AN HISTORICAL SKETCH
By BROTHER WILLIAM STEWART, A.L.A.
The Burgh of Hamilton is a very old township, which until the beginning of the fifteenth century was named Cadzow. The Town muniments, [title deeds and other legal documents] however, contain practically no records of the Town’s affairs even after it attained burgh status sometime during the early fifteenth century. The early Town Council minutes and transactions have completely disappeared, possibly through the circumstances which necessitated the removal of the town records to succeeding Town Houses. There exists a marked similarity between the early history of Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning, No. 7 and that of the Burgh of Hamilton. Through the centuries No. 7 Lodge, like the Town Council, has had three homes and, like the Town Council, cannot produce documents relating to its precise beginnings. A number of documents do, however, exist which can indicate a reasonable start to a short historical outline. It should be emphasised that some considerable research has still to be carried out before a complete historic survey of the Lodge history may be produced. These notes are, therefore, merely an introduction to a topic as yet unwritten, and are an attempt to cover the most interesting periods of the Lodge history.
The earliest extant document in the Lodge muniments is a bond dated 1695 but a later document dated 1709, headed ‘ List of Fellows of Craft, or Masters and Entered prentices masons of the Lodge of Hamilton ‘, gives a note of all the Lodge members at that date and quotes dates of their admission. Opposite the names of two master masons, John Robertoun, Sheriff Clerk and David Crawford, Seery, is a note which states ‘ admitted 27 Dece. 1693 ‘. It may be reasonably assumed that the Hamilton Lodge was instituted during the year 1693 or at least some short time prior to 1693.
Meetings of the Lodge in its early days were held in houses of the brethren, with special meetings and occasions in the inns of the town. As the eighteenth century progressed the need for a permanent meeting place became a topic of prime importance and at a general meeting of the Lodge of 3rd February 1742 a committee was appointed ‘ to purchase a convenient piece of Ground for them, in order to built a Lodge .’ Action followed quickly and by May of the same year Robert Ralston, a writer in Hamilton, offered to sell his tenement of houses and yeard lying next to Thomas Dinnings house at the pryce of one hundred pound Ster. On 2nd December 1742 negotiations were completed.
To raise funds towards the purchase of the Lodge buildings a decree was obtained from the Justices of the Peace to enforce payment of arrears of moneys owing to the Lodge, while at the same time the Boxmaster (the treasurer) was directed forthwith to cause intimatt [intimated] to the haill [all] Lodges Debtors to make payment of their money against the new terme precisely and ordain him to doe Exact Diligence att that terme against all those who shall fault in their payment without Exception ‘. Within the tenement lot acquired by the Lodge were a stable, a brewhouse and four houses. On an inspection of the property, however, it was revealed that major repairs were required: the stable required timber repairs to the roof, the four houses required re-thatching and the feu [a feudal form of rent now abolished] wall required re-building. The Lodge finally decided to demolish part of the old tenement and to build new accommodation. Two members of the Lodge, William Miller and David Weir, were then deputed to draw a plan of a proper house with offices, the building to be two stories high with garrets and the cost to be six hundred merks. By 1748 the Lodge building was just being built; its situation is described as ‘ the house belonging to their Lodge in Hamilton fronting to the fore Street (i.e. High Street) of Hamilton and bounded on the South by the Cross belonging to the said tenement ‘. By January 1749 consideration was being given to the completion of the Lodge in that ” the Large Hall in the Said house to be plaistered on the Rooff ” and the final cost was to be One hundred and three pounds, three shillings and eightpence. Thatched cellars and coalhouses were subsequently added at a further cost of twenty-nine pounds ten shillings Scots. By 1750 the Lodge building was completed and in use.
The first Building of the Hamilton Lodge was situated in the old High Street of Hamilton, near to the old Cross of the Hietoun. In later years land was required for the extension of grounds for Hamilton Palace and with the acquisition of that land the old High Street, with its Masonic Lodge and the old Cross of Hamilton were completely wiped out.
