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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Appendix 1: More Details of Houses

Stephen A Bunyan

Throughout the text, any property marked * was an Historic Scotland, grade A, listed property in 2000; listing began in the 1930s, and its scope extended in the 1970s.

Appendix 1: more details of houses mentioned in the original text

Houses that survived as homes

There are large number of other country houses like Eaglescairnie, built c1760, whose interior was destroyed by fire earlier in the 20th century and restored; Fountainhall*, a 17th century gem; Keith Marischal, partly dating from 1589; Bourhouse* (Bower House) built by David Bryce for Major General Carfrae in 1835; Ruchlaw early 17th century with the heraldry of Archibald Sydserff 1663; Huntington* a 17th century house with a large addition c1830 and the grandest doocot in the area c1750; Kilduff mid 18th century. Built by John Home author of the Douglas and Pilmuir* dating from 1624 with its doocot with 906 nesting boxes.

These and many others remain well-loved family homes: some of them are covered in the parish accounts.

Houses that were demolished

Some owners felt that they simply had no option but demolition. Some properties had already been demolished or destroyed by fire before the war.

Houses destroyed before 1939

Houses past saving, post-war

Some houses were in such a state at the end of the war that restoration was not an option. Compensation, though paid by the W.D. Land Agency, was not generous, building restrictions were strict. Materials were limited and other needs were given priority. Rates were a heavy burden. Income tax was imposed on the rich at 19/6 in the pound though relief was given for maintenance work after 1950. Coal was rationed, and without heat the buildings deteriorated further with damp, burst pipes and the like. In such circumstances, demolition seemed the only answer. In some cases houses were demolished and new and more convenient ones were built in their place.

Houses which suffered during the war but which survived

Three houses at least, suffered extensive damage in the war. Their subsequent fates were to be very different. They were Archerfield, Gosford and Stevenson.

Archerfield* A 17th century house that belonged to the Nisbets of Dirleton; it was mainly the work of Robert Adam who rebuilt it c.1790. At the end of the Great War, Archerfield was sold after the death of Mrs Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy. Her heir, Lt Col JP Nisbet Hamilton Grant, sold it in December 1921 to The Argyll Investment Co., which was shown as owners until 1945. Jackson Russell was tenant occupier until his son Lt Commander A Boyd Russell succeeded at his death in 1936. The War Office requisitioned Archerfield in 1939.

It was returned after the war in a sad state, floor boards had been ripped up for fuel and some lead had vanished from the roof: rot had begun. The Argyll Investment Co. sold it in 1946 to George Mitchell of Chesterhall who, with his son Ian, farmed it intensively for market garden crops. To make this possible the old golf course was ploughed up in 1945, some woodland (part of Archer field's designed landscape) was cleared and windbreaks were created. It was reported in 1955 that the porch had been removed to facilitate the entry of farm vehicles. In 1962 the front entrance was removed and utilitarian doors were created to permit the installation of a grain dryer. Hamilton and Kinneil Estates bought Archerfield in 1964.

The 14th Duke of Hamilton died in 1973 and, in the same year, the present Duke completed his new house at Archerfield. He moved to Lennoxlove in 1982. Between 1987 and 1991 he used both houses and moved back to Archerfield in 1991/1992.

In 1977, the condition of the mansion house was said to be too dangerous for machinery. The great house has continued to deteriorate, while various proposals to restore it and to develop the estate, have come and gone. In 1988 the Duke sold the house and half the land to Parkdale and thought he had secured its future. In 1989 a planning application was lodged but Pavilion Leisure Group bought them out. The Nature Conservancy Council expressed concerns over the S.S.S.I. and various other objections were made. A proposal for development by Rocco Forte was frustrated by the refusal of K Doyle of Caledonian Heritable to sell the mansion house. There are current proposals for development by Caledonian Heritable and Hamilton and Kinneil Estates (the former for two golf courses, housing, an hotel and a new access). It provides for the restoration of the mansion house at a cost of £12million but does not define its intended use. The second is for a golf course, housing, and the restoration of the designed landscape.

Gosford* This is a great house; built by Robert Adam for the 7th Earl of Wemyss, it was not completed until 1800, after Adam's death. The Adam wings were removed and new wings were added by William Young c1890. The house was requisitioned in 1939. There was a serious fire at Gosford in 1940 and an outbreak of dry rot in the North wing, which was then de-roofed. A restoration project is now in hand. The south wing makes an elegant home and contains William Young's great marble staircase similar to that in the City Chambers in Glasgow. Gosford has remained the home of the Earl and Countess of Wemyss. An ambitious plan to develop the estate was put forward in 1992 and considerable progress has been made.

Stevenson* near Haddington is a very important house. It dates from the 16th century. The medieval grange was destroyed by the Hertford invasion. The present house is built round a central courtyard in a pre-reformation grange plan. Members of the Sinclair family in whose hands it was for 400 years remodelled it in the 18th century. The Dunlop family bought it in 1930. It suffered badly from the wartime occupation and was restored by Mary Tindall for Dr Jack Dunlop who set up the Brown Dunlop Trust to ensure its future. It has recently (2000) been sold.

New roles for old houses

Faced with rising costs, some owners were anxious to find ways of generating income from their homes to at least provide for their maintenance. Some houses had already been found new uses before the war.

Prestongrange* is an important 17th century house. It remained in the possession of the Grant-Suttie family until 1958, but had been leased in 1922 to the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club and had become their clubhouse. During the war a large part of the golf course was ploughed up and the remainder was grazed, while most of Prestongrange House itself was requisitioned for the RAF. Dry rot was found after the war and the Grant-Suttie family wanted to sell the property before the expiry of the lease in 1965. In 1958 Prestongrange estate was bought by CISWO - the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation - for £8,000 and leased to the club.

Winterfield House (Belhaven Hill) Edward Marrow was killed in the Great War and Winterfield became Belhaven Hill School in 1923. It was a dangerous location during the 1939-1945 War as Dunbar was of strategic importance. The school was evacuated to Dinnet, near Banchory and Belhaven Hill was requisitioned in June 1943. It became a Special Training School (STS) No 54b for young women operators, ostensibly a F.A.N.Y. (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) unit but was in fact used by the S.O.E. The school moved back after the war and continues as a successful preparatory school, now co-educational and with c100 pupils.

Many uses over the period

After the war various owners looked for other uses for their homes, which would make them viable in a post-war world. In some cases their historic owners retained ownership and in some cases not. In one or two cases there have been several uses.

Houses divided for multiple occupation

Gradually what was probably to become the most successful solution to the problem emerged: the division of the properties into several homes. Owners, who lived in wings so that staterooms could be mothballed or shown to the public, foreshadowed it. It had the advantage of providing several incomes to maintain the properties. It meant that several people had a stake in their survival. It meant that arrangements could be made to safeguard their gardens and pleasure grounds. In some cases owners continued to play a part while in others, residents formed committees. One disadvantage is that the properties no longer remain great houses to which the public has access. We have already seen that this was the ultimate solution at Whittingehame.

Two important large town houses underwent similar treatment:


There is a growing awareness in Scotland that our old ruins may have been prematurely written off and that restoration is an option. It takes courage and may need a bottomless purse, but increasingly grants are available. At least four important restorations have been done in East Lothian.

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