THE EARLY HISTORY OF AUCHINDINNY
The estate of Auchindinny was bought by John Inglis on November 21, 1702 from Robert Preston of Gorton for £23,100 Scots, or nearly £2000 sterling.
It lies about eight miles south of Edinburgh, on the right bank of the North Esk, and at the south end of the parish of Lasswade, and at that time it extended to seven hundred and thirty acres.
‘Auchin’ means in Gaelic ‘field of’ ; the derivation of ‘dinny’ is uncertain; the various suggestions are—dion ‘refuge,’ tiene ‘fire,’ or dinat ‘wooded glen.’ The charters and other old documents spell the name in many ways— Auchin-, Auchyn-, or Achin-dony, -dyny, -deny, -donnay,-dinnie: in the eighteenth century Auchindinny’ became the accepted form, and it is curious that ‘Auchendinny,’ now perhaps the commonest form, has scarcely any authority older than the middle of the nineteenth century.
The mansion-house, a substantial building of yellowish red sandstone, stands at the north-east end of the property, about five hundred feet above sea-level and facing the west. Its style of architecture is plain even to severity, but it gets character from being flanked on either side by a pavilion standing somewhat forward, and connected with the main building by a dead wall. The walls of the house are immensely thick, the basement is arched, the windows are small, and the doors very low. Its chief charm is the oak-panelled drawingroom, which runs the whole depth on the south side: three
22 THE EARLY HISTORY OF AUCHINDINNY
other rooms on the first floor are also panelled. At present there are about eight bedrooms, all small, but it is clear that some of the rooms are not used as originally intended.
The house was finished about 1707, but there was an older manor-place,’ which stood on the crest of the hill behind. The stones were used to build the wall round the policy, and some pieces of carving were to be seen there until the middle of last century: these have all now disappeared.
The approach is by a double avenue—two rows of elms and one of beeches. The ground rises steeply behind t1~e house, and falls abruptly to the Esk, which runs one hundred yards to the north. The garden, which lies to the south of the avenue, is about an acre and a half in extent: in the middle stands a tree planted by Lord Palmerston.
The present property includes two farms, one, Maybank or Little Floors, lying along the Esk, and the other, Auchindinny Mains, covering the south end of the estate, and including a stretch of moor beyond the Edinburgh and Peebles railway. The surface of both farms is undulating, and the general lie of the ground is steep, the moor being eight hundred feet above sea-level and three hundred and fifty feet above the Esk.
The property as bought by John Inglis in 1702 was in three divisions, Over or Wester Auchindinny, Nether Auchindinny, and the Firth, with the pertinents of Greyknowe, Pyke, and Pykehead or Sykehead, extending in all to a forty-shilling land. In security of the teinds warrandice was given over the adjacent lands to the south, viz. ‘the village and lands of Auchindinnie Brigis commonlie called the Lonestaine,’ Uttershill, and Fallhill. These warrandice lands were all sold at the same date to Sir John Clerk of Penicuik.
The boundaries of Over and Nether Auchindinny cannot now be determined: Greyknowe is the part of the Mains beyond the Peebles railway; Pyke is a little triangle of five acres alongside of the Peebles road above Maybank; and Pykehead is the part adjoining it to the east. The Firth, now
THE EARLY HISTORY OF AUCHINDINNY 23
a separate property, lies to the north and east of Auchindinny proper.
The warrandice lands of Loanstone were originally Temple lands, arid only came into possession of the Prestons about 1650. The old Auchinditmy Brigs, which gave them their other name, crossed the Esk near Eskmills,’ a mile above the present bridge, which was built in 1760. Uttershill, or Outershill, where there are ruins of a castle, is on the east bank of the Esk above Penicuik, and Fallhill is still further away to the south-east.
Auchindinny from the earliest times formed part of the barony of Gorton, which embraced the lands on the south bank of the Esk as far down as Hawthornden. In the middle of the thirteenth century David de Lysurs and his son William were Domini de Gouerton.2
About 1350 Gorton, formerly belonging to Margaret de Goiertoun, was conferred by King David Bruce upon Sir John de Preston,3 a soldier of distinction who had accompanied him on his invasion of England in 1346, and with him had been taken prisoner at Neville’s Cross, and afterwards confined in the Tower of London.4 The lands were erected into the barony of Gorton or Preston, which through various vicissitudes remained in the Preston family for four hundred and fifty years.
