Castle, a 17th century mansion, twice enlarged, was located in Colinton
parish, Edinburghshire, at the northern base of the Pentland, 1/2
mile south east of Colinton village was constructed in or around the
1658 by Sir Williame Murray who had married the daughter of Sir
In the calendar of the Laing Charters, Ad 854-1837, under entry number 382 we find that by way of letters of assignation by William Cuninghame, knight, Master of Glencairn, a revision was made by Mr James Foulis and Katryne Brown, his spouse, of 1900 merks over the lands of Colinton, mill and mill lands, etc., in same barony. Dated at Edinburgh 23 Oct 1531. These lands were passed on to James the first son of James and Katyryne in about 1647.
Sir Williame Murray who had married, Cannongate, Edinburgh, 13 Jan 1648 , Issoble Foulles, a daughter of Sir James Foulis and as a marriage gift was given 730 acres of land from the Foulis estate in the Pentlands. As Sir Williame held the position in the court of Charles II, of Master of Works, he set out to build himself a mansion house that suited his social position and Dreghorn became the result.
There were several owners following the death of Sir Williame Murray, and the purchase of Dreghorn by Robert Andrew Macfie (nephew to Alexander Macfie of Cananda) in 1862 some 200 years after its construction..
David Pitcairn, Esq came into possession of the estate following the settlement of the succession of Sir William Murray and he transferred or legated the estate to his son in 1717.
Mr George Home of
Kello became the next owner until about 1735. It was during his possession
of the property that we find David Mallet, or Malloch the poet
residing at Dreghorn. David held the position of resident tutor of the
sons of Mr Home.
Mallet held this position from 1720 until 1723 and is credited with have written a ballard of " WILLIAM and MARGARET" during his period of stay at Dreghorn. David Mallet has also been credited with authorship of the national ode of " RULE BRITANNIA" , an appeal to patriotic sentiment on the eve of an outbreak of war with France in 1755.. It is most unfortunate that Dreghorn does not hold claim to being the birth place of this work.
In 1735 Mr Robert Dalrymple obtained possession of Dreghorn and lived there for 19 years.
Doctor Andreas Sinclair ( Saintclair) became in 1754 the next owner of the Dreghorn Estates. Dr Sincalir was first professor of the Institute of Medicine at Edinburgh Univesity, and first Physician to the King in Scotland. He died at Carlowrie on Oct 25 1760. his father Matheus St. Clair was also a medical doctor, and was on the original patent of Fellows ofRCP Edinburgh in 1681. Andreas's grandfather was Sir John of Hirdmonstoun.
George Dempster of Dunnuchen and Skibo purchased from the succession of Dr Sinclair, the lovely estate of Dreghon in 1760. George was an agriculturist and member of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh He was a memeber of the Poker Club, which had David Hume, Wiliam Robertson and Alexander Carlyle among it supporters. George Dempster served in parliament for some 29 years and was appointed in 1765 secretary to the Scottish order of the Thistle.. .
John McLaurin the eldest son of Colin Maclaurin, and Advocate who was appointed a senator of the College of Justice in 1788, took on the title of Lord Dreghorn , holding his post until his death in 1796.Besides being a man of learned and able lawyer, he was a man of considerable literary attainments, with a turn for satrical verse, and was author of " The Philosopher's Opera" which was written during his life time at Dreghorn.
The Estate passed on to his son Colin who was also and Advocte in his own terms.
In 1796 the Estate of Dreghon passed to the Trotter family, who kept possession for some 66 years. Alexander Trotter was Secretary to Lord Melville, Ministrry of the Royal Navy. As pat master Alexander Trotter of Dreghorn, so it goes, had been in the habit of walking across the road from his office with a cheque for a hundred thousand pouds andstoring this in in his personal account in his cousin Coutt's bank. Before he returned the capital he had made considerable profits from its investment and som of this he then lent to Herny Dundas. AlexanderTrottor castellated Dreghorn, , he had the center round tower constructed during his possession of the mansion. as well as adding a large fortified addition to the south side of the manor. The addition doubled the amount of living space of the original manor creating a huge stately home.
