Walk down Lower Auchingramont Road, Hamilton, heading for Muir Street, and you will see on your left an industrial looking building, next to an Indian restaurant. On your right is a car park and, if you venture inside, you may notice a small headstone embedded in the wall.
The building is a former church, now used as an auction house but designed to hold seats for 1050 worshippers. The First Relief Congregational Church (United Presbyterian) owned the land down to the corner of Lower Auchingramont Road and Muir Street. Its burial ground was situated directly over the road from the church and contained over 300 graves.
The church was founded around 1776, funded by public subscription. A sum of £89 was raised, enough to erect a substantial stone building for its congregation. Although officially known as the First Relief Congregational Church, it became known simply as the Muir Street Relief. Later the congregation moved up to premises in Brandon Street, afterwards merging with St James Congregational Church in Auchingramont Road. This church was closed in 1966.
The original church building in Lower Auchingramont Road was taken over in the early twentieth century by the auction company, L. S. Smellie, which still operates from the premises. In October 1959, “The Hamilton Advertiser” reported “The old cemetery behind the Town Hall has long been an eyesore with its broken tombstones overgrown by weeds. But soon it may be quite an attractive spot.” The Town Council approved plans to convert the area into a small rest garden with summer seats and flower beds. “The tombstones that are in good condition will be placed round the walls.”
Sadly, the plans came to nothing and in 1963 the Council petitioned the Scottish Development Department for permission to move the burials to the Bent Cemetery for re-interment. The S. D. D. stipulated that “where the tombstones, monuments etc are destroyed, a suitable plaque be erected”. All the tombstones, monuments etc do indeed seem to have been destroyed, except for one small headstone embedded in the wall of the car park which replaced the burial ground. A plaque was erected in the Bent Cemetery to mark where the remains were re-buried.
A lair plan (names only) and a list of the names of those reinterred at the Bent Cemetery is available for inspection at Hamilton Central Library. Due to current Covid regulations, the local history collection is unavailable for inspection and it is recommended that anyone interested in this burial ground should phone in advance.