Around the period of the construction of the first Lodge building a number of the brethren were notable people in the town. John Robertoun of Earnock belonged to a notable family which had held Earnock Estate for many centuries and who were, in Covenanting times, supporters of the Covenant. John Cook, physician in Hamilton, was a widely travelled man of his day: his published autobiography is on the shelves of Hamilton Public Libraries. There also appear the names of Hamilton of Bamcluith, Hamilton of Dailyel (Dalziel), Hamilton of Rapeloch, James Naesmith, Chirurgian and the Laird of Woodside, who is entered in the minutes merely as ‘ Woodside ‘. On 6th October 1749 Thomas Whiting, Quarter Master, and John Kent, Sergeant, in General Blund’s Regiment of Dragoons were received as entered apprentices. In 1755 His Grace James, the 6th Duke of Hamilton, was Master of the Lodge of Hamilton. On the other hand some quite lowly men were also members of the Lodge of Hamilton: there appear in a number of old documents some forms of initials or marks and underneath a statement such as ‘ The mark of James Forrest’.
The eighteenth century is an interesting period of the Lodge history and indeed is closely related to the social history of the town. The members of that day were zealously careful of their standing and character and in their insistence on observance of the laws of the lodge. Common occurrences are reprimands to brethren acting in an un-masonic manner; resolutions for the guarded and careful scrutiny of applicants seeking admission to the Lodge are numerous. In 1768 the Lodge considers that many entries are made without proper inquiry into the character of the persons entered, 4 some members are admitted that are so unworthy that the Lodge may be at a loss how to be quit of them ‘. In December 1774 there again appears, ‘ The meeting appoint and ordain that for the future no person shall be admitted member of this Lodge till such times as the Master… be acquainted therewith and be fully satisfied with his or their character… and those members who shall transgress in admitting these persons shall be liable to such a fine as shall be thought proper and fitting…’. Persons applying for entry and who resided three miles furth of Hamilton had to be examined with the greatest of care and diligence.
In 1783 John Burns was expelled from the Lodge — so were his sponsors. In December 1790 James Watt is ordered to appear before the Lodge to answer for his conduct and that if he fail to appear, he will be expelled. Some years later Brother James Gregg proposed his son William for admission. Enquiry brought out that James Gregg had been in Tolbooth [a jail] for a misdemeanour. The father was excluded from the Lodge for ever while the son was not to be admitted in time coming.
Absenteeism was a grave misdemeanour. A somewhat firm resolution is recorded in 1738, The meeting appoint the persons named in the List to be prosecute before the Justices of the Peace with all speed and that there be no delay in doing thereof ‘.
On 27th December 1729, Wm. Millar, Mason in Hamilton was ordered by the Lodge to pay Six Pounds Scots for imploying outen toun [employing out of town] masons to work under you in the toun of Hamilton contrar[y] to the laws of the sd [said] Lodge ‘. About the same period is a letter from the operative masons of the town of Hamilton pointing out that when apprentice operative masons had completed their apprenticeships they were obliged to become Freemasons. It having been also pointed out that the wages paid to apprentices were not particularly remunerative, the Lodge was petitioned to reduce the entrance, or freewill ‘ charge from 21s. to 12s. 6d.
Dinners were frequent during the eighteenth century; lists of accounts from 1701 to 1710 show dinners varying in costs from £20 to £25 per dinner. Since the Lodge in those days was reasonably small in numbers and since not all the brethren would attend, then the amounts noted were rather high and reflect glorious dinners, or glorious binges. One detail for a dinner shows, 6 galls Rum, 40 bottles Porter ‘, with the price of rum quoted at £1 per gallon. To compare the value of money at that time, a few years later the Town Council of Hamilton resolved to widen the footpath leading over the Muir to Burnbank and Blantyre to a width of one Ell [an old Scottish measurement of 37 inches], and to pave part of it with causies [cobblestones], and resolved to grant for this purpose the sum of £10.
Hamilton Kilwinning, No. 7, was not always so numbered. It is acknowledged that Freemasonry was introduced into Scotland with the building of the famous abbeys in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Many of the oldest lodges had lost their ancient records and manuscripts: but these old lodges, of course, laid down their own laws and customs and kept their own records. When the Grand Lodge of Scotland was established in 1736 and when laws and customs were standardised, it became incumbent upon each Scottish lodge to prove its antiquity. The method of numbering the lodges under Grand Lodge was to acknowledge their relative precedence and to leave their antiquity an open question.
After the foundation of Grand Lodge, Mother Kilwinning still continued to constitute new lodges; indeed, Kilwinning, which had been constituting new lodges since 1677, resented their secondary position on Grand Roll and so set up a feud which is now well known. In any case, the name of Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning leaves no doubts on its sources of constitution. It will be appreciated that numbering on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland could only be based on the production of records to Grand Lodge. Application by Hamilton Kilwinning was made to Grand Lodge for a Charter of Constitution in January 1771 and the Charter was granted in March of the same year. Some records appear to be missing from the muniments chests and no reference to a Lodge number can be found at that period but in November 1789, eighteen years later, the Secretary produced a letter from Robert Meikle, Grand Clerk, informing the brethren that Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning was No. 167 on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
In November 1804 it was agreed that application should be made to Grand Lodge to procure a change of number from 164 to 10, this being the number in the Kilwinning records. The application was unsuccessful. In December 1806 the Lodge presented a petition to Lord Archibald Hamilton requesting that he might use his influence in obtaining for the Lodge their ancient number. This approach having no effect the brethren decided upon open rebellion. The minute of 1st December 1808 states, ‘ By order of the Master a vote of the Lodge was regularly taken whether or not the word, Kilwinning, should be erased from the Diploma Plate of the Lodge, when it was agreed by a great majority that the title of the Lodge in future shall be Hamilton Lodge, No. 10 ‘.
By 1816 Glasgow Kilwinning Lodges had assumed the numbers 4 and 7, even more senior numbers than 10 and the Hamilton Tyler’s sword was drawn and sharpened. Brother Robert Aiton, town clerk of Hamilton at that time, agreed to undertake negotiations and interviews necessary to put the Glasgow usurpers in their proper numbers. The case ends with the minute, ‘ At a meeting dated 8th August 1816 the R.W. Master produced a certificate from the Grand Lodge certifying that the Hamilton Kilwinning Lodge No. 10 is now the Hamilton Lodge, No. 7, on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The meeting were very happy at the promotion ‘.
Before the year was out, however, the Hamilton Lodge was again fighting for a number more senior than 7, that of No. 4. Robert Aiton was again entrusted with negotiations, negotiations which, however, proved to be unsuccessful. Although the Hamilton Lodge was the more senior, nevertheless, Lodge Glasgow Kilwinning, No. 4, were also ‘ bonnie fechters ‘ [bonnie fighters] and they tenaciously upheld their right to their number 4 at an annual General Meeting of Grand Lodge when the new Roll had been approved. Robert Aiton was accorded a resolution of thanks for his ‘ diligence and assiduity’ in pursuing the tasks entrusted to him. The final shot in the dispute between the Glasgow and Hamilton Lodges is a viciously polite letter in the Hamilton muniments chest written by the Master of Glasgow Kilwinning, No. 4. The pertinent extracts are, ‘ all the Lodges are authorised to take and assume the Numbers given them upon the new Roll, on which Glasgow Kilwinning is No. 4. And so long as it complies with the Rule and Regulations of the Grand No. 4 it will remain. If the members of the Hamilton Kilwinning are not satisfied with this reply I would beg to suggest to you that for any further information still wanted they had better apply to the proper source the Grand Lodge. Only assuring you that the Glasgow Kilwinning ever had and still has members determined to assert and protect its rights And when they choose to attend no Lodge in the west of Scotland (excepting always our mother Kilwinning) shall take from them that rank and precedence to which the Glasgow Kilwinning, No. 4, is so clearly entitled ‘. Looking back over the years and considering the relative facts of the case it would appear that if the Hamilton Lodge had acted more promptly and pressed their claim more forcibly, the Hamilton Lodge would today be No. 4; for the point in dispute was not that the Glasgow Lodge was the more senior lodge but rather that it was first in its claim to No. 4 on the Roll of Grand Lodge. Having successfully obtained a more senior number than 10, the Hamilton Lodge seemed to be content not to press for 4 and Grand Lodge appeared to be only too glad to let matters be resolved on that attitude.
