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The Annals of Penicuik
Chapter III - Antiquities


THERE are not many prehistoric remains to be found in this parish. On the Harkenburn, within the Penicuik grounds, there can, however, be seen evidences of circular formations, which may possibly be of early British origin. On the farm of Braidwood also, on the summit of a low hill, there are the remains of an oval camp 84 yards long by 61 broad, enclosing a number of tumuli 11 yards each in diameter. It has three entries, and has been encompassed by ditches about four yards each in width. It is frequently referred to by the country people as the Roman camp or castle, but as these were square, it is unlikely that their surmises can have any foundation in fact. It may belong to early times, but more probably it has been a place erected for the safety of cattle during the troublous days in Scotland, when predatory incursions from the borders were of frequent occurrence. Fortalices or castles existed at Penicuik, Brinistane, Braidwood, Ravensneuk, Coaltown, and Loganhouse, and it is quite likely that the owners of some of these would make provision for the protection of their vassals and their cattle within these strong and high walls, the mere foundations of which are only now visible to the student of antiquity. There has been some evidence, however, of Roman remains in another quarter of the parish. In the year 1801, when a foundation was being dug for the present farm-house at Patieshill, four flags with a cover were laid open, enclosing an urn of coarse glazed yellowish brown earthenware, with two ears to lift it by, having a rude representation of a man's face on each of then. It contained ashes, and near to it were two iron spurs of an uncommon form. A little way below the house there were then to be seen also the remains of a kiln for drying corn. It was considered by antiquaries of that period to have been the site of a Roman camp or redoubt. Alexander Gordon, in his Itinerariam (published 1726-1730., says that one of their stations was at Whitfield, a mile and a half distant; and as a fort at the entrance of the valley would be of great strategic importance, it is very probable that the theory on this subject was correct. As these places which have 'car' or 'caer' affixed to their names are often in the neighbourhood of Roman stations, it is reasonable to suppose also that the village of Carlops, or rather the ground whereon the village stands, may have been so called.

Another object of antiquarian interest, and a connecting link with those far-off times when Newhall and its monastery were occupied by the Cistercian monks, is the stone which is still to be seen on the top of Monks Ridge, near to the old path which crosses the hill. It is of oblong form, with deep indentations, evidently meant for the knees of the worshippers at a cross which originally stood in the centre of the stone, but which has long since disappeared. In the year 1833, two shepherds, by name John Tod and James Aitken, turned over the stone with levers, and were rewarded by obtaining possession of a few copper coins. I have been unable to trace the subsequent history of these coins, or to ascertain the date of their coinage.

The large dome which forms part of the offices at Penicuik House, though not in itself an object of antiquarian interest, is still worthy of notice as the only existing representation or model of what was in its time the oldest building in Scotland. '!'leis curious-looking beehive structure was built last century by Sir James Clerk, as a facsimile of the famous Arthur's O'on, which stood on the river Carron. The origin, and still more the reputed inscription on this curious building, lead been frequently a matter for serious discussion between Baron Sir John Clerk and his antifuarian friend Gordon, author of the Itincrarium. The latter, I may say, believed the O'on to have been a Roman temple erected to Agricola. It was pulled down by the Laird of Stonehouse in 1743, and its materials were used by him in the building of it dam.

MOUNT LOTHIAN CHAPEL

Little now remains to mark the site of the old church and churchyard,--the dike, which was with pious care built round them by a former proprietor, having almost entirely disappeared. The situation of the walls, most of which were taken to build the neighbouring farm-steading, can still, however, be traced, and sufficient interest is shown in time old place by those living in the district to warrant me in including it in the chapter on Antiquities. The country round having always been thinly peopled, the old l)ari h church of Mount Lothian (sometimes by a mistaken tradition called Monkslothian) was of little value, being rated in the ancient taxation at only twelve merks.

