Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7 cannot, at present, produce documents relating to its precise beginnings. A number of documents, however, do exist, the earliest is partially complete minute of the St John's Day meeting of 27th December 1695 on which day the Brethren elected and installed the Office-bearers for the ensuing year and then continued the celebrations with a dinner. The records are sketchy until about 1700 when we have a number of gentlemen of influence and education introduced into the Lodge. It may be reasonably assumed that the Hamilton Lodge was actually instituted some time prior to 1688.

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. Soon 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 build a Lodge'. On 2nd December 1742 negotiations were completed. To raise funds towards the purchase of the Lodge building, 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 casue intimatt to the haill 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 Lodge finally decided to demolish part of the old tenement and to build new accommodation.

By 1748 the Lodge building was just being built fronting to the Fore Street (ie. High Street) of Hamilton and bounded on the South by the Closs (Close) belonging to the said tenement. 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.

At this time 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: There also appear the names of Hamilton of Barncluith, Hamilton of Dallyel (Dalziel), Hamilton of Rapeloch, James Naesmith, Chirurgian (Surgeon) and the Laird of Woodside, who is entered in the minutes merely as 'Woodside'. In 1753-55 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.

The eighteenth century is an interesting period in 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, 'some members are admitted that are unworthy that the Lodge may be at a loss how to be quit of them'. Persons applying for entry, and who resided three miles furth of Hamilton, had to be examined with the greatest of care and diligence.

Absenteeism was a grave misdemeanour. A somewhat firm resolution is recorded in 1738, 'The meeting appoint the persons named in the List to be prosecuted 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 masons to work under you in the toun of Hamilton contrar 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 21/- to 12/6d

Dinners were frequent during the eighteenth century; lists of accounts from 1701-1710 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.

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. 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 Lodge under Grand Lodge was to acknowledge their relative precedence and to leave their antiquity an open question.

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 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 was very happy at the promotion".

Before the year was out, however, the Hamilton Lodge was again fighting for a number more senior than No. 7, that of No. 4. Robert Aiton was again entrusted with 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' 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. 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 seemed to be content not to press for 4, Grand Lodge appeared to be only too glad to let matters be resolved on that attitude.

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 7.5%, 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.

Appeals for financial and material help from unfortunate Brethren, or their dependants, 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 was seeking land to provide suitable parkland 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 adequate. 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 l2th 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. The twentieth century brought with its entry a new form of transport. Tramways were under construction all over the country and, 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 residents as Mary More's Brae, was acquired. On this site was built the fine suite of building which now constitute the home of Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning, No. 7. 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, so dense was the crowd that two policemen were required to escort the choir to the ceremonial platform. The new Lodge Building was opened on St John's Day, 27th December 1904. The Lodge has been actively involved with the business of both Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge since their inception and with the promotion of Freemasonry throughout the county over the last 300 years. An excerpt from the minute of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge in Edinburgh, on 5th August 1816 reads as follows: -

"That it would lend much to the interests of Masonry in that part of the county were the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire (which is very widely extended) divided into 20 Districts, viz.: into the Upper and Middle Wards of Lanarkshire - that he had it from authority to say that this object was sanctioned and approved by Lord Archibald Hamilton, the Provincial Grand Master for that District".-

Thereafter the Province of the Middle Ward came into being on the 5th August, 1816 and comprised of 9 former Lodges, including Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7; indeed, No. 7 was the only one of these Lodges represented at the formation meeting of Grand Lodge in 1736-

In I838 Brother Lord William Alexander, the 11th Duke of Hamilton, was transferred from the Upper Ward to become Provincial Grand Master of the Middle Ward. The Minute Book from 1886 opens with the following preamble... -

"The Provincial Grand Lodge of the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire having been long in a state of dormancy, greatly to the detriment of the Masonic cause generally and to Lodges in the Province particularly, many Brethren felt that the state of matters should be speedily rectified. In order to effect such a purpose, the RWM of the senior Lodge in the Provincial (Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7) took the initiative and towards the end of March 1866 he summoned a general meeting of the Brethren to meet in the Freemasons' Hall, Hamilton on l9th April, 1866".-

At this meeting on l9th April, 1866, under the Chairmanship of Brother John Dick, RWM of No. 7, eleven out of the twelve Lodges in the Province were represented. It was the unanimous wish of those present that the Provincial Grand Lodge should be "Raised from its slumbers" and a Provincial Grand Master appointed. Brother James Merry of Belladrum, M.P., was unanimously recommended, approved by Grand Lodge and, after a brief ceremony of affliation to Lodge No. 7, was duly installed in the presence of 600 Brethren at Hamilton Town Hall on 27th September 1866. -

