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Hamilton Palace (Park)


The designed landscape associated with the now-demolished Hamilton Palace was once one of the finest in Scotland. Although its structure is all but lost due to various developments the park area remains as a green space between Hamilton and Motherwell, valuable for recreation and nature conservation. A few trees from the Grand Avenue linking the Palace with its hunting lodge, Chatelherault, remain and there has been some replanting of the avenue. The mid-19th century mausoleum is a distinctive architectural feature isolated by roads.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. The site was removed from the Inventory on 28/04/2016.

Location and Setting

Hamilton Palace Park lies in the valley of the River Clyde immediately to the east of Hamilton town, and west of Motherwell. It was the largest formal designed landscape in Scotland but, since the loss of the Palace itself, the area of the park has gradually been encroached on by buildings and road developments. It is now bordered by the town of Hamilton along its west boundary and by the River Clyde at its northern end. Its former eastern boundary is now partly covered by Strathclyde Loch in Strathclyde Country Park, which includes the policies of Orbiston House, once part of the estate of the Hamiltons of Dalyell. The southern half of the park, known as Hamilton High Parks is bordered by minor roads to the west and south, and by the A72 to the east. The underlying rocks are Carboniferous and coal-bearing and have been extensively mined. Soils range from sandy to clay and the area enjoys a moderate climate with about 40" of rain per year and no lengthy periods of severe frost. The M74 cuts through the park from north-west to south-east and a section of it is raised above Hamilton Low Parks. The parkland, the Mausoleum and the garden-house folly of Chatelherault are all prominent features in the landscape.

The Palace was built in the flood plain of the River Clyde and in close proximity to the town of Hamilton, which grew up around its boundaries; its site is less than 0.5 mile (1km) from the centre of Hamilton town. Since the Palace was demolished in 1927 the M74 has been built through the Low Parks, Strathclyde Loch has been dammed, and some building development has encroached particularly at the western boundary by the town of Hamilton. Earliest map evidence dates back to 1677 and the Isaac Miller drawings, which show the original castle as refurbished in 1591 with an area of formal gardens around it, consisting of three large parterres surrounded by walls and steps, and a small orchard. A small area of enclosed parkland is shown on a second plan. Alexander Edward's drawings of 1708 show the layout of the largest formal designed landscape in Scotland.

It is titled as a 'Map with some Alterations and Additions to the Gardens, Courts, Avenues, Plantations and Inclosures of Hamilton'. Its main feature is a broad avenue which extends the full length of the Park, a distance of at least 3.5 miles (6km), and which extends across the River Avon in the southern half of the park. Two distinct areas of formal planting are shown, both on the west side of the avenue; in the north, extending from the Palace to the Clyde, a formal layout with many diagonal rides, twists, and belvederes is shown. Four main diagonals extend from the Palace at angles of c.20 from the main avenue, and these diagonal lines are picked up in both of the areas of woodland planting. To the south end of the park, the formal layout is less intricate, with larger rides and a rond-point partly cut through the ancient hunting forest of Cadzow to its west. The map is annotated with an explanation which refers to a canal, an orchard, and which describes the viewpoints which are the objects of the designed vistas. It is not known how much of this plan was implemented, but the Hamilton manuscripts refer to the north half of the avenue being planted before this plan was made.

A survey undertaken by William Douglas in 1776 of Hamilton High Parks shows the avenue extending only as far south as Chatelherault, and a small area of formal planting remaining to the west of the river. It also shows a wider extent of park to the east and a more picturesque woodland layout around a circular belvedere called Belvedere Braes. The ancient parkland and oak trees are marked on this survey plan as 'Old Oaks', and the deep river valleys are shown as wooded. In 1812 a survey plan of the whole estate, including the central portion, was drawn up by R. Bauchap for the 9th Duke Archibald. This is very similar to the Douglas survey of the High Parks, and shows the main avenue and diagonals as planned by Edward. The intricacy of the formal layout in the north of the park had been lost by then and replaced by curved lines, and the town of Hamilton is shown as growing nearer to the west side of the Palace.

In 1824 a sketch of the south lawn was drawn up proposing a new three acre kitchen garden, which does not appear to have been implemented. R. Bauchap carried out a second survey of the High Parks in 1835, where the major change is shown to be the filling in of the wavy edges of the Belvedere Braes plantation. A bowling green is shown to the north of Chatelherault, and an area is walled off to its south. By the 1st edition OS map of c.1860, the Belvedere Plantation had been greatly extended, and some roundels added to the east of the river. A reservoir had been put in to the north- east of Chatelherault in the Deer Park. The Mausoleum had been built in the Low Parks to the north-east of the Palace and the woodland to the north-west of the Palace planted up.

