Hamilton (surveyed in 1858)


Hamilton is in South Lanarkshire, near the River Clyde. It is now a suburb of Glasgow but in 1858 it was a fairly compact, separate town. The original settlement at Hamilton was called Cadzow possibly meaning 'battle hollow' from cath meaning 'battle' in Scottish Gaelic and howe meaning 'hollow' in Scots. It was re-named c. 1445 by the first Lord Hamilton when he moved there from England; the name 'Hamilton' is derived from his family's Norman-French name de Hameldon.

Hamilton was made into a burgh of barony in 1456 by James II. Queen Mary then raised it to royal burgh status in 1548. However, it lost its independent status in 1670 when it again came under the control of the Hamilton family. The earlier settlement, thought to have been at Netherton to the east, was moved to create the grounds of Hamilton Palace.

The population at the 1851 census was 9,630, an increase on 1841 when it was 8,876.

Town Planning

There is no clear pattern to the street layout, but it is apparent that the larger properties were at the north end of the town, near to Hamilton Palace, while those at the southern end of the town appear smaller and poorer. There is a degree of ribbon development along the roads out of town on the south side and towards the railway station on the west (sheet xvii.4.1).


Hamilton Palace (sheet xvii.4.4) stood on the site of the original late medieval castle of the Hamilton family. After many changes, it was almost totally rebuilt in the early eighteenth century and again in 1822. By 1858 it was a huge mansion in a classical style with a double row of columns around the porch. The palace was levelled in the 1920s.

The Old Parish Church was designed by William Adam in 1732, who also designed the hunting lodge of Chatelherault, just outside the town. In 1816 a trade hall had been built in Church Street. A new prison and civic offices were built in 1834.

Trade and Industry

In the mid-nineteenth century, Hamilton was a market town for the surrounding area and supported a number of industries such as tanning, brewing and the manufacture of shoes and stockings for the local market. The importance of flax and wool seemed to have declined in the area by this period as Wilson (1857) records that fairs to sell these products no longer operated.

A local lace industry introduced by one of the Duchesses of Hamilton had declined by the end of the eighteenth century. It was briefly replaced by other textile industries including garment making and cotton weaving, but these had also declined by the mid-nineteenth century.


In 1858 the countryside around Hamilton included deeply wooded ravines and higher ground, with fertile soil in the valley bottoms. The area was rich in coal, lime and ironstone, all of which were exploited in the nineteenth century. The main coal mine in the district was at Quarter, some two miles from the town. The coal was moved by rail to about half a mile from the town.

Religious Life

The original parish church of Hamilton was the Collegiate Church, which can be seen in grounds of Hamilton Palace (sheet xvii.4.4). In 1732, this was replaced by the new parish church in the town (sheet xvii.4.9). There were also four United Presbyterian churches, a Free church, an Episcopal chapel and an Independent chapel (Wilson, 1857). St Mary's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1846.


The main school in the town at the time of this survey was the grammar school, which had been moved to its new site in 1848. There were a number of other smaller schools, several girls' schools and charity schools for the poor. The Mechanics Institute was founded in 1846 and had a library. A public subscription library had been started in 1808 but failed several years later.


A large army barracks for both cavalry and infantry was established at the north-west end of the town (sheet xi.16.22, 23). There were several hospitals in the town and the poorhouse can be seen near the barracks (sheet xvii.4.2).

Culture and Society

Society in Hamilton was greatly influenced by the presence and patronage of the Hamilton family at the palace. There were also a variety of societies and sporting clubs.