Chatelerhault Country Park and Hamilton Mausoleum



Hamilton Tartan

The Hamiltons have been a significant family in lowland Scotland since the 13th Century. Probably descended from a Norman knight, Walter Fitz Gilbert who came from Hambledon in Northumberland and was given lands in Renfrewshire, the Lothians and the Barony of Cadzow in South Lanarkshire by Robert the Bruce (1274-1329). King James II (1430-1460) permitted Cadzow to be renamed Hamilton in 1445. The family includes the Dukes of Hamilton and Abercorn and the Earls of Arran and Haddington, together with numerous baronies and baronetcies. The Dukedom of Hamilton was first created in 1643.

The Dukes of Hamilton are the pre-eminent nobles of Scotland and are the country's most senior aristocrats. The seat of the Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon are situated at Lennoxlove, once named Lethington, near Haddington, 25 miles south east of Edinburgh. It was acquired by the 14th Duke of Hamilton in 1946 and remains a splendid setting for the famous Hamilton Palace collection of furniture and paintings as well as mementoes of Mary Queen of Scots.

The present owner of the estate is Angus Alan Douglas-Hamilton, the 15th Duke of Hamilton who was born 13th Sept 1938 and acceded on 30th March 1973 when his father Douglas died. His heir is Alexander, Marquess of Douglas born 31 March 1978. The Clan Hamilton are somewhat connected to the Douglas Clan due to the fact that the daughter of the Duke of Hamilton married the Earl of Selkirk, William Douglas. The Dukedom remains with the Hamiltons however, as the Duke is chief of Hamiltons, not Douglases. 

Hamilton Family Motto


Chatelherault (Shat-ler-oh) Country Park, situated eleven miles south-east of Glasgow  was formally opened by the HRH the Duke of Gloucester in 1987 and since then it has attracted over 5 million visitors from the U.K. and all around the world. The park was part of the estates of the Duke of Hamilton, run from Hamilton Palace, just to the north, which is now demolished. 

The name "Châtelerhault" derives from a French title bestowed upon James Hamilton (1516-75), the 2nd Earl of Arran, in 1548, and subsequently passed down through the family.

Covering an area of 500 acres along 2.5 miles of the Avon Gorge between Larkhall and Hamilton, it lies near Ferniegair village. Wander along the ten miles of footpaths and amid such tranquillity you may find it difficult to believe that you are in the middle of a major tourist attraction visited by around 400,000 people each year.

White cattle under Cadzow Oaks

Architecturally, the main points of interest are Chatelherault Hunting Lodge, Hamilton Mausoleum and Cadzow Castle. It was around the Castle that the Hamilton family began grazing their distinctive cattle in medieval times. Today's herd, known as the White Park breed are the direct descendants of these animals which used to be hunted on special occasions. The ruins of Cadzow castle, perched above the Avon Gorge, was a royal residence until the time of Robert the Bruce and the place where Mary Queen of Scots stayed before the Battle of Langside (1568) can still be seen from Chatelherault.

One of the ancient Oaks

The venerable Cadzow oak trees are sometimes claimed to be part of the Caledonian Forest which once covered the entire country. Some people say they were planted by King David I who died in 1153 AD. Ring measurement techniques suggest they date from 1444. Still a respectable age by any standards, and they are still in a reasonably healthy state.


Hamilton Palace -  built 1695, demolished 1921

After the death of James, the first Duke of Hamilton, the title passed to his brother William. William died as a result of the wounds that he received during the Battle of Worcester (1651) and the estate was administered by Duchess Anne (1632-1716). She was a remarkable administrator and the good fortune of the Hamiltons, at that time, was entirely due to her, many of the Hamilton men proving to be rather weak and ineffectual. The intention was to create a 'landscape folly', an important element within one of the most ambitious landscaping schemes in Europe. The centrepiece was the sumptuous Hamilton Palace with its 260-ft classical facade and an interior that housed one of the finest art collections in Britain.

The south front of the palace was erected in 1695 by James Smith and in 1707, as part of the ‘Great Design’ of Duchess Anne, it was extensively redesigned and enlarged. She did, however, not live to see the completion of her ideas. It was left to her grandson James, the 5th Duke of Hamilton, to engage the famous Scottish architect William Adam in the 1740's, who completed the state-rooms which included sumptuous stucco-work. The north front with it's grand portico work was completed in 1842 by David Hamilton for Alexander, the 10th Duke (1767-1852).

