Newbattle Abbey

The last outing of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society for the season was to Newbattle Abbey at Dalkeith on Saturday 16th October.

This was the site of one of the great medieval abbeys of Scotland. It was founded from Melrose in 1140.It became rich by developing coal mining and salt pans.

The, almost immediate, re action of one of the party was “but where is the abbey?” At first sight nothing remains. It became the property of the last commendator Mark Kerr in 1587 and in the possession of successive generations of the Kerr family it became a great country house. Inside the house part of the Abbey can be seen incorporated into later building. Newbattle was given to the nation by Philip Kerr 11th Marquis of Lothian in 1937 to be used as a college of Education for adults returning late to education. The Kerr motto ‘sero sed serio’ ‘late but in earnest’ is considered appropriate also for the college. It has played a very important part in this field and even as we visited various important rooms we encountered students involved in seminars.

The abbey was noted for two important facts of Scottish history: The declaration of Arbroath, otherwise known as the Scottish Declaration of Independence, of 1320 was composed there and in 1503 Margaret Tudor was received by King James IV for what was to be known as the marriage of the Thistle and the Rose This union led in 1603 to the Union of the crowns when James VI of Scots succeeded to the English throne.

It is remembered in two fine paintings in the great drawing room, one of Scotland’s great rooms decorated by Thomas Bonnar c1870.

The house was voted a hidden gem. It is surrounded by handsome grounds which were seen in autumnal splendour.

The first event of the winter programme is a lecture to be given by Gerald Urwin in Haddington Town House on the 11th November entitled ‘The Siege of Haddington.’

Stephen Bunyan