Researched & written by Garry McCallum.
Additional notes and research kindly donated by Linda Kaden & Walter Smith.
Alexander the 10th Duke of Hamilton displayed his wealth in many ways and none so more than in the form of building himself a chapel and family crypt in his back garden. The mausoleum was so grand, and it covered such a large area that the Duke had to employ someone to look after the mausoleum and its grounds.
During the construction of the Masonic chapel, the Duke had to also build a house for his new caretaker so around 1858 the construction of the caretaker’s cottage got underway.
During its time as a functioning job-attached house it had at least four caretakers who got the house with the job, however, the first man to take up this post, and to be employed as the mausoleum caretaker, was a man named Arthur Nisbet. Arthur was born in Hamilton, in the year 1801, and he was the son of John Nisbet who was a general labourer and Marion Hamilton.
He was married to Barbara ‘Rome’ Currie. Barbara was the daughter of William Currie who was a Cotton Weaver and Marion Morris.
I am assuming that the family must have lived a happy life! They previously lived in Dalserf and then lived at Larkhall where Arthur was working as a cotton handloom weaver. They had four children who were called John, Marion, William & Elizabeth.
The family first appeared at the cottage when they were recorded on the 1861 census. Arthur, his wife and his daughter Marion (Known as Minnie) were staying here and along with the residents at the keeper’s cottage, all the staff at the Hamilton Palace appeared on the same page.
Happiness was about to be short-lived for the family when Arthurs eldest son John became ill and had to bring his own family, which included his wife and three young children to come to live at the Mausoleum Lodge.On the 14th of July 1863 John sadly died, he was the first person to die at the Caretakers Lodge and as you will read further on, you will see that more deaths were to follow.
Tragedy struck the family again as only three years later and nearly to the same day as his father on the 16th July 1866 Arthurs grandson died at the caretaker’s lodge, he was only 10 years old and he died of Scarlatina Maligna.
In 1871, Arthur appears on the census return as ‘The Keeper of the mausoleum’ living at Mausoleum Cottage. He not only lives in the small house with his wife but his daughter Minnie, (Dressmaker) Grandson William and Granddaughter Elizabeth are also living at the cottage.
The run of bad luck strikes again on the cold winters morning on 8th of January 1874 as Arthur’s wife Barbara who was the third person to die at the Mausoleum Lodge passed away and the cause of her death was pneumonia. Barbara had been suffering this illness which lasted for 7 days.
Arthur must not have been a superstitious person as he continued to live at the lodge, most people would assume that the house was unlucky with all of the deaths that had happened, but things started to look up for him as his daughter Marion was about to be married.
She had met a man from Larkhall who went by the name of James Anderson. James was an inspector of the poor at Dalserf and his address was 34 Union Street at Larkhall. The couple married quite late on in life, as Marion was 45 and James was 56 but nonetheless, they must have loved each other, so on the 10th of June 1878, they were married at the Mausoleum Lodge by Thomas Simpson, who was the minister of the United Presbyterian Church.
It is not documented if Marion continued to live with her father after she was married but Arthur Nisbet continued to work for the Duke until finally on the 6th of March 1879 Arthur also died at the Lodge. He reached the grand old age of 80 and his cause of death was recorded as senile decay. He served the Duke for 21 years. His son William was the person who registered his death, the Mausoleum Lodge now had four people who had died under its roof.
There was now a vacancy for a Caretaker of the Mausoleum but who could fill the shoes of Arthur Nisbet? Arthur’s son William took up the post shortly after his father’s death, the Duke may have had a say in this as many of the Duke’s of Hamilton’s staff were generations of the same family who worked at the Palace.
William had been previously married before he met his second wife Mary, he lived in Larkhall and was married to a lady called Janet McGregor and between them they had 4 children, who were called Arthur, Jane, Barbara and Elizabeth. Their first son Arthur died 10 days after he was born, and the other three children were born healthy, but on the 6th of April 1867 Janet died at the age of 26.
William re-married at Woodend Cottage on Bothwell Road on the 19th of March 1869 to a lady who was from Hamilton called Mary Haddow.
William continued to live in Larkhall with Mary before he took up the post of caretaker and between them they had a son, who they also named Arthur and again this son died of bronchitis on the 6th December 1870. In these days child mortality was high. Undeterred by the two previous deaths William & Mary went on to have three more children which they named Mary, Arthur & Marion. William was determined to have a son named after his dad!
In 1881 William is living at the lodge with his three children Elizabeth, Mary & Arthur. On the census return Elizabeth’s occupation is a Domestic Servant, so it’s possible that she was working in the Palace at this time.
His wife Mary on the night that the census report was taken was visiting William’s sister Marion and her husband James at 34 Union Street in Larkhall.
William & Mary were expecting a new addition to the family and on the 20th of July 1882 a daughter was born premature, she was named Janet, but the curse of the Mausoleum Caretakers Lodge struck again, when she died only 13 days old. This was now the fifth person and from the same family to die in the house.
In 1891 they continue to work and live at the Lodge and history seems to be repeating itself where like William’s father, he also has his grown-up family living with him at the lodge. Jane is living here with her daughter Janet after being widowed. Mary, Arthur & Marion are here too.
