Historic Hamilton By Garry L McCallum
Historic HamiltonBy Garry L McCallum 

The Origins Of Hamilton.....

Like many large settlements, Hamilton, or the area now known as Hamilton started off as natural geology. In the time of the ice age, the Clyde valley was surrounded by old rocks and large hills and these ever changing hills protected the Clyde valley from the elements of the ice age. The rocks under Hamilton are primarily sedimentary, laid down as silt and decaying plants, and over the millions of years the trees & plants grew and fell on top of each other before becoming compressed and this started the creation of red sandstone and coal fields.

When the last of the glaciers melted, they left behind crushed rock and clay soil and as the water from the melted glaciers ran down from the higher ground it carved channels through the rock and formed areas like the Avon Gorge and further down the Clyde valley the water left behind flood plains in the area now known as Low Parks.

Over the next few thousand years, this made the land in the Clyde Valley very fertile and an excellent place for growing crops.

The earliest people to have lived in the area were the hunter-gatherers who travelled from place to place following the food supply. They settled near the river and fished, they also picked wild fruits and hunted deer in the forest. There have been flint arrows found in the surrounding areas of Hamilton and a 4,000-year-old cist burial was found in the grounds of Chatelherault Country park. The person was laid to rest in the cist around 4,000 years ago was one of the first farmers to have lived in the area, as this is when man started to harvest food and keep animals which in turn became their food, they started to clear areas of woodland by burning the trees and plants and this made the soil fertile for growing plants.

Around 1,000 years later the population started to grow and this is when hill forts start to be built and religion is thought to be behind this. Jumping 3,000 years later, the Romans came to the Clyde valley and straight away they recognised the benefits of the fertile soil. You can still visit the ruins of the Roman bath house at Strathclyde Country Park.

The centuries from 500 to 1000 AD are a mixed bag of fact and legend, there is some evidence of place names starting to form, although some are disputed by historians. There are clear elements of Celt & Welsh in the names such as Blantyre (Blaen-tir) Scottish Celt & Anglo-Saxon like Eddlewood(Edulf'e Wood).

The Netherton Cross once stood in the Low Parks area of Hamilton is believed to be dated from c1900s AD and this area of land is now occupied by the M74 motorway.

Jumping ahead in time again, straight through the medieval period, strong royal connections start to crop up and King David 1st & Alexander the 2nd signed a number of charters at Cadzow, there is said to have been a Royal Hunting lodge here, however, the site is unknown but it is thought that it could be the same site as Cadzow castle, It is also said that the Cadzow Oaks, (some are as old as 800 years) were planted around this time.

The lands of Cadzow were granted by Robert the Bruce to Walter FitzGilbert, known as De Hameldone, it is from this man that the Hamilton family and the current Dukedom descend. The Family took the name Hamilton from 1375, but the estate name was changed in 1445 when Sir James Hamilton was created, Lord Hamilton.

From the 1700s the area that we now know as Hamilton was starting to take shape and Hamilton had become a small town and the lands spreading from the Palace and up to High Parks, which is now known as Chatelherault, Hamilton eventually would swallow up other little towns like Burnbank, Low Waters, Eddlewood & Earnock and by the mid-1700s big changes were coming. In this period, Hamilton was now a weaving town and from 1790 to 1830 the district population nearly trebled from 8,924 to 24,954. This was due to the high demand for weavers which was indeed a major industry of the time.

Moving on to the 1800s and even though coal was known to have been in the area, it wasn't really exploited, until around the 1850s, however with technology moving on there was a boom and over 100 coal mines opened up and people from all over Scotland, England and Ireland flocked to the town to find employment, this sadly also cost hundreds of lives, with disasters and accidents being almost a daily occurrence. Coal mining was now the industry that made modern day Hamilton what it is today, sadly though it has cost us lots of beautiful buildings like the Hamilton Palace being the biggest loss to the town.

Today Hamilton is still getting bigger & bigger with new housing developments taking more of our green belt away, maybe one day we will be joined on to places like Strathaven & East Kilbride....

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© Garry McCallum