In Dirleton village. Standing on a rock in a picturesque flower garden, Dirleton Castle consists of towers and ranges of buildings around a courtyard, which was once surrounded by a wide ditch. The old part of the castle, dating from the 13th century, is grouped around a small triangular court, and consists of a large drum tower, a smaller round tower and a rectangular tower. The chambers in the drum tower are polygon, one on top of the other. The basement is vaulted, like a dome, and has a fireplace decorated with dogtooth mouldings. The upper chamber would probably have been the lord's room, and is a particularly fine apartment. The entrance to the castle is by a wooden bridge across the wide ditch, and through a gatehouse, formerly with a drawbridge and portcullis. On one side of the castle is a range of buildings with a very thick outer wall. The basement, partly dug out of solid rock, contained the bakery, with ovens and a well, and several large vaulted cellars.
Adjacent to the bakery is the vaulted kitchen with two huge fireplaces and a service room leading to the hall. The hall, on the first floor, was very large, and one end is raised and was probably screened.
A stair linked the hall and cellars at one end, and at the other a stair led down to the dungeon, beneath which is a pit-prison. A wing also ran along the other side of the courtyard.
The castle was built in the 13th century by the Vaux family. It was captured after a hard siege in 1298, when the English employed large engines, but retaken by the Scots in 1311 and partly demolished. In the 15th century the castle passed to the Halyburton family, who extended it; and in the 16th century to the Ruthvens, who again remodelled much of the castle. After the forfeiture of the Ruthvens in 1600, following the 'Gowrie Conspiracy', the lands were acquired by Thomas Erskine of Gogar. In 1649 several women and men, who had confessed to witchcraft after the witch-finder, John Kincaid, had found 'devil's marks' on them, were imprisoned in the castle, later to be strangled and burned at the stake. In 1650 the castle was besieged by General Monck, during Cromwell's invasion of Scotland. A party of mosstroopers had been attacking Cromwell's lines of communication, with some success, but they were quickly forced to surrender. Three of the leaders were subsequently shot. The castle had been damaged in the attack and was probably slighted. In 1663 the property was bought by Sir John Nisbet, who built the house of Archerfield to replace the castle. - Words: Martin Coventry (1995)
An extensive ruin, Redhouse Castle is an altered 16th century courtyard castle. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosing a four-storey tower house, and ranges of buildings with vaulted cellars. The tower house was later extended by an adjoin ing tower, and a Renaissance entrance was added. At one corner of the courtyard is a doocot. It was a Douglas property, but acquired by the Laings, then passed by marriage to the Hamilton family.
George Hamilton, the last of the family, was executed for his part in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The property was forfeited, and the castle allowed to fall into ruin. - Words: Martin Coventry
Preston Tower consists of a strong 15th-century L-plan keep of four storeys, although it may possibly incorporate work from the 14th century. Two further storeys were added in the 17th century, when an extension was also built. The corbelled-out parapet has open rounds at each of the corners. Outbuildings and the courtyard have disappeared.
The basement is vaulted, and near the entrance, which still has an iron yet, is a pit-prison. The entrance to the vaulted hall, on the first floor could only be reached by an external stair. The hall has a large fireplace and a mural chamber. A turnpike stair climbs to the upper floors within the thickness of the walls, while another turnpike stair, in the re-entrant angle at parapet level, gave access to the ruinous 17th-century addition. Preston is said to have been a property of the Homes, but is recorded as being held by the Setons in the 13th century before passing to the Liddles. It passed by marriage, at the end of the 14th century, to the Hamiltons of Rossavon, Fingalton and Preston, who probably built the tower. Preston was torched in 1544 by the Earl of Hertford, and again in 1650 by Cromwell. After being restored, it was accidentally burned again in 1663, then abandoned for nearby Preston House. One of the family was Robert Hamilton, who was a noted Covenanter and prominent in the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Brig. The family were forfeited in 1684, but recovered the property in the 19th century. The tower was consolidated in 1936, purchased by The National Trust for Scotland in 1969, and is under the guardianship of the local council.