Between 1891 and 1905 life seems to be going ok at the Mausoleum Lodge, there are no recorded deaths. William Nisbet must have enjoyed the work that he did, where on Friday the 2nd of September he won 3rd prize for the everlasting bouquet in the Lanarkshire flower show.
The 12th Duke of Hamilton died on the 16th of May 1895 and his successor was his son Alfred Douglas-Hamilton. The Hamilton Palace and its lands and servants all had new owners. Times were changing with the turn of the century, but the lodge was to hold one more wedding where on the 17th of August 1906 William’s daughter Marion married her cousin who was called Maxwell Muir Bryce.
William Nisbet continued to work at the Mausoleum Lodge until his retirement. He worked right up to 1911 where he appeared on the Census living with his wife and he also had his grandson George Henderson living with him. When he retired and continued to live in Hamilton, he moved to 64 Dalziel Street in Burnbank. He died on the 7th of March 1912 and the cause of death was pneumonia. His son in law Maxwell Bryce who lived at Saffronhall Crescent was the informant of his death.
When William retired and left the keepers cottage he was the last of the Nisbet family to have a connection with the Duke of Hamilton.
The Mausoleum Lodge now had new residents, Thomas Kerr was employed as the new groundkeeper for the Mausoleum, he moved in with his wife Violet Annie at the end of August 1911. They lived here with their children.
The happiness of the new home and job was to be shattered very quickly when there was a tragic accident which happened only three weeks after they moved in.
A sad tale occurred on Saturday the 16th of September 1911. Mrs Violet Kerr, wife of the keeper of the Mausoleum at Hamilton Palace, died at one o’clock Saturday morning from injuries sustained by explosion of gas in her house late the previous night.
Her husband had gone out to post a letter, leaving in the house his wife and two children, aged respectively two years and six months. After making some calls, he returned home between ten and eleven, and entering the house a painful scene confronted him. His wife was lying on the stair, leading from the kitchen the coal cellar. Her clothes were practically burned off, and her body was scorched in a terrible manner.
He lifted her into the kitchen, and ran for assistance, Mrs Kerr was still conscious, and was able to say that when she was going down to the cellar fetch coals something went up in a blaze at the gas jet on the stair. The elder of her two children, a bright little girl, was with her, but Mrs Kerr had the presence of mind to push the child down the stair when the explosion occurred. In this way the girl escaped the flames which enveloped her mother.
The younger child was asleep in a perambulator in the kitchen, and was uninjured. Mr and Mrs Kerr are a young couple, who only entered upon duty at Hamilton Palace three weeks ago, having previously lived at Caledonia Road, Glasgow.
Thomas Kerr continued to live at the Mausoleum Lodge and he remarried again to a woman called Frances Helen Bangham. They had two children who were born at the Lodge. The children were named Thomas & Henrietta. Thomas being born in the year 1915 and Henrietta born in 1925.
In 1915, the Trustees of the Hamilton Palace agreed to permit the colliery company to work the underground coal seams immediately beneath the Hamilton Palace and the Mausoleum, which resulted in the surrounding areas sinking to an extent of some 20 feet from its original level and taking the buildings with it. However, while the main palace building eventually became so damaged as to be uneconomical to repair, the excellent workmanship and the heavy dove-tailed stones of the Mausoleum resulted in the complete building sinking more or less vertically and the binding of the stones was such that only one vertical crack has appeared in the complete structure.
This sinking, however, resulted in the crypt section of the Mausoleum being subject to flooding, caused by the annual overflow of the River Avon on its junction with the River Clyde between Hamilton and Motherwell, and for many years the crypt section of the Mausoleum was closed to the public, only being reopened on 10th May 1971.
As I previously mentioned, times were indeed changing at the Hamilton Palace, the palace remained the seat of the Hamilton’s until 1920 when it became uninhabitable owing to the extent of the deterioration and damage caused by the underground extraction of coal.
It was, however, used as a temporary hospital for naval personnel during the First World War, by which time the Hamilton family had moved to the town of Dungavel in Strathaven.
The Hamilton palace which was first constructed in 1695 was eventually fully demolished in the year 1927, it was the end of an era for Hamilton. All that was left of the Hamilton families legacy at the palace grounds was the Mausoleum and the mausoleum keepers cottage.
The little house next to the Mausoleum must have now felt like a lonely place to live. When the Palace was there, people would have passed the cottage every day but now it was isolated, and the area would have been very quiet. Thomas Kerr continued to live at the Mausoleum Lodge until his death. He died there on the 8th of July 1947, he was the Sixth and final person to die in the house.
One thing that I have to note, was the title of Thomas’s occupation on his death certificate. He was no longer referred to as the keeper of the mausoleum, he was titled as a ‘park ranger’.
With the recent flooding and the underground coal mines the Mausoleum and the cottage were in danger of following the same path as the Hamilton Palace. At some point in the 1960s, the cottage had subsided so much that Thomas Kerr had to be evacuated and rehoused. He was rehoused at the newly built Mausoleum cottage which was built at the foot of the hill next to the golf course. These houses are still here to this day and are privately owned.
The role of Keeper of the mausoleum was eventually made redundant when Strathclyde regional council took over the maintenance of the of the whole area. As the old Mausoleum cottage was left to rot, all the care and attention was directed to the Mausoleum itself.