By the 2nd edition OS map of 1898, most changes had taken place in the northern half of the park, where a golf course and racecourse had been put in. Many pathways are shown through Barmichael Plantation on the west side of the park. On the north side of the river, outwith the policies and adjacent to the Orbiston House policies, is the Hamilton Palace colliery, the mine which caused so much subsequent subsidence.

Since the turn of the century most change has occurred again in the northern half of the park: the strong central axis of the design, the Grand Avenue, has lost many of its trees, although its skeleton can still be traced when viewed from Chatelherault. The Palace has been demolished, and traces of the walled garden to its west remain next to the playing fields and golf range. The Mausoleum is almost isolated by the road network, but provides a stunning feature on the west side of the motorway. Hamilton Low Parks now have ponds and marshy areas on the site of the former racecourse to the east of the present track. The course of the River Clyde has been diverted westward into the former parks, and the River South Calder Water now drains into Strathclyde Loch, a feature in Strathclyde Country Park. The Country Park extends over the former colliery and Orbiston House policies.

South of the Avon, the Deer Park at Chatelherault has been worked for sand and gravel extraction and is in need of reinstatement. Some of the western parkland in the High Parks has been lost to more intensive farming, with the loss of some of the ancient oaks. There are some 2,787 acres (1,128ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Mausoleum is 120' tall, mounted on terraces, and was designed by David Bryce in 1850. It is guarded by two lions, designed by A.H. Ritchie, and is listed A. Chatelherault, designed in 1732 by William Adam, incorporated some fine plasterwork by Thomas Clayton which is under restoration; it is listed A. The West Lodge remains and some of the walls of the walled garden also remain. Cadzow Castle, the ancient Hamilton stronghold, is now a picturesque ruin, restored as a folly in the mid- 19th century; it is a scheduled ancient monument, listed B. The Duke's Bridge is dated 1863 and listed B. The Duke's Monument on the west bank of the Avon, south of Barncluith, is a tempietta which shelters a memorial to the 11th Duke and is listed A.


The Hamilton Low Parks have today lost the integrity of the original design. It is difficult to distinguish the site of the once huge palace amid the playing fields and pitches. The Mausoleum is now isolated and the remains of the Grand Avenue difficult to discern. The Avenue was of mixed species including sycamore, lime and horse chestnut, and some old trees remain, none less than 200 years old. A marshy area has been created in the north of the park and this is managed as a wildlife area. The south park at High Parks is more intact, despite the gravel extraction in the Deer Park to the north of Chatelherault. The old parkland trees are pedunculate oaks and are thought to have been planted. Records dating back several hundred years refer to them then as 'old' oaks. They are so old they are very difficult to date although one has been dated at c.1440, ie over 500 years old. They provide one of the most impressive parkland scenes in the country and are listed as an SSSI.


An account written in the 1880s refers to the skilfully grouped plantations in the north park, most of which have since been lost. The river valleys are still wooded with mature ash, wych elm, sycamore and oak woodlands. The woods are now managed by Hamilton District Council and the conifer plantations put in by the 10th Duke are managed under a Forestry Commission Dedication Scheme and will be returned to deciduous species once they have been cropped.

The Gardens

The Isaac Miller drawings of 1677 show three formal parterres laid out in terraces by the old Castle. In 1842 the Gardeners' Magazine recorded that 'nothing has been done to the grounds around the house, or at least nothing at all worthy of such a building'. Victorian photographs show that Bryce's terraces were laid out with formal bedding in parterres. The Mausoleum was originally surrounded with two rings of trees, both of fir, with other planting in between; some yews remain to its west today. The gardens and bowling green at Chatelherault have similarly been lost over the years, only the Irish yews remaining of the attractive Victorian bedding displays behind the west pavilion shown in old photographs. The latter garden is to be restored to the period of its development, ie the 1740s.

Walled Garden

There was an extensive area of walled garden to the north-west of the Palace, shown on the 2nd edition OS map, but this has largely been lost since the Palace was demolished, although parts of the walls remain.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. The site was removed from the Inventory on 28/04/2016.

Reason for Inclusion

Formerly one of Scotland's finest designed landscapes and part of Chatelherault, today the parks form an impressive setting for several category A listed buildings, host some important heritage trees and provide a valuable wildlife resource.