One of four old houses around the village of Preston, Hamilton House consists of a main block of two storeys with projecting wings at both ends. A hexagonal stair tower stands in one L-entrant angle. The roof is steep and stone-tiled. The walls are whitewashed, and the house is dated 1626. The building has been completely altered inside. The house was a property of the Harniltons. Although ruinous at one time, the building has been restored by The National Trust for Scotland.
Just south of Prestonpans, on minor road north of the B1361, near Prestonpans railway station, near Hamilton House and Preston Tower. Standing within a walled garden, Northfield House is an altered late 16th-century L-plan house of three storeys and a garret. Large bartizans crown all corners, and the pitch of the roof is steep. The hall was on the first floor, but the building has been altered inside. In 1956 16th-century tempera wall and ceiling paintings were discovered behind plasterwork. The property probably belonged to the Hamiltons, but by 1611 had passed to Joseph Marjoribanks, an Edinburgh merchant. It was sold in 1746 to the Nisbets, and later to the Symes, then in 1890 to the MacNeils. The house is in good condition, and still occupied. - Words: Martin Coventry
Standing in a walled garden at the north-east end of Prestonpans, this is another Hamilton house. An L-shaped building, it seems to date from the early 17th century, though a parish history states that it was occupied by David Hamilton in 1596. The date 1641 was discovered fairly recently by a local slater, cut in the lead of the roof, and this is more in keeping with the architecture. The walls, roughcast and colour-washed, rise to two storeys and an attic. The windows, some of which have been altered and enlarged, have chamfered margins, a 17th-century pointer. That nearest the re-entrant angle has probably been the original doorway. An interesting feature is the manner in which the walls of the wing have been strengthened and buttressed. The interior has been much altered to connect up with later extensions, and contains no vaulting.
The kitchen is at the west end of the main block basement, and there has been the usual wide fireplace in the gable. The basement of the wing is slightly below ground level.
The original stair has disappeared, but it would probably rise near the re-entrant angle. The house is still occupied and in good repair. Words: Nigel Tranter (1962)
Woodhall, a small mansion, incorporates a rectangular 16th-century tower house. The tower has a corbiestepped gabled roof and a projecting turret. There was a courtyard. The basement was vaulted, and contained the kitchen. The house has been modernised internally. Woodhall was a property of the Seton family, but in 1488 passed to the Sinclairs of Herdmanston, who held it until the 18th century. The castle was ruined by 1799, and the property passed to the Lauders. Woodhall was restored in 1884, and is still occupied. - Words: Martin Coventry
Saltoun Hall, a later mansion in the Elizabethan style, incorporates part of a strong castle, which may date from as early as the 12th century. It was a property of the de Morvilles in the 12th century, but passed to the Abernethy family before 1300, who were later made Lords Saltoun. Saltoun was occupied by the English in 1547, led by Cockburn of Ormiston, but retaken by the Earl of Arran for the Scots in a surprise attack. It was sold in 1643 to Sir Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, 'The Patriot', who was prominent in resisting the Union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707. The hall was occupied by the Fletchers until the 20th century, but has been subdivided and is still occupied.
Nunraw consists of a strong 15th-century keep of four storeys and an attic within a corbelled-out parapet. The parapet has open rounds at the comers. A mansion was added to the keep in 1860. The basement and the first-floor hall of the keep are vaulted. During a 19th century renovation, a painted refectory ceiling was discovered, dated 1461, part of which is now in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The castle was built by the Nunnery of Haddington, but passed to the Hepburn Earls of Bothwell after the Reformation, then to the Dalrymples. It was captured by the English in 1547. The new mansion was added in the 1860s, and the property later passed to the Hay family. In 1946 a new monastery was founded here, the Abbey of Sancta Maria, and the castle is incorporated into the buildings. There was a village here, dating from medieval times, but nothing now remains. - Words: Martin Coventry
Whittinghame Castle is an altered 15th-century L-plan keep, consisting of a main block and small stair-wing. The corbelled-out parapet is rounded at the corners. Some of the windows have been enlarged. The entrance is in the stair-wing, and the basement is vaulted. The hall, on the first floor, now housing a collection of old prints and documents, is panelled, and has a fine painted ceiling. - Words: Martin Coventry
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