Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
Pencaitland, Saltoun
NT 45926 68312
345926, 668312

An interesting designed landscape historically - the early 19th century formal gardens were later replaced by an informal design. The remnants of former layouts can still be seen today and there are several architectural features of note.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The formal gardens were recorded as being of interest in the past and this gives Saltoun some value in this category.


Level of interest

There are many plans and written descriptions of the grounds at Saltoun, and its long association with the Fletcher family since 1643 gives it outstanding Historical value.


Level of interest

There is a little Horticultural value in the parkland and specimen trees.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for a variety of architectural features and has outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The policy woodlands, north parks and lodges provide some contribution to the surrounding scenery.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The undisturbed woodlands and riverside habitats provide some value for Nature Conservation in the surrounding farmed landscape.

Location and Setting

Saltoun Hall lies some 15 miles (24km) from Edinburgh on the east bank of the Birns Water, approximately 6 miles (9.5km) south of Haddington and 1 mile (2km) south- east of Pencaitland. The site is bounded by the B6355 to the north, and by minor roads to its east and south; the policy woodlands form the west boundary. Soils in this area are chiefly clay or loam and the area is traditionally good arable farming land. The house was originally sited for defensive purposes on a steep bank above the river, and views to the west are enclosed by the policy woodlands. There are extensive views across the rolling agricultural landscape to the east, and south to Soutra Hill. Saltoun Home Farm and the lodges are visible from the surrounding roads, but views into the parks are limited by the shelter woodlands.

The house is set facing north, its west front above the river (which was called the Water of Saltoun in the past). The designed landscape is bordered by the B6355, by minor roads and policy woodlands as above. In 1750, when General Roy's map was drawn up, there were only some enclosed fields at Saltoun and no evidence of a designed landscape. A drawing by Robert Burn in 1803 of his Gothic library additions to the house shows a very simple approach to the house with no evidence then of the formal gardens referred to by Thomas Dick Lauder in 1846. A survey plan of 1805 by John Bell shows the walled garden to be adjacent to the house, but in 1818 John Hay drew up a plan for a new kitchen garden to the north-west of the policies. By 1853 and the 1st edition OS map, the kitchen garden had been built according to John Hay's suggestion, but the bowling green and formal gardens had been lost. Woodland walks are shown on both sides of the river and two bridges are shown crossing it.

The extent of the designed landscape remains similar to that shown on the 1st edition OS map and the site comprises 407 acres (165ha).

Site History

In the 12th and early 13th centuries, the manor belonged to the de Morvilles, one of whom was Lord High Constable of Scotland. By around 1260, the greater part of the lands belonged to Sir William de Abernethy and it stayed in that family's ownership until 1643 when the 9th Laird sold it to Sir Andrew Fletcher, Lord Innerpeffer. Lord Innerpeffer supported the Royalist cause and was fined L5,000 by Cromwell in 1648. He died in 1650 and Andrew, the 3rd Fletcher laird, born in 1653, was later known as 'Fletcher of Saltoun' and as 'The Patriot' for his opposition to the Union of Parliaments. He became an exile, travelling to Spain and Hungary before returning to Scotland with William of Orange. He died in 1717 in London. His brother, Henry, looked after the house and lands at Saltoun and succeeded him as 4th Laird; it was his wife, Margaret Carnegie of Pitarrow, who introduced the barley mill to Scotland. She also introduced weaving mills, for the weaving of 'Hollands' in c.1710. The next laird was another notable historic personality, Lord Milton, the distinguished judge, and the formal gardens shown in the 18th century plans were designed by him and featured several fountains. He was succeeded by his first son, Andrew, who approached Robert Burn to build the library wing in 1775. He was succeeded by his brother John, General Fletcher, who had spent most of his army career in America and Canada, before returning to manage the estate at Saltoun following contraction of a fever. He died in 1803 and the house was leased over a period of about ten years, during the next laird's minority.

