East Lothian Antiquarians > Visits


16thOctober visit to Newbattle Abbey

The last outing of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society for the season was to Newbattle Abbey at Dalkeith on Saturday 16th October.

This was the site of one of the great medieval abbeys of Scotland. It was founded from Melrose in 1140.It became rich by developing coal mining and salt pans.

The, almost immediate, re action of one of the party was “but where is the abbey?” At first sight nothing remains. It became the property of the last commendator Mark Kerr in 1587 and in the possession of successive generations of the Kerr family it became a great country house. Inside the house part of the Abbey can be seen incorporated into later building. Newbattle was given to the nation by Philip Kerr 11th Marquis of Lothian in 1937 to be used as a college of Education for adults returning late to education. The Kerr motto ‘sero sed serio’ ‘late but in earnest’ is considered appropriate also for the college. It has played a very important part in this field and even as we visited various important rooms we encountered students involved in seminars.

The abbey was noted for two important facts of Scottish history: The declaration of Arbroath, otherwise known as the Scottish Declaration of Independence, of 1320 was composed there and in 1503 Margaret Tudor was received by King James IV for what was to be known as the marriage of the Thistle and the Rose This union led in 1603 to the Union of the crowns when James VI of Scots succeeded to the English throne.

It is remembered in two fine paintings in the great drawing room, one of Scotland’s great rooms decorated by Thomas Bonnar c1870.

The house was voted a hidden gem. It is surrounded by handsome grounds which were seen in autumnal splendour.

The first event of the winter programme is a lecture to be given by Gerald Urwin in Haddington Town House on the 11th November entitled ‘The Siege of Haddington.’

Stephen Bunyan

4th September visit to Inchcolm

East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society made an expedition to Inchcolm Island on Saturday 4th Sept. led by Chris Tabraham,the recently retired Senior Inspector of Ancient Monuments and also principal historian of Historic Scotland. He is also the editor of the Transactions of the society. Chris has a thorough knowledge of the abbey, outlined its history and pointed out all the features of interest. The building complex is of particular interest because many of the buildings are more complete, than those of similar function, at any other Scottish medieval abbey.

In the event time did not permit a visit to the war time fortifications but it was interesting to learn that the second war soldiers were initially billeted in the medieval abbey and some, at least, slept in the monks’ dormitory. Soldiers often sleep in worse conditions.

Inchcolm is an island in the Firth of Forth. It was attacked by the English in the Middle Ages and played an important role in the two world wars in the 20th century.

It is also the site of a medieval Augustinian abbey. Its history goes back to ancient times. It may have been significant in Roman times and was certainly important in the time of St Columba after whom it was named. It is referred to in Macbeth as a burial place of the Danes who paid good money for the privilege.

The expediton left from Hawes pier South Queensferry on the Forth Belle at 1 pm and returned at 4 pm It was a beautiful afternoon and there was much of interest to see from the boat. Much information about the history of the firth of Forth was provided by the commentary supplied on the boat.

The expedition was greatly enjoyed by the group.

Kelvingrove Museum

Some members of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists society made an expedition by coach to Kelvingrove Museum on Saturday 13th September.

They were met by Ralph Moffat, curator medieval arms and armour in Glasgow museums. Ralph, who was the guest speaker at the annual dinner in April, showed members some of the armour in the museum. In the collection are some of the finest pieces in the world. Members also enjoyed looking at other exhibits, particularly the fine pictures in this magnificently restored gallery.

The final outing of the season is to Eskmills, Musselburgh on Sunday 12th October.

Farne Islands

The first outing of the 2008/9 season was a coach outing to the Farne Islands on Saturday 31st May.

The weather was fortunately fair as we took our places on an open boat for this trip from Seahouses.The skipper on Billy Shiel’s boat was extremely knowledgeable about the islands and the birds on them which he took care to point out to us. For a short time the sea was very choppy which proved quite testing. We landed on Inner Farne and certainly did not find the solitude St Cuthbert sought in the 7th century. We were at the height of the tern nesting season and ran the gauntlet of these fiercely protective birds some of whom had laid their eggs on the very threshold of the saint’s sanctuary. Having seen the chapel, and the memorial to Grace Darling, we made our way, almost in a crocodile, along the walkway to the other vantage points for viewing the other birds.We made the return journey in shorter time and calmer sea and so, home in brilliant sunshine, through rural Northumberland and Berwickshire.

The next outing which is fully subscribed is to Fountainhall at Pencaitland.

Eskmills Sunday 12th October

The last outing of the season was made on Sunday to this important industrial building in Musselburgh Col James Paterson a local man came back home and invented a machine capable of tying knots in fishing nets in 1812. His company and patent was bought by JW Stewart in 1849 who established a new factory on the Esk. The factory which is a magnificent industrial complex bears the date 1867. The factory became a world leader in the production of nets, with sales and repair facilities in North America, Europe and Australia. At the height of its production it employed 800 people. It was slow to adapt to man made fibres and declined. In 1983 it moved to Inveresk industrial estate and to Eyemouth in 1998. The mill complex was sensitively restored by Isertal developments and was crowned with the Hayweights clock in 1990.

The group was welcomed and shown round by Malcolm Gillies and were greatly impressed by what he has achieved in this site which was virtually derelict.

It now has fine office complexes, a gallery space and the fine Glasshouse Restaurant.

The first lecture of the season will be at the Seabird Centre, North Berwick when David Berry will give a talk entitled Lighthouses of the Forth.

Antiquarians at Eskmills

Photo: Ian Hardie

Fountainhall Pencaitland

On the 19th July they visited Fountainhall Pencaitland by invitation of Mr and Mrs Robert Cowe. They greatly enjoyed visiting this delightful unspoiled 17th century mansion, partly built by John Pringle c1640. It later became the country home of the Lauders of Newington who renamed it. It has been the home of the Cowe family since 1956.

The society visited Floors Castle at Kelso the seat of the Duke of Roxburghe on Sat 9th August. This was a follow up to our visit to Broxmouth in 2007. Floors was built by William Adam for the first Duke of Roxburghe and extended by Playfair for the sixth duke. It is set in a magnificent park. Members enjoyed visiting the mansion with its splendid furnishings and also the grounds and walled garden.


Antiquarians at Piswanton

Antiquarians at Piswanton


Antiquarians at Innerwick

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