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Dunglass Castle 






In 1882-4, Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland described Dunglass like this:

Dunglass, a mansion in Oldhamstocks parish, E Haddingtonshire, standing in the midst of a fine park, ¾ mile inland, and 1½ mile NW of Cockburnspath.


An elegant edifice, surmounted by a tower, it occupies the site of a strong castle of the Lords Home, which, passing, on their forfeiture in 1516, to the Douglases, was besieged and destroyed by the English under the Earl of Northumberland in the winter of 1532, and again under the Protector Somerset in 1547(1). It was rebuilt in greater extent and grandeur than before, and gave accommodation in 1603 to James VI. and all his retinue when on his journey to London; but, being held in 1640( ) by a party of Covenanters under the Earl of Haddington, whom Leslie had left behind to watch the garrison of Berwick, it was blown up with gunpowder on 30 August. An English page, according to Scotstarvet, vexed by a taunt against his countrymen, thrust a red-hot iron into a powder barrel, and himself was killed, with the Earl and many others.


Dunglass is the seat now of Sir Basil Francis Hall, seventh Bart. since 1687 (b. 1828; suc. 1876), who holds 887 acres in the shire, valued at £2158 per annum. Dunglass was the birthplace of his grandfather, Sir James Hall (1761-1832), the distinguished geologist and chemist.


A wooded, deep ravine called Dunglass Dean, and traversed by Berwick or Dunglass Burn, extends 4½ miles north-north-eastward to the sea, along the mutual border of Haddington and Berwick shires. It is spanned by two bridges not far from each other on old and new lines of road, and by an intermediate magnificent railway viaduct, whose middle arch is 135 feet in span, and rises 125 feet from the bed of the stream to the top of the parapet. With five other arches toward the ravine's crests, this viaduct is, in itself, an object of great architectural beauty; and combines with the adjacent bridges and with the ravine's features of rock and wood and water to form an exquisitely striking scene.—Ord. Sur., sh. 33, 1863.


No trace of Dunglass Castle remains. A mansion built c. 1800 has been completely demolished and a modern (1961) house, still known as 'Dunglass', has been erected on the site.


Dunglass is a beautiful Country Estate in East Lothian. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty combining graceful manicured parkland with areas of rugged wilderness. These stunning landscapes have remained a consistent backdrop throughout time overlooking a place rich in history.

Dunglass is still very much a family estate and it is currently owned by the Usher family. Their ancestor Francis James Usher bought the Estate from Sir John Richard Hall, 9th Bart in 1919. The Hall family occupied Dunglass for 232 years from 1687. Other proprietors were also the Home (or Hume) family 1300s - 1516 whose many dignitaries include David Home (philosopher) and Sir Alexander Home (Lord of Parliament in 1473).

Some inevitable changes and even the odd barrel of gunpowder, have meant that impressive structures such as castles and later Dunglass Mansion House built between 1807 and 1813 no longer exist, nevertheless there still stands many impressive historic and listed buildings which include the enchanting 'secret' walled garden built in the 1800s, rich with flora and fauna, herbaceous borders, tropical fruits, trimmed hedges and lawns. Other structures mostly built between 1761 and 1832 have also remained throughout time. The jewel in the crown today however is Dunglass Collegiate church built in the early 1400s.

Dunglass Collegiate Church was given collegiate status in 1443 by its original founder's son Sir Alexander Home. It is a beautiful cruciform building of Gothic design and remains one of the finest examples of its type and period in Scotland.

Today Dunglass remains a productive agricultural estate along with residential property lets. The Usher family are fully committed to the ongoing balance and restoration of rich and varied habitats, forests, parkland and properties whilst exploring sensitive, exciting and diverse ideas now and in the future.

Robert Burns paid a fine tribute to summarise Dunglass in 1787 when he visited Sir James Hall saying; "Dunglass the most romantic sweet place I ever saw"
His words live on..


