Pencaitland | Environment

Land ownership | Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Pencaitland parish has been the same size, roughly three miles square, from time immemorial, and the civil parish boundaries remained the same throughout. However, Glenkinchie was transferred to Pencaitland ecclesiastical parish during the 1960s.

The parish has rather clayey soil, with the exception of the haughs and along the streams. Boulder clay covers carboniferous rocks. There is, however, a band of lower limestone as evidenced by the abandoned kilns and old quarries at Spilmersford; these last were unfortunately filled in, as previously they had been full of water creating large ponds. An old quarry remained at Jerusalem, which became a haven for wildlife.

There were small mines in the parish for hundreds of years, but there are no obvious remains, and others, largely now unknown, have vanished forever. The only pit of any consequence was Woodhall pit, which was closed in the late 1940s. The spoil heap there burned through the 1950s to about 1961; thereafter the then county council levelled the bing and, with great success, created a mixed woodland and picnic site, thereby encouraging much wildlife. This site also attracted fly tipping, so in 1976, workers under the Job Creation Scheme moved in to clear and tidy the site.

Wildlife: on a parish level, the collared dove appeared in Pencaitland in the 1950s, having reached Britain through Norfolk in 1951 whence it spread and became common in Pencaitland. About the same time the green woodpecker colonised the Pencaitland woods and was not uncommon in the neighbourhood; during the cold winter at the beginning of the 1960s the population dropped and has never recovered, though a few still make infrequent visits to the parish.

The red squirrel left the parish but the grey squirrel moved in, in force. The decline in farmland birds is such that many of them are rarely, if ever, seen or heard now. Modern farming practices may be partly responsible. There has been a decline in butterflies but the orange tip has made a welcome return, which, in season, is now relatively common. The species had not been seen for 100 years in Lothian, but it has now recolonised, and is present in Pencaitland parish.

Dutch elm disease made great inroads to the local elm population, which consisted mainly of Wych elms, though in many cases the brushwood lingers when it is part of a hedge. Plants of various species are scarcer than formerly. There is no doubt that the overuse of sprays and herbicides is responsible, although the council co-operates with the Scottish Wildlife Trust when vulnerable plants are present on grass verges; grass cutting is then restricted.

Changes: woodland at Woodhall, formerly a Forestry Commission property, is now in private ownership and has been sensitively dealt with, hard woods now mingling with the reduced number of conifers. Fountainhall’s owners, too, purchased Forestry Commission woodland, as did one other proprietor. The village lost an important feature when, in October 1983, the 200-year-old sycamore tree at the corner of the Winton Arms car park was found to be diseased and had to be felled. A replacement tree has now been planted.

Hedges feature in the parish; only five hedges were removed during 1945-2000 but many of the older hedges are slowly deteriorating. No hedges have been replanted.

There were three ponds in the parish, two of which have now silted up. The third was formed but was drained and then reverted to grass. In 2000, a large pond or lake was being created in the meadows in front of Winton House. There was a small refuse tip in the village, but it was filled in post-war.

The old railway line is now a vibrant wildlife corridor; known as the Pencaitland Railway Walk. Some 60 species have been identified along its length.

Dr R.R.B. Leakey describes Jerusalem, in the far north east of the parish, off the A6093.

Six houses on about nine acres of land constitute the hamlet of Jerusalem, halfway between Pencaitland and Haddington. This enclave is surrounded by Samuelston Mains and Jerusalem Farm and in the past (18th and 19th centuries) has been the site of a limestone quarry and more recently, until the 1960s, a smallholding based on Jerusalem Croft. The origin of the name for this area has not been confirmed, but [it] is thought to be connected with the Knights Templar, as the Knights of Jerusalem settled near Dirleton and are said to have quarried stone at Jerusalem.

The Scotsman (18 February, 1824) reported a murder arising from a quarrel between two workers at Jerusalem Quarry, in which “Guthrie snatched up a bottle with which he struck Newton so violent a blow on the head as to occasion his death”.

