Strathaven is the largest settlement in Avondale and was granted a Royal Charter in 1450, making the town a burgh of Barony. Weaving was the town’s main industry in the 18th, 19thand early 20th Centuries, but this declined in the face of competition from Glasgow.
The Industrial Revolution bypassed the town as it had little to offer in the way of natural resources, and from there it grew into a commuter settlement with agriculture and farming major occupations. It still retains aspects of its traditional character, despite the growth in modern housing.
The origins of Strathaven Castle are obscure, but it is believed to have been built around the 1350s by the Bairds.It was sacked after 1455 and little of the early castle remains. It was taken over by the Marquis of Hamilton. The last occupant was Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, who lived there until her death in 1716. The castle was abandoned in 1717.
Strathaven played a significant role in the Radical War of the 1820s, when James Wilson led a band of radicals on a march to Glasgow to join a rumoured general uprising which never actually happened. Wilson was hanged for treason and in 1846 a memorial was built in his honour in the town cemetery.
Strathaven’s most famous ‘modern’ resident was Sir Harry Lauder(1870 – 1950), whose mansion, Lauder Ha’, was just above the town on the road to Kilmarnock Sir Harry spent the Second World War years there, and died in February 1950. His funeral was attended by many famous people, including Roy Rogers. The family retained the house until death duties of 65% forced its sale in the early 1960s. It remains a private residence.
A Roman Road passes close by Strathaven, on the south side of the Avon Water. This once led to the roman fort at Loudoun Hill, near Darvel. The centre of Strathaven is occupied by a market square, formerly a grassed common, and still known as the Common Green.
Linking the town and the castle is the old ‘Boo Backed Brig’, a small arched bridge. The Old Parish Church, with its landmark spire, was built in 1772, and was the place of worship of the Duke of Hamilton, who maintained a shooting lodge and nearby Dungavel House.
Dungavel House on the outskirts of Strathaven was where German Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess intended to land on the evening of 10 May 1941 in a misguided attempt to seek peace talks with the Duke of Hamilton. However bad weather and poor navigation resulted in Hess landing at Floors Farm in Eaglesham.