Site History

The lands of Hamilton were granted to Walter Fitzherbert de Hameldune after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, but it was not until 1455 that a charter from James II to the first Lord Hamilton caused the present name to supersede the older one of Cadzow. The 1st Lord Hamilton married James II's daughter, Mary, who was widow of the Earl of Arran and she brought the title and island of Arran into the Hamilton family. Their grandson was later Regent for Queen Mary and it was in return for his help in arranging Mary's marriage to the Dauphin that Henri II of France made him Duc de Chatelherault. After the confiscation of the estate in 1567 and destruction of the former stronghold at Hamilton after supporting Mary's cause, the lands were eventually recovered by Lord John Hamilton in 1585. In 1591 he started the rebuilding of the house where he frequently entertained the King who created him Marquess of Hamilton in 1599. The 2nd Marquess succeeded in 1604 and was created Earl of Cambridge in 1619. His two sons succeeded as 1st and 2nd Dukes of Hamilton, James being created 1st Duke of Hamilton in 1643.

The Good Duchess Anne, daughter of the 1st Duke, succeeded her uncle, and her husband, Lord William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk and 4th son of the Marquis of Douglas, was created Duke of Hamilton for life. He helped to restore the estates before he died in 1694, and the Duchess continued implementing his ideas until her death in 1716. A major restoration of the Palace was carried out at this time with J. & J. Smith as architects. It was virtually a new house, modelled on Wren's Winchester Palace. It had elaborate wood-carving by William Morgan. Alexander Edward drew up plans for the improvement of the parks in 1708. Their son, the 4th Duke, was killed in a duel in 1712 and the 5th Duke commissioned William Adam in 1724 to carry out interior improvements to the Palace. Adam drew up designs for a new north front which was not carried out. However, he was commissioned to build a garden- house/dog-kennel at the south end of the Grand Avenue to be viewed from the south front of the Palace. This building, called Chatelherault after the French dukedom, was constructed to appear the same size as the Palace, when viewed from the Palace; it is actually 30' wider at 290', but the central portion is only a screen wall joining the two end pavilions. The west pavilion was used as a hunting lodge and drawing room by the Dukes; the east pavilion was used for offices. The gardener appointed was possibly a pupil of Bridgeman, as correspondence of the time would indicate. Chatelherault was started in 1732, and finished with fine stucco interiors by Thomas Clayton in 1743.

By Douglas' drawings of 1777 for the 8th Duke, the landscape had been informalised but no other major changes were made until the 10th Duke succeeded in 1819 when he revived the Adam scheme for creating a new north front to the Palace. The 10th Duke had married Susan Beckford, an heiress, and collected many art treasures. David Hamilton was commissioned and his plans were implemented in 1822 creating a Palladian neo-classical building of palatial appearance. Hamilton also drew up plans for a stable-court, for the terrace walls and, in 1841, proposals for a mausoleum. However, the 10th Duke commissioned David Bryce to design the present mausoleum constructed in 1850 above a crypt designed by Hamilton.

During this period some restoration work was undertaken at Cadzow Castle, the ruin of which stands across the gorge from Chatelherault. The 10th Duke died in 1852 and was succeeded by his son William who married Princess Marie of Baden. At about this time, Heath Wilson was employed to put in the kitchen gardens and hothouses to the north-west of the Palace. The 12th Duke, William succeeded in 1863 and in 1864 received by imperial decree of Napoleon III the revived title of Duke of Chatelherault. In 1883, the policies were described as extending for 2.5 miles along the Clyde and 2.75 miles along the Avon; the Palace was described as one of the most magnificent piles in the kingdom. In 1885 the OS Gazetteer notes that the old part of the town of Hamilton is partly included within the walls of the park and ... 'the houses approach the Palace near enough to intrude upon its privacy'. The Duke held 152,445 acres in Lanarkshire, Buteshire, Linlithgow and Stirlingshire. In 1882 many of the art treasures were auctioned off to meet gambling debts. The 12th Duke's daughter, Mary, married the Duke of Montrose and lived at Brodick Castle. The 12th Duke was succeeded by his kinsman, Alfred Douglas, in 1895, as 13th Duke.

The Palace was greatly affected by mining subsidence and in 1927 it was demolished by the Burgh of Hamilton who had purchased the Palace grounds for recreational purposes; the major portion was leased to the Hamilton Park Racecourse Company. Chatelherault and the Mausoleum have since also subsided, the Mausoleum by about 12', but both have been rescued and restored. In 1976 after the death of the 14th Duke, the National Land Fund purchased the High Parks and funded the restoration of the building which will be handed over to Hamilton District Council and opened to the public. The Mausoleum was reopened for public viewing in 1971 after restoration.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest

  • Historic Environment Scotland Listed Building

  • Reference: Chatelherault
  • Grade: A


  • Mausoleum
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Garden Terrace
Key Information





Principal Building



Part: standing remains



Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland