The secret hidden village outside Glasgow that was flooded to make a country park
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Strathclyde Country Park, the glowing green gem of North Lanarkshire, home to long rambling trails, roman ruins, and Scotland’s only theme park all of which stand proudly around the radiant blue Strathclyde Loch - at the bottom of that great Scottish lake lies the remains of the once-thriving community that was Bothwellhaugh.
Bothwellhaugh was a former mining village near Motherwell that was flooded in the early 1970s to create Strathclyde Country Park - and as time goes on - less and less people remember the proud village that sent thousands of men down into the earth to fetch the coals that would heat our homes and facilitate the industry of the British empire at its very peak.
Active as a mining village from 1884 up until its demolition in 1965 - the site was occupied long before the first shovel was dug into the soil that would become the coal pits, as ancient Romans held a fort (and nearby bathhouse) at the area near the River Clyde.
It’s the land around Bothwellhaugh that made it so attractive both as a fortification, and then as a mining village - it sat in an deep valley near a bend in the River Clyde, that was part of the Duke of Hamilton’s estate. It was the Duke that started up the mines that lay just across the River Clyde from what we now know as Hamilton, keen to exploit the excessive amount of coal deposits in the area.
Prior to, and concurrently with, the areas massive involvement in the Steel industry through Ravenscraig Steel works, the trade of the average man around North Lanarkshire was coal mining - with pits set up in other sites across Motherwell, Wishaw, and Shotts. When the Duke of Hamilton ordered the commission of the coal mines, there was already a farmstead in the area, the mine operators just built around them.
A community quickly sprang up - attracting nearly 1,500 workers at its peak, pulling up 2,000 tonnes of coal from the mines everyday. It was one of the largest mining communities in the Clyde Valley, housing two churches, two schools, 450 homes & allotments, a Miner’s Welfare Association, and even a co-operative store. What differentiated the village from other nearby mining towns was that there were no pubs - as both the Duke of Hamilton and the mining company prohibited the sale of alcohol in the village.
Speaking in 1999, one former resident, Tom Eadie, said life was good in Bothwellhaugh “People in the village made their own entertainment. There was no thought of going to different towns and villages. There used to be all kinds of things going on,” he said.
Bothwellhaugh was nicknamed ‘The Pailis’ by locals for its proximity to Hamilton Palace, the estate of the Duke and his family. Unfortunately for the Duke of Hamilton, the workers (sober as they were) dug too far in their quest for coal - which would lead to the fall and eventual demolition of the ancestral home of the noble family in the 1920s after the mines wrecked havoc on the foundations of the massive stately home.
Despite this minor setback for the Hamilton’s, the pit remained open until 1959 - when digging just about as far as they could go after a near century of dragging coal from the earth - they struck the River Clyde.
The costs to pump out all the water and repair the mines proved too costly, and the pit closed for good in 1959. Now rudderless, the community rapidly declined - many left to find work in other mines in the area - and houses began to empty. By the early 60s, Bothwellhaugh was a ghost-town - the entire population was evacuated in 1965, followed by the demolition of the village in 1966.
It lay derelict for a number of years until the early 1970s - when the ruins were flooded to create Strathclyde Loch in the site that would become Strathclyde Country Park. Now there isn’t a trace left of the village, saved for a memorial cairn and some memoriabilia kept in the visitor centre at the Country Park.
You can find out more about Bothwellhaugh, including interviews with former residents of the mining village, in the student documentary ‘The lost village of Bothwellhaugh’ - created by Nik Forbes 12 years ago - avaliable to watch for free on YouTube.