The Irvings of Pennywell, Grange Loan

For nearly forty years the Irvings lived at Pennywell, Grange Loan, near Edinburgh. (In Edinburgh nowadays, of course.) Researching the land led to this outline of the family. James Irving’s background is not known, but his wife, Jacobina, came from fairly modest origins.  They were able to buy the Pennywell house and land when Jacobina was thirty, and lived there for nearly forty years. They seem to have been part of the 19th century story of a growing middle class, with some of their children ending up quite prosperous.

glass goblet engraved irving
“To Mr. Jas. Irving Pennywell 1823” – Was this glass given to James Irving? It has thistles and “The Land O’Cakes” engraved on it. Thanks to Keys Auctions.
  • James IRVING, of Bristo Street, married Jacobina Comb in 1790. There is no trade or profession given for him in the marriage record. From 1791-8 he paid tax on two “carriage or stable horses”. The first listing for him in a street directory was in 1797 calling him a “stabler”; later he was listed as a “chaise hirer” too. In 1800 he bought the Grange Loan property, and in 1804 bought “a piece of back Ground and houses thereon under the Castle Wall” on the north side of the Grassmarket, in the area where he conducted his business. (The previous owner was James Wright, pewterer.) His will calls him a “horse hirer”, who died at “Pennywell, Grange Loan”, on 26 Dec 1838. He had a license to run a private asylum at his house. By the later 1830s he was listed in directories as James Irving Esq., suggesting he had moved towards being considered a gentleman.
  • Jacobina COMB, also called Binnie or Bainnie, daughter of David Comb, heel maker of Crosscauseway, and Margaret Pillans, was born 12 May 1770. Witnesses to her baptism at Ratho were Alexander Comb and James Comb, both farmers in Upper Gogar, west of the city.[ref]There was a farm there called Combs Farm or Comb’s Farm.[/ref]She died 5 Nov 1839 at Grange Loan.

Their children:

James Irving Jessie Gibson grave
Gravestone of the younger James Irving, tobacco manufacturer, and his second wife Jessie. In Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh
    • James IRVING – b. 12 Jan 1791, became a tobacconist and tobacco and snuff manufacturer in Leith, in Kirkgate. He married his first wife on 30 June 1815: Sarah Harper, daughter of William Harper, once a farmer in Beath, Fife. Their son James died in 1836, aged 20.[ref]The Scotsman[/ref] On 13 Dec 1850 he married Janet aka Jessie Gibson, born in Forfar 1810, a daughter of Adam Gibson, once Latin teacher at Tain Academy. In 1851 James, “retired tobacconist”, and Jessie Irving were living in Charles Street, Edinburgh. He died 18 March 1874, with no living children, and was buried in Grange Cemetery. Jessie, who died in March 1877, shares the grave. He still owned 105 Kirkgate, Leith at the time of his death. His will says he also owned two tenements in Charles Street, and mentions his books, pictures and silver plate.
David Irving in an 1834 street directory.
David Irving in an 1834 street directory.
  • David IRVING b. 6 June 1794. On 21 Dec.1832, when he married Margaret Muir at St. Cuthbert’s Parochial Chapel in Hope Park, he was a surgeon, of Grange Loan. She was daughter of the late Andrew Muir, victual dealer in Causewayside. David and Margaret were living at 34 Clerk St. in 1841 (both aged 45). He died at Corstorphine 28 Oct 1842, leaving £1290, a couple of flats, and shop premises in Clerk Street to his widow.
  • Margaret IRVING or STEWART, born 18 June 1802, married 29 May 1825 Alexander Stewart, hatter, of 7 Alison’s Square. They had daughters called Robina aka Binnie, and Mary.
  • Bainnie IRVING (Binnie?) baptised 25 Nov 1804, witnesses David Comb and William Douglas.
  • Jacobina IRVING, born 26 Sep 1806.
  • Robert IRVING b. 11 Oct 1807 bap. Old Greyfriars Parish. In 1836 he was a wright in Edinburgh. He married Margaret Ruthven. In 1871 he lived in Corstorphine. In 1859 Robert’s daughter Margaret, a lady’s companion, married Robert Ross, a butler, who went on to be a messman at Piershill Barracks.

    1851: Shotts foundry. new houses and gardens in Springfield and Orchardfield.OS map reproduced with permission from the Naional Library of Scotland.
    1851: Shotts foundry, new houses and gardens in Springfield and Orchardfield, alongside Leith Walk. OS map reproduced with permission from the National Library of Scotland.
  • Robina IRVING or SINCLAIR, aka Rabina or Binnie, baptised 23 Aug 1811, married Alexander Sinclair of the Shotts Iron Co. in 1833. In 1851 he was manager of Shotts Foundry, Leith Walk, living at 99 Springfield with children David, Alexander, Jemima, John. In 1872 he was described as engineer and iron founder at Bonnington. Jemima married George Stenhouse, brewer, and went to Australia.