Sir John’s son, Sir Simon, bought the lands and barony of Craigmillar in l3745, and these lands also were held until 1660 by the Prestons, who became one of the most powerful families in the Lothians, and produced several prominent men. William Preston, the second laird after Sir Simon, ‘made deligent labour ande grete menis for the gettyn of the
1 See advertisement of Uttershill, Edinburgh Courant, April 1, 1706.
2Chartulary of Newbottle (Bannatyne Club), pp. 28, 29.
3 R.M. S., 1306-1424, App. 1, 111.
4Rymer’s Foedera, v. 534.
5B. M. S., 1306-1424, No. 455.
arme bane of Sant Gele, the quhilk bane he frely left to oure mothir kirk of Sant Gele of Edynburgh withoutyn ony condicioun makyn.’ 1 The Provost and Council of Edinburgh built the Preston Aisle of St. Giles’s Church to receive the relic.
William’s great-grandson, Sir Simon Preston, was ten times Provost of Edinburgh between 1538 and 1568. He was one of the leaders in the overthrow of Queen Mary, and it was to his house, the ‘Black Turnpike,’ close to the Tron Church, that she was brought after her surrender at Carberry Hill.
The direct succession of the Prestons ended in 1639 with tine death of Robert, Sir Simon’s grandson; and the next laird, David, one of the Whitehill branch, served heir with the remote connection of pronepotis trinepotis tritavi.2 His son George sold the barony of Craigmillar in 1660 to Sir John Gilmour, Lord President of the Court of Session, 3 and had previously, on February 8, 1655, sold Gorton to his cousin Robert, a brother of Sir George Preston of Valleyfield. 4 This Robert Preston was afterwards knighted, and, though not a lawyer, was by Lauderdale’s influence raised to the bench in 1672 with the title of Lord Preston. He died in 1674.
In 1663 he got a Crown charter of the barony of Gorton expressly including Over and Nether Auchindinny and Firth, and it was his second son, Robert, who sold these lands to John Inglis.
While the Prestons were superiors of the barony of Gorton, Auchindinny was for the most part held by vassals in feu. The first extant writ in which it is specially mentioned is dated July 20, 1425, 5when John Preston granted a charter of the lands of ‘Auchindony’ with the pertinents to his ‘well-beloved
1Charters relating to Edinbvrgh (Burgh Records Soc.), p. 79.
2,Inquisitiones Edinburgh, Nos. 852 853; Thomson’s Acts, vi. (1) 251.
3 lb., vii. 361a.
4 lb., vii. 523; B. M. 8., 1652-59, No. 415.
4 B. M. S., 1424-1513, No. 26.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF AUCHINDINNY 25
cousin,’ Henry Forstar or Forrester, on the resignation of Sir John Forrester of Corstorphine, his father. John Vernour was one of the witnesses. Henry Forrester was also proprietor of parts of the old barony of Redhall,1 but not of any part that is included in the modern property.
The connection of the Forresters with Auchindinny did not last long, and in 1487 Simon Preston of Gorton feued Over Auchindinny to James Vernour, whose descendants continued in possession for nearly two centuries.
The earliest mention of a ‘toure and maner-place’ occurs in a grant in 1557 by the famous Sir Simon Preston ‘to ane honorabill man, Maister Johnne Gledstane, licentiat in the laws,’ of the casualties of non-entry, ward, and marriage arising on the death of Thomas Vernour and the non-age of Thomas, his son.2
The Privy Council Register records various applications regarding the bridges over the North Esk and Glencorse Water carrying the main road from Edinburgh to Peebles. In 1601 there is a supplication by Thomas Vernour, who describes ‘Auchindony Brigs’ as ‘ruinous and almaist alredie decayit and fallin doun,’ 3 so that, unless they are repaired, ‘puir travellaris, cadgeris, and utheris passingeris resortand to the saidis brigis will be forcit to thair girt skaith to pas thrie or four myllis about.’ Vernour undertakes the repairs, and is allowed to levy tolls.
