Pencaitland derives from Old Brythonic “Head of the Woodland” and so is one of the older placenames and inhabited places in East Lothian. The parish later contained several substantial feudal estates, centred on what became mansions: Fountainhall House (Penkaet Castle) was originally built by the Pringles in the late 16th century with extensions to the house being added in 1638 to celebrate the wedding of John Pringle and Margaret Dickson; it was the centre of the barony of Woodhead. Winton House or Castle was built sometime in the 15th century and is, at present, home to Sir Francis and Lady Ogilvy.
Pencaitland lies in the Lothian coalfield and its minerals have been exploited for centuries. The last coal mines closed in the 20th century. Pencaet Colliery was privately owned; it ceased to be worked by William Gordon in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Similarly, the Chancellorville Mine at Winton West Mains was opened privately by a Mr Stein in the 1970s but closed after a short period of working under great difficulties; it was the last mine to produce coal in Pencaitland parish. There was in the 19th century a limestone quarry and limekiln based at Lampland.
The parish, containing also Newtown village, is bounded on the north by Gladsmuir, southeast by Salton, the south and west by Ormiston, and by Tranent on the northwest. In 1901 the railway came to Pencaitland in the form of the Gifford and Garvald Light Railway Company, constructed mainly to ship minerals and farm produce to Edinburgh. The railway was closed in 1960 and is now the Pencaitland Railway Walk. Glenkinchie Distillery (established 1830) is located to the south of the village of Pencaitland and is well-known for lowland malt whisky. Baird’s Maltings, which processes barley, was sited to the west of the village in 1965, a new plant was built in 1978, and new drier in 2000.
Pencaitland remains an agricultural and rural parish.
Allan, Robert Woodha’
Andrew S Cunningham, Mining in Mid and East Lothian : history of the industry from earliest times
W. Y. Whitehead, Picturesque Pencaitland