Sources: parish registers, censuses, street directories, gravestone of the younger James Irving[ref]This was found thanks to the Southside Heritage Group who have put cemetery information online.[/ref], the wills of both James Irvings, a probate inventory for David Irving. Sometimes the surname is spelled Irvine.  A couple of documents seem to call Mrs Jacobina Irving Robina: perhaps a confusion around the shortened name Binnie.

The Hewits of Pennywell, Grange Loan

Thomas Hewit was an Edinburgh leather merchant, tanner and, in his early days, a shoemaker. He, his second wife, and three of his sons built up a substantial leather business, and acquired property over two generations. The last of them had a £100,000 fortune by the time of his death in 1887. Newspapers were impressed by his wealth, and commented on what a large proportion would go to charity. The Hewit leather business, which continues to this day, went to one of the descendants of the first marriage.[ref]George Lawson had been working in the business and was bequeathed first chance to own it, if he paid for the physical assets, valued without adding in the “good will” of a going concern. His uncle David left him and his brothers legacies of six thousand pounds each.[/ref]

First marriage and becoming a burgess

Through his first wife, Mary Moir, daughter of a burgess, Thomas Hewit got burgess status himself.[ref]Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses and Guild-brethren 1761 – 1841, ed. Charles Boog-Watson, Scottish Record Society 1933[/ref] This gave him civic responsibilities and rights, including the right to run a business in Edinburgh. The marriage record says that Thomas Hewit, shoemaker, of no. 20 Simon’s Square, married Mary, daughter of John Moir, shoemaker [of 39 Candlemaker Row], on 24th January 1822. Mary died in August 1828.

Children of Thomas and Mary Hewit:

  • Jane Gilchrist Hewit b. 27 Oct 1822,  m. Robert Lawson, corn merchant in the Grassmarket, in 1844. In 1851 they had 2 children: William 3 and John 1. A nurse for the children and a general servant lived with them in Lauriston Place. Other Lawson children were George (b.1862), Jane and Sarah.
  • John More/Moir Heriot Hewit b. 14 Sep 1826. In 1851 he was a journeyman optician living with wife Margaret (Caw) in Davie Street. He was “last heard of in New York”, according to David’s 1887 will.
  • Mary James Moir Hewit b. 2 July 1828

Second marriage and a move to Grange Loan

Thomas was already married to his second wife, Janet Murray, when he bought Pennywell House in Grange Loan. Their sons grew up there, and Janet’s sister, Ann Murray (see bottom of page), lived with them, and outlasted them all. They housed a few asylum patients there, as the previous owners had done. Janet’s sons Thomas, David, and Charles worked in the family leather business, with their mother playing a key role after she was widowed. The business was re-named J. Hewit and Sons after Thomas Senior’s death. Thomas, the oldest of Janet’s sons, was sixteen when his father died. Those three boys inherited equal shares of the family assets after their mother died, but Jane and John, Mary’s children, got nothing. Their father’s will said the children of his first marriage were already “amply and sufficiently” provided for.[ref] Possibly via their maternal grandparents whose children did not survive them.[/ref]

Janet’s will left her sister Ann a life interest in her house, which by this time was at number 7 Argyle Square, the “westmost lodging on the north row”. (Part of the site of today’s Chambers Street museum.) Ann stayed in Grange Loan till her death.

Janet had moved on from Pennywell, though she and her sons retained the ownership of all their Grange Loan property. In 1865 Janet Murray was owner of houses, workshops, and shops at 4, 6 and 8 Niddry St., houses at 191 Cowgate, 7 Argyle Square and 12-17 Grange Loan, and a garden at 17 Grange Loan.

Thomas Hewit, leather merchant, Niddry Street, married Janet Murray 21 June 1829, and died 30 December 1846. Janet Murray or Hewit died 20 May 1868, age 61, in Argyle Sq.. Her mother was Janet Murray or Gilchrist, and her father John Murray, broker, according to her death certificate. On her sister’s death certificate, John Murray’s profession was furniture dealer.

Children of Thomas and Janet Hewit:

Their three adult sons – Thomas, David, and Charles – expanded the business to London.

  • Thomas Hewit born 29 April 1830, died at Musselburgh in 1886. His will says he was a “tanner and currier, Edinburgh and London”, “residing at Langton Villa Grange Loan” and also occupier of Rosehall, Musselburgh.
  • Janet Gilchrist Hewit b. 22 Aug 1831
  • William Cox Hewit b. 19 Feb 1835
  • David Gavin Hewit  3 Dec 1836, In 1881 he was living in Bride Lane, London. He married Eliza Augustine Bourgois[ref]Daughter of the founder of the Bourgois Hotel, Fleshmarket Close[/ref] in Edinburgh in April 1886[ref]Scotsman 9 April 1886[/ref]. Their son, David Thomas, was born at Endsleigh, Highfield Hill, Upper Norwood in May 1887, but died on 24 August 1887 in Melville Street, Edinburgh. David Gavin Hewit died before his baby son, on 1st August 1887 at Upper Norwood, Surrey. He left about £100,000: a house and annuity to his widow, legacies to his nephews, aunt Ann Murray and other relatives, and the residue to a variety of hospitals and leather trades charities.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 24 September 1887[/ref]His nephew George Lawson, Jane’s son, was to be given first chance to buy the leather business.
  • Ann Murray Hewit b. 16 Mar 1838
  • Charles Murray Hewit  born 6 Aug 1842, died in 1875. His will says he was “residing at Langton Villa, Grange Loan, of Edinburgh”.