Mr. Cosmo Innes, in his Origines Parochiales, mentions that the land surrounding it was given by King William the Lion, about the year 1180, to the Cistercian monks of Newbattle; but it is likely, I think, that the transaction which he quotes would only be a confirmation granted by the king. It was the law of Scotland that no grant by a vassal, given by way of mortification, could stand without the consent of his superior, and it appears probable that Mount Lothian belonged at a very early period to the Lords of Restalrig, who gifted portions of it to the Newbattle ecclesiastics.

The following is a rough translation of a very old undated Latin charter by Edward of Restalrig and Mount Lothian, waking such a conveyance:-

"To the Faithful of Holy Church Edward of Restalrig - greeting: And be it known to posterity, and to those now living, that I have given and by charter have confirmed as a gift to the Church of St. Mary at Newbattle, and the religious thereto attached, the half of Mountludyan in the woodland, in the plain, in the meadows and pastures, in waters, in roads, and in footways, together with all the cut timber to such land appertaining, and one toft in Leith, for the wellbeing of my soul, and for the souls of my wife and heirs, and for the souls of my father and another and my predecessors, as alms, for all time coining, to be possessed by them in freedom and in peace from all taxation and such usages."

In the year 1223 an exchange of certain of their properties was effected between the monks of Holyrood and Newbattle, by which the former obtained Mount Lothian in excambion for the lands of Romanoch [Romanno]. In April 1251, David, bishop of St. Andrews, fixed stipends to be paid to the vicars serving the churches belonging to the Abbey of Holyrood, and in the case of Mount Lothian he made provision that when the Church had not means to support a vicar, it should be served by a sufficient chaplain. The insufficiency of its revenues caused an arrangement of this kind to be frequently necessary. Even in more recent days the minister of Penicuik had Mount Lothian occasionally in charge, and at other times readers were appointed to conduct the services.

After the Reformation—an event which severed its connection with Holyrood—the cure was served by the vicar. In 1635, the church, with all its rights and revenues, was transferred to the Episcopate of Edinburgh, but this connection only lasted for a short period. The parish itself was finally absorbed in that of Penicuik about the year 1638, when all need for a separate ecclesiastical establishment was at an end. The churchyard, however, continued to be used for long afterwards. A curious entry in the Session Minutes records the fact that, on the 8th August 1682, one John Ballantyne was summoned and rebuked for making a grave at Mount Lothian Chapel, thus defrauding the bellman out of his just and lawful dues. For many hundred years after the gift of the Church Iands, Mount Lothian continued in possession of the Restalrig family. I find, for instance, that on May 3d, 1543, at Fast Castle (where his notorious grandson proposed to imprison King James), Robert Logan, lord of the lands and baronies of Restalrig and Mountloudane, with consent of his father and David Wod of Craig, his curator, gave charter to Margaret Ellen, spouse of Robert Loan, his father, for her liferent use of the lands and barony of Mountloudian, with tenants, etc. This charter was confirmed by the Crown on September 27th, 1543. On January 20th, 1579, the lands of Mount Lothian, and the other possessions of Robert Logan, Were apprised for debt, and he became eventually bankrupt. In 1596, Andrew Loan of Coatfield, a cadet of the family, purchased the property, and it continued to be owned by his successors until after the year 1668, but the exact (late of their alienation I have not discovered. I find from the Session records that a Mr. William Kintore, advocate, was a heritor in virtue of his possession of them in 1698.

This gentleman sold the lands of Mount Lothian and Herbershaw to Sir John Ramsay of Whitehill for 15,500 marks, under right of redemption at a certain date, and on condition that if they were not so redeemed they should become the purchaser's absolute property by a further payment of 2500 marks.

Kintore did not redeem them, and a lawsuit ensued in 1699, the result of which was apparently in favour of Ramsay, for in 1703 there is record of the sale of the lands by him to Patrick Murray, who was thereafter designed of Mount Lothian.

The Murrays retained possession for a considerable period, but the property was finally purchased by the Clerks of Penicuik, and it still remains in that family.

BRUNSTANE CASTLE.