Strathclyde regional council did a great job of maintaining the Mausoleum – one notable bit of maintenance that was carried out was when the glass dome had to be replaced. The original glass dome remained in place until July 1971 when it was replaced by Perspex which was lowered into position by helicopter.
This repair and replacement was necessitated owing to damage caused by birds pecking at the putty securing the original glass dome, in order to get at the linseed oil content of the putty, thus breaking through the original seal and permitting the entrance of the elements which would have caused damage the building.
At the start of this story I quoted “Masonic Chapel” Alexander, the 10th Duke of Hamilton, was Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland during the years 1820/22, and although the mausoleum was not designed or intended to be a building of purely Masonic significance, the many instances in which symbolic Masonic teachings have been incorporated throughout the construction cannot fail to impress the Masonic visitor, or be merely a coincidence.
In September I was contacted by Alex Johnstone who, at the time was a park ranger at Strathclyde Park. Alex told me some invaluable information on the old mausoleum cottage. The following words are from Alex:
“ In the early 1980,s i was privileged to work on the bowling greens tennis courts and Hamilton municipal golf course during my time working there along from memory along with one or the park rangers i entered the old caretakers cottage to clean it out then there was subsidence inside as when you entered you walked down a slope and went below to a floor below where the founds had subsided at one end and your feet forced you to slide from one end of the floor to the other so please beware if you or anyone enters the building.
At that time Joe Smith was park manager, Ronnie McCormack was assistant park manager. the park rangers who i knew and worked alongside during winters were Eric Dunsmuir head park ranger, Robert (BOB)Reid, George Elliot, Tom McGregor, Campbell Bryant and Matt Mitchell.
Again, from memory some of the stuff we took out of the cottage was placed in a pre fab at the Bothwell haugh end of Strathclyde park some of the bits and pieces we took out may still be there it lay adjacent to the M74 across from the ash football parks.
From what i remember all the furniture had been removed and we took pick handles, spades, axe heads and bits of lathe drill bits. As i went inside the building i can remember turning left and going down some steps to the underground part then coming back up and clearing theough the ground level part, the building was in complete darkness, so we were using torches.
There is no problem using any of the info i give you in any articles you do. Seeing the state of the place this morning it is in a very sad state for our heritage, back in the 80,s there was a squad of men in huts beside the municipal golf course and every week the grounds were cleared of litter and both sides of the mausoleum were well maintained by the squad.
The grass cut both sides of road, paths regularly weeded and I remember when back then, the Winters were bad and as there was very little work could be done in any parks or football fields so the squads were sent down by the foreman with chain saws etc to keep the entry road to the innkeepers cottage clear for entrance from emergency vehicles and park security staff and all the rubbish taken away and dumped in coups.
In the late 70,s Harry Kerr was the guide for the Mausoleum and he stayed at No 2 Mote Hill the cottage beside the golf course and next door in No 1 was Wullie Sloane the golf course green keeper who i worked with under Hamilton district council before we transferred to Strathclde region as Strathclyde park had taken over the running of the complete Hamilton side of the palace grounds.
From memory Harry Kerr retired around 1976 to 78 and Wullie Sloane around 1980 around just after then was when i went into the cottage with Ronnie Mc Cormack and the park rangers and cleared out the remains taking most to the prefabs and some bits to our units at Strathclyde park in the water sports centre in Motherwell.
The park was run by the region until North Lanarkshire took over the running of the Motherwell side of the park and the Hamilton side was taken over by South Lanarkshire and from then on is when the Mausoleum and grounds have went sadly backwards.
Due to ill health i left the park in 1984 but still love to go a wander.
Where you have marked on the photo is exactly where we emptied all our finds back then were placed at present who has the keys to that prefab I have no idea but as i sometimes see Eric Dunsmuir in Burnbank on my travels if and when i see him i.ll ask him if he can help me any further also next time i am down that way will drop in at John Turnbull the ex Park manager s house ( 2 Mote hill ) in the 90,s house and ask him if he possibly knows any more.
While i was down this morning met a South Lanarkshire employee talking to him he was a building inspector his job to check safety of buildings he had a camera and as i left was going in the direction of the innkeepers cottage.
As i am unfamiliar with countryside laws nowadays at one time then the countryside commission gave out grants for renovations on old buildings could this possibly be a way forward of a clean-up or could it not be done on a volunteer basis like what happened a few year back in Parts of Chaterhault.
All the best, Alex”
Today there is a group of people who are taking a stance and are putting pressure on South Lanarkshire Council to take more care of the Mausoleum and the Mausoleum Cottage. people such as Walter Smith & Robert Reid are currently in talks with SLC and I am sure that most of you will agree that the keeper’s cottage must not be left to deteriorate any further. The Keepers cottage should be given the same status as the mausoleum and could be a great asset to the people of Hamilton.
Today the little cottage sits in the woods and is surrounded by overgrown shrubbery, but if you look beyond this, then you will see that this can be cleared very easily. All that would be needed would be a JCB to scrape all of this shrubbery and weeds and the cottage would be once more on proud display sitting side by side with the grand mausoleum.
