Hamilton Palace – The Finest Hamilton’s Landmark Which Is Completely Gone

Hamilton Palace 1880

The Hamilton Palace, the former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton was the most impressive building in the town of Hamilton. Unfortunately, one of the most splendid and magnificent non-royal residences in Scotland is today completely gone. Only the Hamilton Mausoleum testifies about the splendour of the former residence of the Hamilton family.

The Hamilton Palace was built on the site of a 13th century structure in 1695. William, 3rd Duke of Hamilton commissioned the Scottish architect John Smith who is celebrated as the pioneer of the Palladian style in Scotland. William’s grandson James, 5th Duke of Hamilton hired architect William Adam to design a new North Front but he died before the construction works began. His successors did not undertake any major projects on the palace although they carried out a number of modifications and extensions the most notable of which was landscaping of the palace’s surroundings.

The planned North Front was finally built in the 19th century by Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton who also built the monumental Hamilton Mausoleum. The new North Front marked by massive columns supporting the Corinthian portico made the palace look even more impressive. The remodelled Hamilton Palace, however, soon began to decline due to financial difficulties of the Hamilton family. Many of the finest pieces of art in the palace were sold in the 1880s by William, 12th Duke of Hamilton. But the palace suffered the greatest damage after the 13th Duke of Hamilton allowed it to be used as a hospital during the First World War. The palace was returned to the family in 1919 when the magazine Country Life published a series of photographs and articles about the Hamilton Palace which are today among the most important sources of history of the palace and its contents.

By the early 20th century, the Hamilton family’s income almost exclusively depended on coal mining and as a result, the family allowed mining beneath the palace. This resulted in dangerous subsidence of the palace and the family decided to demolish it in 1921. There is another version of the story which goes that the Hamilton family intentionally stated with mining beneath the splendid palace in order to get an excuse for its demolition by which they got rid of the financial burden the palace was presenting.

Whichever was the real reason for demolition of the Hamilton Palace, its site today does not reveal even a trace of the former Hamilton family’s residence. The site of the palace is now the Hamilton Palace Sports Grounds, while the landscape is mostly incorporated into the Strathclyde Country Park. The artworks that used to adorn the Hamilton Palace are today in private collections or museums. The dinning room from the palace even ended up in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The Hamilton Mausoleum, however, was spared and is today open to visitors although it no longer contains the remains of the Hamilton family. The coffins were removed and buried at the Hamilton’s Bent cemetery after the flooding and subsidence of the monument.