In 1862 young Robert Andrew Macfie, successor in large
part to the Macfie sugar business, and cousin to Robert Macfie of Langhouse became interested
in the estate of Dreghorn Castle. It had
been put up for sale by the Trotter family, Alexander having passed away leaving
only his wife and son as residents of this large estate. There were three
parties intereted in the purchase, a Mr. W Orr Ewing, MP
for Dumbartonshire, the Merchant & Company of Edinburgh ( they wanted
it to establish a hospital) and Robert Andrew Macfie MP for Leith.
Click to see enlarged versions
Old Ordanace Map of Dreghorn Estate
While Robert states that
he obtained the estate for a fair price, he does state that he paid much
beyond the up set price.
Then a few days after the purchase went through, Mr Trotter approached him to see if he would like to sell it back, as
Trottor was then having second thoughts and regretted some what of having put the estate up for sale in the first place.
In the end Robert's interest in the estate prevailed and not only did he become proprietor of Dreghorn Castle, Mrs Trottor, gave him a large quantity of the furnishings that were located in the house it self. Unfortunatley we do not know if any of these objects had belonged to any of the previous owners or not..
To the south stands the stately, modern residence of Dreghorn Castle. The names of some of the residences such as Dreghorn, Woodhall and Redhall are very old. Amongst the missing crown charters of Robert 11, was one confirming a lease of the barony of Redhall in the shire of Edinburgh, " except Dreghorn and Woodhall " by Alexander Meyaners of Woodhall, to the Earl of Fife and Monteith. Dreghorn was built 'by Sir W. Murray, master of works to King Charles II. In the early part of the eighteenth century it was the property of a family called Pitcairn. In the churchyard here a tomb belonging to the Dreghorn estate bore the following inscription, it is now quite illegible. " Here lyes Mr. David Pitcairn of Dreghorn, who departed this life 27th January 1709 and of his age the 60th year, leaving behind him Mary Anderson, his wife, with five sons and seven daughters by her!' Mr. Pitcairn) who was a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh must have resided much on the property and to have taken a deep interest in all parochial matters connected with the parish, and enjoying to a large degree the respect and confidence of the parishioners, being the ruling elder in. the Parish Church for many years.
" Perhaps no private gentleman was ever the progenitor of so many persons remarkable in themselves, or who, by inter-marriage, formed such high connections as to rank, intellectual abilities and acknowledged public service," as Mr. Pitcairn. One of his grand-daughters became the wife of Patrick Brydone of that ilk.
He was succeeded to the estate by his eldest son Patrick, who followed the same profession as his father, and who sold the estate to a gentleman named Hume in 1715.
David Malloch or Mallet, a poet and miscellaneous writer, was tutor for many years to the children of Mr. Hume of Dreghorn. Of his career from youth to manhood, nothing certain is known, as in after life, either through pride or prejudice, he studiously endeavoured to conceal his true name and origin. In 1723 Malloch's pleasing ballad of " William and Margaret," written at Dreghorn, appeared. The beauty of the production was so highly praised, that it inspired him with courage to apply himself closely to his poetical studies. In 1728 he produced a poem under the title of " The Excursion." It is a collection of poetical landscape sketches, with some skill and elegance, in imitation of Thomson's " Seasons," but much inferior.
About this time Mallet, through the recommendation of his friends, had the good fortune to be appointed under-secretary to His Royal Highness, Frederick, Prince of Wales.
In 1742 Mallet made a considerable addition to his fortune by marriage. He had already buried one wife, by whom he had several children, but of her there is no account. His second choice was Miss Lucy Estol, with whom he received a fortune, and hence becoming either indifferent or lazy, he allowed seven years to pass without favouring the public with anything from his pen. When at length his " Hermit " 1749 appeared, on the merits of which critics were much divided. Then "A Plain Man " 1756, " Elvira," 1757. Mallet had the happiness of a wife who had much " faith." She believed " that her husband was the greatest poet and wit of the age. Sometimes she would seize his-hand and kiss it with rapture, and if the looks of a friend expressed any surprise, would apologize that it was the dear hand that. wrote those divine poems. She was lamenting to a lady how much the reputation of her husband suffered by his name being so frequently confounded with that of Dr. Smollett. The lady answered " Madam, there is a short remedy, let your husband keep his own name." Proof of the silly vanity and weakness of this well-matched pair will be found in " Johnston's Lives of the Poets." In a declining state of health Mallet went, accompanied by his wife, to the south of France, but finding no improvement he returned to England and died in 1765.