The Hamilton Palace picture gallery

The north front was 265 feet long and 60 feet high, adorned with a splendid Corinthian portico of monolithic columns 25 feet high and 10 feet in circumference, modelled on the temple of Jupitor Stator at Rome.. The interior was filled with art treasures, furniture, pictures, statutory, china and glass - but in 1882 they were auctioned for £397,562, a notable price for those days.

In addition to the priceless works of art, there was a Great Gallery leading to the ambassadorial throne from St Petersburg. The great black marble door of the hall supported by two columns of green porphyry were unique in Europe. The two porphyry columns which came from from the Church in St Georgia in Viterbo had originally formed an ornament to the Basilica di Semproneo, one of the most celebrated in Ancient Rome.

The Great Hall was truly grand in its conception and its decoration of carved beams supported by 16 fluted pillars with capitals, all of polished black sandstone. Its floor was paved with Sienna and black marble; the hall was dominated by a huge bronze bust of the Duke. The steps, balustrades and rails of the Great Staircase were all of pure black Galway marble.   The landing was supported by two colossal figures of bronze and the floor was of black marble, the walls of polished sandstone.

Hamilton Palace's library

 It became the grandest seat in Scotland and it's demise was a sad loss to Scottish architecture. Many years of mining operations had caused dangerous subsidence and it's condition was deemed to be unsafe. Ironically the Hamilton's wealth was largely built on the mining of the rich coal seams under their lands, but this proved to be the Palace's undoing as coal was removed from underneath it. 

Equally, large and ostentatious houses had fallen from fashion and the cost of upkeep had become prohibitive. It had been used as a naval hospital during WW1 and by the time it was returned in 1919, it's fate was sealed. The Palace was finally demolished in 1921 after another massive sale of it's contents and fittings.

In the surrounding estate, the great avenue of trees, the Hunting Lodge and the Duke's Mausoleum all remain as a reminder of past grandeur.


Chatelherault is in fact a magnificent Hunting Lodge designed and built between the years 1732 and 1744 by celebrated architect William Adam (1689-1748) for the 5th Duke of Hamilton who also held the French title "Duc de Châtelherault". Adam referred to it as "the dog kennels of Hamilton", and part of the building was actually used as kennels, stables and estate buildings.

The Hunting Lodge

 Deliberately erected for effect at the end of an imposing Grand Avenue stretching from Hamilton Palace towards the north it was built as an extensive and expensive folly mainly to create a magnificent view from the palace. The whole structure used for the Duke’s hunting in the High Parks area. An extravagant and expensive reminder of the wealth and power of the Hamilton family in these days.

Although, from a distance, Chatelherault gives an impression of grandeur it is, in reality a large wall with two buildings, one at each side. The property is only one room thick and the whole is lavishly decorated with scalloped walls, ball finials and ornate urns. All the hallmark of its architect William Adam. Behind the property lies a formal garden or par-terre and courtyard.

After the second world war Chatelherault fell into serious disrepair and the Banqueting Room was virtually destroyed in the 1960s by vandalism and arson. After the death of the 14th Duke in 1973 the property of Chatelherault, and part of the High Parks, was given in lieu of death duties (tax) and a ten year restoration programme was commenced.

The approach to the lodge

Renovation which is now complete, has been extensive and in keeping with both the character and original purpose of the building. The present brochure for Chatelherault states that it included :-- "The re-instatement of the elaborate rococo interiors in the West Lodge. These replaced the original work of Thomas Clayton, which was rightly regarded as an outstanding example of the craft . The themes of hunting, feasting and the seasons of the year are displayed in a profusion of decoration, with portrayals of Roman gods, Baccus and Diana, in the ceiling panels of the Banqueting Room and the Duke’s Apartment."

Aerial View of the Hunting Lodge

Every year, many thousands of visitors appreciate the beauty of the craftsmanship. The reinstated facade and interiors, the grandeur of the banqueting hall and the elegance of the gardens as they regain their original glory.

