Historic Hamilton By Garry L McCallum
Historic HamiltonBy Garry L McCallum 

ALMADA HILL

ALMADA HILL.

Almada Hill in recent years has been known to us as the tenements that used to sit on the land now occupied as a car park for the Douglas Park showroom. Before the tenements were demolished the address for Almada Hill was 139-153 Almada Hill, Almada Street.

The name Almada Hill was not a new name given to the tenements on Almada Street, in fact, this name comes from a much older building that was situated just off the main road. 
The original Almada Hill was first known as Almada Hall and was constructed in 1812 and like all the buildings of this time, it was built with sandstone and lime.

The person responsible for building Almada Hill was a Doctor that went by the name of John James Hume. Dr Hume purchased the land on the 14th of May 1811, the Hume family were a very well-respected family of doctors and there were many generations of them practising in Hamilton before Dr John J. Hume.

Almada Hill, or Almada Hall as it was known in 1812, when constructed was built on the outskirts of Hamilton and out in the countryside, its closest little village was Burnbank and when built the road that we know as Almada Street was known as the “road from Ayrshire & Glasgow” and wasn’t even named Almada Street, so it is possible that this is where the street takes its name from. The next title was recorded on 5th June 1839 in favour of Helen Hume and others, the description therein states, “and houses built thereon”.

Later in the nineteenth century, it was owned by one of the Dykes brothers. The Dyke’s brothers were a family of solicitors & doctors who in their day owned many of the grandest houses in Hamilton.

Almada Hill in the nineteenth century was built on a hill that would have had a great view looking over Almada Street and further afield, it was a handsome house with a garden and ornamental grounds to the front. So, going back to the owner, the house was let out by the Dykes family and in 1861 the house was rented to a woman called Ann McEwen who was the widow of Robert McEwen and this man was a wealthy East India shipping merchant. Anne was a lady from Edinburgh but had lived in London and Singapore.

At the moment it is unknown as to why Anne chose to live in Hamilton as I can’t find any connection as to why she was here, although in this period there were one or two Glasgow shipping merchants living nearby in Burnbank, so perhaps it was suggested by someone in this circle of friends who were already living here.

Anne leaves Almada Hill & Hamilton and moves to London before 1864. This is the last time in which we see this family having any connection to Hamilton.

The house is now rented to a man named James Beith Struthers, who seems to be a friend of the Dykes family. James Struthers was a wine and spirit merchant and he married a Glasgow girl called Rebecca Simpson and later marries for a second time to Mary Ann Harrison, again his time at Almada Hill is a short one. He moves on and dies on the 20th of November 1913 at 145 Main Street, Kirkton, Blantyre. James’s son who was called James Beith Harrison Struthers continues to follow in his father’s footsteps and works as a Spirit Merchant.

The building itself sat on one acre and a quarter of land and if not on ground level would have at least have one floor above. It had a porch at the front of the house which looked on to the pathway large enough for a horse and carriage to fit. It did not appear to have stables but did have outhouses and it also appears to have its own water pump in the back garden. The rear of the property was open fields used for grazing cattle which remained untouched for the duration of the building’s life. 
Almada Hill was sold to a Solicitor that went by the name of Alexander Watt. The house is sold off between 1864 & 1871.

Alexander Watt was born in 1836 at Midlothian, Edinburgh and he studies in Edinburgh and marries Margaret Fleming in Blythswood in 1863. Alexander sets up his business in Hamilton around 1871 and continues to live at Almada hill. He is involved very much in the Hamilton Community and is a member of the Hamilton Burns Club.

In 1894 the Clyde coal company were extracting coal from beneath Almada Hill’s foundations. The underground workings could have had an impact on Almada Hill and like many of Hamilton’s buildings, it would have affected it in some way. Alexander around this time is looking to sell up and the extraction of coal may have been the reason as to why he wanted to move from Almada Hill.

The house is on the market for over a year and in various advertisements, they state that the house has not been affected by underground workings. Alexander Watt left Almada Hill in June 1900 and since then, the house lay empty until purchased by the town council.

