the fine arts as well as in architecture; and without it, beauty of parts or elegance of detail are as nothing. Without having any intention of being at all invidious, we could point out works of Artists of high name, where a want of attention to this grand principle, has ruined the effect of what might have been, and what may after all by many be considered splendid buildings. In Hamilton Palace we at once feel that this high quality in the Art has been attained, and it requires not the aid of technical knowledge to make us do so. As we feel an unharmonious discord in music, so do we feel the want of harmony in the parts of a building. The untutored mind feels the effect of discord or harmony, either in music or architecture, and is proportionally pleased or displeased: the man of taste feels only more intensely, because he knows the cause why he is so affected.

We regret that we cannot speak as to the internal arrangements of this splendid mansion, for as yet, little or nothing has been done in this part of the work, but we may be assured that the same taste and talents, which have been so successfully exerted on the external appearance, will not be likely to fail here. As to the decorations, the well known taste of his Grace the present Duke of Hamilton, makes it certain that they will be worthy of the house. There will we believe be seven or eight public rooms of large dimensions, and of elegant proportions; and a suitable number of suits of bed-rooms, dressing rooms &c. There will thus now be more ample scope for displaying to advantage, the magnificent collection of paintings, which has so long distinguished Hamilton Palace among the mansions of the Scottish Nobility, and made it an object of high interest with every lover of the fine arts. It is pleasing to learn that this collection, will receive a most invaluable addition in the private collection of his Grace, to which he has long been employed in making additions, during his various visits to the continent, and for which he will now for the first time have suitable accommodation. We feel delight in entertaining the idea, that while this Ducal Mansion, will hereafter be considered worthy of the study of rising Architects, the liberality of its owners will make its halls a place of study, for a future race of Scottish Painters, who will here be enabled to contemplate the works of the master minds in that imaginative art, without the expence and trouble, of visiting distant lands.

The grounds around Hamilton Palace are very extensive, and including those at Cadzow, and the great deer park, of a very varied and contrasted character. Those in the immediate neighbourhood of the house, lying on the banks of the river Clyde, are flat and level, afford no view of the surrounding country, and have no pretensions to the picturesque. They are, however, richly and luxuriantly wooded, have a rich and cultivated appearance, and present a variety of scenes of calm and quiet manorial beauty hardly to be equalled; scenes of retirement and repose, where the meditative mind, under the shade of melancholy boughs, may muse alone, filled with such thoughts

“As youthful poets dream 
On Summer eve by haunted stream.”

The high grounds at Cadzow present a very different appearance. They are watered by the Avon whose precipitous and finely wooded banks present a perpetual succession of picturesque and romantic scenery; and they are ornamented by numerous magnificent oaks, supposed to have formed part of the ancient Caledonian forest. These trees, in consequence of the ravages of time, present only the remains, but they are splendid remains of what they once have been. Some of them still measure more than 27 feet in circumference; and every one of them is a study for a poet or a painter. here also are still to be seen a breed of the wild cattle, which is said by Bœce to have been peculiar to the Caledonian forest. He describes them as milk-white, with black muzzles, horns and hoofs. Those at Cadzow are perfectly white, but we did not see them sufficiently near to be able to speak as to the horns or hoofs. We believe they are not quite domesticated, but they seem in great measure to have lost that ferocity of disposition which originally characterised them. They are supposed to have been the same species with the urus described by Cæsar as inhabiting the Hercinean forest. In the statistical account of the Parish of Hamilton it is said “they were exterminated from economical motives about the year 1760;” and Sir Walter Scott1 assigns their ferocity as the cause of their extirpation; but in all this there is surely some mistake; as it is undoubted the breed is there still, and Penant mentions there being some remaining when he traveled in 1769. “I am told that there are still, in the great park,” says he, “a few of the breed of the wild cattle. They were at this time in a distant part of the park, and I lost a sight of them.” It is probable they were only reduced in number in 1760, and not extirpated entirely. The deer park, which throughout its whole extent is surrounded by a high wall, lies on the opposite banks of the Avon; and from its heights many views may be obtained, of the rich vale through which the Clyde flows, in the neighbourhood of Hamilton. In this park, on a fine lawn whose sides slope gently down to the low ground, stands Chatelherault Castle. This building is said to be an imitation of the castle of Chatelherault in France, from which the family take their French title. When seen at a distance, it appears a very large building, from the length of its front, and the height of its towers. It is, however, more showy than substantial; as it contains only a small dining-room and drawing-room at one end, and a dog kennel. It forms a fine object in the general landscape, and this doubtless was all that was intended.