1. September 1547.    The army havhig been collected at Newcastle, the protector rode thither from London, and was met six miles from the town on Saturday, the 21th of August, by Warwick, the lord-lieutenant, and Sadler, the master-treasurer, who had already been there for three or four days, and by "all the nobles, knights, and captains of the army on horseback attending upon them." The next day a muster of the whole force was held in the fields to the north-east of the town; and on Monday, the 29th, they set forward for the borders. Reaching Berwick on Friday, the 2nd of September, they found there Lord Clinton with the fleet, which immediately put to sea, while the army rested a day, and then, on the Sunday, set forward on its march close along the shore. Having made their way, on the 5th, across the deep glen or valley of the Peaths, or the Pease (as it is commonly pronounced), at Cockburnspath,—now spanned by a bridge from which the traveller looks down upon the stream flowing through the chasm a hundred and fifty feet below,—the invaders began the work of war by sitting down before Dunglass Castle, a hold belonging to Sir George Douglas, and summoning it to surrender. The captain, Matthew Hume, the son of a brother of Lord Hume, made no vain show of resistance, but soon came forth, "and brought with him," says our journalist, "his band to my lord's grace, which was of twenty-one sober (poor) soldiers, all so apparelled and appointed that, so God help me (I will say it for no praise), I never Baw such a bunch of beggars come out of one house together in my life." Six of the most decent of these scarecrows were detained; the rest were allowed " to gea their gate," —that is, to go their way,—with an admonition that they would be hanged tha next time they were caught. Patten chanced to be one of the party that went to rifle the castle. "The spoil," he says, "was not rich, sure; but of white bread, oaten cakes, and Scottish ale, whereof was indifferent good store, and soon bestowed among my lord's soldiers accordingly. As for swords, bucklers, pikes, pots, pans, yarn, linen, hemp, and heaps of such baggage beside, were scant stoopt for, and very liberally let alone; but yet sure it would have rued any good housewife's heart to have beholden the great unmerciful murder that our men made of the brood geese and good laying hens that were slain there that day, which the wives of the town had penned up in holes in the stables and cellars of the castle ere we came." The castle was afterwards blown up with gunpowder, as were also Thornton and Anderwick, two other peels or strongholds belonging to Lord Hume, on the following day.


2. 30 August 1640.  In the autumn of the year 1640, Lady Boyd met with a painful trial in the death of three of her brothers, and others of her relatives, in very distressing circumstances. Thomas, second earlof Haddington, and Robert Hamilton of West Binning, in the county of Linlithgow, her brothers by her father's second wife, Patrick Hamihon, her natural brother, Sir John Hamilton of Redhouse, her cousin-german, and Sir Alexander Erskine, fourth son of the seventh earl of Mar, brother-in-law to her brother Thomas, all perished at Dunglass castle (in the county of Haddington) when it was blown up on the 30th of August that year. They had attached themselves to the covenanters ; and when General Leslie marched into England that same year against Charles L, they were left behind by the Scottish parliament, in order to resist the English incursions : and Thomas, second earl of Haddington, who had the command of the party thus left, fixed his quarters at Dunglass castle. While his lordship, about mid-day, on the 30th of August, was standing in a court of the castle, surrounded by his friends now named, and several other gentlemen, to whom he was reading a letter he had just received from General Leslie, a magazine of gunpowder contained in a vault in the castle blew up ; and one of the side walls instantly over-whelmed him and all his companions, with the exception of four, who were thrown by the force of the explosion to a considerable distance. The earl's body was found among the rubbish, and buried at Tyninghame. Besides this nobleman, three or four score of gentlemen lost their lives. It was reported that the magazine was designedly blown up by the earl's page, Edward Paris, an English boy, who was so enraged, on account of his master having jestingly told him that his countrymen were a pack of cowards, to suffer themselves to be beaten and to run away at Newburn, that he took a red-hot iron and thrust it into one of the powder-barrels, perishing himself with the rest.


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024