Cockenzie House

Cockenzie House
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Cockenzie House

Cockenzie House is a fine 18th C. mansion set in 1.2 ha (3 acres) of gardens at the western end of the High Street in Cockenzie (East Lothian), principally comprising a long narrow two-storey block, with a basement and attic. The earliest part of the house is the western wing, built c.1591 by the Setons of Winton as a warehouse for trade with the Hanseatic ports, and sometimes known as the Great Custom. The main house was built c.1680 also by the Setons to accommodate the manager of their coastal industrial enterprises, which included Cockenzie Harbour, fishing and salt-pans. The Setons lost their property by supporting the Jacobites in 1715 and, like most of the other forfeited estates, it was sold to the York Buildings Company. Cockenzie House was initially leased and then bought by the Cadell family, who had gained extensive coal interests in the area. The house was badly extended to the northeast and north respectively in 1845 and 1902. The house was occupied by the Cadells until 1919 and then became the home of explorer and colonial administrator Sir Everard im Thurn, who died here in 1932. During the Second World War the house provided a home for evacuated children. Thereafter, it briefly became a teaching college and then a nursing home. In the 1970s the old warehouse was gutted by fire but was reconstructed in the 1990s to provide additional bedrooms for the nursing home, which closed in 2008. Now A-listed and leased to Cockenzie House Heritage Group, the building has become a cultural and tourist destination. It opened to the public for the first time in 2013 and provides an exhibition space, accommodation and tea room.

The historic garden was probably established by the Cadells in the 18th C. and is focused today to the benefit of wildlife. Jacobite soldiers are known to have picked apples from the trees here after the Battle of Prestonpans, while General Sir John Cope (1690 - 1760), the commander of the losing Government side in that battle, was thought by many locals to have hidden a treasure chest here. The garden also contains a folly, a castellated grotto constructed from what is said to be Icelandic lava and lined with shells. The entrance is framed by whalebones with the name of the Icelandic volcano 'Hecla' above. This unique structure was placed on the 'Buildings at Risk' register in 2011.

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