I ask South Lanarkshire Council to consider this one thing? For the time being, can you please fix the roof, secure the building and make it watertight and at least for now, can you make it a focal point and part of the Mausoleum. The architecture of this house cannot be lost, this is our history and our inheritance from the Duke of Hamilton. It will cost less than the price of building a new car park to make the cottage safe and secure for us all to enjoy.
Historic Hamilton. © 2017
I love it when I stumble across an old Hamilton family that is from a generation or two gone past and are out of common knowledge or memory to people, and this one was a highly respected family who in their day, would have been known by many. I found this family by chance when I was asked to look in to the history of a house on Muir Street.
On the 5th of January 2017 Gordon Duncan sent me a document that he had found in the attic of his Muir Street home. He asked if I would consider looking in to the history of the building.
I love to take on these challenges and do the research for Historic Hamilton and must mention that I have particularly enjoyed this one!
When I looked at the document, I first noticed that it was written in 1813, and it was hard to transcribe, so to make the most of this little snapshot in time, I consulted an old colleague of mine from Edinburgh who used to work at the records office on Princess Street and is also a fantastic transcriber.
Linda Gordon transcribed this document over a couple of days and as I had suspected it was the deeds to the house. Why they were hidden in an attic for so many years will remain a mystery, however it is possible that the owner who was called Dr Thomas Wharrie could have placed the deeds here for safekeeping in the year 1813 and they could have lay hidden and undisturbed for 204 years, which I think is a fantastic find for Gordon Duncan and of course for Hamilton.
This property on Muir Street was probably built by Dr Thomas Wharrie, and it was even built before the reconstruction and upgrade of the Hamilton Palace, which was compete in the year 1842. When you take a wee drive past the house at Muir Street, then think of this, apart from the museum which is on the opposite side of the road and on the same street, you are looking at one of Hamilton’s oldest and inhabited buildings.
The document was written in ‘Old Scots’ and when transcribed it stated that the house was purchased or built by Dr Thomas Wharrie on the 17th of September 1813. The document was proof of ownership of the house and it laid out the boundaries of the land and garden. The great thing I find about this 204-year-old land certificate is, when this was written, it also takes in to account other people who lived in houses surrounding this building. The document stated that in 1813 the house had attached offices with a yard.
On the east side of the house the closest neighbour was a man named George Ward and there was a hedge separating both houses, and to the south of the garden was Common Green. On the west of the house, the next property was owned by a man named Roger Croft.
The annual payments on the house in 1813 was seventeen shillings and three pence Sterling. The local town clerk in 1813 was Archibald Hamilton and he stamped the document, while a man named John Reid also witnessed the signing.
So, as I have stated, I found that the house was once owned by a prominent family in Hamilton that went by the name of Wharrie. This family were a very well-known one in the town, and they had many friends in many high places, Dr Dykes of Woodhead was an example of this upper-class Hamilton Hierarchy. I had never heard of the Wharrie family and even the name is not a common one in the area. This was when I decided that I was going to research this family.
Thomas Wharrie was not originally from Hamilton, he was a man from Lesmahagow and he married Isabel or Isabella Brown on the 13th of March 1788 and nine months later the family’s first-born child arrived. Thomas James Wharrie was born on the 8th of December 1788 at Lesmahagow. I believe that there may possibly still to this day be family connections to the Wharrie family in Lesmahagow, as Thomas Wharrie had come from a very large, educated and well-off family in this area.
Thomas and Isabella moved to Hamilton between 1789 and 1796, and 3 more children were born, James 23/08/1796, Rachel 19/07/1799 and Jane 13/03/1808. Thomas would probably have come to Hamilton as a doctor where he could have more opportunities in a much bigger town.
What becomes of Thomas and his wife is unknown to me, as I can’t find any other relevant information on Thomas Wharrie or his wife Isabella Brown and the trail stops here. What I can tell you is that Thomas Wharrie died on the 30th of September 1839 and I have this information from his Will and Testament which I discovered.
Thomas Wharrie was a surgeon in Hamilton, and he states in his Will that James Brown Wharrie was his only son, so his first son Thomas has died at some point before his father and yet once more I can’t find any information stating the place of death, and apart from James Wharrie the only other family member that I have come across is his sister Rachel Wharrie, who married a man named Alexander Murdoch on the 2/01/1837 in Hamilton and yet again, there is no information on her or her husband and all that I could find was her death certificate. Jane died on the 26th of March 1872 in Dumfries.
Dr James Brown Wharrie was born on the 23rd of August 1796 in Hamilton and he was the second son of Dr Thomas Wharrie and Isabella Brown. He was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Surgeon and Dr of Medicine in Hamilton.
He studied to be a surgeon in Glasgow and as well as being a doctor, Dr Wharrie also owned a lot of properties in the town, and one of his legacies that James Wharrie left for Hamilton, was the beautiful house that he built, and lived in. It was the grand handsome house called Avongrange at Castlehill, and this big house still stands to this day, and we all know it now to be called, ‘The Avonbridge Hotel’ this was Dr Wharrie’s main residence.
Castlehill Crescent which is now called Castlehill Gardens, was at the time Hamilton’s affluent street and on this part of Hamilton you would find a Crescent, having on the west side a few fine villas occupied by respectable families. Dr Wharrie’s house was the largest on the street.
