This thread was originally written and published in March 2018. It has been lightly edited and corrected as applicable for this post.
I see the former Lochend childrens’ centre in Lochend House/Keep is up for sale by the Council as a residential development. There has been a big house or “castle” on this site for just shy of 900 years.
First was a Norman stone keep built by the de Lestalric barons, maybe 12th or 13th century. The Barony of Restalrig later came to the Logans. The remains of their “castle”, a fortified 16th century house, still partially stand at the back of and are incorporated into the current Victorian mansion.
Lochend Castle came into the possession of the Elphingstons of Balmerino when the Logan lands were carved up to settle debts. But by this point it had long since ceased to have any political or strategic value. But at one point it did; Restalrig was a barony (controlled from the seat of power at Lochend) and was a parish in its own right, with royal patronage and its own saint and relics – the mythical Triduana. It was something of a mediaeval centre of pilgrimage and worship and was the parish church for South Leith.
These may be some of the reasons Restalrig is given prominence in old maps, much more so than most other places that became Edinburgh suburbs.
Here is the existing mansion house at Lochend, a photo taken in 2015 when it was still under repairs after the fire that devastated the upper floor and roof. It’s late Georgian, the 16th C. castle remains were pulled down in 1816 and it was probably built around 1820.
That part of the building isn’t much to write home about (it’s yet another Georgian house in a city awash with Georgian houses). The interesting stuff is round the back, where remains of 16th C. “castle” (more of a semi-fortified big hoose I believe) were built into the later front block. An economy measure or perhaps they liked the air of a folly
And more can be seen from below if you scramble (carefully) up the embankment from the lochside.
From “castle” level, it’s clear why the place was fortified (notionally) nearly 1,000 years ago. This rock and nearby Hawk Hill are the only defensible promontories to the east of Edinburgh and Leith if you are approaching along the coast and pass north around Arthur’s Seat
Of these two, Lochend is the more obvious place to build on as it’s the higher, the bigger, and its western flank is guarded by cliffs over the loch making it a much more defensible position. The building marked in yellow is outline of the 16th c. “castle” from an 1817 map. Hawkhill is ringed in yellow at the top of the image.
The Adair map of the 17th century gives good context of the position, sitting almost in the middle of the gap between Arthur’s Seat and the Forth coast, and just to the west of the important religious centre (until the reformation) at Restalrig. As such it also guards the eastern approached to Leith, which was part of the Restalrig baronial lands.
All these map snippets by the way can be found in their full glory on the @natlibscotmaps online collection (maps.nls.uk) which is the most fantastic resource and if you aren’t already on it, why not?
The 16th c. castle was probably rebuilt from/on top of the older buildings, there are a few contemporary pictures of it and combined with the extant remains you get a pretty good idea of what the place looked like (engraving maybe by Skene?)
I’m not aware of any representations of the original Norman keep, but it’s probably similar to any other Scottish 12th c. baronial tower house, like Clackmannan. I’m just guessing though and am absolutely not in the ken about such things.
Anyway, the castle and Barony of Restalrig passed in a line broken only once (but actually joined by marriage) from the 11th to 17th century. These baronial families were the de Lestalrics (who either gave their name to or took it from the area of Restalrig) and the Logans.
- Peter de Lestalric, 1084-1153, 1st Baron of Restalrig. A Norman knight, apparently invited to Scotland by King David I as he sought to control and consolidate his kingdom by planting it full of loyal foreign barons (much more trustworthy than the locals 😉)
- His son Edward de Lestalric, b.?-1183, 2nd Baron and then his grandson Sir Thomas (I) de Lestalric, 1182 – 1214, 3rd Baron and Sheriff of Edinburgh
- Then his great grandson Sir John (I) de Lestalric, b.?-1260, 4th Baron and then his great, great grandson Sir John (II) de Lestalric, b.?-1285, 5th Baron.
- And then his great, great, great grandson Symon de Lestalric, b.?-1293, 6th Baron. Then his great, great, great, great grandson Thomas (II) de Lestalric, b.? – 1316, 7th Baron.
- And the last Lestalric, his great, great, great, great, great grandson Sir John (III) de Lestalric , b.? – 1385, 8th Baron.
The de Lestalrics were Loyal to King Robert I of Scotland (The Bruce) and known to have been at Bannockburn, which must have been Thomas II, 7th Baron. In 1385 on death of Sir John (III), 8th Baron, he had no male heir and the barony passed by marriage of his daughter Katherine to Robert Logan of Grougar (in Cunninghame, North Ayrshire). Robert and Katherine had a son, another Robert, starting a 4 century association of Robert Logans with Restalrig
- Logan of Grugar did not apparently take up the Barony himself, it was given to his son who we will call Sir Robert (I) Logan of Grugar & Restalrig (b.?- 1439), 9th Baron. He married Katherine Stewart, daughter of King Robert II (The Steward) of Scotland. The Logans, like the de Lestalrics, were Bruce loyalists; that the king allowed his daughter to be married to one is no better sign of how powerful and important they were to the crown
- Next in line is Robert I’s son, John (I) Logan (1420- 1450) , 10th Baron and Sheriff of Edinburgh followed by his grandson Robert (II) Logan (1445 – 1498), 11th Baron.
- Next; his great grandson Sir John (II) Logan (1465 – 1513), 12th Baron. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden with James IV of Scotland, again the Logans continued their loyalty to the Scottish crown.
- Next came the great, great, grandson Sir Robert (III) Logan (1503-1543), 14th Baron who took up the position age 10 on death of his father.