The lodgers in the Pennywell House asylum:

According to the 1841 census of Public Institutions in the Parish of St Cuthbert, there were two patients, neither born in Midlothian:

  • Marion Brown, 55
  • Thomas Orchardson, painter, 40

Also recorded:

  • Thomas Hewit, 40,  proprietor and keeper
  • Janet Hewit, 30, matron
  • Ann Murray, 25, female servant [Janet’s sister]
  • Live-in servant, Mary Muir
  • Thomas 10
  • David  4

In 1851 the patients were:

  • Miss MB, 66, Minister’s daughter, born Fifeshire Largo
  • Miss JG, 61, Captain’s daughter, born Morayshire
  • MR WR, 51, Journeyman Compositor, born Lanarkshire Glasgow

One of the women was able to go out alone and “make small purchases”. The other was said to be dirty and was kept in a “ground floor room, which she made “offensive”. The other two slept in attic rooms with clean and comfortable beds, and they all had their meals separately. A medical attendant was paid £5 a year to visit once a week. The patients’ families each paid £40 a year for this arrangement.

Record-keeping did not meet the legal standards: at all asylums in the area, not just this one. A doctor reporting in 1855 felt this asylum was not adequate to cope with the ground-floor patient who got excited and violent at times, and was put in a strait-jacket.

Also listed in 1851:

  • Janet Hewit, 42, Mistress of the Establishment
  • Ann Murray, her sister, 36, Housekeeper. In 1881 she was a retired housekeeper living with Charles Hewit at no. 13 Grange Loan, where she stayed until her death in 1899. One census gave her birth parish as Canongate, Edinburgh.
  • Thomas, 21, Keeper
  • David, 14
  • Charles, 8
  • Servant Agnes Bell, 22, born Glasgow


Charles Murray – with Janet, a trustee of Thomas Hewit’s estate. Described as “sometime printer in Edinburgh and thereafter in Bombay, now residing in Edinburgh” (1850).

Sources: parish registers, statutory records, censuses, street directories, newspapers, the wills of Thomas Hewit Sr., Janet Hewit, and David Gavin Hewit, the Hewit leather website, report of parliamentary inquiry into asylums.

Some of the children presumably died before reaching adulthood.

Charles Jackson, Merchant Burgess of Edinburgh, c1650-1722

Money and power

17th century Edinburgh
Edinburgh around the time Jackson became a burgess.

Charles Jackson was a well-connected, well-to-do Edinburgh merchant. From this distance in time he might seem rather like all the other wealthy citizens who traded, litigated and inter-married, but for one distinguishing quirk. He believed he had a special connection with royalty. When he laid on an outdoor party to celebrate a royal anniversary, the unusual occasion was reported in the press. Read about it here.

Charles jackson merchant burgess
1671 entry for Charles Jackson in the Edinburgh Burgess Roll.

You could think of him as “Charles Jackson Merchant Burgess” since he is so often referred to that way. Born in Perth around 1650, he seems to have settled smoothly into the trading and civic elite of Edinburgh. Before he became a burgess around the age of twenty he was a “servitor” to James Currie, burgess, who later became Provost of Edinburgh. In his early twenties he married Rachel Wilkie, daughter of the Dean of Guild.[ref]There is no record of the marriage but records of christenings of their several children start in 1773.[/ref] Later, several prominent citizens were witnesses at the christening of his son, Andrew, by his second wife Isobell Wood, herself the daughter of a bailie.

Records of his dealings are patchy but it is clear that he lent money, chased debts, acquired property, and had funds to spend on an open-doors party, and on a “vanity” edition of a book to which he wished to add a foreword. (See below.) At one time he paid tax on sixteen hearths[ref]Late seventeenth-century Edinburgh: a demographic study, Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994, p.104[/ref], though there is no reason to assume these were all in his family home. He invested in the unlucky Darien scheme without apparently finding the £300 loss disastrous, was involved in various complex legal-financial proceedings, and when he died an inventory showed his heirs were due to collect £2000 (Scots pounds) from various debtors.