When King James vi. came to Scotland in 1617 the lairds on the route had to provide carriages and horses to convey His Majesty’s retinue and baggage, and the Council ordains ‘Mr. Gawane Nisbett for the baronie of Prestoun to haif in reddines in name of the Laird of Craigmillair tuelf horsse and Johne Vernor of Auchindynie constable.’
By this time the Vernours were getting into financial difficulties. In 1625 John Vernour, Beatrix Ramsay his wife,
1 Scots Peeraqe.. Forrester.
2 Auchindinny Charters.
‘3 P. C’. B., vi. 207, 677.
4 lb., xi. I17.
and their son George burdened Over Auchindinny with a bond of wadset for 3000 merks in favour of a certain William Frazier in Currie.’ ‘They still continued in possession of the lands and manor-place, paying Frazier a rent of 300 merks, which was in fact tile interest on the bond at the rate of ten per cent.
They were also the tenants of Nether Auchindinny, and an attempt to evict them from possession did not succeed without a struggle. Early in 1632 Robert Preston, their landlord, obtained a decreet of removing against John Vernour, but upon April 6 Vernour assembled together some twenty-four persons, armed with swords, steel-bonnets, hagbuts. pistols, and other weapons, among them being George Vernour, ‘apparent of Achindynnie,’ and James, his brother, and came with them to the said lands, ‘entered plewes upon the same, and sew and harrowed a pairt thairof.’ 2
Preston sent some of his servants to stop them by peaceable means, whereupon Vernour and his companions ‘boasted and minassed’ them, and attacked some of them, viz. ‘Johne Thomson, who wes sawing, dang him to the ground and gave him manie blae straikes, reft the scheit frome his neck, and rave the same, violenthie continewed in the teilhing, harrowing and sawing of the saidis lands,’ and would have killed some of his servants, had not the minister of the parish stopped them. The Lords of Privy Council ordained them to be put to the horn and escheat.
The connection of the Vernours with Over Auchindinny came to an end in 1650, when, after an action of apprising, John Vernour resigned his feu to the superior, George Preston of Gorton and Craigmillar. In 1653 George Preston feued Auchindinny, Over and Nether, to Mr. Thomas Henderson, advocate, the disposition expressly mentioning that Nether Auchindiuny had never before been disponed.
Henderson resigned his feu in 1664, and two years later
1 Acts and Decreets, - March 4, 1634 (Hay, vol. 470, fol. 8).
2 P.C.R ., 2nd series, iv. 472.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF AUCHINDINNY 27
Robert Preston, tile superior, disponed the lands to Mr. James Deans of Highrigs, writer in Edinburgh, and James Deans of Woodhouslee, his son, in security for a loan of 15,000 merks.1 Preston continued in possession of the lands, for which he paid a back-tack duty of 900 merks, but the elder Deans possessed the manor-place for the next ten years.
In 1674 Lord Preston died, leaving his affairs embarrassed. John, his eldest son, was charged to enter heir, and the estate was exposed for sale by Sir Robert Dundas of Arniston and other creditors. Robert Preston, the second son, was the highest bidder, and thus became laird of Gorton, subject to the various burdens.
In 1676 David Howisone, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, acquired right to Deans’s wadset and to possession of the mansion-house of Auchindinny,2 and in 1694 he assigned his rights to Dr. Alexander Dundas. Shortly afterwards Robert Preston’s affairs reached a crisis; the whole barony was adjudged, and a long process of ranking followed. Eventually it was arranged that part of the barony should be sold and the rest restored to him, and a purchaser for Auchindinny and the Firth was found in John Inglis, who was agent for some of the creditors.
The price, which was calculated at nineteen and a quarter years’ purchase on a rental of £1200 Scots,3 was paid by instalments during the next six years, but Preston’s most urgent obligation was removed by an immediate payment of £11,610 Scots to my Lord Arniston, and in 1705 he was able to take a lease of Pykehead and Greyknowe for nineteen years at a rent of ‘£200 Scots, 24 sufficient hens, and 24 loads of coalls within the town of Edinburgh.’ 4
A Crown charter was granted on January 27, 1703 in favour of John Inglis and his wife in liferent, and Archibald, their eldest son, in fee.
1 Register of Deeds (Da.lrymple), July 24, 1685.
2 lb., July 24,
3 lb., March 4, 1713.
4 lb., May 12, 1709.