He married a lady named Eliza Croil on the 08/01/1837 and I assume that this lady died shortly after they were married, because he re-marries, and as the usual family pattern continues, this lady, like the rest of his family, do not appear on any Old Parish Records and I can’t find a death or any evidence of her re-marrying. He continues to live at his father’s property on Muir Street which he inherited and is still here in 1841, this is at a time when he would probably be thinking about building his mansion at Castlehill Crescent.
James Wharrie re-married, to a girl called Margert Morley Drysdale who was the daughter of Major James Drysdale and Mary Watson Pew. Margaret was born on the 17th of August 1816 in Bothwell, and she was the eldest of her four sisters and two brothers. Margaret was 20 years younger than James.
Dr Wharrie started a family late in life and he was 55 years old before his first child had come along – I am assuming that due to his work commitments, starting a family was an after-thought and not high up on his list until he met Margaret Drysdale.
Avongrange House was built between 1855 and 1858 and the country mansion consisted of one Public Room, a separate Dining Room, six bedrooms, a large Kitchen and Offices which were presumably used for Dr Wharrie’s work.
Things were going well for Dr Wharrie, he was the Surgeon at the Hamilton prison (the prison was situated roughly where the roundabout is at ASDA) and not only did he have a highly paid job as a Doctor, he also had other income in the form of rents, raised from his properties that he owned around Hamilton. He owned two houses and four shop premises on Cadzow Street. He was happily married and now had his very own family which consisted of Thomas, James and John with another baby due to be born in October 1856.
The happiness of the new house at Avongrange on Castlehill Crescent was about to take a turn for the worse! His wife was due to have their fourth child and when little Margaret was born at 8:00am on the 26th of October 1856, sadly James’s wife Margaret died three hours later with complications during the birth. On a sadder note, James was the person who was present during the birth of his daughter, as he was the family doctor and he was also the doctor who certified his wife’s death.
When the 1861 census was taken, Dr Wharrie was living at Castlehill, and he had an adequate amount of staff living here, thus telling us a bit about his wealth. Living with Dr Wharrie were his three sons, Thomas JM Wharrie (10) James D Wharrie (8) and John B Wharrie (7) and his daughter Margaret Wharrie (4). He had a lady named Marion Williamson who was the children’s Nanny, he had a cook named Elizabeth Crawford, and finally he had a house maid that went by the name of Agnes Dobbie.
In 1864 Dr Wharrie was renting his house and shops at Cadzow Street to the following people:
• George Cooper, who was from Cumnock in Ayrshire, rented 58 Cadzow Street and he ran the shop as Tailor and Clothier business, he paid a total annual sum, of £24 and 7 shillings for the house and shop.
•James Keith, a Provost, and famous grocer and spirit merchant of Hamilton, was born in Edinburgh and rented the House and shop at 78 Cadzow Street. James Keith was using this premises as a grocer’s shop and was paying an annual sum of £45 & 5 Shillings. James Keith later became a councillor and his son Sir Henry Keith, followed in his father’s footsteps.
•The third premises consisted of a house and shop which was rented by J&T Thorburn who were confectioners and they were renting these premises for £17 & 3 Shillings.
•The fourth premises on Cadzow Street was a shop, which John Wilson was renting for £15 per annum, this shop may have been rented for a short space of time, as I am unable to find any records for this man.
•The fifth premises that was rented, was his family home that his father built on Muir Street, and the house which still stands today was rented by an Alex Henderson for the sum of £20 per annum. In today’s money, he would have a combined income of £14,616 or £1,218 per month, this in turn would have paid his mortgage at Avongrange, which was set at £95.00 per annum, or in today’s money £11,020 per year or £918.33 per month, this would have been a substantial amount of income as back then in 1864, when you think that the average coal miner earned 2/6 – 3/- per day.
Dr James Wharrie continued to work up until his death, he worked with the local judges of the Hamilton JP court which has been documented in many newspapers of the time. It was reported in the Glasgow Herald on the 2nd of November 1869, that he was present alongside John Meek Esq at the trial of a local man called Bernard Gourley, who was charged with keeping a dog without a licence and who was fined 25s. So, he was in fact a very well-known person in Hamilton.
Dr James Wharrie died at the age of 73 on the 1st of January 1871, at his house at Avongrange. He died at 6:00pm, the cause of death was recorded as Apoplexy or commonly now known as a Stroke. His oldest son Thomas was the person who registered the death.
After Dr James Wharrie died, all his children were still living at Avongrange House and Thomas was the head of the family at 20 years old. Thomas would have inherited a great deal of wealth from his father, as well as Avongrange and in 1871, he studied Law. Marion Williamson who was the children’s Nanny ten years before is still employed by the Wharrie’s and her title in the house now is a domestic servant, they also have one other domestic servant called Elizabeth Crawford living with them.
In 1881, Thomas and Margaret have both moved to Edinburgh, where Thomas is still studying Law and interestingly, they have Marion Williamson also living with them, she was their Nanny and is now their cook and Domestic Servant, this says a lot about the relationship that Marion had with the children, maybe she had taken on the role of their mother, as she was the only woman in the house, that had been there since their mother had died.