The estate of Dreghorn has changed hands so often that it is difficult to give a record. After Mr. Hume, came one Dalrymple, then Dr. St. Clair, professor of medicine in the Edinburgh University and one of the pioneers of medical science; then John Maclaurin, son of the eminent mathematician, who was called to the bench as Lord Dreghorn; then Mr. Alexander Trotter, paymaster of the navy, whose grandson Mr. Coutts Trotter, a man of literary distinction and patriotic ardour, disposed of it to Mr. R. A. Maefie, for some years M.P. for Leith Burghs, under whose hands it has undergone considerable improvements.
Among the many hobbies of Mr. Macfie, was the one of erecting monuments of various kinds upon his estate. At the main entrance to the estate at Redford he erected a substantial monument in memory of the Covenanters and others. The monument stands about thirty feet high, round the top are the words " Romans." " Cromwell 1650," " Covenanters, 1666," " Charles 1745," with a tablet fixed upon the base of the pillars, bearing the inscription beginning " Those teeming plain were trod by Roman feet," and much too lengthy to afford of their admission here. The pillars of the above monument formed the colonnade in front of the old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
Close at hand is the quaint old house of Redford, with its garden embosomed among fine trees in a pretty dell. There are many allusions in the letters of Cromwell. in 1650 to places in its immediate vicinity, It is particularly interesting as being the birthplace of " that devourer of books " John Allen, political and historical writer.
Still further east and at the eastern extremity of the Parish, on what was at one time the " Templelands of Swanston, was fought a great battle, it is said, between the ancient Picts and Scots. Two large cairns were erected there, these, however, were foolishly broken up by some sacriligious hand and used for road metal. Tradition records that upon lifting them a large quantity of human bones were found in and under them. On the other side of the turnpike-road stands a very old monolith, the largest in the vicinity of Edinburgh-this is a large, rough unhewn pillar of whinstone standing fully ten feet high. Unfortunately there is neither mark or inscription to give any information as to its origin. It is known as the Caiy Stone, Comus Stone, Ket Stone, or Battle Stone. Adjacent to it is a square of trees marking an extensive camp of prehistoric times reminding us of
The rocky declivity of the Pentlands which overlooks this, is called Cairketton, 1,580 feet above sea level. The name was derived probably from the camp above referred to. The rocks are chiefly composed of clayey felspar or petunse pentlandica strongly impregnated with black oxide of iron and would be very useful but for that impregnation.
A little to the north stands the mansion-house of Comiston most probably deriving its name from the " Comistone " above referred to. It was built by Sir James Forrest in 1815. The Forrests of Comiston, however, date further back than this, mention being made of a Captain Forrest in the Kirk Session Records in 1719. Sir James Forrest was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1840.
Before the establishment of the Edinburgh an District Water Trust, and the introduction of the artificial supply of water from Glencorse and other reservoirs, the people of Edinburgh chiefly procured that necessity of life from the springs around this district which are copious and excellent.
Proceeding further north and still on the eastern boundary of the parish stands the old fortalice of Craiglockhart. Strange to say there is not a single vestige of its precints left. It was built after the fashion of the old Scottish castle or border keep, nothing now remaining except the narrow square tower. As early as Alexander 111., 1249, the estate of Craiglockhart was purchased by Sir Simon Lockhart, from whom probably the district has derived its name. The character of the building-the arched roof, etc., all point to it having been built about that date; and if a little care was taken to preserve these venerable piles they might stand for centuries to come.
Two of the largest and most prominent buildings in the parish are in this vicinity, viz., the Edinburgh Hydropathic Establishment and the Edinburgh City Poorhouse. The country residences of the rich and poor respectively.