On the summit of a precipitous rock, at the foot of which flows the Avon, and amidst those grand old oaks, whose leafy glories once ornamented its prosperity, and which now seem to participate in its decay, stand the ruins of the ancient castle of Cadzow, formerly the manor place of the barony of Cadzow, and the residence of the family of Hamilton. So little of it now remains, that it is almost impossible to say any thing of its original form. Yet its mere situation would give it great strength, and a more majestic accompaniment to an ancient baronial residence, can hardly be conceived, than the forest of oak must have formed when the trees were in their pride. This fortress is said, however, to have occupied a considerable extent of ground; to have been constructed with all the strength and solidity peculiar to the feudal ages; and to have contained within its walls a chapel, and various offices. It also appears to have been surrounded with a strong rampart and fosse, some remains of which are still to be traced. It forms the subject of Sir Walter Scott’s fine ballad of “Cadzow Castle,” and has also been sung by Miss Seward, and many minor poets.

This castle was at one time a royal residence, as appears from the charters of several of our Scottish kings, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, being dated Apud Cadyow.2 From it two charters by David I. to the Cathedral of Glasgow are dated. By one of these he grants to the church of Glasgow, in eleemosina pura [in pure charity], the tenth of his kan or kain in Stragreif (Renfrewshire) in Cunningham, Kyle and Carrick. This grant is dated from Cadihou in Clydesdale. With the assent of his son Earl Henry, the same monarch by another charter granted the church of Cadihou with its pertinents to the church and Bishops of Glasgow. This grant was confirmed by bulls of Pope Alexander in 1170 and 1178, of Pope Lucius in 1181, and of Pope Urban in 1186. Anderson in his history of the house of Hamilton,3 says that the barony and castle of Cadzow with other lands in Clydesdale, “seems afterwards to have become the property of a branch of the once powerful family of Cumming;” but he does not say on what authority he gives this. “During the contested reign of John Baliol,” he continues, “the lands of Cadzow had fallen to the crown; for we find that when that monarch contracted his son Edward Baliol to a niece of the King of France with a portion of 25,000 livres tournois, he secured her jointure upon certain of his lands in France, and upon some of the crown lands in Scotland, viz. the lands and castle of Cadzow, the lands of Machanshire, Kileadzow, Lanark, Cunningham, Haddington, and the Castellany of Dundee.” During the Reign of King Robert Bruce, the lands of Cadzow still belonged to the crown, as in 1315 he granted to the Dominican friars of Glasgow, for supporting the lights of their church, twenty marks sterling yearly, out of the lands of Cadzow.*

This barony, along with other lands and baronies in the gift of the crown, he subsequently bestowed upon Walterus Filius Gilberti, or as he is sometimes called Walter Fitz Gilbert, who had been serviceable to him during his contest for the crown. This nobleman, descended from a family of the name of Hamilton in England, who had assumed their name from that of their manor, is the ancestor of the present ducal family of Hamilton. James Lord Hamilton the fifth in descent from Sir Walter, was in 1426 created a lord of Parliament, and all his lands and baronies were erected into one free lordship, to be thenceforth denominated the Lordship of Hamilton. By the charter of erection it was declared that “the manor house of the said James, now called the Orchard, situated in the barony of Cadzow, shall in future be the principal messuage of the Lordship and be stiled Hamilton. The manor house called the Orchard in 1426, stood no doubt where the Palace now stands, and seems to have been an occasional residence of the Family. The successors of Sir Walter however continued to make the Castle of Cadzow their chief residence, down to the period of the Duke of Chatelherault; this nobleman having also made it his residence, as is proved from many charters and public documents being dated from thence by him while Regent of the Kingdom, yet preserved in the public records.4 It is unquestionable however that he also resided at Hamilton, particularly in the latter period of his life; and it is to this circumstance, most probably, of its being the residence of a nobleman who was Regent of the Kingdom, and who in default of issue of the queen, had been declared by Parliament heir to the crown, that it became entitled to its appellation of palace. There is only one other private residence in the kingdom entitled to this distinction, that of Dalkeith, and it was the residence of the Regent Morton.

