Thursday, 12 September 2013


It was in 1732 that James Douglas-Hamilton, the Fifth Duke of Hamilton commissioned William Adam to build him a new hunting establishment on his estate near Glasgow. While William Adam dryly referred to it as 'The Dogg Kennel', the Duke envisaged 'a jewel in the landscape' and a jewel is what he got.

 Built from local pink sandstone, two identical pavilions stand on either side of an imposing central gateway. They are connected by an elegant screen wall, decorated by a scalloped parapet, topped with ball finials. Sited on the top of a hill it was designed to be the culmination of a vista at the end of an avenue of lime trees to be seen from Hamilton Palace one and a half miles away, the grandest house in Scotland. Or rather it was the grandest house in Scotland before its' demolition by the family in 1920.

Both the name and its architecture conjure up images of France rather than South Lanarkshire. The French title Duc de Chatelherault was bestowed on James Hamilton, the Second Earl of Arran in 1584 as reward for his part in the marriage negotiations between Mary Queen of Scots and Francois the Dauphin of France.

The east pavilion housed the hunt staff, the duke's hounds and his favorite hunters.The west pavilion was where the duke entertained his guests in the banqueting hall, with two smaller rooms,one each for the duke and duchess to retire to. These exquisite rooms  are filled with light having windows on both sides and decorated with a palette of pale blues, creams and greens to create a gorgeous airy effect.

The plaster work was by Thomas Clayton,  the finest  craftsman in this field of his day. The plaster stucco made from a mixture of powdered marble, chalk, egg white and white goat hair depicts the four seasons, bacchanalian feasting and hunting.    

The banqueting hall was designed to house the duke's panting The Fifth Duke of Hamilton's Grey Racehorse Victorious at Newmarket, by John Wootton, painted before the room was completed. A photographic copy replaces it today, the original being in an American collection.

After Hamilton Palace was demolished in 1920, the Douglas-Hamiltons withdrew from their ancestral estates and moved east. The family began quarrying for sand in front of their old hunting lodge causing subsidence, and leaving it to fall into a ruinous state. Vandals caused further damage by setting it on fire. Only after the death of the Fourteenth Duke in 1973 was it that the family halted the desecration and the quarrying was stopped, only yards from the front of the building.The fate of this exquisite building brings to mind King Creosote's words, "scorn heaped upon treasure." In this instance the owners were certainly not the best custodians of a building of the greatest importance. The High Park of Hamilton, including Chatelherault, the Avon Water Gorge and the Cadzow Oaks, to with the Low Parks, including the family mausoleum were handed over to the state in lieu of death duties.

 In 1979 Historic Scotland stepped in and undertook the restoration of Chatelherhault. Even so, the subsidence proved to be irreversible and has left such a slope that even the most sober visitor will feel nauseous as this blogger did. Unfortunately while they painstakingly restored the West Lodge so well, they sanctioned the gutting of the stables and the kennels to replace them with as dreadful a cafeteria, 'museum' and gallery of the mundane as one could find anywhere, about which, the less said the better.