This fine memorial of sixteenth-century architecture, the old seat of the Crichtons, is still in a state of good preservation. It presents the appearance of having been a very large irregular building of great strength, with vaulted rooms, and the walls pierced for defensive purposes. About the beginning of the century it was still surrounded by a deep fosse or ditch, and, situated as it is on the edge of a deep ravine, it must have been a place capable of making very considerable resistance to an enemy. Over the principal doorway is carved a shield with lion rampant, and the letters J. C., the initials of the builder. A scroll to right and left of it contains the date of building, 1568, and certain almost undecipherable letters, which I think must be ANO - DNI. In the Penicuik churchyard, immediately behind the burying-place of the Newhall family, there also exists on the wall the family crest, in excellent preservation. It is, argent, a lion rampant, armed and langued gales, within a border, engrailed, of the second. The history of the family who occupied the castle and grounds for over two hundred years contains items of varied interest.

In 1373, David of Penicok, for food advice and service rendered to him, granted to his cousin, William of Creichtoune, lord of that Ilk, his whole lands of Burnstoune and Welchtoune, with their pertinents, lying in his lands and lordship of Penicok. These lands were to he held by the said William of Creichtoune and Thomas of Creichtoune his son, and failing the latter by death, without leaving lawful heirs of his body, by Edward Creichtoune his brother. The reddendo, or condition of holding the property, was a red rose, payable to the superior if asked for, on the ground of Brunistoune, at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. This charter was confirmed by King Robert II. at Scone, on 29th March 1373, in the third year of his reign. Two years later, another charter of confirmation is given by the same king, of a part of the lands of Braidwood, to William of Creichtoune, and from this William of Creichtoune, lord of that Ilk, and from his son Edward, descended the family of Brunstane. In July 1410 a charter passed under the Great Seal, of the lands of Gilberton, to Margaret Creichtoune, spouse of William of Creichtoune. These lands, which lie near Portobello, now also bear the name of Brunstane, and were held in chief of the king, for service of ward and relief. In 1447 'Thomas Creichtoune had saline of the lands of Gilberton. In 1456 George Creichtoune had also sasine. In 1461 John Creichtoune was retoured heir. In 1487 Edward Creichtoune succeeded to the estate of Burrnistone and Gilberton. In a charter executed by him of the lands in 1493, he resigns them temporarily into the lands of the superior, John Penycuke of that Ilk, owing to his wife, Agnes Cockburn, having judicially renounced her right of terce. The witnesses to this document, whose names are given below, are all apparently men in the employment of the contracting; parties, and consequently former residents in our parish. They were—William Bortlhwic, Patrick Vaich, Bulfred Ilaliburton, James Gyll, John Red, William Adanmson, William Bernard, John Zougar, Robert Thomsone, John Forestar, John Barthilomew, and James Zoung, notary-public. On 27th April 1507, Edward Creichtoune was succeeded by his son John in all his lands ; but in December of that year the latter resigned the lands of Gilberton, with mansion and orchards, into the king's hands, who granted them to Patrick Creichtoune of Kinglassy, son of his familiar, Sir Patrick Creichtoune of Cranston-Redell, knight, under reservation of John Creich ton ne's liferent and his wife's terce. It would appear that Patrick had advanced money to John, and obtained his lands of Gilberton as security. He had also given the lands of Bruniston in warrandice, for on 1st July 1530 he obtained sasine of the lands of Brunistone, Welchstoune, Braidwood, and Ravenshaugh; and the deed narrates how he had, knowingly and willingly, by staff' and batoun, resigned these lands into the hands of his superior, John Penycuke of that Ilk; whereupon the said John Penveuke passed personally with witnesses to the principal passage of said lands of Brunistoune, and gave sasine of all the above-mentioned lands to the said John Creichtoune, by delivery to him of the same staff and batoun, and of earth and stone of the ground of said lands, conform to use and wont. On same date John Penvcuke of that Ilk, at the instance of an honourable man, John Creichtoune of Brunistoune, passed to the chief passage of the lands, and there the said John Creichtoune, with consent of his spouse, Janet Hamilton, resigned his lands into the hands of the said John Penycuke; and thereafter the latter gave sasine of them unto an honourable man, Alexander Crcichtoune, son and heir-apparent of the said John Creichtoun, but With the reservation of the liferents of Welchstoune and Braidwood, so long as he and his wife lived.

