Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
NT 35097 72680
335097, 672680

A Renaissance garden of national significance built for Sir Alexander Seton (1555-1622), Chancellor of Scotland. Seton, a distinguished lawyer and Latin poet, was widely travelled, an enlightened patron of learning and the arts. Both Pinkie House and its gardens are a direct expression of his ideas and present an important and early, unified design.

Type of Site

A 17th century enclosed garden and park.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

17th century formal gardens, 20th century school grounds.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The Renaissance gardens at Pinkie are outstanding as a Work of Art as they are an integral part of an early 17th century iconographic programme developed through the house and gardens.


Level of interest

Pinkie has outstanding Historical value as a well documented and rare surviving example of a Renaissance house and garden, and for its connection with Sir Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline.


Level of interest

The present planting in the walled garden, together with the policy plantings, give Pinkie some Horticultural value.


Level of interest

Pinkie House, the early 17th century walled garden, the architectural features and their associations, give this site outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest

Contemporary published descriptions of the gardens at Pinkie indicate that there may be outstanding Archaeological potential for traces of the formal gardens to survive.


Level of interest

The policies at Pinkie have high Scenic value due to the contribution they make to the Musselburgh landscape.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The mixture of mature planting at Pinkie gives this site some Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Pinkie House is in Musselburgh. The site lies at the eastern end of the High Street and to the south of Linkfield Road.

Although the landscape at Pinkie commands no long-distance views today, when first built the house was situated on the edge of the town and there were views into the surrounding countryside. Today, the town of Musselburgh provides the setting for the house and garden.

Despite its urban situation, the early landscape of Pinkie has remained remarkably underdeveloped. The boundaries of the landscape depicted on Roy's Survey (1745-55) are traceable. Today the boundaries are unchanged although the estate is no longer in single ownership.

Site History

Pinkie House was originally a house of the Abbots of Dunfermline. Sir Alexander Seton (1555-1622), bought Pinkie in 1597 when created Lord Fyvie. He was the fourth son of George, 5th Lord of Seton, a loyal supporter of Mary Queen of Scots. He was educated in Rome in the 1570s. In 1585 he became a Privy Councillor; in 1586 an extraordinary Lord of Session; in 1593 appointed Lord President of the Court of Session, making him one of the principal political advisors to James VI. By 1596 he had control of Fyvie Castle (q.v. Inventory, Volume 3, p.221). About this time, he was entrusted as guardian of the King's second son, Prince Charles, later Charles I. In 1604 he was made Chancellor of Scotland, and then created Earl of Dunfermline. He died at Pinkie in 1623.

Seton acquired Pinkie as a suburban villa and through both house and garden he developed a highly sophisticated iconographic programme, which relied on the viewer's understanding and knowledge of the classics. The iconography of both house and gardens are closely entwined, with the garden design an essential component of Seton's scheme (Bath, 1995).

A splendid Doric fountain possibly modelled on those he saw in Rome (Howard, 1995), is inscribed with a Latin motto: 'From this fountain, unsurpassed for coolness and purity, there flows water benign alike for head and limbs' (RCAHM, 1929). The walled garden that he built directly to the east of the house bears a Latin inscription which reaffirms his dedication to Pinkie, its buildings and gardens. It is typically neo-Stoic in approach, with a conscious commitment to the peaceful seclusion considered an essential balance to early 17th century political and public life:

'To God most Holy and most High. For his own benefit, for the benefit of his descendants, and for the benefit of all good, humane and cultured men, Alexander Seton, a devout lover of all culture and humanity, founded, erected and adorned his country-seat, the gardens and these suburban buildings. Here there is nothing that savours of enmity, not even for defence against enemies; no ditch, no rampart; but for the gracious welcome and hospitable entertainment of guests a fountain of pure water, lawns, ponds and aviaries. In ways of pleasantness he has laid these out for the honourable delight of body and soul. Whoso therefore shall have comported himself towards them with enmity whether by robbery, sword, fire or in any way whatsoever, let that man proclaim himself devoid of charity and culture, nay rather an enemy of all humanity and of the human race. The stones of dedication † will find full voice and publish abroad.' (RCAHM, 1929)

The garden is overlooked by Seton's Painted Gallery, decorated with a series of literary mottoes, which similarly express Dunfermline's values, among them 'Often in palaces there is labour and grief, while peace and joy abide in the cottage.' (Allan, 1997).

Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall described Pinkie as:

'A most sweit garden, the knot much larger than at Hamilton and in better order. The rest of the yeard nether so great nor in so good order nor so well planted with varietie as is Hamilton yeards. The knot heir will be 200 foot square, a mighty long grein walk. Saw figs at verie great perfection …. 18 plots in the garden with a summer house and sundry pondes.' (Lauder, 1665-76).

