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Musselburgh, High Street, Pinkie House

School (20th Century), Tower House (16th Century)

Site Name Musselburgh, High Street, Pinkie House

Classification School (20th Century), Tower House (16th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Loretto School; Pinkie House Policies

Canmore ID 53873

Site Number NT37SW 4

NGR NT 34880 72651

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Inveresk (East Lothian)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT37SW 4.00 34880 72651

(NT 3490 7267) Pinkie House (NR)

OS 6" map (1958).

NT37SW 4.01 NT 34877 72668 Draw Well

NT37SW 4.02 Centred NT 349 726 Garden

NT37SW 4.03 NT 34863 72765 Stables

See also:

NT37SE 39 NT 3508 7286 Dovecot

NT37SE 84 NT 3504 7256 Icehouse

NT37SW 109 NT 3483 7279 Lodge and date piers

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28436, 1909.


Architect: William Burn 1825. Alterations and additions.

Owner: Loretto School

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Pinkie House, a handsome mansion, was built in 1613 by Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline. In it, he incorporated a 16th c L-shaped house which may well include the nucleus of a still earlier fortalice (N Tranter 1962), which now forms the N end of the main block. The main block contains 3 storeys, with the square tower being 5 storeys high. Though the RCAHMS consider the W wing also the work of Seton, the SDD state that it was added c. 1700. It is 2 1/2 storeys high.

The additions to the W side of the main block date to c. 1800. The interior, used by Loretto School since 1951, has been considerably modernised.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887; RCAHMS 1929, visited 1920; SDD List 1964

Pinkie House (name confirmed), mainly a considerably renovated 17th century mansion, incorporating earlier work on the N, is as described. There is a stone midway along the E wall bearing the date 1697.

Visited by OS (BS), 14 August 1975.

This building has been extensively recorded and described elsewhere, including the RCAHMS Inventory, but this survey paid particular attention to photography of the painted ceiling in the gallery on the first floor, executed in the early 17th century for Alexander Seton. Executed in tempera, the painting embellishes a vaulted ceiling lined with boards and extends some 85 m by 6m showing a range of fictive architectural motifs within which are set images illustrative of proverbs, literary and religious themes.

This site was recorded as part of the Listed Buildings Recording Programme (LBRP) for 1999-2000.

Information from RCAHMS (NMC), 2002.


Photographic Survey (May 1953)

Photographic survey by the National Buildings Record Scottish Council in May 1953.

Publication Account (1996)

Nearby stands Pinkie House figures 15 & 23.D. Although now functioning as part of the policies of a school, it is a strong and attractive reminder of Musselburgh's past and its close links with Dunfermline Abbey, as one of its abbatial burghs (see pp 16- 1 7 & pp 26- 7). The oldest part of the house is the central tower which was constructed in the sixteenth, or possibly fifteenth, century as a residence for the abbots of Dunfermline. The siting of the house probably reflected a desire on the part of the abbot to be close to his burgh, with the convenience it offered, but sufficiently removed as to be undisturbed by the populace. The tower house was acquired by Alexander Seton in 1597. He became the first Earl of Dunfermline in 1605 and married Margaret Hay of Vester in 1607. The grand extension undertaken by him c 1613 reflects this marriage: throughout the house the initials AS.ED and AS.MR can be seen. At the south end of the range he added a bay window, a novel import from England, and a tangible reminder of the impact of the recent union of the crowns. It was to this house that Charles I came as a child before his departure south in 1604. The second floor of the new range was taken up with a seventy-eight foot (24 m) long gallery, with an elaborately painted ceiling. It is quite possible that the walls were likewise painted originally and that windows on the west side gave extra light, although these are now lost through subsequent extensions in the nineteenth century by William Burn. After the battle of Prestonpans in 1745, this gallery was to serve as a casualty station for the wounded troops of Prince Charles Edward Stewart. Apart from this painted ceiling, Pinkie has some of the finest seventeenth-century ceilings in Scotland and was considered by contemporaries as one of the most desirable mansion houses in Scotland. The estate passed to the Hays in 1694, on the death of the fourth and last earl. The initials IH on the arched doorway to the eastern garden, a seventeenth-century walled garden, the work also of Seton and still intact, remind the onlooker that this doorway was added by John Hay, the second marquess of Tweeddale, amongst other improvements. In 1778, Pinkie was sold to the Hopes of Craighall, and untimately in 1951, it was purchased by Loretto School.

Information from ‘Historic Musselburgh: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1996).


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