The Growth of Wealth, Church & State (c. 1484–c. 1900)

Gosford House

East Lothian became increasingly well-populated, as the fertile land and coast provided a good living.

Grand estates were built up, and the wealthier families became ever more politicised, involved in the machinations of Crown and Parliament. Developments in education and the Church also affected the wider populace, and East Lothian was home to a surprisingly large number of well-known inventors, artists, writers and thinkers, among them the revolutionary churchman John Knox, the scholar John Brown and the environmentalist John Muir.

But this was also an exceptionally turbulent time in Scotland, with repeated invasions from England over the centuries, with the Scots usually coming off worst. Many of the battles were fought in East Lothian, because of its proximity to the Border and to Edinburgh, and its accessibility from the coast. Dunbar became a central battle ground during Edward I’s invasions in the 13th century and then again as Scotland became embroiled in the war between the English Parliament and Crown (the English Civil Wars), when it was attacked in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell.

Haddington and Musselburgh also saw siege and battle, during the ‘rough wooing’ of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, when the Scots were savagely defeated at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 (but the English still won nothing, since Mary was spirited away to marry the French Dauphin instead of the English Edward VI).

Perhaps the most renowned battle of all took place at Prestonpans, in 1745 – and this time, the Scots won, or rather, the English government was defeated. This was one of the major battles of the Jacobite rising, and gave hope to the supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

As a result of all this fighting, many castles and other defences were built all around East Lothian, and some of these still exist today, in varying states of repair. The romantic Hailes Castle and coastal Tantallon are some of the most atmospheric and beautiful ruins, while Winton House and Lennoxlove bear witness to the wealth and political dexterity of some of the more successful survivors of this period.

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