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