In 1818 John Hay drew up plans for a new kitchen garden with conservatories and an extensive shrubbery to the south of the garden on the opposite side of the river. The kitchen garden and hothouses are shown to have been carried out on the 1st edition OS map of c.1853. In 1819, William Burn was commissioned to carry out extensive additions to the house, which totally encompassed the earlier work of his father. Thomas Dick Lauder, writing in 1846, refers to the bowling green and luxuriant wilderness of evergreen trees and shrubs, but bemoans the fact that the laird had been advised to remove the formal gardens. By 1853, only informal planting is shown around the house and along the river. There is no sign even of the bowling green with its 'yew hedge of immense height and thickness'. By 1885, John Fletcher who succeeded as 9th Laird in 1879 held nearly 4,000 acres in the shire. He married Bertha Mansel Talbot of Margam Park, Glamorgan to which their son Andrew succeeded in 1918. He lived mainly at Margam until his death in 1950 when he was succeeded by his son, John. No major changes took place from then until 1970 when the Fletcher family converted the Stable Court for their own use as a dwelling. The house was sold with about three acres of land in 1970 and was converted into flats. A further area of the policies is let on a 99 year lease to the flat owners. The 12th Laird, Andrew, succeeded his uncle in 1972.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Saltoun Hall is a massive Tudor-style building by William Burn in 1819 based on an old defensive tower with additions by Robert Burn in 1775; it is listed A. It has many internal architectural features of interest, including the whispering gallery. The twin castellated North Lodges are late 18th century, with additions in 1935, and are statutorily listed. The Stables also date from the late 18th century, are two-storey, with a hexagonal turret and cupola; they too are statutorily listed. The Gothic doocot, decorative in style, with castellations and a small second-storey octagonal tower, is attributed to Robert Burn. Saltoun Home Farm was also built in the late 18th century (by the same unknown architect as the stables) and has an octagonal domed cupola containing a second doocot; it is statutorily listed. The South Lodge was designed by W. Beattie Brown in 1913. The sundial on the lawn by the house has been moved from its former position in the walled garden. The barley-mill is said to have been built by William Adam and is statutorily listed.

Paths & Walks

These exist on both banks of the river in the Glen below the house and up to the Doocot on the opposite side, and to the kitchen garden. There were two bridges linking the walks, but one was washed away in a storm in 1948. The paths are somewhat overgrown with rhododendron and yew, and are used partly as estate tracks today.


Accounts in the late 19th century refer to the extensive and well-timbered park at Saltoun, and the avenue approach of a mile long through the extensive park. The 1st edition OS map shows many individual parkland trees in the parks to the north and east of the house and, while some of these have been lost for agricultural reasons, the north parks still contain clumps of lime of around 130 years old, and older oak and sycamore trees of about 200 years old. The beech avenue remains from the North Lodge as far as the walled garden.


The estate was noted in the past for its woodlands which enclosed the views from within the policies. Records were kept of conifer planting and of experimental oak crosses. There is extensive sycamore invasion in the policy woodlands today but they are gradually being thinned and replanted with a mix of deciduous and coniferous species. This estate has suffered recently from the loss of many elms with Dutch Elm disease.

The Gardens

The loss of the formal gardens at Saltoun Hall was bemoaned by Thomas Dick Lauder in 1846. Plans drawn up by Henry Fletcher in Lord Milton's time show an extensive layout of parterres, each with a central fountain, designed so that several other fountains could be viewed from each compartment. The compartments were variously described as the Evergreen or Winter Garden; the Fruit or Harvest Garden; the Physic or Spring Garden; the Flower or Summer Garden, and surrounded a ten- sided design on the terrace. Dick Lauder refers to the luxuriant wilderness and bowling green which remained at the time of his writings. Today the area around the house and up to the wall above the Glen is laid out in lawns with small areas of groundcover planting. A central feature is the sundial moved here from the kitchen garden. To the south end of this garden is an area of specimen trees, particularly conifers.

Walled Gardens

The 1st edition OS map shows this large garden divided into several compartments, as designed by John Hay, and it was used as a kitchen garden until about 1953. In the past, it has been let out on a commercial basis for strawberry growing but it is now used for growing Christmas Trees.




Printed Sources

Small, 1883

T. Hannan, 1928

Recollections Respecting the Family of the Fletchers of Saltoun 1803 (Anon)

Gazetteer of Modern Farm Buildings

C. McWilliam, Lothian 1978

Scottish Georgian Society Bulletin, 1973, Vol 2, Priscilla Minay

Inventory of Monuments in East Lothian

Basil Skinner, SM, 1956

Plans of grounds, late 18th century



About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

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Printed: 25/07/2024 07:22