John Wharrie, is listed as the head of the house at Avongrange, he doesn’t seem to have a job, but is receiving an income from houses and interests in Hamilton. It would appear, that he is now solely benefiting from his father’s many years of hard work. The house is very large for just one person to be residing in, even though he does have a servant living there with him called Elizabeth Smellie, it wouldn’t be long now until the house at Avongrange leaves the ownership of the Wharrie family.
An advert appeared in the Glasgow Herald Wednesday the 9th of April 1879, and the house was up for let. It is unknown if this went ahead as John Wharrie is still living here in the year 1881. Avongrange remained in the ownership of Thomas Wharrie and it was leased out to various people throughout the years, one of the tenants being the Provost James Moffat. The house was eventually sold off between 1915 and 1920 to Sir Thomas Munro the County Clerk.
After their father’s death, the children of Dr James Wharrie all seem to leave the memories of Hamilton behind them, and when Avongrange is eventually let out they also leave everything behind. They were all born at Avongrange and lived in Hamilton their whole lives, but their father was the only person in the family who was respected, and it was all down to him for giving the Wharrie family the good and respected name that it held in Hamilton.
When Dr James Wharrie died, so did the respected family name and as the new generations of Hamiltonian’s had come and gone, the name Wharrie which was associated with Hamilton, was also gone and forgotten about. All that now stands as a reminder to this family, are the two grand houses, the first one built by Thomas Wharrie on Muir Street and the second house formerly known as Avongrange, where many Hamiltonian’s now enjoy a good Sunday dinner or Christmas and New Year party, which we now call ‘The Avonbridge Hotel’.
So, what happened to the rest of the Wharrie Family?
The Wharrie children all seem to have moved to Edinburgh, this may have been due to the eldest son Thomas studying Law and everyone going with him.
John Wharrie, after being the last to move out of Avongrange in 1881, moved to the house of his brother Thomas at 26 Inverleith Row. There he becomes unwell and dies of pneumonia. He died on the 26th of October 1884. His brother James is the person who registers his death.
James Wharrie also moves to Edinburgh and his occupation is a fund holder and living on his own means. He is still living off his inheritance and seems to have invested his money either in property or stocks and shares, and is receiving an income from this. In 1901, James is renting a room at 15 Atholl Crescent, which is also a few streets away from his brother Thomas, at Edinburgh’s West End. I have concluded that he moved to Edinburgh to look after his brother Thomas, as he is having mental health problems. Later, James pops up again, and I find him living his final days at 7 Castle Terrace which is also St. Marks Church, opposite Edinburgh Castle. He dies here, a single man on the 7th of May 1904. The cause of death is Pneumonia.
Thomas Wharrie the eldest son of James and as I mentioned moved to Edinburgh, residing at 26 Inverleith Row, which was a substantial family home in a very upper-class area of Edinburgh. He is having a tough time after his father’s death and is a frequent guest at various Lunatic Asylums. In 1891, he is an inmate at the Edinburgh Royal Asylum for the insane, this institute around this time was a private paying one, so he may have admitted himself and I must mention that he has an income and is living on his own means, so he is also like his brother James still living off the money that was left to him by his father. Sadly, Thomas like his brother, dies a single man on the 22nd of February 1915 at the Sunnyside Asylum for the insane in Montrose. It is unknown why he ended up over in Montrose.
I also found Thomas’s Obituary in the Hamilton Advertiser which was printed on the 27th of February 1915 it read:
“Obituary. —By the death on Monday at Montrose Mr Thomas J. Drysdale Wharrie. there has passed away and the last of the sons of the late Dr. Wharrie, who was well-known to a former generation of Hamiltonians. Dr. Wharrie was prison doctor in Hamilton up till the discontinuance of that institution in our midst. He built and occupied Avon Grange, presently the residence of Provost Moffat. Another link of the Hamilton bygone days has been surrendered.”
I had told you previously Margaret had moved with her brother Thomas to 26 Inverleith Row where she is living here in the year 1881. She then re-appears in the 1911 Census and is living at a place called Wallacehall in Glencairn, Dumfries. She is living with a family called McClelland and she is boarding with them. It is unclear as to why she is living with this family in such a far-away place from the likes of Edinburgh where her brothers were living, but one thing that is listed on the 1911 census is she is recorded as being of “Feeble Minded”.
There does seem to be a pattern evolving with the Wharrie children, but this could also be due to the complications of childbirth that killed her mother.
Again, another death close to her brothers, Margaret died on the 22nd of April 1916 at the house of the McClelland’s at Wallacehall. She died of heart failure and the person who registered her death was the owner of the house a Mr Thomas McClelland, his relation to her on the death certificate is ‘A Friend’.
Margaret’s obituary was printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on Sat 29th April 1916.
“The Late Miss Wharrie, the last we believe of a family well known to Hamiltonians of a generation ago has passed away in the death, on 22nd inst., Wallace Hall, Dunscore, of Miss Margaret Morley Drysdale Wharrie. She was the daughter of the late Dr. James B. Wharrie, who was prison doctor in Hamilton up till the discontinuance of that institution in our midst, and resided at Avon Grange, which he built. The funeral took place on Wednesday from Hamilton Central C.R. Station to the cemetery in Bent Road. Mr Thomas J. Drysdale Wharrie, who died at Montrose in February a year ago, was the last of the sons of the late Dr. Wharrie.”
