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Other Places of Historical Interest

 
Binny House.
The name Binny for this area is said to have come from a peasant, William Binnock, who was granted an estate by Robert the Bruce. This reward was for Binnock's brave deed of re-capturing the Castle of Linlithgow from the English in 1313, Binny House and lands are thought to be the remains of that estate.

There is little known about the early history of the estate until Mr Stewart, a naval captain, bought some 293 hectares circa 1800, where Mr Stewart built the present house, stables and lodges. In 1872/3 he also built a mausoleum in the grounds, this building was consecrated by the Bishop of Edinburgh in 1873. Although the mausoleum entrance is blocked up, up you can still clearly see the inscription Consecrated by the Bishop of Edinburgh 25 October 1873 in the stone above the entrance. When asked by some of the local villagers why he would want to build this when there was a churchyard so close, he replied 'in the great day of resurrection, I wish to rise from my own property'. Both Captain Stewart and his wife, Janet Stewart, were buried in the mausoleum.

Sometime in 1880 the estate passed from Captain Stewart to a nephew, Mr George Falconar. (When Mr Falconar took possession of Binny he changed his name to George Falconar Stewart) He kept ownership for about 13 years before selling the estate to a Mr Peter Thomson circa 1894. From this time until 1986, records containing news or information about the owners are difficult to source. However, the following ownership information has been gathered from the valuation role for the area, note that the dates are approximate (plus or minus 1 year):-

1894-1911. Peter Thomson.
1911-1927. Glen & Henderson, Linlithgow, trustees of late Mr Thomson (tenant William Ralston).
1928-1945. Basil Gerritsen Ivory.
1946-1947. Francis Lorne (c/o Perth solicitors).
1947-1953. Meyer Oppenheim.
1954-1955. Margrave Estates Ltd.
1955-1966. Robert Alex Moore.
1966-1986. Annie Lang.

In 1971 Binny House and the Binny House Doocot were added to the list of historical buildings of Scotland as category B listings. As already documented elsewhere on these pages, the estate was left to the Sue Ryder Foundation by Mrs. Lang, and Sue Ryder opened up a care centre in Binny House in 1987. Since 1987, many parts of the estate lands and buildings have been sold to the Agricultural College and to private individuals.

Below is a list of photographs we have taken in the Binny estate recently, with some brief information. If you click on the title a new window will open and the image will load. Once the new window loads you will have the option to view the next photo or close it.

The Mauseleum.
A picture showing how the Mauseleum was carved into a natural rock at the side of the estate road.
The Mauseleum entrance.
A close-up of the entrance, you can see the inscription on the stone arch entrance.
Binny House.
This picture shows the main house.
Binny House Stable Block.
Here you can see the stable block, recently renovated and converted into housing.
Binny House Doocot.
A picture of the Doocot behind Binny House, one of the finest remaining in this area.

The School / Schoolhouse.
Early records show that the school in the village was not originally a purpose built structure, referring to 'The house where the school is kept'. At about 1790 the schoolmaster's salary was some 8.6s.8p, which was described in a statistical account as being a pittance for this work. This salary was paid in part by the heritors and in part by the tenants of the parish. (At that time a ploughman or barnman would be paid about 14 or 15 a year.) At that time the schoolhouse was sited at the north-east of the village

At around 1830 a new schoolhouse was built on the south west of the village (on the site it stands today), this had an average attendance of about 50 pupils at that time. A later addition to this (1874-75), was the building of a purpose school next to the schoolhouse. This building continued in use as a school until July 1951 when it was closed by the local authority due to the roll being only 6 pupils. Miss Bain, who had been headteacher at the school for 36 years, retired from her teaching career when the school closed.

There is a war memorial inside the building which is dedicated to former pupils of the school who fell in the First World War. This memorial is marked on the reverse side with the creator's name and the date. "Designed and executed by David Mason Dec 1920".

From history archives there is a reference to this in the minutes of a meeting held at Broxburn Higher Grade Public School on 31st January 1921.
"Permission is granted to the Headmaster of Ecclesmachan School to erect an oak wall tablet in the senior room east wall as a war memorial to those former pupils who fell in the Great War"

You can see a recent picture of the memorial by clicking here
The school still stands today and is used as a village hall. Click here to see a recent picture of the village hall.

The Smiddy.
This cottage stands directly opposite the church. As the name suggests this was the village smiddy until the early 1900s. The cottage has a long red pantiled roof (as was very common in East Central Scotland) and large rubble stones exposed on its walls. This building was added to the list of historical buildings of Scotland in 1980 as a category C(S).