This Alexander Creichtoune was a man of note in his day. Ile was at first in the service of the Crown, and employed on missions to France. He was also in the service of Cardinal Beaton, but seems to have quarrelled with him; and he afterwards threw himself into the hands of the English faction, and was a leading spirit in their councils. Beaton had become particularly odious to those of the Scottish Barons who were engaged to support the schemes of Henry VIII. his subtle statesmanship had frustrated their designs and baffled all the diplomacy of the English Court. Creichtoune was it personal friend of George Wishart the martyr, whom Beaton hated, and it is almost certain that the Castle of Brunstane was one of his frequent places of refuge while he was in hiding from his wily foe. In the month of July 1545 Creichtoune opened communication with Sir Ralph Sadler, King Henry's commissioner, touching the killing of the Cardinal. This met with a willing response, on which Sadler hinted at a reward for the deed, also noting with some emphasis the 'glory to God ' that would accrue. This did not quite satisfy I3runistanc, and in October of the same year he sent several communications to England with the object of not only obtaining reward but protection. In this, however, he failed, and he finally appears to have determined not to attempt the deed unless under the express sanction of the English Privy Council. Meanwhile Beaton, confident in his position and in his powers, proceeded to greater extremities. Amongst these was the execution of the learned and gentle Wishart. The Cardinal's cup, however, was now full to running over, for on 29th May 1546 he was assassinated in his own castle by Kirkcaldy of Grange, Lesly, Melville, and others. After this time, Creichtoune, along with the Earls of Angus, Cassilis, Lennox, Glencairn, and many others, shamefully deserted the cause of their country and espoused the English interest. It is believed that it was through Creichtoune's influence that Lord Grey, at the head of an army, invaded the eastern marches, burning the towns of Dalkeith and Mussellburglh, and laid waste the country nearly to the walls of Edinburgh. He was in consequence of these deeds attainted for high treason, and his castle of Brunistane burnt to the ground. On his attainder the lands of Brunistane, Braidwood, Welshtoun, and Ravenshau ;h were granted by the Crown to James Sym, burgess of Edinburgh. On 22nd January 1554 there was a royal precept directed to John Penvcuke of that Ilk, commanding him to enter by charter and sasine the above James Sym in the lands; and on 26th January 1554 the laird of Penycuke, as superior of the lands, accordingly granted him charter of these lands, mentioning that they had belonged to the deceased Alexander Creielhtoune, who had been convicted of treason. James Sym almost immediately afterwards resigned them in favour of John Creichtoune, son of the late Alexander. John married Margaret Adamson of Craigcrook, and in the year 1568 rebuilt the castle of Brunstane. In November 1597, with consent of his wife and his son James, he entered into a contract for alienating their other estate of Gilberton to Dame Jean Fleming, Lady Thirlestane. Charter of sale followed, and thus passed away from the Creichtounes those lands, which were however destined to preserve a memorial of their former owners in the name 'Brunstane.' The family was soon, however, to lose their still older hereditary estates. James Creiclltoune succeeded his father, and he again was succeeded by his son Thomas. The latter sold Brunstane and its pertinents about the year 1609, and emigrated along with his brother Abraham to Ireland, where many decayed Scots families and younger sons of those in better circumstances found a field for a fresh start in life. In the enrolments for shares in the Plantation of Ulster I find that Thomas Creichtoune received 2000 acres ; and, on his becoming surety for 400 for his brother Abraham, he also received a similar grant. The only other allusion to this family which has come under my notice is a short extract in the Register of the Great Seal, of date October 18th, 1637, which introduces the name of David Creichton as a residenter in the kingdom of Ireland, and states that he is the heir of 'Thomas Creichton, eldest lawful son of James Creichton, formerly of Brunston. When sold by the Creichtouns, the properties of Brunston, Welchtoun, and Braidwood were in all likelihood purchased by Mr. John Preston, the owner of I'enicuik. They were at least part of his possessions at the time of his death, and I have not come across the name of any intermediate owner.