In September 1892 Brother Major Robert King Stewart of Murdostoun, a member of No. 7, was installed as Provincial Grand Master of the Middle Ward. During his 38 years in office, 12 new Lodges were chartered and consecrated, including the revival of Lodges 440 and 471 which had been dormant. In January 1902 he was installed as Grand Junior Warden of Grand Lodge and in November 1913 installed as M.W. Grand Master Mason. He passed away in December 1930. His son, Captain John Christie Stewart, who was also a member of No. 7, was installed as Provincial Grand Junior Deacon in April 1923 by his father and also progressed through the ranks and was installed as Provincial Grand Master of Lanarkshire Middle Ward on February 1931. Captain J.C. Stewart was M.W. Grand Master 1942 -1945 and Provincial Grand Master 1931 - 1966. The Stewart family father and son led the Province of the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire for 74 consecutive years. -

Brother James K. Borland achieved the rank of Grand Senior Warden in 1985. Honorary Grand Rank has been bestowed on a number of Brethren over the years - Brother William Johnstone, Brother Tom Forfar, Brother Andrew Lang and Brother Willie Cunningham PM. In more recent times, Brother William Donaldson, Brother James Ferguson and Brother James Craik were bestowed this honour. Our current Provincial Grand Lodge representative, Brother Alex Dick PM, currently holds the rank of Provincial Grand Junior Warden. -

A few years ago, Brothers Jack Crawford and Joe Thomson have received 50 year Certificates and Joe is currently in office as Almoner, a post which he has held for many years, giving much appreciated support to the sick and bereaved of the Lodge. -

Long service by Brethren to the Lodge has become somewhat of a tradition which it is hoped will be emulated and continued over the years to come. Brethren who have served the Lodge with distinction include Brothers W. Andrew, G. Ogg, R. Ogg and R. Wilson who were presented with Diplomas of Distinguished Service Membership in 1994. Brother W. Andrew held the post of Treasurer for some 25 years and has only recently retired as Hall Letting Agent after some 32 years. Brethren who have served in office for over 25 years include Brother J. Craik as Secretary, Brother W. Donaldson as Director of Ceremonies, Brother D. Hastie as Bible-bearer and Brother R. McMorris as Senior Steward for 29 years and Brother W. Gilmour has served as Hallkeeper for over 40 years. Brother R. Ogg is currently the longest living Past Master and the late Brother G. Ogg, who was the Lodge advisor on ceremony and history, attained high rank in other Masonic Orders, including being a member of the 32 degree. -

The Lodge has always been keen to foster friendships with other Lodges and to Brethren outwith our immediate vicinity, such was the case in 1964 when the Lodge made its first visit to Saint Andrew's Lodge No. 6073 (of the English Constitution) in Preston. The late Eric Whatmough P.M., during his year in office, invited his Brother-in-Law, Don McNaughton, a member of No. 7, to attend one of the Lodge Meetings. Thereafter a reciprocal visit was arranged and a relationship was born and, indeed, since 1964, this has become an annual visit to and from Preston. -

A number of our Brethren have close connections with The Boys' Brigade movement and indeed, Brother Robert Wilson P.M., was installed in 1965 by Lord Bruce, Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason (who later became 11th Earl of Elgin and l5th Earl of Kincardine). Lord Bruce was President of The Boys' Brigade at the time of the Installation of Robert Wilson. It was initially through this Boys' Brigade connection that a friendship was struck with Brethren of Lodge Balcarres No. 1240 and, in 1975, when our RWM was Robert (Bobby) Kerr and the RWM of Lodge Balcarres No. 1240 was Angus (Gus) Ballingall, our first Lodge visit was made. These annual visits between the Lodges have continued ever since. -

Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7 has acted as a sponsor Lodge for many local Lodges: Lodge St Andrew No. 215, Strathaven No. 1806, Lodge Blantyre Kilwinning No. 557 in 1874, Lodge Kirkhill No. 1230, Cambuslang in 1920 and Lodge The Duke of Hamilton No. 1636, Hamilton in 1967. Visitations between Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning No. 7 and all these Lodges still continue and are highly valued today. -

The Lodge now looks forward to the new millennium and another 300 years of Freemasonry, bolstered with 300 years of history, the active participation of all the Brethren of the Lodge and the continued support and friendship of the Sister Lodges and individuals.