From early records it can be seen that the ownership of the property passed from the Marquis of Linlithgow to the Hopetoun Estate in name. The tenant in the late 1800s was William Shaw, Blacksmith. Around 1897 the tenancy passed to his son, John Shaw, who continued to operate the blacksmiths shop until around 1930 (The last operational 'smiddy'). The tenancy then passed to his sister, Agnes Shaw for a short period until circa 1932 when the property was rented to David Rae, a miner. Strangely perhaps, in 1935 the property was then re-rented to Agnes Shaw who remained there as a tenant until around 1942.

The next tenant was Alison Rae who rented the property until 1967, when the Hopetoun Estate sold the property to Douglas Henderson. Mr Henderson lived in the cottage until he passed away in 1990, the property was then sold to Walter Wood, a local architect. You can view a picture of the smiddy taken in 1990 by clicking here.

The Manse.
Records indicate that the manse was originally built in 1606. It is also of interest that part of the church (an elaborately carved triangular stone plaque) dating from around 1700 is mounted above the door of the front porch, this is thought to have been part of modifications made to both buildings in 1710. You can see a recent picture of this stone plaque by clicking here. The manse was extensively modified in 1858 and the whole building is very 1850s styling. During the 1858 modifications the house was significantly extended and major improvements were made to the damp-proofing of the walls.

It is perhaps of some interest that the Rev. Alex Shepherd, minister from 1869 - 1905, had ten daughters and two sons, each of the latter arrivals necessitated an extension to the manse. The manse is now in private ownership and is less than half the land area that it was in the 1800s.

Wyndford Farm.
Although an early map (1773) shows this farm as being Burnwynd, the name Wyndford seems to have been in use since c.1800. Wyndford farm is very typical of the farms in this area and the older buildings are remarkably well preserved. You can click here to see a recent picture of this farm.

Adjacent to a barn is an old 'round-house' (complete with its pantiled roof), where a horse harnessed to a central beam, walked in a circular fashion to drive machinery used in the workings of the farm. An example of such machinery would be a threshing of corn, hence the installation of the 'round-house' next to a barn. Click here to see a recent picture of the 'round-house'.

During alteration work in the farm in the 1980s a document was found in a cupboard dating from 1 October 1857. (Note from the editor: some reports list this as being 1817, but we firmly believe the date to be 1857) This letter was written by the tenant of the farm, William Arbuckle, to his landlord, the 11th Earl of Buchan, as an application to renew his lease. (The Earl of Buchan as a local landowner was originally 'seated' in Almondell, but in 1786 he bought Dryburgh Abbey and moved his residence to the Abbey.)

You can view the transcript of this letter by clicking here or view a scanned copy of the original letter by clicking here (Note that the letter has been 'cleaned' during the scanning process to remove the fold, tear and ink marks).

The Arbuckles were tenants of the farm for about 100 years, the only son Robert, immigrated to New Zealand in 1908. The next tenant, Rab Weddel farmed the land (by now over 300 acres) until the Buchan estate was sold in 1974. As Mr. Weddel was near retirement age he only purchased the farm buildings and some 32 acres, bringing it back to about the same size the farmlands were in 1857. Mr Weddel died in 1980 and the farm was then sold to Mr. Foster.

Waterstone Farm.
Waterstoun farm is very also typical of the farms in this area and the older buildings are also remarkably well preserved.

In this case the building next to the threshing barn is a steam engine house with a factory type chimney. This chimney is of brick construction build on a stone base, this may have been built as a new feature on the farm or an upgrade from a horse driven 'round-house' to drive the threshing machinery. Click here to see a recent picture of this farm.

Binny Craig.
To the south of the village rising to some 220 Metres, is the crag 'Binny Craig'. This natural land feature was carved by moving ice during the Ice Age into a crag and tail formation, similar to the crags at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. From the Crag you can view many prominent land features such as May Island (east); Ben Voirlich, Ben Ledi and Ben More (west); Coulter Fell and Tinto (south).

In past centuries it was this excellent visual position which led to Binny Craig being used as one of the chain of eminencies for communications. In the days of threatened invasion from the Spanish Armada or the English Armies, Beacons or Bale Fires (also known as bleezes), warned the approach of the foe. The type or size of the fire conveying different messages:

  • 1 bale = Suspect enemy is coming

  • 2 bales = Confirmed enemy is coming

  • 4 bales = Enemy is in great force

  • The chain of these beacons ran from Cheviot, Hume Castle, Eggerthorp near Lauder, Soutra Edge, and Edinburgh Castle to Binny Craig.

    Binny Craig was also used for part of Parish's celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In June 1897 a large bonfire was carefully constructed (on instruction from the landowner - Lord Rosebery), and a large display of fireworks (donated by Lord Hopetoun and Mr Thompson of Binny) was made after the bonfire was lit. Mr Stuart the Schoolmaster and the Rev. Alex Shepherd the Parish Minister, drawing a huge crowd to enjoy the spectacle and join in the singing and celebration, managed this event.

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