A History of
Olivestob, or Bankton House
BANKTON HOUSE, formerly known as Olivestob, is situated in the parish of Tranent,
and the good folks all around are proud of the old home of Colonel Gardiner. It
is a charming spot, and the genial tenant, Mr James D. Taylor, makes the grounds
in its neighbourhood a pleasing resort for thou- sands during the holiday
season. But although the mansionhouse is in the parish of Tranent, a good part
of the estate lies in the parish of Prestonpans, and must be noticed here.
sight of the former Palace of Seton immediately to the south of
Prestonpans and near the town of Tranent in East Lothian, is the
Estate of Olivestob, now called Bankton House, separated from
the town by the railway. This 17th Century mansion takes the
form of a central block with two pavilions, lying to the east
and west, all decorated in distinctive orange lime harling. Of
the two pavillions running eastern and west, the western
pavilion which once incorporated a doo'cot and now contains a
small exhibition recording the history and restoration of the
house. Formerly the residence of Sir Thomas Seton, who was
created a Baronet of Nova Scotia under King Charles, and who's
portrait resides at Traquair House, was the fourth son of Robert
Seton, 1st Earl of Winton and Lady Margaret Montgomerie later
heiress of Eglinton.
The present house may not be wholly the original building, but that the lower
part of it is seems not to be doubted; and that the part, however much or
little, which belonged to the original building was erected during the latter
part of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, need scarcely
building was erected in the late 12th century and was associated
with the monks of Newbattle Abbey, who had been granted charters
to much of the surrounding area and became known as Holy Stop
We know that when De Quincy granted the monks of Newbattle the lands of Preston,
he also gave them six acres of his meadows, etc., in the manor of Tranent. These
meadow lands stretch along by Bankton House on by Meadowmill, etc. More than
likely these monks would form a grange and have a meeting-place here too, but on
a smaller scale than at Preston.
The name of the original building was " Holy Stop, " which means, say ancient
authorities, the place where during the procession of the monks from Preston to
Newbattle a halt was made with the Host.
Other authorities say it was not Holy Stop but Holy Step, and that the step
meant is one at an ancient well, still at Bankton, from which these holy friars
drew their supply of water. One thing is certain, a habitation was formed here
at a very early period.
The property passed through the hands of Mark Ker, Earl of Lothian
(1553 - 1609) before passing to Sir Alexander Morison of Prestongrange.
That Bankton, like Prestongrange, remained territory connected with the Abbey of
Newbattle till the monks became merged in the Lords of Lothian is evident, for
it is recorded that Morison became proprietor of Prestongrange in 1609 through
purchase from Mark Kerr, a lord of Lothian, and some years afterwards (1632) Sir
Alexander Morison of Prestongrange also purchased Bankton, then Holy Stop, from
the same proprietor.
Shortly afterwards the property came into possession of the house of Seton. This
must have been in 1645, when Morison's estates were sequestrated and sold.
Lord Kingston, second son of George, third Earl of Winton, writing of that house
in 1687, says regarding his uncle Sir Thomas Seton, fourth son of Robert first
Earl of Winton, " that he was provided by his father to the lands of Holiestop,
now vulgo Olivestob. " The property soon, however, passed from the Setons into
one of the many branches of the house of Hamilton, and this, it is understood,
was through inter-marriage between these two great houses.
After a short
time in the possession of the Setons of
Winton, it through marriage, to the Hamilton family. It was
also occupied by lawyer Sir Hew Dalrymple (1690 - 1755) for a
time. Around 1742, the house and estate was sold to the
celebrated Col. James Gardiner (1687 - 1745), who died nearby at
the Battle of Prestonpans. Thereafter the house was bought by an
Edinburgh advocate, Andrew M'Douall, who took the title Lord
Bankton when he was promoted to the bench. This name then became
attached to the house.
Of the Olivestob branch of the Hamiltons, several are honourably mentioned in
home and foreign affairs. Colonel Thomas Hamilton, a younger brother of the
family here, served for a time in the Swedish army. On returning in 1670 he
became eminent as a merchant, and in time became a magistrate of Edinburgh, and
before long is found calling the magistrates to account for sundry monies (see "
Fountainhall's Decisions, " etc. ). He was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the
Edinburgh regiment, raised by the Estates of Scotland in Convention 1688.
—(Records of Town Council of Edinburgh. )
This same Thomas became proprietor of Olivestob shortly after 1688, through
purchase from his eldest brother, William Hamilton, who left no issue. His
eldest son James, who also had become a soldier and gone abroad, was wounded at
the " Siege of Namur, " carried on successfully by King William in person in
Mr James Hamilton, son of Thomas, proprietor after the peace 1697, studied Civil
Law at Leyden, and was admitted Advocate 1703. He became Sheriff of Haddington
by Commission from Queen Anne till 1715. He was brother-in-law to Lord Grange of
A son of James, Major Thomas Hamilton of Olivestob, was wrecked with the late
Lord Byron and Captain Cheape in the course of Lord Anson's celebrated voyages
in the year 1742
James Hamilton, son of Thomas, and father of the late Major Hamilton, sold the
estate of Olivestob to Colonel Gardiner, who received his death wound at Preston
Shortly after Gardiner's decease, the property was purchased by Mr Andrew
M'Douall, advocate, who some ten years afterwards was promoted to the bench, and
out of delicacy to his old friend Mr Hamilton (former proprietor) took the title
of Lord Bankton, instead of Olivestob, and Bankton it remains. The property at
present belongs to James M'Douall, Esq. of Logan, and the mansionhouse is
occupied by the tenant farmer on the estate.
LORD BANKTON—A HANDSOME BEQUEST.
Though Bankton estate lay for the most part in the parish of Tranent, the
sympathies of the proprietor seem to have been rather with the parishioners of
Prestonpans, for at his decease it was found he had bequeathed a sum of £600
for the benefit of the poor of this parish. This sum was sunk in Consols,
and the poor of Prestonpans have benefited to the extent of ^18 per annum ever
NEW COAL WORKS AT BANKTON.
This district is several times already referred to in these pages as the one
where coal was first discovered, and we can find no cause in all our research to
alter our opinion.
The Forth Collieries Company Limited has been fortunate in securing a lease of
the minerals here, along with that of Schaw's and other estates, and a great
future seems awaiting these explorers. Boring has gone on, sinking is in
operation, and we have no doubt that, before these pages are in print, the heart
of Mr Wilson, their young but exceedingly active manager, will be rejoicing in
his output of black diamonds along the very line of the meadows where the monks,
in the twelfth century, began their world-renowned excavations.
Adjacent, to the
west of the House was the site of the former Bankton Colliery and the house
was acquired by the government-owned Coal Board. Having become a
ruin, the house was restored and converted into flats by the
Lothian Building Preservation Trust between 1988 and 1995, with
grants from Historic Scotland, the European Regional Development
Fund, East Lothian District Council and Scottish Natural
Heritage. An old orchard was replanted on the north side of the
house at this time. This includes numerous varieties of apples,
pear, plums, quinces, medlars, gages and damsons.