Jackson’s contacts with well-placed citizens may have helped with deals like this one in 1687:

Charles Jackson, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, is granted a tack [lease] of a piece of waste ground on the south side of Parliament House to  make a yard, free of duty, on his offering to keep it in a clean and handsome condition.[ref]Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh[/ref]

Charles Jackson and royalty

Jackson had a special interest in royalty. His sense of a personal connection to Charles II is partly explained in an introduction he wrote for a book about the king. He addressed himself to Queen Anne in a special extra edition published in 1709 and paid for by Jackson himself.[ref]The book was Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.[/ref]

The Design of my Re-printing this Book, was upon several Accounts; but chiefly, that I might have an Opportunity of Addressing Your Majesty, for Relief in an Affair of my Grand-father’s, who was a Faithful Subject to King Charles the Second, as may be seen by His Majesty’s Letter. I had the Honour to have His Majesty stand my god-father at Perth: also the King in his Troubles assumed the Name of Jackson.[ref]For part of his escape, Charles used the name William Jackson, according to the king’s own account dictated to Samuel Pepys.[/ref]

Queen Anne
Queen Anne

This “explanation”, disappointingly not accompanied by details of his grandfather’s story, came after a reference to the queen’s “Royal Unkle”, and many complimentary flourishes, as would have been expected then. It ended:

Your Majesty is of such a Gracious, Generous and Benign Temper, that I Hope and Pray, That You would be pleased to take my case into your Royal Consideration. That Your Royal Majesty may long Prosper and Reign to be a Continual Blessing to the World, is the Sincere Prayer, Great Madam, of Your Majesty’s most Dutiful and Loyal Subject and very Obedient Servant, Charles Jackson

Was he really Charles II’s godson?

Archibald Tod's tomb
Charles Jackson lies somewhere here at the foot of Tod’s tomb of 1656. To the right is part of the tomb of his first wife’s grandfather, John Jackson.

He died in 1722, according to Edinburgh parish records, which also say he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in March, “at the foot of the north through stone of Tod’s Tomb”. He was said to be either 72 or in his 72nd year. His christening could possibly have overlapped with Charles II’s time in Scotland, which included stays at Scone Palace near Perth. One small reason to believe the king was at the christening is that several of the king’s godchildren were called Charles, or Charlotte. And would Jackson have published that message to Queen Anne unless he believed himself to be Charles’ godson?

The Perth connection[ref]Some reports say he was christened in Keith, but this must be a mistake, as his own edition of Boscobel says Perth.[/ref] is reinforced by written records showing connections between Charles Jackson and people from Perth,[ref]”David Jackson merchant in Perth” was a witness at Charles’ second son’s baptism. One chunk of Jackson’s investment in the Darien scheme was on behalf of John Threpland, merchant in Perth.[/ref] including his own “prentis” (apprentice), John Jackson, son of David Jackson, deceased bailie of Perth.

References and pictures

  • The Darien papers: being a selection of original letters and official documents relating to the establishment of a colony at Darien by the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies. 1695-1700. pub. Constable, 1849
  • Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.
  • Testament Dative and Inventory for Charles Jackson, 4 May 1726
  • Feu Charter by William Dick of Grange, with consent of Anna Seton, his spouse, to Charles Jackson, merchant in Edinburgh, March 1713
  • Late Seventeenth-century Edinburgh: A Demographic Study , Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994
  • Edinburgh Parish Records
  • Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh: 1681-1689, ed. Wood and Armet, Scottish Burgh Records Society, 1954
  • Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses 1426-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1898
  • Register of Edinburgh Apprentices, 1666-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1929
  • The Citie of Edinburgh from the South (detail) by Wenceslas Hollar (1670) – from Wikimedia
  • Portrait of Queen Anne by Charles Jervas, date approx. 1702-1714 – from Wikimedia

Festivities in the Grange, Edinburgh, in 1712

May 29 1712: birthday of Charles II and anniversary of his restoration to the throne

Charles II and William Carlos in oak tree
King Charles hiding in the “royal oak” that came to symbolise his escape in 1651.

In a field near Edinburgh there was music, merriment, a “diversity of liquors” and people celebrating a royal anniversary round a bonfire. On a tall standard flew a banner with a “very artfully drawn” picture of the “royal oak”, the tree in which his sacred Majesty” King Charles II hid from his enemies, reported a city newspaper.[ref]Quotes from Reliquiae Scoticae’s extract from a report in the Edinburgh Evening Courant. They say the Royal Oak was the name of a ship in which Charles escaped to continental Europe, but this does not seem to be historically accurate.[/ref]

Charles Jackson, a wealthy Edinburgh merchant, organised these festivities. He used a “public advertisement” to invite all “true loyalists” to join him, and supplied music, drink and then an after-party at his home in town. The gathering drank toasts to the monarch of the time, Queen Anne, but the event had been arranged to honour an earlier monarch: a king with controversial associations.

Jacobite or just jolly?

An “ingenious piece of masked Jacobitism” was a Victorian writer’s opinion of the celebration. When Robert Chambers said this[ref]Domestic Annals of Scotland, 1861[/ref], he was presumably thinking of King Charles’ Catholic brother James and his Jacobite supporters who met in secret. Yet Charles Jackson himself was not at all secretive. He was happy to express his respect for the current monarch at the same time as proclaiming his regard for Charles II, even though this touched on various troublesome political issues. He made his loyalties clear in print.