In 1901 there is fear of a smallpox epidemic and Hamilton was not fully equipped to deal with such an outbreak. In February 1901 the town council was looking to purchase a new site for a temporary smallpox hospital. Almada Hill was shortlisted and a special meeting was set up by Provost Keith to discuss the purchase.

The people involved in the discussions also included Bailies McNaughton, Pollock, MacHale, and Hay. Also, at the meeting were councillors Louden, Smellie, Duncan, Tainsh, Anderson, Hamilton and Cassells, with Messer’s Pollock & Kilpatrick. 
The object of the meeting was to consider the proposal to purchase the property of Almada Hill for the sum of £1,700, which for a house of this type was a bargain.

Bailie Hay, as Convenor of the Sanitary Committee, said the state of matters was this, that they were presently very much hampered for accommodation at the hospital, and were likely to be still more hampered in the event of an epidemic of smallpox taking place in the Burgh.

The Committee had accordingly inquired as to what would be required in the way of additional accommodation, and the result of their investigations culminated in the proprietor of Almada Hill being seen with a view to the disposal of the property. They had been offered the property for £1700, and Bailie Hay considered that they were getting it very much cheaper than it could have been bought by a private individual.

It had occurred to the Committee that Almada Hill might be a suitable place for the isolation of persons who had come into contact with smallpox patients, and it was proposed now that the property should be utilised in that way. He did not wish to shrink the fact that, in an event of a serious epidemic, they might almost require to use the premises for the accommodation of patients.

Plans had already been submitted to them for a temporary wooden building, which would give them twelve beds and the cost of this hospital would be between £500 & £600. It was a building which could, in no sense, be a permanent one, and in all probability would require to be burned when the epidemic had subsided.

In purchasing Almada Hill, they put themselves in possession of a site which could be utilised for many public purposes. It was a building which could be temporarily used as a hospital, or, if unsuitable for that, it would be advantageous for isolating parties who had come in to contact with smallpox cases.

Treasurer Keith understood that the Local Government Board had indicated that such a place was essential in a working-class community like Hamilton.

Apart altogether from the immediate requirements of the burgh, this site was moderately cheap. It could be used by the municipality, or it might be sold for the purposes of a technical school or similar institution. Everything considered, the property was moderately cheap, and Bailie Hay and the Sanitary Committee were to be congratulated in bringing the matter before the Council.

Mr Loudon asked to what extent the minerals had been extracted at the building.

Bailie Hay – One third has been worked out.

Mr Loudon – In that case, the building is quite safe.

In reply to a further question by Mr Loudon as to what provision at present existed to cope with an outbreak of smallpox, Bailie Hay explained that just now there were a great many cases of scarlet fever in the hospital, but he had been in communication with the Medical Officer, who informed him that two small rooms could be acquired to accommodate four patients pending other arrangements being made. But there was no provision whatever for isolation, and that, according to present-day medical science, was an important matter.

Mr Cassells asked if the proprietor of this building had been approached as to whether he would lease or let the building for the purposes of isolation. Bailie Hay stated that he will not let or lease the property. Mr Watt has really been in treaty for some time with two other people anxious to secure the premises.

Mr Cassels, on the ground that the proposal was premature, moved to the previous question. He considered that £1700 was an extraordinary price to pay for the premises. He maintained, further, that the building was absolutely useless. As a representative of the Second Ward, which Ward was not represented on the Sanitary Committee. He objected to this Proposal being sprung upon the Council without more time being given to the members to inquire into the various details. 
Mr Tainsh, in seconding, said that he had been simply astonished at some of the actions of the Sanitary Committee within the past two or three months. This was one of the most extravagant proposals he had ever heard of.

Mr Duncan asked if the convener had examined the house.
Bailie Hay replied that the late storms had to a certain extent injured the house, but it had since been repaired and made water-tight. As an evidence of that, he had simply to state that most of the proprietor’s furniture was
presently in the house.

Mr Loudon said, as a representative of the First Ward, he did not at all like the idea of selecting the site for an isolation house or hospital right in the midst of a populous and residential district.