Much of the quarry workings have been infilled and today are gardens and woodland. At about the time the area passed to private housing, shelterbelts were planted with Scots pine, larch and Norway spruce to protect the houses from the north winds. Further spruce plantings were made about 25 years ago on part of the area, while much of the remainder became a hawthorn thicket. Over the last ten years, we have slowly started to transform all but a small part of this thicket into mixed woodland, planting a wide assortment of plants, including about 25 species of broadleaved trees and a few conifers. In doing this I have been adapting a tropical silvicultural system developed in Gabon by the French silviculturalist Catinot, for the enrichment of logged rainforest. Sadly the growth rates in Scotland do not compare with those we are obtaining using the same experimental system in Cameroon. Nevertheless, the results have been pretty successful and the transition from thicket to woodland is almost complete. The proximity of this area to the adjoining spruce and pine stands has created an excellent habitat for wildlife, and we enjoy very diverse birdlife. In this era when international attention is focussing on the loss of biodiversity on a global scale as a result of man’s mismanagement of natural resources, it is nice to think that at least small pockets with diverse flora and fauna can be created, and hopefully sustained, around Pencaitland.

Stone walls are a feature of the village, particularly in the east village adjoining the churchyard, where the height of the walls on each side of the road creates a canyon-like effect. One building site caused the boundary wall to be lowered but it still remains as a sizeable wall.

The provision of a footpath led to the demolition of a dilapidated field boundary wall; it is hoped it will be replaced by a boundary hedge. Several stone walls were demolished entirely by vandalism, with a stone wall opposite Beech Terrace being used as a ‘quarry’, presumably because certain individuals wish to increase their rockeries. Pleasingly, the wall was rebuilt c1997-8.

In the village, a few gap sites were filled by housing development; any remaining such sites should not necessarily be developed. Part of Pencaitland’s character is the intermittent nature of the housing interspersed with gardens and natural areas (see Homes).

Land Ownership

Pencaitland is a rural/agricultural village with an original core of houses provided by local landowners, with the addition in the 1880s of mainly work-associated terraced houses and amenity building for employees in the local coal industry. In the 1920s, a council housing estate was built and was added to through the years.

In the first half of the review period, fringe areas of the village changed ownership. This was occasioned by inheritance factors and especially the need to pay for repairs and maintenance of the principal property. Land at Spilmersford was sold to maintain Winton and changed the balance, population and employment locations of the village.

The change in land ownership was not so revolutionary as in some other places, but new owners came about because of the new houses in the parish, mostly in Easter Pencaitland. In fact, in the housing estate the new owners were almost, in their comparatively small area, numerically dominant over the bigger landowners.

Housing at Spilmersford, 1990s.

Housing at Spilmersford, 1990s.

Landowners in the Boggs Holdings changed through time as the holdings were sold for a variety of purposes, and new owners moved in. Some farms changed hands, but continued as farms under their new ownership (see Economy – Agriculture).

The largest estate in the parish is Winton House. With the exception of land sold for housing at Spilmersford, the estate is largely intact and is still owned by the same Ogilvy family as in 1945. Over this time, the estates of both Woodhall and Fountainhall changed hands. The fourth large house, Tyneholm (built in the early 19th century by Patrick Dudgeon), was privately owned in 1945, but went through a series of uses and owners – including as a Dr Barnardo’s home and a nursing home – and by 2000, was for sale (sold by 2002).

Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Uniquely in the county, there were no buildings of great note demolished, reinstated or built in Pencaitland parish over the 55 years.

Winton House came through the war relatively unscathed, but the landscape and gardens did not. The west park was ploughed, and woodlands cut down, being replanted in the 1950s and 1960s. The east park was ploughed in the 1950s. Landscape restoration is an ongoing process; its importance being as a setting for the A listed house and the other listed ancillary buildings (Land Use Consultants, 1987, pp247-52).

There are several attractive, but perhaps somewhat smaller, private houses in the parish. Beech Terrace is a fine, homely range of houses. Then in Lempockwells Road there is Islay House, a brick building which has several apartments in one building. It is a charming Victorian house (partly a shop at one stage of its life). The front of the house has been rather spoiled by larger windows replacing the Victorian ones. Adjoining it is a two-storey stone-built house.

Easter Pencaitland has quite a wealth of older properties, all of them with character such as Pencaitland House (now actually two separate buildings). Larger houses are interspersed with cottages, and a house with decorative chimneys (St Michael’s Lodge) and three larger houses for many years marked the extent of the village. As is common in Scotland, the parish has some large and handsome farmhouses, such as the listed Wolfstar.