Lost Graveyards – Old Meikle Earnock

Meikle Earnock Old Burial Ground lies between Millgate Road and Neilsland Road, Hamilton. Close by is a Roman tumulus. In the 18th century, the town cemetery and parish church of Hamilton were located on the site of the modern Strathclyde Park, close to the Mausoleum. In the 1730s, the 5th Duke of Hamilton commissioned William Adam to design a new north face for Hamilton Palace. To make space for the enlarged frontage, the local landowners agreed to demolish the old church and rebuild it on the site of the annual cattle fair and adjacent to an existing burial ground. The burials associated with the old parish church were re-interred in the graveyard and the headstones reinstated.

Meikle Earnock is a village two miles south west of the town of Hamilton. The lands of Meikle Earnock were acquired by the Strang family around 1654. In 1731 and perhaps as a reaction to the Duke’s having flattened the old parish church and disturbed the sleepers in the graveyard, James Strang, ‘Laird of Meikle Earnock’, enclosed an area of ground as a burial ground for his family and the feuars of the village.

Map showing burial ground 1864 [Image courtesy NLS]

Later, another family member erected a mausoleum within the walls of the burial ground for the use of his family and their descendants, in the shape of an octagonal tower. The condition of the mausoleum deteriorated over the years but it was restored in 1885 by the then owner. Vandals however descended on the building shortly afterwards, breaking down the door and protective boarding over the windows, and knocking over headstones in the burial ground.

Hand-written burial record

A Closing Order was granted in 1910 to shut down the cemetery and stop any further burials there. A photo from ‘The Pictorial Review’ shows a miner during the 1926 General Strike restoring headstones and tidying up the grounds, the inscriptions still clearly visible on the stones shown in the photograph.

Restoring the headstones in 1926 [Image: courtesy Pictorial Review]

The expansion of Hamilton’s population drove the need for housing on the periphery of the town, and estates began to be built in areas like Meikle Earnock. When planning consent was granted for an estate there, the site of the old burial ground was kept clear and left as open ground. Headstones are likely to remain under the surface of the site. A local history society, with professional supervision, might yet be able to reveal the identities of the old villagers of Meikle Earnock.

[My thanks to the Hamilton Town House Library (Information Services) for all their help researching this article.]

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