Inveresk | Revisiting the past

Romans | Millennium | Battle of Pinkie

Knowledge of the Roman fort and occupation of Inveresk dates back to the discovery of relics in 1565 when a vaulted chamber (assumed to be part of a Roman bath complex) was uncovered in the grounds of Eskgrove House. Between that date and 1946 a number of Roman architectural features and artefacts were discovered but purely by chance.

In 1946/47 Sir Ian Richmond carried out the first systematic archaeological excavations in St Michael’s churchyard. These defined the dimensions of a large fort estimated to have covered an area of 6.6 acres, which Richmond surmised would have housed a 500-man cavalry regiment in the period AD140 until later in the second century.

In 1963 and 1967 Dr St Joseph (later to be Professor) of Aerial Photography at Cambridge noted three parallel lines of different colour in aerial photos of a barley crop at the east end of the village. St Joseph’s diggings showed that in the middle of the second century AD there had been a triple line of defensive ditches running roughly north/south on the western edge of Lewisvale public park.

In 1971 Gordon Maxwell of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments undertook investigations of a site to the west of Inveresk Gate. These uncovered a major road and other items, which implied that the Antonine fort was adjoined by a large extra-mural settlement. Excavations carried out in 1976-77 by Gordon Thomas from the Department of Archaeology, Edinburgh University, further confirmed this. These uncovered evidence of houses, shops, a massive furnace and pottery workings.

Also in 1976 gravediggers in St Michael’s churchyard discovered an altar stone and this confirmed the fact that the fort had been developed in the second Antonine period.

In 1996 a proposed new housing development in the grounds of Inveresk Gate prompted the need for further excavation to avoid as far as possible the new housing damaging any Roman ruins. The diggings were carried out in 1998, directed by Dr Mike Bishop for AOC Archaeology and financed by the developer, CALA Homes. These excavations confirmed previous dates etc and produced a rich assemblage of artefacts, ranging from iron spear blades to nails, imported and locally produced pottery, roofing stones and coins.

In September 2000 a team of archaeologists from GUARD, working for East Lothian Council, completed the excavations of the north-west corner and western defences of the Roman fort at Inveresk, beside St Michael’s. Archaeological work had been progressing in 1991, 1993 and 1999 on previously undeveloped land at the western end of a field beside the cemetery, with each section then being taken in for cemetery use. The final report should appear c2002/3 in the Glasgow Archaeological Journal.

To celebrate the Millennium, Wallyford and Whitecraig Community Council, produced a booklet The History of Wallyford, under the editorship of Janet Bourhill.

In 1997 Whitecraig Remembers was published by the Whitecraig Young at Heart Group – a collection of memories – under the guidance of Margaret McDonald, Community Centre Officer.

The Battle of Pinkie Memorial

The Battle of Pinkie took place on land to the west of Wallyford in autumn 1547; it resulted in a serious defeat of the Scots by the English, during the second stage of the ‘Rough Wooing‘.

The Battle of Pinkie was the last great battle fought between England and Scotland and one of Scotland’s greatest defeats, yet the Scots very nearly won and defeat had no long term effect.

Part of the ‘Rough Wooing’, the pressure by England to try to impose the marriage of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, to Edward VI of England, Pinkie followed years of English pressure on the Borders.

A massive modern army of 15,000 men, a mixture of English soldiers and foreign mercenaries, marched from Berwick round the coast, shadowed by an English fleet providing logistical and artillery support.

The Scots, commanded by the Earl of Arran, knew the English were coming, thanks to Arran’s intelligence network. They had also put together one of the finest armies in Scottish history, in a strong and sophisticated position on the west bank of the river Esk by Musselburgh.

The battle, on Saturday 10 September 1547, looked at first as if the English would either have to withdraw or risk defeat. The English advanced their artillery to Inveresk Kirk, to threaten the Scots position. The Scots, for some reason, then advanced. They did so very quickly and effectively, threatening to overwhelm the English. A fierce charge by the English heavy cavalry broke the Scottish advance. The Scots army then began to disintegrate and, in medieval warfare, this was always when there was likely to be heavy slaughter. So it was at Pinkie, with the victorious English killing perhaps as many as 10,000 Scots on Black Saturday.

Despite this defeat, the English withdrew their great army. The Scots invited the French to come and help and within another two years the English were driven from Scotland.

In 1999 the Old Musselburgh Club erected a memorial to the battle, located on the A6094, the Wallyford to Whitecraig road.

Here, George Montgomery explains how the club acquired the material for this:

[In the late 1990s] while we were busy raising funds for the war memorial, a Mr Hadden from Danderhall offered us two slabs of granite. Upon inspecting them, I realised that although they were of no use for the memorial, they were ideal for Pinkie. Mr Hadden, at his own expense, had them moved to the East Lothian Council yard. A Mr John Dagger of the East Lothian architect’s office gave us astounding help. It was wonderful to witness the ceremony after years of unsuccessful attempts. The unveiling was carried out by Lord Selkirk, a direct descendant of the Regent at that time.

George Montgomery