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Newbattle Abbey

Detail of Ceiling decoration, Drawing Room, Newbattle Abbey
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

Detail of Ceiling decoration, Drawing Room, Newbattle Abbey

Located a mile (1.5 km) south of Dalkeith in Midlothian, Newbattle Abbey is a 16th Century house which occupies the site of an 12th Century Abbey. Founded by King David I on behalf of the Cistercian order, the abbey and its monks were at the centre of a thriving commercial enterprise, which included coal-mining, salt production (at Prestonpans) and sheep-farming. The building was heavily damaged by a series of raids by the English during the 14th and 15th Century. The last abbot, Mark Kerr, made a timely conversion to Protestantism and was able to retain the lands around the abbey. His son, also Mark, became Lord Newbattle (1596) and Earl of Lothian (1606) and built a house on the site. This house was modified and rebuilt successively by John Mylne (1650), William Burn (1836) and David Bryce (1858). The drawing room represents one of Scotland's greatest rooms, decorated by Thomas Bonnar c.1870. Also notable is the 19th C. Chapel created in a vaulted undercroft that may date from the original abbey buildings. The chapel includes a 16th C. font and a fine parquet floor, made using wood from the estate in the style of original tile-work. The library is oak-lined and features a 17th C. moulded ceiling. The gardens to the rear of the house includes a pair of large octagonal 17th C. sundials.

King George IV visited during his Scottish tour of 1822 and the King's Gate was built in his honour.

Newbattle Abbey remained the home of the Marquesses of Lothian until being given to the nation in 1937 by Philip Kerr, the 11th Marquess, to be used as a College of Education. The house was given complete with many fittings and artworks and even now retains a sense of unity because it is able to display these in their original setting. Today, the house remains in use as an adult education centre and a training and conference venue.


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