LOGAN TOWER.

All that now remains of this interesting old hill-fortalice is a portion of one of its towers. It is much to he regretted that some twelve years ago the remains of another tower to the north side were undermined and blasted, and the stones taken to build all addition to the neighbouring farm-stealing of Kirkton. Some of the original castle staircase may also, I believe, be now seen forming part of a series of outside steps at time gamekeeper's cottage, some five or six hundred yards farther down the hill. Logan Tower has been frequently described as a hunting seat of time Scottish kings when they resided at Holyrood. This tradition has, so far as I have been able to ascertain, no foundation in fact. Its another chapter dealing with its successive owners I have shown that the estate of Loganhouse belonged of old to the St. Clairs of Roslin, and it is an undoubted fact that it was frequently occupied by them. On 3d April 1593, for instance, the Laird of Rosslyn declared to the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, when they had upon one occasion to deal with him, 'that he was nane of the Parochinaris of Leswaid, but fine of the Parochinaris of St. Catlierines of the Hopes, in respect that his residence was in Loganhouse Tower'. A short account of its buildings by the late Andrew Kerr, architect, who visited the locality in 1877, a year before the demolition I have referred to, will give some idea of its appearance at that time. he says that the place has consisted originally of a single tower built in rubble-work of the local stone, and with walls three or four feet thick. The ground floor was all that then remained, and consisted of one vaulted apartment 20 feet long by 17 feet wide, entered by a door to the side. On the north side, he says, an additional tower with an enclosing wall forming part of a courtyard had been erected early in the fifteenth century, probably by William, third Earl of Orkney, as it was of the same character as the addition made by him at Rosslyn Castle. The courtyard wall, at the date of Mr. Kerr's visit, had been entirely removed, probably, I suppose, to make way for the shepherd's house, which now occupies a portion of the site of the old buildings.

HOWLET'S HOUSE.

On the edge of a scaur to the right-hand side of the road, and about halfway up the Loganlea Reservoir, there are still to be seen the remains of an old building called the Howlet's Hall, or House. It is supposed by old residenters to have been a dog-house connected with Logan Tower. This is evidently a mistaken tradition. "Mr. Kerr, who visited it when exploring the other objects of interest in the valley, was of opinion that it had probably been a chapel with accommodation for a priest, and perhaps used before the old chapel of St. Catherine's, which is now covered by the waters of Glencorse Reservoir; possibly it may have been that St. Catherine's Chapel in Pentland which, about the year 1230, Henry de Tirade, Knight, granted to the monks of Holyrood tithes of all his moorland and of his land of Bavilaw to keep up and maintain public worship in, as recorded in munimenta Sancte Crucis, p. 45. When first seen by Mr. Kerr, the east gable, with its window, was quite entire, also the complete circular arched roof of the apartment, and a stone basin built into the wall. Wind and weather have, however, sadly despoiled the old building since that tune, and though a portion of the arched roof still exists, the remains of the old chapel, if such it was, are gradually disapearing from sight.

RAVENSNEUK CASTLE.

This old home of the St. Clairs is situated on an eminence on the south Dank of the Esk, within the plantation bordering the farm of Ravensneuk. It is fast disappearing from sight, and at its present rate of decay there will soon not be one stone left upon another to mark the spot where formerly it stood. At the ]resent time a portion of the wall a few feet high is still existing upon the north side, and the remains of two gables about 57 feet apart mark the extent of at least one part of the ancient building. It has apparently been a place of considerable strength, with the walls pierced for defensive purposes. Not enough remains, however, to indicate with any certainty the style of its architecture or the probable date of its erection.

Along with the lands of Cairnhill on the opposite side of the river, both Easter and Wester Ravensneuk were until the close of the seventeenth century part of the barony of Roslin. The former mentioned portion was however alienated at a very early period, and there is now no means of ascertaining its extent. The Cairn-hill cottages, which once stood on the rising ground to the right after passing the Kersewell road going westwards, would mark one of its boundaries, and it probably extended to Braidwood and Brunstane on the one side, and on the other to the Loan Burn on the north side of the farm of Cornbank, then called Cairnbank.

