View of Olivestob from Elphinstone's Map, 1744.
View of Olivestob from Elphinstone's Map, 1744.
© National Library of Scotland
Olivestob, or Bankton House, 19th century.
Olivestob, or Bankton House, 19th century.
© TheSetonFamily.com
Details from Oliveston, now Bankton House, 2005.
Details from Oliveston, now Bankton House, 2005.
The Seton Collection © 2005
Olivestob or Bankton House, 2004.
Olivestob or Bankton House, 2004.
The Seton Collection © 2005

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.

Located within 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 be disputed.

The original 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 (later Oliestob).  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 1695.

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 Preston.  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 battle.  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.

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 since.

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.

Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom (from 1603)
Next section

Image of David I

The Portrait Gallery
more >

The Memorabilia Gallery
more >
Historic Scotland
The National Trust for Scotland
National Museums of Scotland
Text Only News Media Centre How Do I...? Freedom of Information Children Recruitment Francais Gàidhlig
Contact us Search Site map Links Subscribe Copyright About this site
     Olivestob History
     House Details
    Olivestob Gallery
         Old Photos
         The Interior
     1992 Restoration PDF
     Restoration Notice
     Battle of Prestonpans