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Ballencrieff House

Country House (17th Century)

Site Name Ballencrieff House

Classification Country House (17th Century)

Canmore ID 54910

Site Number NT47NE 5

NGR NT 48801 78270

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Aberlady
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT47NE 5 48801 78270

(NT 4880 7827) Ballencrieff (NR) (remains of)

OS 6" map (1968)

Ballencrieff House is now ruinous. Its SW part was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries by John Murray, first Lord Elibank. (The RCAHMS note a dormer pediment dated 1625.) The N front and E end were added about 1730. The house was burnt out in 1868 and has since been deserted, but a two-storey outhouse of the later period, said to have been the laundry, still stands to the W and is inhabited. This is one of the two wings shown on a drawing of 1834. (The RCAHMS note a carved stone from the old house, with an indistinct date, probably 1586, inserted over the porch.)

C McWilliam 1978; RCAHMS 1924, visited 1912

The walls of this mansion, for the most part, still stand to roof height, though some of the N face has fallen. The dated dormer pediment was not located.

Visited by OS (RDL) 24 October 1962 and (BS) 14 October 1975

Clearance work in advance of restoration work has revealed several discoveries and cast new light on the building history of this residence. Discoveries include: (a) more 16th-century triple-mounted gun holes, (b) wooden draw bars in position in the ground-floor windows, (c) substantial remains of two early 17th-century moulded plaster ceilings in the first-floor hall and chamber, and (d) remains of an elaborate fireplace in the hall. Work continues.

C Tabraham 1993.

The house has been restored.

Information from C Tabraham, 17 May 2000.

Architecture Notes

NT47NE 5.00 48801 78270 House

NT47NE 5.01 48686 78219 Garden

NT47NE 5.02 48530 78000 Pavilion


Owner: John McLaren, Farmer.


Scottish Record Office

Summons. Mongo Buchan, Wright and Architect, at St Laurence House against the Rt Hon Patrick Lord Elibank presently residing at Balncrief on 17 May 1765. When an account of Wright work performed by him 1753-1754 upon The Mansion house of Balncrief was the subject of a tedious process before The Court of Session. Part of the agreement was that 4 Wainscot windows lying at Balncrief and the shutters all lying in The garret which were made by him and never paid for and also The Windows, doors & others lying at Cockenzie and St Laurencehouse are to belong to himself.

These were not delivered up and Ld Elibank was therefore liable for their value (and so the Court Case begins again) in 1774.

SC 40/20/10


Field Visit (27 June 1912)

No.5 Ballencrieff House.

Ballencrieff House occupies a level site 1 ¾ miles south-east of Aberlady village, immediately south of the railway. The structure was erected in the early 17th century and added to in the 18th century. A disastrous fire about the end of last century gutted the building, which has since been allowed to lapse into its present desolate condition. On plan ([RCAHMS 1924] fig. 36) the mansion is oblong with its major axis lying approximately east and west; the southwestern portion is the original 17th century structure and contained three storeys beneath its wall head with an attic storey lit by dormer windows in the roof. The ground floor contains a kitchen on the east with a wide arched fireplace in its west wall, the kitchen communicating by a corridor with the original entrance and two vaulted cellars. The stonework of one dormer is still in situ; the pediment is triangular and bears the initials D E D (Dame Elizabeth Dundas, second wife of Sir Patrick Murray 1st Lord Elibank) and below the date 1625.

In the 18th century wings were added on the north and east making the total area occupied by the structure 46 feet from N. to S. by 92 ¾ from E. to W.; the central portion of the north facade containing the entrance is given a slight projection to relieve the monotony of the elevation. The additions contain the same number of storeys as the original structure, but the wall head on the south, where the division between the original and later work is most noticeable, is some 2 feet higher. Several of the features of this later portion are well designed, in particular a fine three-light classic window in the south wall of a large apartment on the second floor and the plaster panelling in several apartments.

Over the porch of an adjoining dwelling is built a carved stone from the old house bearing a shield charged with a fetterlock and three mullets on a chief, for Murray of Blackbarony. Flanking the shield are the initials I M (John Murray) in monogram. Above is a defective motto on a label [DE]VM: TIME "Fear God" and below the shield is a date somewhat defaced, in which the second figure, though resembling a 9, must, to suit the name, be the old form of 5, giving 1586.

HISTORICAL NOTE. John Murray of Blackbarony (Shire of Peebles) had a grant of lands &c. in the royal domain of Ballencrieff with the office of baillie in 1511 (1). Sir John Murray of Blackbarony was coroner of Peebles in 1595. Sir Gideon Murray, father of the 1st Lord Elibank, acquired the Ballencrieff lands from his nephew in 1617, and these were thereupon erected into the barony of Ballencrieff (2).

RCAHMS 1924, visited 27 June 1912.

(1) Reg. M. Sig. (1424-1513) No. 3643. (2) Scots Peerage iii., p. 504.v. S.W.

Photographic Survey (January 1966)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Works in January 1966.


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