One of the beautiful original gardens

The whole property forms the centre piece of a Country Park with pathways and woodland walks. Behind the building is a new visitor centre with displays, a shop, a café and a conference and function suite. The whole restoration has, undoubtedly, saved this unusual building for posterity and now forms the focal point of a very pleasant day out.

Chatelherault Metal Men

A new and welcome feature is the 'metal men' sculpture which was erected in 2013. It features three local heroes L: R Left to right, David Livingstone, William Wallace, Robert Owen.

The men are part of the national cycling route that eventually stretch the 86 miles to Carlisle on the Scottish border. It runs through the park from Strathclyde Park and recently they have widened the public footpath on the road between Chatelherault and Larkhall, providing a pedestrian and cycle track. 

The men are in a concrete base with a timber seat in front are cut out by a laser. The metal is allowed to rust similar to the Angel of the North sculpture in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.



 Building of the Mausoleum was started by David Hamilton in 1842 and completed by David Bryce and Alexander Richie in 1858 and was built for the 10th Duke of Hamilton as a family chapel and tomb. Designed in a grand style it has been described as "an extraordinary work of architectural sculpture rather than a building". No wonder it is nicknamed "Il Magnifico". Its dome is 120 feet high, (as high as Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square, London) and there is a fine mosaic floor and large bronze doors.

Situated  to the North of Hamilton Palce (in it's day), the Duke put a great deal of thought into the planning of what was to be the resting place for himself and his family in perpetuity. The cost of the whole venture was 130,000 pounds. Equivalent to many millions of pounds at today’s values.

Built from huge blocks of local sandstone, that neatly dovetail into each other, the precision of the stonework is a tribute to the skill of the craftsmen who built it. Indeed in the whole building only one ton of lime was used, making the joints extremely neat. Essentially the structure is in three parts. 1. The impressive dome. 2. The dado level which is highly plastered and panelled. 3. The vaulted basement in which the crypt is placed.

The Hamilton Mausoleum

The main features of the building are an enormous cupola; massive bronze doors modelled on those of the Baptistry in Florence; an octagonal chapel guarded by stone lions; an Egyptian sarcophagus crowning a marble pedestal. The Duke didn't believe in doing things by halves..!!


The entrance to the crypt is through the middle of the three arches facing east as was the custom. The Duke, a specialist buyer of artefacts for the British Museum was an expert in Egyptian culture and much of the design of his Mausoleum incorporates Egyptian ideas or themes. The three entrances to a tomb, two being false, being one of them.

Above each arch are beautifully carved heads. These were carved by the famous Scottish Sculptor Alexander Handyside Ritchie (The Sculptor of ‘The Wee Wallace’ in King St. Stirling.) and they represent Life, Death and Immortality. While all three were carved of the same stone, "Life" and "Death" have worn away quite markedly, while "Immortality" is still fresh and bold.

         Life                                           Death                                  Immortality

The Carvings above the Crypt Gates

"Life" wears a garland of fruit and flowers and the face is lined with the cares and worries of life. The clock hands point to noon, the mid point of existence. "Death" is crowned with poppy heads, representing everlasting sleep, and the finger is over the lips for silence. The eyes are closed in the 'sleep that knows no waking'. "Immortality" presents as a great a contrast to the other two. The face is beautiful and the head is crowned with lilies and circles with a serpent with its tail in its mouth. The whole representing eternity. Above the centre of the forehead is a butterfly, the Greek symbol for immortality.

Above the three arches featuring the heads sit two massive lions (also by Handyside Ritchie). Each is carved out of a single block of sandstone and weighs so much that it took 24 very large Clydesdale horses to haul them into position. The one on the left is wide awake while the one on the right is sleeping. 

A series of stone steps lead into the crypt itself. Nowadays lit by electric light it was, in the Dukes time lit by 25 candles all round walls and the central pillar. The original candle brackets are still in situ. A central pillar holds up the vaulted arches and the visitor is immediately struck by how new and fresh the stonework looked. Each chisel mark looks as if it had just been struck. This is accounted for by the fact that it is rarely exposed to light, atmosphere or moisture

The room is square with four large spaces at each corner, presumably for the more prestigious family members, and the three sides facing the door providing 28 single niches to take the bodies of the other family members. Alexander had not even planned to be with them, he had the whole of the upstairs quarters to himself.

