Home to a diplomat involved in nation-shaping moments in Scottish history; seige and destruction by Oliver Cromwell's canons; gracious country estate with beautiful pleasure gardens: the history of Redhall Estate beside the Water of Leith in Craiglockhart shapes the environment today and provides various points of interest on a walk along the Water of Leith.
On a small promontory where the Water of Leith meanders in a c-shape, a castle was built in the 13th century, using local red sandstone – Red Hall. Protected on three sides by sheer drops down to the river, it was accessible on only one side, making it a good defensive position. Its early history is lost in the mists of time but in 1533 it was acquired by a certain Adam Otterburn, a man whose name is not well-known but who, behind the scenes, played an influential role in shaping Scottish politics during the turbulent years of the Rough Wooing. Much scheming and politicking was doubtless done on this site - the entertaining of Sir George Douglas of the Red Douglas family is mentioned in correspondence from the
time, during the struggle for the guardianship of the young James V).
The castle passed through marriage to a family named Hamilton, who were in possession of it when Oliver Cromwell and his forces arrived in 1650. They set up their canons on the other side of the Water of Leith, and laid siege to the castle. Sir James Hamilton, with 60 men, held his castle for two days until they ran out of ammunition and Cromwell’s troops got close enough to blow it up. It was never rebuilt and lay in ruins until the estate was purchased by George Inglis of Auchendinny a century later. George commissioned the building of Redhall House nearby, using stones from the ruined castle. (The site of the castle today is still just an empty rough grassy area between Redhall House and the Water of Leith). The reclaimed stone was covered with harling. Inglis' project also included a stable block, a doo'cot, a walled garden and ornamental gardens.
Redhall ceased to be a graceful country home in the first part of the 20th century. It was purchased by the Edinburgh Corporation and in 1944 became a children's home. Two other schools for children with additional needs were built in the grounds, and latterly it was used as a staff training centre for the Ciry of Edinburgh council. But it has now been empty and boarded up for almost 10 years. The grounds immediately around the house have been developed into a housing estate. The developers renovated Inglis' doo'cot, an interested feature of which is Adam Otterburn's 16th century armourial panel built into one side of it, which Inglis salvaged from the castle. The stable blocks have also been incorporated into
the housing development. Sadly though there are still no plans for the restoration or conversion of the big house itself.
Redhall Walled Garden: Scottish Association for Mental Health
George Inglis' beautiful 18th century walled garden, next to the Water of Leith below the house, is now owned by the Scottish Assocuation for Mental Health (SAMH). There is a beautiful herb garden, a sunken garden, ponds and a replica iron age roundhouse. SAMH offers training here in horticulture, conservation, maintenance skills, ITC/admin and life skills for people with mental health problems, supporting 50-55 trainees at any given time. The garden is open to the public Monday-Friday 9am-4pm to drop by and enjoy the garden, purchase plants, compost and woodchip.
Sir Adam Otterburn of Redhall
He was reputed to be “the wisest man in Scotland” during the turbulent years of Rough Wooing; Adam Otterburn was a Common Clerk in Edinburgh, Provost of the City seven times, Lord of the Council for Civil Causes and a Judge in the Court of Session; he sat in the Scots Parliament from 1523 and in the Privy Council from 1524; he was King's Advocate (to James V) from 1524-1538, and was sent on diplomatic missions to England at least 14 times. He was secretary to Mary of Guise and Regent Arran.
He was involved border peace treaty negotiations in an attempt to stop border raids. He played a key role in the struggle between Arran and Douglas for the guardianship of the young James V, and when James died, he was involved in marriage propositions for James' baby daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. On Henry VIII's scheme to marry his son Edward to Mary, Otterburn is reported to have said to the English Ambassador: “If your lad were a las, and our las were a lad, be so ernest in this mateir, and could you be content that our lad should mary your las and so be King of England? Well, if you had the las and we the lad we could be well content with it, but I cannot beleve that your naycon coulde agree to have a Scotte to be kyng of England. And lykewise I assure you that our naycon, being a stout naycon, will never agree to have an Englishman to be king of Scotland. And though the whole nobility of the realm would consent unto it. yet our common people, and the stones in the street would rise and rebel against it.”
Otterburn died after an assault in Edinburgh by a servant of Regent Arran on 3 July 1548, “sore hurt on the head and his servant slain at his heels.” A family from Annestoun near Lanark were charged with treason for his murder.
First published in Konect June 2017
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer