Burnbank has existed in one form or another since at least the late fifteenth century when a grant of lands was made to Sir John Hamilton of Newton. A further grant of lands to Sir John Hamilton of Zhisselberry (which is later recorded as Whistleberry) also included the lands in and around Burnbank. At this time the extent of the area accepted as Burnbank included the modern districts of Whitehill and Hillhouse and the area around Peacock Cross on the Burnbank Hamilton border. Burnbank today consists of Burnbank Centre, Limetree & Udston.
Predominantly rural, with a number of plantations (Whistleberry Plantation and Backmuir Plantation being most prominent) to feed the lace industry in Burnbank and Hamilton which had been sponsored since before 1778 by the then Duchess of Hamilton, Elizabeth Campbell, 1st Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon.
With the Industrial revolution, Burnbank lost its rural identity becoming a mining village and the population of Burnbank had grown so great by the 1870s that a committee of citizens decided to apply for the erection of a Burgh of Burnbank. At the same time residents of Burnbank’s western neighbour Blantyre re-acted by petitioning for the erection of a Burgh of Blantyre. Both cases came before the Sheriff Court sitting at Glasgow. The Sheriff gave extra time for the petitioners for both causes to familiarise themselves with the arguments of their opponents and to respond in turn. The Provost and Burgess’s of the existing Burgh of Hamilton, alarmed at the prospect of one (or possibly both) petitions being successful and thus creating a heavily industrialised, modern and vibrant western rival in turn petitioned the parliament of the United Kingdom giving rise to the Burgh of Hamilton Act 1878.By this Act Burnbank was absorbed into Hamilton – ending its own burghal aspirations.
Prior to the nineteenth century agriculture and lace making were important local industries. Burnbank was home to a number of coalmines or pits. Miner’s cottages or “pit rows” were erected by mine owners to house their employees. Many of these were built by local builder Sir Robert McAlpine, 1st Baronet, early in his career and the foundation of his later wealth.
The Udston Mining disaster occurred in Hamilton, Scotland on Saturday, 28 May 1887 when 73 miners died in a firedamp explosion at Udston Colliery. Caused, it is thought, by unauthorised shot firing the explosion is said to be Scotland’s second worst coal mining disaster. Keir Hardie then Secretary of the Scottish Miners’ Federation, denounced the deaths as murder a few days later.
In August 1918 a fire at Albany Buildings (an apartment block owned by the mining company John Watson Ltd) burned to the ground causing £10,000 of damage and leaving 24 families homeless.
In September 1919 strike action in the Lanarkshire coal fields led to the closure of the Greenfield Colliery.
In May 1932 300 men at John Watson’s Earnock Colliery in Burnbank were thrown out of work because of “bad trace.”
In January 1935 Greenfield Colliery, Burnbank, became the last pit in Hamilton to shut permanently. Earnock Colliery also in Burnbank but out-with Hamilton’s boundaries continued working.
During the Second World War Burnbank suffered at least one attack by the Luftwaffe when a bomb was dropped on tenements (known locally as Sing-Sing) near the railway works on the Whitehill Road. In addition to mining a number of other medium-sized industrial concerns have operated within Burnbank including the Stevenson Carpet Factory, Burnbank, at which Jock Stein had his first job in 1935. This is recorded in the Hamilton Advertiser as opening a new factory worth £85,000 in 1958. MEA also operated a factory in the area for many years. A railway wagon cleaning works is located near Whitehill Road.