Early in 1852 Alexander had his relatives brought from the old churchyard of the 15th century church and had them re-interred in the crypt. Their new resting place was only to last until 1921 when, because of fears the Mausoleum might collapse because of mine workings, all Hamilton bodies (Except the 11th and 12th Dukes who were transferred to Arran) were interred in the Bent Cemetery in Hamilton. The mausoleum sank 5.5m (18 feet), but surprisingly still stands.


 The west entrance is the Chapel entrance. This doorway once was graced by the most magnificent doors of solid cast bronze. Each door weighing one and a half tons, was designed by Sir John Steel and cast in the Edinburgh works of James Milne. Magnificent in their casting they are facsimiles of the gates of Ghiberti to be found in the Baptistry of Florence. They were removed to the inside of the building, earlier this century, as their extreme weight was causing the building to sink

It was the intention of the 10th Duke that the chapel would be used for worship but the closing of the present large oak doors, while not apparently as dramatic as the closing of the solid bronze doors, immediately shows the unsuitability of the place as a place of worship. The remarkable echo makes it sound as if the place is about to fall down. With a reverberation period of about 15 seconds this building has the longest echo in any building in this Europe.

The chapel is full of surprises other than the echo. There are four ‘whispering alcoves’. In each you can whisper quietly into one corner and your partner can hear you with normal clarity in the other over a distance of about twelve feet.

Reverse view of the Mausoleum

The floor too is a revelation. A huge mosaic of dozens of different types and shapes of marble laid in intricate and complex design covers the whole area and, although perfectly flat, it gives a distinct illusion of being dome shaped in imitation of the main dome situated some 100 feet above. It is in fact exactly the same size as the glass dome in the ceiling of the building. Around the edge the marble has been meticulously laid to give the illusion of a stairway. Jacobs Ladder maybe, the "stairway to heaven."

Opposite the door of the chapel is an other imposing feature of the building. A most enormous plinth built of solid black marble, upon which once sat an Egyptian sarcophagus on the lid of which was the representation of an Egyptian princess.

Alexander the 10th Duke, who was a buyer for the British Museum, presumably, bought this Sarcophagus on one of his expeditions to Egypt. Not for a trophy or for show, he earmarked it for himself. Various theories abound how the Duke came to fit into the coffin which was eight inches smaller than himself, these include the chiselling out of it's interior and also the 're-arranging' of the Duke's legs with a sledge hammer..!!


Cadzow Castle is located on the banks of the River Avon Water, 2 miles south east of Hamilton centre, in the grounds of Chatelherault Country Park in South Lanarkshire Council Area. Under the ownership of Historic Scotland, Cadzow Castle was a built in the 13th century and acted as a royal residence for Alexander II and Alexander III. During the time of Robert Bruce it passed to the Hamilton family. Today all that remains are the ruined remains of the keep. Traditionally it is claimed that this was the hunting lodge of the ancient kings of Strathclyde.

During her short tempestuous life Mary had several connections with the area. James Hamilton (3rd Baron Hamilton) was rewarded with the French Dukedom of Châtelherault after supporting Mary's marriage to the Dauphin. The Duke was an adept political schemer, and as Regent he had an eye to the Scottish throne.At one time he tried to have his son marry Mary. Mary would later wed another local man, her third husband the Earl of Bothwell, the alleged mastermind behind the assassination of her second husband Lord Darnley.

The ruins of Cadzow Castle - currently under excavation

This scandal led to Mary's imprisonment in the bleak island fortress on Loch Leven. She was forced to abdicate before she broke out and found her way to Cadzow Castle. What must her thoughts have been as she walked among the oak trees in the castle grounds? They are still there, the Cadzow oaks. Alive and growing, these silent witnesses to history are just a few of the fascinating sights to be seen throughout Hamilton District.

Looking down on the River Avon from the Dukes Bridge just below Cadzow Castle

During  a recent the dig, entire rooms were found underneath the ruins and a whole host of 16th century artefacts including floor tiles, a coin dated 1559 and an ancient board game were uncovered.
Historic Scotland has commissioned two further excavations on the site with the aim of opening the castle to the public within the next five years.


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