A generation earlier, in 1689, May 29th was definitely a pro-Jacobite day, with events in Edinburgh reported on disapprovingly in an anonymous London newsletter.[ref]An Account from Scotland and Londonderry of the proceedings against the Duke of Gordon in the castle of Edinburgh, printed by George Groom June 1689, included in Siege of the Castle of Edinburgh: MDCLXXXIX, presented by Robert Bell to the Bannatyne Club, 1828[/ref] Besieged in the castle, the Jacobite Duke of Gordon celebrated the day “very heartily” with guns, a bonfire and much “drinking of healths”. Meanwhile, in the town “one or two bonfires were made in the streets here, where several disaffected persons gathered who had the impudence to drink the healths of King James, the Duke of Gordon….[etc.]”. This ended with some of the “rabble” being put in prison.

A hautboy (oboe) of the kind the revellers would have used.
A hautboy (oboe) of the right era.

For Jackson’s published remarks about King Charles and Queen Anne click here.

Back to 1712:

The night concluded with mirth; and the standard being brought back to Mr Jackson’s lodgings, was carried by a loyal gentleman barehead, and followed by several others with trumpets, hautboys, violins and bagpipes playing before them, where they were kindly entertained.[ref]Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Courant in: Reliquiae Scoticae, Scotish [sic] remains, in prose and verse, from original MSS. and scarce tracts, ed. James Maidment and Robert Pitcairn, 1828][/ref]

A field in the Grange

The celebrations took place in “Charles’s Field”, one mile south of the city, said the Edinburgh Evening Courant. Not long after the party, Thomas Dick of Grange feued out eight acres of land in the “east park of Grainge” to Charles Jackson, and it is likely that this plot was the so-called Charles’s Field, even though the legal work was not complete until after the festivities.[ref]Thomas Dick’s marriage agreement slowed things down as he had to get his wife’s formal agreement to the transaction, finalised in March 1713. This meant legally valid approval from men designated as her “friends”: local bigwigs Sir James Dick of Prestonfield, Sir William Cunningham of Caprington and Master Patrick Leith of Craighall.[/ref]

There is a good case for saying “Charles’s Field” was the one immediately to the east of Grange House, even though neither the newspaper nor the legal documents give the precise location clearly. The legal record describes an eight acre plot of an irregular four-sided shape in the “east park of Grainge”. The only field that matches these details on maps had a “bleaching green” within it, and this fits with the Courant’s report in 1712 that Jackson had “erected a very useful bleaching-field” on the land where the party took place.

Grange House and field
Field (blue outline) in the Grange provisionally identified as the one where there were celebrations in 1712. Based on Kirkwood’s 1817 map, reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The field was enclosed with walls and “dykes already digged”. Presumably Jackson had taken possession and started his bleaching enterprise before the feu charter was signed and sealed? Assuming it was this particular patch, its southern edge on Grange Loan is marked today by the eastern wyvern pillar at one end and the boundary between houses nos. 80 and 82 at the other. For more detail, check the footnotes.[ref]Using an 1817 map (Kirkwood) and an 1825 map (Miller and Grainger), the only field of roughly the right shape and size is the one outlined in blue on both maps. There are trees along some of the boundaries, suggesting a well-established field. Admittedly, the lengths of the sides don’t look like a perfect match, but there may be a mistake in the legal description anyway. How likely is that both the northern and the eastern side were exactly “forty one falls and two and a half ells” long? In the SW of this field was a bleaching ground (outlined in red), explicitly labelled as ‘Bleaching Green’ on the 1825 map. There do not appear to be any competing bleachfields in the area. These two maps, together with some details on the first OS map, suggest the bleachfield was walled with buildings along  the southern edge. The green outline shows the boundaries of the grounds of Grange House. Using georeferenced maps, with old layered over new, shows how the old boundaries match up with today’s layout.[/ref]

For more about Charles Jackson click here.

The field in the Grange

The legal description:

that piece or portion of land lying in the east park of Grainge with the dykes and ditches surrounding the samen bounded as follows viz.- beginning from the north east point of the dyke or wall of the said park and from thence proceeding along and within the said wall westward forty one falls and two and a half ells and from thence turning southwards along and including the dykes already digged twenty seven falls and from thence running eastward along and including the dykes also digged thirty seven falls and five ells and from thence turning northward along and within the east dyke and wall of the said park forty one falls and two and a half ells extending the area of the said piece or portion of land to eight acres ane rood and thirty three falls lying within the parish of St Cuthberts and sheriffdom of Edinburgh...[ref]Feu Charter by William Dick of Grange, with consent of Anna Seton, his spouse, to Charles Jackson, merchant in Edinburgh, March 1713[/ref]

And also…

William Dick and his wife, Anna Seton, are thought to have had Jacobite sympathies. Could that have any relevance to their business dealings with Jackson?

References and Pictures

  • Extract from the Edinburgh Evening Courant in: Reliquiae Scoticae, Scotish [sic] remains, in prose and verse, from original MSS. and scarce tracts, ed. James Maidment and Robert Pitcairn, 1828
  • Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.
  • Domestic Annals of Scotland, Chambers, 1861
  • Kirkwood’s 1817 map is on the NLS website.
  • Miller and Grainger’s 1825 map was included in The Grange of St. Giles by Jane Stewart Smith, Constable 1898.