It is still unknown to me as to why Margaret ended up living with this family in Glencairn, Dumfries, or what the connection to her was. There possibly was a connection to her aunty Rachel, who died here in 1872 so maybe a cousin? Margaret was the last of this well-known Wharrie family from Hamilton and when she died it was the end of an era.
THE HAMILTON TOLBOOTH 1642-1954
Like many towns in Scotland Hamilton had its very own tolbooth. The tollbooth in Hamilton was so grand that some thought it was a church. It was noted that in its day, this jail was one of the grandest jails in Scotland.4
The tolbooth was erected in the reign of Charles the First, around the year 1642, there is no actual exact date for the construction but the old tolbooth stood as a silent reminder of the days of long ago.
When the tolbooth was still standing in 1941 a newspaper account in the Hamilton Advertiser read “The vicinity of the jail has changed much since 1642, no doubt then it would be the civic centre of the town. Anyone having a look at it today can see evidence that the levels of the adjoining roadway have been raised more than once since its erection.”
The north-east corner had been splayed off and corbelled over when built. This would indicate that at the time of its being built there were other buildings very close to it and the splay on the corner would be made to give room for persons passing through. It would have been one picturesque feature still left of the ‘Old Hamilton’.
The old jail would was at the heart of the town and it sat between the Hamilton Palace and what we now know as the Old Town. To put things in to perspective, the old Jail sat on the land that now occupies the roundabout between Asda and the Museum and the Kids play park on the palace grounds.
Today if the jail was still standing, you could walk down Castle Street and see its imposing tower.
The old jail of Hamilton in 1642 was one of the most ornate buildings in the town and you would think that the men of Hamilton in 1642 must have loved a jail more than they loved a Kirk, but to be fair to our own fellow townsmen of that time, it should be noted that very likely Hamiltonians in 1642 would have no hand in the erection of the Jail. It was more than likely to have been built by foreign hands.
There was a French look about the building, in the time of the Stewarts there was much coming and going between France and Scotland and no doubt French artisans had a hand in the building of the old jail.
The Tolbooth acted as the most important building in the burgh as it was the council chamber, court house and jail. The town council fitted a clock in 1656 at a cost of £314-13s-8d (Roughly £23,777.47 in today’s money) and four years later, a further £45 was spent on a new Tolbooth bell, weighing 8 stones 8lbs.
In 1666 John Pate who was the town officer, was paid an annual salary of £30 “For keeping of the clock and ringing the bell” On the ground floor of the Tolbooth there were three booths, or shops, which were let annually, providing extra income for the burgh revenues.
Outside the Tolbooth were the burgh stocks where wrongdoers were padlocked by the ankles. In the year 1670, James Hamilton, a merchant, was “to be brought publicly to the market cross, and be laid in the stocks” for striking his parents and uttering “Vile and Unchristian expressions”.
The council chambers which were recognised by many throughout the nineteenth century were built in 1798 and this building joined on to the tolbooth and not only was it the council chambers, it was used as the court house and jail.
On the balcony of the old jail, the prisoners were shown to the abusive public and later on towards the end of the nineteenth century life inside the jail was not always without its comforts; visitors were allowed to bring food and drink and “Merry Parties” were held, with the compliance of the poorly paid jailers. However, for some it was a short last walk to the Gallowshill.
Accounts of life in the old jail make interesting reading. The penalties for what are now regarded as comparatively trivial offences were severe to the point of being vicious. There is a record of a woman “an Egyptian,” being convicted of the theft of wine and sentenced to death. One of her accomplices was ordered to be whipped “on the bare back.”
Capital sentences were carried out at the top of Muir Street, the Gallows being at what was variously known as “Doomster’s Hill,” Gallows Hill,” and the “Deil’s Elbow.” The location was roughly opposite the present site of the Bay Horse.
The tolbooth was the seat of “Justice” for not only Hamilton but for the whole of the old middle Ward of Lanarkshire. In addition, the offenders against criminal law who were dealt with, there was a proportionately large number of debtors. Public punishment was inflicted, and many a prisoner had the terrifying experience of being the target for sundry missiles from an angry crowd.
As stated there appears to have been no restriction on feasting and drinking and it was a commonplace to see bottles handed in and out without hindrance.
There was only one turnkey and hard labour was unknown. Indeed, the jailer seemed to regard his charges as decent fellows who ought not to be imposed upon any more than was absolutely necessary. His “coigne of vantage” was a shop he occupied under the belfry, from where he could see all that was going on.
Debtors in the jail led what was, in the circumstances, quite a jolly life, with eating, drinking, singing and dancing. Accepting their loose confinement with more than resignation, they showed little grief. Perhaps they were relieved whom they owed money.
Prisoners were, on occasion allowed out of the tolbooth for a walk or to attend a funeral. Some must have been favoured by the jailer, for it is on record that one so abused his privilege that the jailer threatened to lock him out if he persisted in returning late!
Figures available for the years 1823-1835 give an idea of the proportion of the prisoners in the tolbooth who were debtors. (The figures do not include all Hamilton offenders, however, as some were dealt with in Glasgow.) In 1823, of the total number of inmates, 45 were criminals and 50 were debtors. The following year debtors numbered the same, but there were five fewer criminals.