A comprehensive survey of the finances of the Hamilton Lodge would require a paper entirely separate from this Sketch; such a paper would be full of human interest. In its early days the Lodge used its funds to finance loans to various people in the town. These investments brought in a rate of 71 per cent., although quite often when a loan was due for repayment difficulty was frequently encountered in obtaining repayment on the date due. Some years later the Lodge decided that the funds would be more securely invested in property, and transactions at this stage show a fair amount of property being acquired from which the rents provided a fair income. A Tack [lease] of 1748 for a house belonging to the Lodge gives a fair picture of the type of property owned by the Lodge; it reads, ‘ that Forehouse in the Tenement of Lands belonging to the said Lodge of Masons Consisting of Four Fore Rooms and a Closet and is possesst [in the possession of] by Mary Nasmith together with the yeard Middingstead therein and Ash Dunghill in the Cross ‘ and the rent was ‘ Six Pounds Nine Shillings Sterling money yearly ‘. Other rents are listed as bringing in sums ranging from One Pound Ten Shillings to Five Pounds per annum.
Appeals for financial and material help from unfortunate brethren or their dependents were regularly received and just as regularly met by the Lodge. The condition of brethren and widows making appeals was tactfully and mercifully recorded as ‘ they were rather badly ‘. On 27th December 1711 a pathetic document was considered. The petitioner, a boy of fourteen years, stood in need of succour; his mother is ane old infirm woman, standing more in need of being supplied than to supply ‘. The Lodge is begged to ‘ bestow some charity upon him, so as to supply his Lamentable and Starving condition by the provision of food and rayment ‘. The Lodge directed the Boxmaster to ‘ bestow six pund Scots upon a new Coatt ‘, and a similar amount to be given for other aid. In the month of February 1780 the Lodge appointed their Boxmaster (treasurer) to purchase twelve carts of coals at one pound sterling and to distribute the same amongst the poor inhabitants of the town.
With the close of the eighteenth century the Hamilton Family were .seeking land to provide suitable park land for Hamilton Palace. Since the old town of Hamilton lay cheek by jowl with the Palace, land for the Palace could only come from the demolition of the Hietoun. In 1805 the Duke of Hamilton offered to the Lodge ‘ a spot of ground situated at Falconer’s Hill at the head of the New Wynd and One Thousand Pounds Sterling’ in exchange for the Lodge Buildings, property and ground in the High Street. It was found, however, that the ‘ spot of ground’ offered did not in fact legally belong to the Duke and the offer was declined. The Duke tried again. This time he offered properties and ground in the Castle Wynd, ground which the Inspecting Committee thought to be inadequate. A greater area was offered but at a price which was rather high and on which some doubts on the validity of the title deeds arose. Robert Aiton was called in to undertake research on the title deeds and to complete the negotiations should the title deeds prove to be valid. The title deeds having proved to be satisfactory the excambion was completed, but only after much altercation between the Duke and the Lodge and the threat of a lawsuit in the Court of Session. The Lodge gained in the ultimate agreement; for in this the Lodge gave up their properties in the High Street in exchange for the more extensive property in the Castle Wynd, plus the sum of Eight Hundred Pounds.