Pictures from Wikimedia.

Wyverns at Grange House, or the Griffin Gates

Wyvern in Grange today
Stone wyvern, 300 years old or more.

Strictly speaking they are wyverns, but they used to be known as griffins[ref]”The Lauder griffins”, associated with the Lauder side of the Dick Lauder family, owners of Grange House.[/ref], or even dragons. Walking along Grange Loan today you will see the pair below have been separated. They now “serve to mark the southern corners of the grounds of Grange House” to east and west.[ref]Scotsman, 23 March 1936[/ref]

Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.
Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.

The wyverns probably started life on top of 17th century[ref]Or early 18th century?[/ref] gate pillars at the old northern entrance to the grounds of Grange House.[ref]A little SW of where Lauder Loan leads off Lauder Road, apparently. The old approach from town (pre-1840) appears to have roughly followed the line of today’s Tantallon Place and Cumin Place, passing Grange Farm on the right (west), then swinging towards the house in a straight line that ended in Lauder Loan. This is clearest when using the map layering available on the NLS website, where you can view semi-transparent old maps on top of a modern background.[/ref] They were moved c1830 to decorate one of the many flights of steps in the terraced garden, which lay on a south-facing slope.

The Entrance to Grange House

Around that time the main entrance was moved too. The new drive began at an ornate arch in Grange Loan, to the south of the house, away from any of the new villas being planned. It turned right for the final 30 metres or so, and Lord Cockburn called it an approach “from the west”:[ref]Journal of Henry Cockburn: Being a Continuation of the Memorials of His Time, Vol. 2, 1874[/ref]

The old approach, which was from the north, and nearly inaccessible, has been given up for the more striking one from the west….

Steps leading down from the old gate pillars topped with wyverns
Steps leading down from the old gate pillars topped with wyverns, 1890s

There are photographs and drawings from the 19th century to show what the mythological creatures looked like as garden ornaments, but sadly no drawings of the pillars in their original position. (As well as the 1890s pictures on this page showing a rather overgrown garden, see this watercolour done in 1876.)

Just before the house was demolished in 1936,  a journalist who visited it with Henry F. Kerr, architect and antiquarian, as his guide,[ref]As part of a visit organised for the Old Edinburgh Club, reported in the Scotsman, 23 March 1936.[/ref] said the “two elaborately-designed pillars surmounted by griffins” were “situated at the top of [a] flight of steps leading from the courtyard, but this probably is not their original site”. In the 1890s they were “at a few yards distance from the north side of the house”, according to McGibbon and Ross. The evidence strongly suggests it was the set of steps shown on the map below that was home to the wyverns after the extensive renovations of about 1830.

Most likely position for the wyverns in Grange House's last century.
Most likely position for the wyverns in Grange House’s last century. OS map from 1893 reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

A story about the wyverns – but is it true?

The wyverns at the top of the steps in the 1890s
The wyverns at the top of the steps in the 1890s

Various authors have repeated Jane Stewart Smith’s anecdote about the young Walter Scott climbing up the gateposts to check if the griffins’ tongues were red with fire or with paint. Is there clear evidence for this? Can anyone find it in Scott’s letters or memoirs? Or any biography?[ref]It is not in his Antiquities of Scotland which mentions Grange House.[/ref] Was outdoor stone statuary in Scotland often painted in the 18th century?

Jane Stewart Smith was an artist, not an academic. She put ‘veritable paint or veritable flame’ in italics and in inverted commas, but was she quoting, or building on a story she’d heard? Is there any earlier publication than her The Grange of St. Giles (1898) which mentions Scott playing near Grange House? [ref]Nothing relevant can be found near the quotation JSS used in her previous sentence to make a point about Scott’s “love of adventure”: “I made a brighter figure in the yards than in class.” Walter Scott’s Biography, Vol 7, by his son-in-law, John Lockhart, an important source for information about Scott’s childhood.[/ref]

References and pictures

  • David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century Vol V, Douglas 1892
  • Jane Stewart Smith, The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family, Constable 1898
  • NLS maps online
  • The wyvern aka a Lauder griffin, photographer Kim Traynor, licensed under Creative Commons

Grange House: from tower house to baronial mansion

Grange House in the early 19th century, before major changes hid its late 16th century shape.
Grange House in the early 19th century, before major changes hid its 16th century shape.