Dreghorn Castle was one of Colinton's grandest houses, probably built originally by Sir William Murray, Master of Works to King Charles II (1630-1685). It lay amid extensive wooded policies entirely hidden from view between what is now Redford Loan and the City Bypass. Of the castle nothing remains, but two lodge houses are still extant: one lies beside the bridge across the Braid Burn south of Dreghorn Loan; the other is about to begin a new lease of life as part of a modern villa being built in Oxgangs Road North a few yards north of Hunters Tryst. A third, beside the old bridge in Redford Road, has recently been demolished.
The castle was home to a long list of influential people over the centuries. Towards the end of the seventeenth century it belonged to David Pitcairn who is buried in the now dilapidated tomb in Colinton churchyard. After the death of 'David Pitcairn in 1709 his son sold the property in 1717 to George Home of Kello W. S., Town Clerk of' Edinburgh during the time that his father was Lord Provost from 1698 to 1700. During the remainder of the eighteenth century there were four owners, two of whom remained for only a few years: 1735-1754 Robert Dalrymple W. S; 1754- 1760 Dr Andrew St. Clair, Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University; 1760-1764 George Dempster of Dunnichen and Skibo; 1764-1796 John Maclaurin (Lord Dreghorn), author of several books including a valuable Essay on Copyright. In a caustic review of Lord Dreghorn's poetical efforts, Dr Thomas Murray commented that Volume I of the Works of Lord Dreghorn consisted off his poems 'or rather verses that rhyme'. In 1797 Dreghorn Castle was bought by Alexander Trotter, paymaster to the Royal Navy, and remained in the possession of the Trotters for three generations. During this era, but probably nearer to 1820, large-scale alterations gave the castle its distinctive castellated appearance. The Trotters' involvement with Dreghorn came to an end when Mr Coutts Trotter, grandson of Alexander Trotter, disposed of the estate around 1871. The new owner was R.A. Macfie of the famous sugar refining family whose father John Macfie came from Greenock in 1804 to expand the business and to establish new premises in Elbe Street, Leith. In 1810 John Macfie married Alison Thorburn, daughter of William Thorburn merchant in Leith, and R.A. Macfie was born in 1811. After schooling in Leith and Edinburgh he attended Edinburgh University and then spent two years in a Leith merchant's office. Later he joined his father's sugar refinery business in Leith and also spent several years in Glasgow and Liverpool. After a long business career, combined with a close association with the Liberals under Gladstone, R.A. Macfie retired to Dreghorn where he became a prominent member of the Colinton community. As a member of the Colinton School Board he was closely involved in 1891 in the building of the new Colinton School in Thorburn Road, the street being named after his mother. He died on 16th February 1893 and was buried in South Leith Churchyard in the family grave.
During the early part of the twentieth century, Dreghorn Castle was used as a private school, after which it was acquired by the War Department. Access to the grounds by the public was effectively discouraged by several signs, strategically placed, bearing the portentous message: DANGER: SOLDIERS USE BOMBS HERE WHICH CAN KILL YOU: DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING: IT MAY EXPLODE. Explode it did, but not accidentally. In the early 1950s the War Department found that the castle was superfluous to their requirements and that a prohibitive sum of money would be required to remedy the effects of poor maintenance, vandalism and dry rot. Reluctantly a decision was taken to demolish the old building, after salvaging the lead and three ancient stone plaques bearing coats of arms. In April 1955, the 300 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers T.A. moved in and with the use of flame throwers reduced the building to a desolate shell. On Sunday 1st May 1955 they returned with explosives and razed the castle to the ground-three centuries of history gone in a matter of seconds. The three armorial stones have no been traced. No part of the structure remains, although a solitary baluster, perhaps with its own story to tell adorns the front garden of a bungalow in Redford Loan.
Although Redford house dates from about the same period as Dreghorn Castle (mid-seventeenth century), its more modest design has enabled it to adapt more easily to change. It lies in private ground to the north of the new broad section of Redford Road, near the junction with Redford Loan.