The price asked was high, but that after all was only relative if it was found absolutely necessary to have such a place and that this was the only such place that could be got suitable for the purposes contemplated. But he should like first of all to be satisfied that there was not the slightest risk of contagion to those residing in the locality.

Bailie Hay explained that the Local Government Board had to be provided with plans, and he thought Mr Loudon might rest assured that so far as human means could go nothing would be done that would in the slightest degree be hurtful.
Mr Loudon – Then they may not approve of this.

Bailie Hay – That is so, but I do not think there is the slightest likelihood of their not agreeing to an isolation house.
Bailie Pollock said, from the nature of the discussion, it seemed that although they purchased this property, they would still require a temporary hospital in the event of an outbreak of smallpox. That being so, and seeing the figure mentioned for the site was so high because any person who knew the house knew that it was not worth the stone and lime.
Bailie Hay – It is not a brick house, so it must be worth stone and lime. (laughter).

Bailie Pollock – Well, it is not worth old material. He thought there were other means of isolating people over and above the method proposed, and he for one could not see his way to support the proposal of the committee.

The council then divided as follows:- For purchasing the property – Provost Keith, Bailies Hay, MacHale, and McNaughton, Treasurer Keith and Messrs Hamilton, Anderson, Smellie and Duncan – 9: for not purchasing the property – Bailie Pollock and Messrs Loudon, Tainsh and Cassells – 4.

The committee’s recommendation to purchase Almada Hill at £1700 was thereupon declared carried. The house gets put to use straight away and by March 1901 there were three outbreaks of Smallpox in Hamilton, the third was a plasterer’s labourer from Church Street.

The man was moved to the county hospital in Dalserf and his wife and four children were moved to Almada Hill which was now being called the reception house. A fourth woman also from the same stair in Church Street contracted Smallpox in April of that year and her husband and children were admitted to Almada Hill.

The epidemic started to spread throughout different parts of Hamilton and at a fast pace. Three children, the oldest being fourteen all from the same tenement in Low Quarry Street became ill and they were transported to Stonehouse Hospital, while their families were sent to Almada Hill.

The smallpox epidemic seemed to have passed and soon Almada Hill was not so much in the headlines, well that was until September 1901 when two boys both aged fourteen who were called William Connor and William Walker were fined 7s 6d or five days imprisonment for stealing grapes from the Vinery at Almada Hill.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Hamilton was in need of a new town hall and library and the focus was now turned once again to Almada Hill. Meetings were held and at the early stages of the talks, it was thought that Almada Hill could be an excellent site as it was close by the railway station at Peacock Cross and not to mention situated between Burnbank and the rest of the burgh. Mr Dixon of the Bent coal company also offered a site at the corner of Orchard Street and Union Street and after a consultation, it was found that due to the underground mine workings, the site would be unsafe to build on.

After more meetings, a site at Cadzow Street was also suggested and plans went ahead for a new Municipal, town hall and library to be built on Cadzow Street.
Almada Hill was now an old building on an acre and a quarter of land and to claw their money back in some way, the council had to use it for something. The town council did consider letting the property once more as a house, however, this was until the electric lighting committee was in need of a site for its new electric lighting station and a section of the land was sold off to the Electricity board.

In March 1904 the Hamilton Burgh are starting to sell more of the Land at Almada Hill and they put out an advertisement and in September of the same year Almada Hill is shortlisted once again to be the site of the new council chambers and again a site in Brandon Street was agreed.

This was to be the beginning of the end for the house once called Almada Hill. Tenements on Almada Street were erected in 1905 and they took the name Almada Hill and this is what kept the name of the old country house alive.

The property eventually was acquired by the Magistrates & C. of Hamilton, a part of which was sold by them to the South West Electricity Board in 1950. If I were to give a rough date as to when Almada Hill was eventually demolished then it would be between 1950 and 1954, and at the moment, there are no known surviving pictures of the old house.

We would like to know if any of our readers are old enough to remember a property being situated on the Almada Street electricity site. If you do remember, then please tell us your memories.

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© Garry McCallum