The Grange is an affluent Edinburgh suburb that once upon a time was a medieval farm belonging to the church. Then came a 16th century tower house: Grange House. For more than 200 years this was “a tall grey keep”[ref]According to Henry Cockburn, reminiscing about his youth in Memorials of His Time[/ref], its entrance topped by a stone lintel carved with the date 1592.[ref]There may well have been an earlier building there, but expert opinion including McGibbon and Ross suggests this particular house was built in the late 1500s.[/ref] It looked much the same until about 1830: an L-shaped, three-storey fortified mansion-house with six-foot thick stone walls. [ref]It is possible that windows in the third storey were altered during those centuries.[/ref]

1592 lintel set over the original doorway which was blocked off in the 1830s. Repos a[i]lleurs means 'rest elsewhere',
1592 lintel set over the original doorway.
As well as arable land and pasture, there were also mills, a doocot, and cottages for people working on the Grange estate.[ref]Specified in Disposition (legal document) when sold to William Dick in 1631, as transcribed by Jane Stewart Smith.[/ref] In the 1690s, the owner, William Dick, paid a property tax for sixteen dwellings as well as his own. The tax was based on the number of hearths, and reveals that most of the houses belonging to the laird had just one or two fireplaces, while Grange House itself had twelve.[ref]Hearth tax records for Midlothian, volume 3 (Edinburgh and Leith), 1695[/ref]

“Conveniences for a great family”

The 16th century structure is outlined in red within a ground floor plan of the Victorian mansion. The original entrance is labelled in blue.
The 16th century structure is outlined in red within a ground floor plan of the Victorian mansion. The original entrance is labelled in blue.

Seventy years later, the house was still the same twelve-hearth size. In 1766 the ground floor held a large entrance hall, a vaulted kitchen, a cellar and pantry, and one bedroom with a “light closet”[ref] 18th century house description mostly from “To Let” advertisements in the Caledonian Mercury during 1766 and 1771, plus details from other sources referenced on this page.[/ref] (a dressing room with window). A staircase from the entrance led to the second storey dining room and drawing room, and one more bedchamber. The next floor, up a spiral stair, had three bedrooms, two light closets, and various presses (cupboards). There was also a “large garret for lumber”. Tax was payable for thirty windows,[ref]Midlothian window tax records 1755-56, vol 75[/ref] presumably not all in the main house.

1613 coat of arms
1613 wall plaque from the Grange estate

There was a separate “court” with a stable, coach-house, brew-house, pit-well, “several other offices for servants” and “conveniences for a great family”.[ref]Caledonian Mercury 1766 and 1771[/ref] An arched entrance to this courtyard later displayed a coat of arms dated 1613, but it is not certain that it had always been there.[ref]Jane Stewart Smith[/ref] The laundry was done in a washing-house with its own supply of spring water and a drying green. Fruit and flowers were cultivated, as well as vegetables in a kitchen garden. The gardens were partly terraced.

Some of these outbuildings had been constructed in the 17th century. Ornamental gate pillars topped with stone wyverns were probably made in the 17th or early 18th century. These are assumed to have been for the main entrance though they were later moved to an ornamental flight of steps near the house.

“A quiet situation and a beautiful landscape”

Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.
These ornamental gate pillars with stone wyverns are thought to have been at the main entrance until about 1830.

For the next few decades the house was let out. The last resident members of the Dick family died in the 1760s; their ancestors had lived there since 1631. [ref]Isobel Dick, the one remaining descendant of the family, married Sir Andrew Lauder, and their children grew up at his Fountainhall estate near Pencaitland, East Lothian.[/ref] People who rented the house included John Forrest, a merchant burgess and member of Edinburgh town council, who died in 1777.[ref]J.S. Smith.  Debrett’s Baronetage of England (1839) calls him “John Forrest of the Grange”, says he married the daughter of a baronet and died in 1778. Parish records call him bailie and give his death date as 1777.[/ref] The family of Robert Forrester, treasurer of the Bank of Scotland, lived at Grange House in the early 1800s.[ref]His daughter Anne married there in 1817 and he died at the house in 1824. Blackwood’s Magazine, Vols. 1 and 16[/ref]

The rural atmosphere at Grange House attracted a well-known Edinburgh citizen as tenant, the learned William Robertson. According to a biographer[ref]Dugald Stewart, in his preface to Works of William Robertson DD to which is Prefaced an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, Cadell 1827[/ref], in his last years (1790s) Dr Robertson appreciated Grange House for:

…the advantage of a freer air, and a more quiet situation, … the pleasure of rural objects, and of a beautiful landscape. While he was able to walk abroad, he commonly passed a part of the day in a small garden, enjoying the simple gratifications it afforded with all his wonted relish. Some who now hear me will long remember—among the trivial yet interesting incidents which marked these last weeks of his memorable life—his daily visits to the fruit trees, which were then in blossom…

Balconies and balustrades

View from south west in 1825
View from south west in 1825

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, great-grandson of the last resident owner, decided to modernise and double the size of Grange House, and spend a good part of the year there. He wanted to move his large family to Edinburgh[ref]From Relugas House in Morayshire[/ref] for the city’s  educational and social opportunities, apparently.[ref]J.S. Smith, Chap 24. Though she does not give a source she had talked to Sir Thomas’ daughter, Cornelia.[/ref]

View from south-west in about 1890. Follow the battlements if you want to compare it with the 1825 drawing.
View from south-west in about 1890. Follow the battlements to help compare with the 1825 drawing.

