Sitting amongst the urban sprawl of Motherwell and Hamilton, Strathclyde Park is centred on the site of what was called Low Parks and where Hamilton Palace used to sit. Hamilton Palace was the former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton and one of the grandest houses in Scotland when built in 1695. It was demolished in 1921 due to ground subsidence caused by the excavation of coal from Bothwellhaugh Colliery.
The name Bothwellhaugh translates as ‘the low-lying expanse of pasture lying near the village of Bothwell’ and was one that has been around since mediaeval times. During the 1880’s Bothwellhaugh became one of the largest mining villages along the Clyde Valley with the colliery, at its peak, employing over 1400 workers whilst the majority of the workers, and their families, called the village of Bothwellhaugh home. Sadly when the colliery closed in 1959 much of the community left to find other employment and Bothwellhaugh was demolished in 1966. The artificial creation of Strathclyde Loch, in the 1970’s, meant flooding Bothwellhaugh, drowning its legacy and consigning the village to the past. The loch is now the centrepiece of Strathclyde Park, which is also home to a Roman Bathhouse.
Until c139AD the demarcation of Roman occupied Britain was Hadrian’s Wall. However when Antonius Pius was ensconced as emperor he ordered the army to move further north to build a second wall along a new frontier between the Forth and Clyde Estuaries. There were many forts along the length of what became known as the Antonine Wall including one near to where the remains of the Roman Bathhouse lie today although only faint traces remain.
What is known is that the fort contained barracks, HQ Buildings and granaries, supporting a Garrison of around 500. The Roman Army realised that cleanliness reduced the chances of infection and ill health, consequently improving the efficiency of the soldiers and so a regular routine was for them to visit the bathhouse. The bathhouse was also one of the few places where soldiers could retreat from the harsh military life on the frontier and relax. The bathhouse would have resembled something akin to a present-day Turkish Bath and the soldiers cleaned themselves by sweating the dirt from their skin. Heat was provided by a furnace at one end of the building and the hot air it produced passed underneath the floor of three heated rooms and up through the wall cavities. The bathhouse was excavated in 1975/6 and in 1980 Motherwell District Council carried out further excavation work to allow the site to be publicly displayed permanently.