From then debtors tended to decline and criminals to increase. Only once in 1831, were there over 100 criminals, the number being 102. Then there were 48 debtors, an advance of 17 on the previous year. The following year saw an increase of six debtors, and a decrease of four criminals, but for the first half of 1835 debtors were reduced to a bare 23, with 61 criminals.
In 1835 it was reported that the building, although handsome in its day, had deteriorated and would “soon all be removed, except the steeple, town clock, and bell.”
Despite the rather farcically lax treatment of some prisoners, however, life in the tolbooth was grim. At long last it aroused public feeling and in 1839 the new court and prison was built in Beckford Street, leaving the tolbooth a rare relic of the days when law was sternly enforced.
Plans for the extensive alterations to the tolbooth and old council chambers in 1860 are still in existence. They show that a new clock face was to be installed and the upper part of the tower to be reconstructed. The plans were drawn up in the Hamilton Palace.
The first indication of the perilous state of the building was revealed in the summer of 1949 when a Hamilton man, who was examining a plaque fixed to the wall of the tolbooth (The plaque read: Drs Cullen and Hunter practiced in premises across the street) at its junction with the old council chambers fell through the ash footpath when it suddenly subsided. At this point the Cadzow Burn is conducted under the building by a culvert, and examination showed that this was in a very dangerous condition, probably due to mineral workings and also through erosion from the action of the Burn.
No sign of damage to the culvert had been apparent and it was reported to the Town council. Regret was expressed in the town council that the old Jail was doomed, the foundations having been damaged to such an extent by flooding that the building was liable to collapse.
Following this an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the building taken over as an ancient monument, the cost of the repair work being prohibitive. An inspection at the end of 1949 revealed that there were no signs of fracture in the stonework above ground level on the clock tower, although part of the foundation would require to be examined further when the jail was removed.
The tower five inches off the plumb in one direction and three inches in another. This did not mean however, that the building was not stable. It was anticipated that it would be possible to retain the tower.
The council made plans to underpin and strengthen the foundations of the tower as it was in a very bad state of repair and it was hoped that the remedial measures which are to be taken would prevent the need to demolish it.
A certain amount of the tolbooth wall was to be left to give the tower support and this was also going to be underpinned.
Messrs John C Burns of Larkhall were appointed the job of demolition of the old council chambers.
They were to carry out the work at the end of January 1951 weather permitted. As part of their contract they were allowed to take the stone, but it was not allowed to use again for building, it was to be used as rubble.
When the old council chambers were being taken down workmen discovered in the foundation stone, near a fireplace on ground level a Scroll on which was written, in meticulous and still-legible hand writing: “This Town House was built in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Eight. And in the Thirty-Eight year of the reign of His Majesty, King George the Third.” The scroll also contained the names of the civic dignitaries of the day.
It is unknown where this scroll is now kept, Hopefully in the Hamilton Museum.
Hamilton’s link with the old past comes to an end.
The Tolbooth was finally demolished on the morning of Thursday the 21st of January 1954 when a charge of 25 pounds of gelignite exploded at the base of the old tolbooth steeple and sent it tumbling to the ground.
Its fall was witnessed by scores of people, some of them within the Palace grounds and others at vantage points in Castle Street, Muir Street and even in Cadzow Street. To set the appropriate funeral note, one of the workmen climbed to the belfry and for about half-an-hour until 11:18 a.m. tolled the Bell. As this sound, has not been heard for several years, the attention of many more people than would have watched was attracted.
Those who saw the final touches being put to the preparations for the big bang included the Provost Mrs Mary s. Ewart, The Town Clerk (Mr James Kelly), the burgh surveyor (Mr James A. Whyte), senior police officers and a group of pupils from the Hamilton Academy, who were accompanied by the rector, Mr E. G. MacNaughton, M.A.
After everyone had been asked (and some persuaded) to go beyond the danger limits, a whistle blew at 11:43 a.m. Immediately came the deep-throated roar of the explosion. The base of the steeple, where a number of holes had been drilled to take the gelignite, was shattered instantly and within a few seconds the whole structure had crumbled before everyone’s eyes.
The steeple came to rest exactly where expected, with the weather vane which for so long had topped the proud and once-handsome tower at the foot of a small tree. It had been feared that the rubble might block the course of the adjoining Cadzow Burn and that part of the stone culvert might collapse with vibration, but only a little of the stonework entered the water, and the culvert remained intact. Surprisingly little rubble fell in Castle Street.
When the remains were examined immediately after the demolition, the clock bell was seen nesting among the masonry, and it was still intact. The bell bore the inscription “Thomas Mears, London. 1802.”
Close by were the shattered dials of the clock, with its cogs and wheels scattered around. Clear of the main mass was the weather vane, on which before the explosion a sparrow had alighted for a brief moment.
There was a plaque that was attached to the base of the tower commemorating the fact that Drs Cullen and Hunter practised in premises across the street was removed an hour before the demolition. (Hopefully this plaque is kept safe at the Low Parks Museum)
The bell from the Tolbooth was later earmarked to be installed at the Municipal Buildings (The Hamilton Town House & Library) as the old bell from the Townhouse was sold to a Glasgow firm. It is unknown if this actually did happen, or if the Bell went straight to the Hamilton museum.