The Castle of Cadzow underwent several sieges. In 1515, during the Regency of the Duke of Albany, the Earl of Arran who aimed at that office, joined the Earl of Home in commencing hostilities against the Duke. Home and his brother were declared traitors, and the Earl of Arran was required to surrender himself within fifteen days under the pain of being proceeded against in the same manner. The Regent also at the head of a select body of troops and a small train of artillery invested Cadzow, and required its immediate surrender. At this time it was the residence of the Earl’s mother, the Princess Mary the daughter of James II. This venerable Princess trusting to her influence with the Regent who was her nephew, ordered the gates to be opened, and came out to meet him. The Regent could not resist her solicitations in favour of her son, and accordingly terms of accommodation were soon effected, by which the Earl was allowed to resume possession of his estates. The day subsequent to the battle of Langside it was invested by the Regent Murray in person, and rendered up to him at discretion. Indeed such was the terror produced by this battle, that the greater part of the inhabitants of Clydesdale fled from their habitations leaving the country deserted.

In 1570, it was besieged by Sir William Drury, at the head of the English troops sent by Queen Elizabeth to assist the Regent Lennox, against the Duke of Chatelherault, and the other friends of Queen Mary. The captain of the castle, Arthur Hamilton of Merritoun, at first refused to yield; but batteries being erected against it, at the end of two days, he agreed to surrender on condition that the lives of the garrison were spared. It was dismantled and set on fire by the English, and the Duke’s palace, and the town of Hamilton, were treated in the same manner. Shortly afterwards, however, the castle was repaired, and garrisoned. In 1579, it was for the last time besieged by the troops of the Regent Morton. The garrison was commanded as formerly, by Captain Hamilton of Merritoun. They made a determined resistance for a time, but after a few days siege, they were obliged to yield at discretion. The garrison were led prisoners to Stirling, with their hands tied behind their backs; and their brave commander was there publicly executed. The Castle was then completely dismantled, since which time it has never been repaired, but has been allowed to fall into total ruin. In consequence of this, the residence of the family has since been at the Palace.

The town of Hamilton, stands at no great distance from the Palace. It is the seat of the Sheriff Court, and the residence of a Sheriff Substitute for the middle ward of Lanarkshire. In 1456, it was erected into a burgh of barony, and in 1548 into a royal burgh. In consequence of the resignation of its rights and privileges as a royal burgh, it was on 18th January 1668, erected into a burgh of regality, by a charter of Charles II. in favour of Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, and this charter was ratified by Parliament in 1669. It has continued a burgh of regality ever since. The population has, however, considerably increased. In 1791, it contained 3601 inhabitants; in 1821, about 6000. The population of the whole parish in 1821, amounted to 7613.

The church of Hamilton, which had been granted by David I., to the Bishop of Glasgow, was constituted a prebend of the Cathedral, by John, Bishop of that see. His successor Robert, granted to the dean and canons, the lands of Barlanark, and Badlornock, in augmentation of this prebend; and the whole was confirmed by a bull of Pope Alexander III. in 1172. The church of Hamilton with its pertinents, thus became the prebend of the dean of the Cathedral of Glasgow. In 1451, it was created a collegiate church by James, first Lord Hamilton, with a provost, and eight Prebendaries. His Lordship also built a new church in the pointed style of Architecture with a choir, two cross ailes, or transepts, and a steeple; and he built manses, and provided gardens and glebes for the Provost and Prebendaries, whom he endowed with various lands in the parishes of Hamilton, Dalserf and Stonehouse. On the church, which served as the parochial church after the reformation, the arms of the family were finely sculptured; and at different periods they were emblazoned on different parts of it, empaled with those of the noble families with whom they were connected by marriage. All these remained entire when Hamilton of Wishaw, wrote his account of Lanarkshire, in 1702. A new church having been erected in 1732, the old Gothic church was pulled down, with the exception of one of the transepts, which has hitherto formed the burying vault of the family. From this small remain, although the windows are mostly built up, it is apparent that the church has been a very elegant structure. Even this slender remain of antiquity, however, must now also come down, as it stands at one end of the fine new front of the Palace, which it would therefore infinitely disfigure, by its incongruity.


1  Border Minstrelsy, vol. III, p. 381.
2  Dalrymple’s Collections, p.362.
3  Anderson’s History of the Family of Hamilton, p. 36.
4  Anderson’s History of the Family of Hamilton, p. 37.
*  An example of a charter from Bruce transferring lands to monks can be found in the ‘Scots Lore’ article ‘St Malachi’s Curse‘, pp.124-130 and footnote 11.