Before proceeding to speak of the subject of Rvensneuk and its castle, it may perhaps be as suitable here as elsewhere to give my readers a short account of this other portion of the Roslin barony situated in our parish.

At a very early period it came into the possession of Sir George Crechton of Carnes, Lord high Admiral of Scotland. For some cause or another this gallant gentleman resigned his honours and his lands in the King's hands without the consent of his son and heir, Sir James. The latter rebelled, and took the extreme step of imprisoning his father in Blackness Castle. The King went to the assistance of his admiral, besieged the castle in great force, and finally took it. Sir James had however recovered part of the paternal estates, for on 19th May 1468, William St. Clair, Prince of Orkney, the founder of Roslin Chapel, granted him charter of the Cairnhill lands to be holden in blench for one penny, one of the witnesses to this charter being Sir John Penicuik of that Ilk, Knight. The property finally passed from the possession of the Crechtons to one John Medilinast of Grestar, and Was purchased from the latter owner by John Williamson, burgess of Edinburgh. He sold it in July 1585 to Robert Ker, younger, portioner of Duddingston, who in 1598 parted with it to John Creichton, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, for 3100 merks. The next purchaser was William Adamson of Craigcrook, who after holding it for about six months passed it on to Robert Livingstoun, baker, burgess of Edinburgh. After the year 1602 the Cairnhill lands came into possession of one Thomas Galloway of Slipperfield, and continued in his family for many years. They were finally absorbed into the Penicuik estate, probably in the time of the Prestons. While thus early alienating the Cairnhill portion of their property, the St. Clairs continued to hold by Easter and Wester Ravensneuk. The castle was also constantly occupied by members of that powerful family. The Privy Council Records contain many allusions to them. For instance, I find that on 6tli September 1591, Oliver Sinclair of Ravensneuk and others became caution for '10,000 for Sir William Sinclair of Rosling, that he should answer before the lain, and Council to such things as should be laid to his charge. A fortnight afterwards he himself is bound over by the authorities not to harm John Gibson and others. His relative Sir William becomes his surety upon this occasion for one thousand pounds. In the year 1601 a family quarrel had evidently taken place, for one John Fairlie of Comistoun becomes surety for Sir William Sinclair of Rosling that he will not do bodily harm to Oliver Sinclair of Ravensneuk. Many instances of this kind could be quoted, in which the latter gentleman or his successors, along with the neighbouring lairds, appear either as principal or sureties, all indicating the turbulent character of the gentry in these troublous times. Tradition leas it that one of the owners of Ravensneuk was Sir Oliver Sinclair, the favourite of James V. and the general of his army which sustained so severe a defeat by the English at Solway Moss, but there is no satisfactory evidence known to me which can be quoted in proof of this statement. So far as I can ascertain, the castle and lands were owned by the St. Clairs until about the middle of the seventeenth century. They then passed into possession of the owners of the Penicuik barony. The superiority over them had not however been renounced at the time of sale, for they appear in the Roslin charters in the year 1699, while forty-six years before that time mention is made of both Ravensneuk and Cairnhill having been annexed by Dame Jean Ross, Lady Innes, proprietrix of Penicuik. It would only be after the resignation by St. Clair of this superiority into the hands of the Crown that the Icing would grant charter consolidating the superiority in the person of the new owner, and that this apparent dual interest ceased to he recorded.

It is to be regretted that so little now remains of the old castle. It is not the gradual touch of time that has levelled its walls, else, like its neighbours at Brunstane and Uttershill, it might still have remained in fair preservation, an object of interest and delight to the antiquary. The stones of its frowning battlements have, I fear, been found too useful for the building and repairing of farm dikes in the vicinity,—a levelling process which has destroyed many other mementoes of feudal times. Fine large beech-trees growing within its walls now spread their protecting branches over what remains of the old castle, but it is to be feared that if there be a local historian in the next century, he may a seek, but seek in vain, for the ruins of the hone of the St. Clairs.


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