The name Redford came to prominence in 1674 when the eldest son of Sir James Foulis (Lord Colinton), the Lord Justice Clerk, was raised to the bench and took the title Lord Redford. By 1712 Redford was in the possession of George Haliburton, Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1740 to 1742. He sold it in 1740 to John Young, a brewer in Edinburgh, whose daughter, Mrs Alien, succeeded to it on his death. Mrs Alien's grandson James Alien was born at Redford in 17 7 1, and distinguished himself in medicine and literature. At the end of the eighteenth century the estate was acquired by Alexander Trotter of' Dreghorn and later by R.A. Macfie.
Although R.A. Macfie was not perhaps the most distinguished owner of Redford, he was certainly the most imaginative, spending large sums of money in acquiring ornamental stonework from the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. The first Royal Infirmary, designed by William Adam, was built in 1738 on a site later occupied by South Bridge School in Infirmary Street. Although additional accommodation was provided in 1853 for surgical patients, the medical hospital continued in the original 1738 building. In 1866 a decision was taken to rehouse both the surgical and medical hospitals in a new building at Lauriston designed by David Bryce, and opened on 29th October 1879. The 1738 building lay unoccupied for several years after Lauriston was opened, but when it was demolished in 1884 R.A. Macfie of Dreghorn put in a successful bid for most of the ornamental stonework. He deployed the stonework in a number of interesting schemes, most of which are intact today.
Perhaps the most ambitious scheme was the removal of the central pediment above the main doorway, consisting of three bays, or windows, flanked by massive leafy scrolls, one depicting thistles and the other roses. This very heavy masonry was built into the south wall of the stable block at Redford House, and Ionic pilasters and a niche with the inscription GEORGIUS II REX were built -into the west wall. The niche is empty, however, as the statue of George II was retained by the Infirmary and placed in the forecourt of the new building in Lauriston Place. In the mid-1960s the stable block at Redford was renovated to create living accommodation, without altering the old scrolls, which can still be seen through a high boundary fence on Redford Road.
Within a hundred yards of the scrolls, near the entrance to Dreghorn Barracks, another of Macfie's transplants from the Infirmary has given new life to a group of four Ionic pillars taken from a colonnade in front of the old medical building. These pillars were re-erected in their present position in 1885, primarily to commemorate the Covenanters, although other historical references appear high up on the square entablature: ROMANS; CROMWELL 1650; COVENANTERS 1666; CHARLES 1745. On a rough-hewn stone nearby are several stirring verses beginning:
Fortunately, the Department of the Environment, Property Services Agency, has arranged for General Gordon's plaque to be incorporated within the new Dreghorn Barracks scheduled for re-building in the near future.
Redford House in Redford Road is a large, white-harled building with a curved frontage which has had quite a number of later additions. Constructed for Lord Redford about 1700, it has now been sub-divided for residential purposes.
A later owner of the house, R.A. Macfie of Dreghorn, re-erected part of the huge attic storey of William Adam's Old Royal Infirmary of 1738, which was demolished in 1884, as a stable block inside the gates. Known as the DRUMMOND SCROLLS, this very ornate architectural relic, with a small triangular pediment above Roman Ionic pilasters in the centre, and massive scrolls with elaborate leaf and flower carving, on the southern side, is a surprising feature which is, however, largely hidden from view by a wooden paling. The Covenanters' Monument, also in Redford Road, is the work of Macfie of Dreghorn as well and consists of four Roman Ionic columns from the Old Infirmary. It was erected at the same time as the Drummond Scrolls.
Beside the monument is the entrance to the Ministry of Defence buildings on the site of the demolished Dreghorn Castle. The lands, originally known as Dregern, belonged to the family of Foulis of Colinton in the 16th century. In 1671 they passed by marriage to Sir William Murray, Master of Works to Charles II, who is thought to have built a house or 'manor place', parts of which survived within the later building until recent years. The advocate John Maclaurin, a son of Colin Maclaurin, Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University and later Lord Dreghorn, acquired the property in 1763.
The last private owners of Dreghorn Castle were Robert Andrew Macfie, a Liverpool merchant who afterwards became Member of Parliament for Leith Burghs for some years, and his son. R.A. Macfie purchased the castle in 1862 and died in 1893. In 1905 part of the estate was bought by the War Department for the purpose of building Cavalry and Infantry Barracks. Finally, in 1913, the castle and the remaining grounds were purchased by them from the Macfie trustees.