- Who better to follow than another Robert, the great, great, great grandson Sir Robert (IV) Logan (1533-1561), 15th Baron. Initially a protestant loyalist during the Scottish Reformation he wavered to the Catholic side of Mary of Guise, who ruled Scotland for a time from behind the walls of the Logan’s burgh of South Leith. I suppose this is where the fate of the Logans and their predecessors the de Lestalrics, who had been loyal to the Scottish crown (and on the right side of it) for 3 centuries begins to come undone.
- He was followed by (you guessed it), Robert (V) (1555-1606), great, great, great, great grandson of Robert I. 16th and last Baron of Restalrig. Loyal to the Stuarts, Queen Mary (“of Scots”) and her son James VI of Scotland. He was, “ane godles, drunkin, deboshit man” squandered the family fortune and sold the Logan lands to cover his debts – causing the Barony of Restalrig to be split between three laird.
- Thus he died without lands and titles to pass on to his son – you’ve guessed it – Robert (VI).
Robert (V) was posthumously implicated in the Gowrie House Affair, a supposed plot against James VI, and his corpse was exhumed and subject to a show trial. Found guilty (unsurprisingly) the remaining Logan lands and titles of were forfeit to the crown.
The Logan loyalty to Mary of Guise and Leith apparently stirred up considerable ill feeling from Edinburgh and Lochend Castle was allegedly sacked in 1586 by the Provost of Edinburgh, William Little of Liberton, on excuse of a disagreement about access across Barony lands. This was apparently with the tacit agreement of King James VI. Robert (V) financed his drinking and gambling lifestyle by selling the family lands. A holding at Nether Gogar, west of Edinburgh, went first; in 1596 to his Leith relations the Logans of Coatfield. Rights to lands around Fast Castle in Berwickshire, which had been gained through marriage of Robert (III) into the Home family, were surrendered in 1597 followed by the castle itself to Archibald Douglas in 1602.
Then in 1604, the Barony of Restalrig was carved up for sale. The lands of Craigentinny formed one estate, bought by the Nisbet family of Edinburgh. The lands of Lochend Castle to the Elphingstone family; the Lords Balmerino. The remainder of the went, the “Craigend”, to William Purvis of Abbeyhill. Unsurprisingly, these 3 families were all Stewart loyalists. Indeed apparently the Balmerinos got their stake without even paying! A saving of 18,000 Merks (Scots property transactions of this time were denominated in Merks, a silver coin worth 2/3 of a Pound Scots)
Robert (V)’s will of 1607 notes, “29,042 Pounds Scots, with 18,000 Merks due from the Balmerinos for Lochend and 15,000 from Dunbars for Fast Castle“. He also left “Ane schip with hir armaments in Eyemouth, estimat to the sowme of 500 merkis.” There is suggestion that Robert V kept his personal armed ship at Eyemouth (near the old family castle at Fast) in case he ever needed to flee in a hurry, an eventuality his lifestyle might have required. Anyway, with Robert (V)’s implication in the Gowrie House Affair to kill James VI of Scotland (which was possibly entirely a fabrication by the king himself to cancel his debt to the Ruthven family), the remaining Logan riches and bits of land were forfeit to the Crown by 1609, leaving Robert (VI) Logan with nothing. Being dead for 2 years, Robert V could not defend himself (even though his disinterred corpse was brought to the court). He was found guilty and “executed” by hanging. The main witness against him (George Sprott of Eyemouth), met a similar fare. The vengeful King James was making sure to leave no witnesses alive… He had the Logan arms and title stricken from the registers.
So you won’t find much evidence of the Logans left around Restalrig. The old family tomb (the octagonal annexe to Lochend Kirk) was cleared out by antiquarians determined to prove it was the well to a long forgotten saint. But the Logan association with Restalrig can be found in some of the street names of the 1920s/30s Corporation housing estates.
Back to that octagonal “well” at Restalrig Kirk. One of the main well theorists was himself a Logan descendent. I suspect somebody was perhaps trying to bring a positive sheen to the disgraced family name by linking them directly with a largely forgotten saint.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the well theory is bunkum, and that the octagonal annexe was most likely the family tomb on the lower floor and prone to flooding because of it being sunk into the ground through which an old waterway passes and has subsequently been diverted, altering the water table. The building possibly held some sort of relic or chapter house on the now gone upper floor(s). But the octagonal structure is pretty rare in Scotland. It’s still there so you can go and see it for yourself. Coincidentally, the Well to St. Margaret, which was moved to make way for the St. Margaret’s Locomotive Works at Meadowbank (and now located in Holyrood Park) is a near exact miniature inside of the Restalrig octagon.
The original site of the St. Margaret’s well is now inaccessible (not for the first time in history) since the sports centre site was barricaded off for redevelopment, but it is marked by a cairn and plaque
The cairn is (was, it’s been moved since this was first written) probably about 25m out of position, as it would have to be in the middle of the sports field otherwise! You can see outline of the velodrome in this map of 1817
The North British Railway works was built right across the top of the wellhouse, although an access tunnel from Clockmill Road was apparently constructed and is visible in the 1849 town plan
Prince Albert, as part of his improvements to the Holyrood Park (including flooding a boggy area as St. Margaret’s Loch), had the well moved onto the site of an existing well/spring to St. David. The cult of Margaret in the east of Scotland obviously still held some attraction
n.b. since this was first written, Meadowbank Stadium has been demolished and rebuilt. The velodrome has been demolished, never to return, however as the site is cleared for the first time since 1969 for its new life as housing, the archaeology just below the surface is beginning to become apparent.
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