On the 2nd of January 2017, I published the story of the Hamilton Tolbooth. During my research, I found that the bell from the Tollbooth, was salvaged from the demolition of the historic building, that was first built in Hamilton in 1642. The bell was recovered and it then disappeared, with its whereabouts unknown.
That was until July this year, where after I made a few enquires, I managed to track down the link to Hamilton’s past that still survives and I am happy to say is still in Hamilton.
Firstly, let me tell you about the demolition of the Tolbooth Bell Tower, and my reason for going on the hunt for the Tolbooth Bell. The last surviving section of the Old Hamilton Jail was the bell tower wherein 1954, it was demolished for safety reasons when a man, who was looking at an inscription on the wall, suddenly fell through the red ash gravel that was beneath his feet.
The Cadzow Burn, which ran through a culvert, had started to come close to the foundations of the bell tower due to erosion and underground mine workings. After an investigation from a council official – who made a quick decision, deemed the bell tower unsafe and there was a possibility that it could subside and collapse. A decision was made at the time to demolish the old tower, but after further tests were done, it turned out that the tower was in a sound condition and it could be prevented from being demolished. There was an attempt made to have the building taken over as an ancient monument, but the cost of the repair work being prohibitive.
As you can imagine, this would have cost the Hamilton town council money, and as it was cheaper to demolish the historic building, they pushed ahead and approved the demolition and a date was set.
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.
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 bell tower crashed to the ground, all the locals – including the children, ran to it and they started to take little souvenirs from the 312-year-old building.
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.”
I discovered that 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 was unknown if this did happen, or if the bell went to the Hamilton Museum. This got me wondering what has happened to the bell.
The bell was never documented where it went – I made a few enquires, firstly at the Hamilton Town House and then at the Museum, where no one knew about the story of the Old Hamilton Tolbooth Bell. I was left thinking that the bell was taken from the demolition site and its whereabouts lost forever.
I thought it would be worthwhile going back to the Hamilton Town House and asking if a trained member of staff could have a look in its bell tower to see if it was there, and a few weeks later and much to my delight, I received a message on our Facebook page telling me that it was found.
The link to Hamilton’s past has been discovered at the Hamilton Town House and to confirm it is the same Bell from the Hamilton Tolbooth, the Inscription reads “Thomas Mears London 1802”. It appears that after the demolition of the Tolbooth, someone in the Hamilton Town Council made the correct decision to house the old bell in the Townhouse.
I am really pleased that the bell has been discovered, but now I know it is here, it has got me thinking about its historical significance to Hamilton!
I am asking myself, should the old bell from the Hamilton Tolbooth, which is now 215 years old, be sitting open to the elements?
The Hamilton Tolbooth and its bell tower were another lost piece of Hamilton’s rich history, which was taken away from us and the more things that we can find to tell the story of Hamilton’s past should be preserved and looked after.
I now would like to see the bell removed from the Bell Tower of the Townhouse, restored and put on display at the Hamilton Museum. In modern-day Hamilton and to the best of my knowledge, the Townhouse building doesn’t have any need for a bell and if there was a need for bells ringing, then surely a loudspeaker could be housed in the tower.
In the meantime, perhaps an arrangement could be made with the Hamilton Townhouse to ring the bell one day and let the people of Hamilton hear a sound that all of our Ancestors regularly heard from the year 1812 onwards.
Written by Garry McCallum
Historic Hamilton.


German School kids Hamilton Grammar February 1974.WWM.jpg

In February 1974 Sixteen young German School pupils of the Albert Schweitzer school in Hofgeisamar, were guests of the Provost Robert Sherry at the Town House.
Accompanied by their teacher Mrs Erika Wiemer, and Miss D. Chalmers of the language department of Hamilton Grammar School, they were entertained to afternoon tea and shown some of Hamilton’s civic treasures.
The pupils were in Hamilton in 1974 on a three-week exchange with pupils of Hamilton Grammar School.
A party of Hamilton Grammar pupils were to also spend June in Hofgeismar. This exchange had been taking place between the two schools since 1956.
Were you one of the Pupils that was lucky enough to go on the Trip to Germany? If you were, then tell us all about it.


Accies & Whitehill Pipeband.

Hamilton honoured their champions in May 1986 when the district council held a civic reception and dinner to mark Hamilton Accies achievement in winning the Scottish first division title.
Accies Fan..JPG
Accies players and officials paraded the trophy through the streets from Douglas Park to the Town Hall, where a crowd of over 1000 people were waiting to greet them. The provost of the time Sam Casserly spoke of the club’s achievement, as did Ian Gellalty, president of the Scottish League.
The trophy was then displayed to the crowd from the Town hall Balcony before the players and other guests went inside to dinner. After the dinner, Mr Casserly passed on the district councils congratulations to the club and he presented the chairman Jan Stepek with an inscribed Silver Salver.
Hamilton’s Labour MP George Robertson also spoke and commented: “After six years of opposition it’s lovely to be on the winning side!” George Robertson added “The success of Hamilton Accies is a success for the whole community of Hamilton. This will do much for the reputation and image of the area.”
Accies Bus..JPG
Accies manager John Lambie and managing director David Morrison thanked the council on behalf of the club.
Jan Stepek, Accied cup win..JPG
Mr Stepek then presented a mirror bearing the Club Crest to the Council. A highlight of the afternoon was a recording of two songs written by supporters Dave Marshall and Jim Irons to honour the club’s performance.
Accies Crowd..JPG
Did you attend the parade in May 1986? If you did, then let us know or even better, Share your pictures.