Hamilton Palace

Shopping Centre in grounds of former Hamilton Palace
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Shopping Centre in grounds of former Hamilton Palace

Hamilton Palace no longer exists, having been levelled in the 1920s. It lay a half-mile (1 km) to the northeast of modern-day Hamilton, where now we find the A72 bypass and a car park.

Hamilton Palace was the grandest seat in Scotland and its demise represents a sad loss from Scottish architecture; indeed it was an early casualty amongst a number of such losses, which continued through the 20th Century as fashions changed and the costs of maintenance became prohibitive.

Built on the site of a 13th C. tower house, the South Front was erected in 1695 by James Smith (c.1645 - 1731) for William, the 3rd Duke of Hamilton (1634-94) and his wife Duchess Anne. The North Front was completed in 1842 by David Hamilton (1768 - 1843), for Alexander, the 10th Duke (1767 - 1852), and includes a grand portico with ten 7.5m (25 feet) high monolithic columns. Inside was replete with marble. The state-rooms, which included sumptuous stucco-work, were by Smith (1690s) and William Adam in the 1740s. These held much fine furniture and by the mid-19th C. housed the best collection of paintings in Scotland.

Its demise was the result of combination of factors: large and ostentatious houses had fallen from fashion, the cost of upkeep was prohibitive and the nearby coal mines both spoiled the amenity of the site and resulted in dangerous subsidence as the coal beneath was removed. The decline began in 1882 when art treasures were sold off to raise funds by William, the 12th Duke (1845-95), and continued through Alfred the 13th Duke's willingness to lend his home for use as a naval hospital during the First World War. By the time it was returned in 1919, the fate of the house was sealed and following a massive sale of contents and fittings, it was demolished. In the surrounding estate, the great avenue of trees, Chatelherault Hunting Lodge and the Duke's Mausoleum are all that remain as a reminder of past grandeur.

Smith's marvellous Dining Room is now displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and his Withdrawing Room is stored by the National Museums of Scotland.

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