A new Lodge building was planned. The dimensions were 52 feet by 25 feet, with walls 2 feet thick: the Temple was 40 feet by 23 feet and the Adjacent was 11 feet by 8 feet. The foundation stone was laid on 12th July 1816 and the new building, named Freemasons’ Hall, was opened on Friday, 11th July 1817. At the opening ceremony, ‘ the Staff of the Royal Lanarkshire Militia attended to keep off the crowd which was immense ‘. After the ceremony ‘ the procession returned to the Hamilton Arms Inn, where 253 brethren sat down to an elegant and sumptuous repast in Mr Currie’s large rooms ‘. Contemporary with the national Robert Burns there lived in Hamilton another Robert Burns, a poet of no mean ability and a poet held in some esteem by Sir Walter Scott. The Hamilton Robert Burns was a member of the Hamilton Lodge. At the dinner held in the Hamilton Arms Inn to celebrate the opening of the 1817 building he recited ‘ an apposite piece of poetry composed for the occasion which was received with great applause ‘. The site of the second lodge building was to the rear of the old Douglas and Clydesdale Hotel. With their well-established custom of seeking financial returns in the investment of Lodge funds, the members of the Hamilton Lodge included in their new Lodge building a number of stables on the bottom floor, stables which were rented to merchants in the town. Stables invariably were associated with a characteristic smell which permeated through any building with a strong pungency and one wonders if the odour from the stables reached up to the Temple on the second floor. Possibly, however, stable odours were accepted as commonplace in those days of the nineteenth century when no one was unduly perturbed by them. It was, nevertheless, a condition of let of the stables that the dung had to be removed at regular periods.
The twentieth century brought with its entry a new form of transport. Tramways were under construction all over the country and it became expedient for the Lanarkshire Tramway Company, when laying their track through Hamilton, to deviate from the laying of track down Castle Street, the old Castle Wynd, and round the sharp bend at Ross’s Pawnshop into the Edinburgh Road. For this purpose a new street had to be constructed at the Cross by the Town Council of Hamilton, a street which would cut right through the Douglas and Clydesdale Hotel and the Temple Building of Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning, No. 7. The brethren had, therefore, once more to find a new Lodge building.
Ground and property in the centre of the town and of close proximity to the old Lodge building was difficult to acquire, but Cadzow Street, now rapidly reaching the status of a principal thoroughfare, had some vacant lots just beyond Cadzow Bridge. A feu in Cadzow Street at the junction of Lower Auchingramont Road, known to older Hamilton residents as Mary More’s Brae, was acquired. On this site was built the fine suite of buildings which now constitute the home of Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning, No. 7. The building is of two stories and basement with a large assembly hall. On the ground floor a large hallway, leading from which are committee rooms gives access to a fine stairway leading to the upper floor on which are situated a kitchen, a vestibule leading to the Temple, the Adjacent, and a small hall for harmonies and other social activities. With their now proverbial business acumen the brethren of No. 7 extended the building to include suites of offices. The offices are let to business firms and the income derived is used to augment Lodge funds.
Planned by Mr Alexander Cullen, architect in Hamilton, the building cost £8,000. The Foundation Stone was laid by W. P. Mitchell, Master of No. 7 on 3rd September 1903. The Foundation Stone was the actual Foundation Stone of the old Lodge Building of 1816. The old stone had lain undisturbed since 1816 until 5th December 1902 when the Town Council took over the old Lodge Building for the construction of Keith Street. At the ceremony of the Laying of the Foundation Stone the choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Church sang two anthems but so dense was the crowd that two policemen were required to escort the choir to the ceremonial platform. At the end of the ceremony the choir boys were taken to McGhie’s Restaurant in Cadzow Street where they were given a meal. McGhie’s Restaurant no longer exists and where it once stood is now the Jeweller’s business of Brother Robert Roxburgh, a Past Master of No. 7.
The new Lodge Building was opened on St John’s Day, 27th December 1904.