Cockenzie House is a long plain but attractive mansion, dating from the 17th century and long held by the Cadell family, in beautiful gardens with a cafe, shop and gallery in the pleasant seaside town of Cockenzie and Port Seton on the banks of the Firth of Forth.
Lothians: About 1.5 miles north-east of Prestonpans, on B1348 (22 Edinburgh Road), west end of High Street, Cockenzie and Port Seton, at Cockenzie House.
NT 400757 OS: 66 EH32 0HY
OPEN: Open to the public most days. Shop and tearoom. Studios to rent. Holiday accommodation available. Weddings and events.
Tel: 01875 819456 Web: Cockenzie House
Waggonway project: www.1722waggonway.co.uk
Standing near to the sea in the attractive villages of Cockenzie and Port Seton, Cockenzie House, a long dour and plain edifice rising to two storeys with an attic and basement, dates from the late 17th century with later additions and remodelling.
Some of the rooms in the atmospheric main house have wood panelling, and the one chamber running through the width of the house, the William Cadell or piano room, has an oriel window looking out over the Forth.
The much altered wing to the west and at right angles to the house, used as a warehouse, was known as the Great Custom or Hanseatic Warehouse or Barn, but it was damaged by fire in the 1970s and has been much rebuilt.
The fine gardens within the walled grounds including a vaulted gothic grotto folly with a shell-decorated interior and two conical but ruinous gazebos known as the Claret Towers.
The place is marked as ‘Cokeny haven’ on Blaeu’s map of The Lothians, then as ‘Cokeny’ on Adair’s map of East Lothian. The name is from the cove of Kenneth or ‘Covekenny’.
The Seton owned the property from the 12th century (see Seton Castle). Robert Seton, Lord Seton, had a ratification of 1592 granting the erection of the harbour at Cockenzie in a free harbour, and of the erection of the town of Cockenzie in a free burgh of barony. They built a new harbour at Port Seton in the 17th century.
The house was built by the Seton Earls of Winton, and may have been built by George Seton, 4th Earl of Winton, in the 1680s when constructing the new harbour at Port Seton (more info), possibly for, or then used by, the manager of the salt pans and harbour.
The Setons were forfeited for their part in the 1715 Jacobite Rising, and the property went to the York Building Company. Sir John Cope and the Hanoverian army’s wagon train, with many valuables, was left at Cockenzie House and seized by Jacobites after the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.
The property was leased to and then sold in the later 18th century to the Cadell family, merchants from Haddington and who worked col mines and salt pans/ The family owned the house into the 20th century, although it was latterly occupied by tenants. The Coal Gin is the remains of a waggonway from the harbour at Cockenzie to coal mines at Tranent, possibly the earliest railway in Scotland and dating from 1722 (www.1722waggonway.co.uk).
The house was used as an orphanage during World War II, then later as a college for overseas students and as a private nursing home, but has been renovated and now houses offices, studio space, businesses, a shop, and a cafe, and the main house provides an atmospheric backdrop to various types of functions and exhibitions.
The Cadells have a burial asile at Tranent Parish Church [NT 403739], perhaps in a 16th-century building, now ruinous. Set in a pretty wooded location, the church dates from the end of the 18th century on an ancient site, and in the burial ground are a large number of fine carved tombstones, dating from the late 17th century.
Cockenzie House is said to be haunted. One story is that the ghosts of children have been witnessed in the attic, perhaps linked to the spirit of a servant or maid on the lower floors, another that the bogle of an old woman haunts one of the rooms and the corridor of the ground floor of the Hanseatic Barn.
There are apparently plans afoot to build a care home in part of the walled and wooded grounds, despite objections by many including Historic Environment Scotland.
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