Hans Hamilton Tomb, a rare 17th Century burial chamber, sits in the grounds of Dunlop Kirk. It was commissioned in 1641 by James, Viscount Clandeboye in 1641 as a memorial to his parents Hans Hamilton, the first protestant minister of Dunlop, and Janet Dedholm. Very little similar monumental architecture of that era still survives.
The Tomb adjoins Clandeboye School, also endowed by Viscount Clandeboye and is still used by the Kirk as a Sunday School today.
By August 2014 the Tomb was suffering as a result of damage to the stone roof and water ingress, a common problem with sandstone buildings. The statues of Hans Hamilton and his wife had been removed for safe keeping.Then Historic Environment Scotland awarded East Ayrshire Council £7,490 to help with vital repairs and restoration.
Today the Tomb has been extensively and sympathetically renovated, the statues reinstated and is once again accessible to the public. Read the story of how we went about Restoring the Hans Hamilton Tomb.
The tomb has significance stretching far beyond the Parish of Dunlop. Viscount Clandeboye, son of Hans Hamilton, played a big role in the establishment of the Ulster Scots community, working with King James VI to establish the Protestant Church in Northern Ireland. The family then spread further into the US and beyond. Francis de Courcy Hamilton, a direct descendent of the family has written a fascinating History of the Hans Hamilton Tomb.
The sandstone structure has a crowstepped gable, stone roof, roll-moulded doorway, monuments and has intricate stone carvings both inside and out. The interior of the vault was originally plastered and richly decorated with paint and gilding and contained two kneeling statues of Hans Hamilton and his wife Janet.
Due to damage to the roof, which was recorded as early as 1699, the statues were removed in 1991 and stored nearby for safe keeping. The roof has now been repaired as part of an overall restoration project funded by East Ayrshire Council, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), Dunlop Kirk, the Hamilton family, the Ulster Scots Agency and the Clan Hamilton Society from the United States. The HES funding was used to reinstate the interior marble stones and the exterior memorial stone.
In 2018, the statues were finally restored to the tomb and in Spring 2019 an interpretation board was placed at the tomb to explain the site's origins to visitors from all over the world with and interest in the Hamilton family, the Kirk and the history of the Ulster Plantation.
Viscount Clandeboye also built and invested a school, now known as Clandeboye Hall and used by the church for events. Carved above the door was the date 1641 with the statement This school is erected and endowed by Iames Clandeboyes, in love to this parish in which his father Hans Hamilton was pastor 45 years in King Iames the sixt his raigne.The carving was removed when the school was sold as a private dwelling.In 1839 a new school was opened.The school had been condemned by 1876 and was in use as a shoemaker's shop and a dwelling
John or Hans Hamilton (1535/6–1608), son of Archibald Hamilton of Raploch, was the first Protestant vicar and exhorter of Dunlop Church. His eldest son, James Hamilton, was created Viscount Clandeboye for his many services to James VI in establishing and maintaining Protestantism in Ireland; his son James was in turn created Earl of Clanbrassil by Charles I. His five brothers also established estates in Ireland. A handsome mausoleum (NS 40486 49398) was constructed over their graves by James in 1641, when he was in his eighties, and this was so ornately painted and gilded in the Roman Catholic manner that it attracted the sobriquet of 'The Picture House'. The flat tombstone of Hans Hamilton was originally on the floor, but was later removed and placed on the south wall.It was neglected and vandalised even in 1699, and in 1734 was given much needed repairs. Around 1849 Colonel Mure of Caldwell had further repairs carried out. In 2005, the marble statues of Hans and his wife were removed to a place of safety for their protection.