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Pinkie House (Lothian) - Past and Present


Pinkie House is situated in Musselburgh, Lothian. Now a private school, it consists of an impressive mansion built in 1613 by Alexander Seton. The house has been much altered but its nucleus was a typical L-plan tower house of the late 16th century. This, in turn, was probably a rebuild of an even earlier tower destroyed by Somerset in the Wars of the Rough Wooing. It is remarkable that Seton felt confident enough to build on the palace plan but by 1603 there was relative peace due to the ‘Union of the Crowns’.

Pinkie house 1900 2017
TOP: Pinkie House: High tower and to left original building – note harling still in place, circa 1900
BOTTOM: Pinkie House photographed in 2017 with harling removed

The old tower still rises high above Seton’s additions. His grand extensions included a 78-foot-long gallery with a magnificent painted ceiling (now the school dormitory) and an oriel window rising through three storeys. Such windows are rare in Scotland but they existed at Edinburgh Castle (before its destruction in 1573) and are still to be found at the Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall and at Huntly Castle, Aberdeen.

The house is liberally covered with inscriptions but one is of particular notice as it is obvious that Seton’s ambitious plan was never carried out in full:

Dominus Alexander Setonius hanc domum aedificavit non ad
animi sed fortunarum et agelli modum 1613

Just in case your Latin is a little rusty this translates to:

Alexander Lord Seton, built this house in 1613 not as he would
have wished but according to the measure of his estate

Seton, as a good Scot, obviously managed his money carefully!

Pinkie was burned by Hertford (aka Somerset) in 1545 and again after the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 where the fleeing Scots crowded over the bridge at Musselburgh in their haste to reach the safety of Edinburgh.

Pinkie house oriel
Pinkie House side view: The great oriel window pictured circa 1900

After their defeat by Cromwell at Dunbar in 1650 the Scots once again streamed past, abandoning Edinburgh, except for the castle, on their way to safety in Fife.

Pinkie house rear
Pinkie House rear view: Note its fine range of chimneys

In 1745 the Jacobites were victorious at the Battle of Prestonpans. The wounded were treated in the great hall. The Highlanders suffered mainly from the effects of musket balls while their opposite number bore the marks of the broadsword.


Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.


Date posted: 14 Jun 2017Last updated: 07 Nov 2017


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