The gardens were later praised by John Macky in his Journey through Scotland, 1724: 'The parterre behind the palace is very large, and nobly adorned with evergreens and on each sides of its spacious gardens. The whole is a well planted park of the circumference of three miles, walled round, and within four miles of Edinburgh. I must own, if I were the owner of Pinkey I should hardly have built Yester.' By this date Pinkie had passed to the Hays of Yester. (Alexander Seton had married Margaret Hay of Yester in 1605).

The Pinkie Estate passed to John Hay, 1st Earl of Tweedale, and stayed in the Tweedale family until 1788. Sometime during this period and arched and recessed bower, surmounted by their arms, was inserted into the centre of the east front. Thereafter it was purchased by Archibald Hope of Rankeillor and Craighall (Fife), 9th Bt., 1778. The Loretto School was opened in Pinkie House in 1951 and the majority of the parkland is now playing grounds.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Pinkie House has four distinct building phases. The tower house is the earliest, built by the Abbot of Dunfermline. The most important building phase is that undertaken by Seton c. 1613. The Hays carried out further alterations in 1694, and then the Hopes of Craighall added the bow to the south front. Alexander Seton's Renaissance Well is situated at the west entrance front. The rusticated main gate piers are 17th century obelisks reset in 19th century gatepiers, with two side gates, one of which is blocked up. The adjacent 19th century, single-storey Lodge has a hipped roof with ball finials on outer angles. The Stables, designed by John Paterson in 1800, are Classical in style with Tudor castellated motifs, semi-octagonal in plan with angle bays advanced to form towers.

The early 17th century Walled Garden lies to the east of the house, with architraved and corniced Renaissance gateways in the east and north walls. The gateways are surmounted by Jacobean pediments, one bearing an obelisk and the ages of Seton ('57'), on the inside and his wife ('21'), on the outer face. A semi-octagonal garden house projects on the outer side of the east wall, with a finialled gable to the garden, and an architraved doorway with sculptured cartouche containing rectangular inscription panel set in colonnettes with sculptured capitals. There is a free-standing, early 17th century Multi-faced sundial on a plain stone column standing on stone slabs and a Wall-mounted Sundial set in the north wall. A garden building with cistern, part of John Paterson's stable group, breaks through the wall from the north to form a Summerhouse.

In the park to the east is a Doocot, c 1600, a 2-stage lectern type; both doors have moulded panels above, one bearing the Seton arms, the other monogrammed AS/MH. The Park Wall is entirely of stone, but substantial lengths have been rebuilt. The remains of a Summerhouse and icehouse, demolished in 1995, lies in a clump of trees to the south-east of the walled garden.

Drives & Approaches

The north and main approach is off High Road via the 19th century lodge. Roy's Survey indicates an entrance here.


The park lies east of the house and walled garden but little remains of any specimen tree planting. This area is now school sports grounds. Only the occasional common lime (Tilia x europaea) remains from the patte d'oie. There are the remnants of a lime avenue which line the drive to the south of the house.


To the north-east a shelter belt and perimeter planting are largely composed of common lime . the belt of planting immediately to the east of the walled garden consists of a mixture of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), oak (Quercus robur), common lime, and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). The limes probably date from the early to mid 18th century.

The Gardens

Of the three contiguous walled gardens set on the east side of Pinkie House, only that directly relating to the house survives intact. The southern one is now used as a cricket ground and part of it is an orchard and vegetable garden, with few remaining walls. A high brick wall, abutting Linkfield Road, dominates the northernmost garden, now laid out as running tracks and pitches.

The eastern walled garden, the same width as the house, is notable for its Renaissance features and detailing. Seton's painted gallery overlooks it in part. There are three rubble walls with pitched and rib stone copings. The garden does not retain its earlier layout but the large, square, central lawn shows clearly the visible ridge of a central path running east to west, from the house to the summerhouse. This corresponds to Roy's Survey (1747-55). Mixed shrub and herbaceous borders are now planted around the garden edge.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1747-55 General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-1755

1853 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1854

Billings, Baronial Antiquities, vol. IV (1852)

Lauder, Sir John, Journals of Sir John Lauder, 1665-76

Macky, J. A Journey Through Scotland, In Familiar Letters from a Gentleman Here to his Friend Abroad (1724)


Printed Sources

Allan, D. 'A Commendation of the Private Country Life. Philosophy and the Garden in Seventeenth Century Scotland' Garden History, vol. 25, no. 1 (1997), pp. 59-80

Bath, M. 'Alexander Seton's Painted Gallery' in Albion's Classicism. The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. Edited by lucy Gent (1995), pp. 79-108

Howard, D. in Scottish Architecture: Reformation to Restoration 1560-1660 (1995)

Maitland, Sir Richard of Lethington BT., The Genealogy of the House and the Surname of Seton (1829), p. 64

RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian (1929), pp. 81-86

Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, Treasures of Fyvie. Exhibition Catalogue from Scottish Natural Portrait Gallery (1985)

Weaver, L. 'Pinkie House, Musselburgh' Country Life (12 August, 1911)

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: 24/07/2021 15:18