Before his builders set to work, Sir Thomas sketched the old house (above). The extension[ref]There were 35 rooms with windows, according to later censuses.[/ref] and embellishments, in Scottish baronial style, blended quite easily with the old tower house, especially once it was all harled. Inside, the old dining and drawing rooms were knocked through to make a big new dining room, 45 feet long. Jane Stewart Smith, who described the house with great enthusiasm in the 1890s, was not sure how much of its “antique character” was original: for instance the panelling and a beamed ceiling in the old part of the house. The light, modern drawing room had a “lofty” ceiling and two large oriel windows. One window had a balcony leading to a romantic garden nook with stone seats, via a turret and steps.

One of the "antique fiery dragons": the wyvern at Lover's Loan. Photo by Kim Traynor.
One of the “antique fiery dragons”: the wyvern now at Lover’s Loan. Photo by Kim Traynor

The gardens were dramatically re-designed. There was a bowling-green surrounded by statues,[ref]One of these statues, a “Greek maiden”, was in the garden of Huntly House at one time. Scotsman, 18 August 1939[/ref] shrubberies, seats, sun-dials and other ornaments. “Gas apparatus” for “lighting up the old terraced gardens” was acquired.[ref]Caledonian Mercury, 28 Sep 1840[/ref]

…the garden preserved but greatly improved…the place is rich (perhaps rather too rich) in evergreens, statues, vases, stairs, balustrades, terraces…[ref]Henry Cockburn, Memorials, Black 1856[/ref]

This was a fine setting for a wealthy family to entertain friends. In 1840 they arranged particularly impressive festivities to follow the wedding of Charlotte Dick Lauder. The garden lamps shone on the house, light blazed from the windows, and a newspaper report[ref]Caledonian Mercury, 28 Sep 1840[/ref] of the splendour and spectacle even described the “antique fiery dragons” on the gate pillars as “spouting real fire”. After a 100lb wedding cake had been cut, and a band had played for a couple of hours, there was a fireworks display arranged by a “celebrated fireworker”. The supper room was dressed with evergreens and dahlias, and festooned with coloured lamps. Dancing continued “with great spirit” until five o’clock in the morning.

Cottages in 1865 at entrance to Grange House
Cottages in 1865 at entrance to Grange House

Beyond the grand house, times were changing. More than a hundred houses were planned for estate land to north and east of the mansion. Building plots for these were advertised in the 1850s and 1860s,[ref]Edinburgh Evening Courant and Scotsman advertising referring to Cousins’ and Raeburn’s Feuing Plans[/ref] but even in 1865 there were quiet, semi-rural patches nearby. The Grange estate still had a shepherd as one of its tenants.[ref]Valuation rolls[/ref] On the southern side of the mansion house, Grange Loan remained undeveloped, except for a couple of lamp-posts. The ivy-smothered cottages, said to date back to the mid-18th century at least,[ref]Date according to Jane Stewart Smith, who also said the cottages were a wonderfully picturesque subject for artists, a “constant theme for landscape painters”, and sketched them herself. George Harvey, president of the RSA, included them in his painting, The Bowlers. One painting shown at the RSA in 1878 was Old Cottages, Grange Loan, by John Reid. Another by James Heron exhibited in 1873 was Roadside Cottages, Grange Loan. Were they of these?[/ref] were eventually cleared in the 1880s to make way for a new Grange House Lodge. The ancient lane, Lovers’ Loan, reached through an opening in the wall just beyond the arched entrance next to the cotttages, has survived to this day, despite an attempt by Sir John Dick Lauder to close it and take possession. The mansion itself was demolished in 1936. For more about Grange House’s later days in the 19th and early 20th centuries click here.


  • David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century Vol V, Douglas 1892
  • Jane Stewart Smith, The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family, Constable 1898
  • Historic South Edinburgh, Charles J. Smith, John Donald, 2000
  • Sciennes and the Grange, Malcolm Cant, John Donald, 1990
  • NLS maps online, especially the Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh of 1853, 1877, and 1894
  • Caledonian Mercury (newspaper)


Most are from the books above, except for:

  • The wyvern aka a Lauder griffin, photographer Kim Traynor, licensed under Creative Commons
  • The first picture of Grange House, from Views in Edinburgh and its Vicinity Vol I, J and H Storer,  Constable 1820

Grange House: three schools, change and decline, 1850-1930s

Grange House in the 1890s.
Grange House in the late 1890s, probably unoccupied.

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder laid the foundations for change all round the Grange Estate. After taking possession in 1825 he commissioned maps and had the preparatory legal work done for feuing out building plots. [ref]Feuing out land means selling it off under the old Scottish land ownership law where the original owner retained certain rights, including the right to a regular payment called feu duty. For this particular case the legal preparation involved an Act of Parliament.[/ref]  The first advertising for “the most beautiful sites for small villas” appeared while Sir Thomas was still alive.[ref]e.g. Caledonian Mercury, 20 August 1846[/ref] He also put his energies into expanding and enhancing Grange House, writing numerous books on history, nature etc., and keeping up with a large circle of literary and other acquaintances.

For the earlier history of Grange House click here.

His heir John had spent some years in India as a cavalry officer. When he inherited after his father’s death in 1848, the Grange Estate entered a new phase. Sir John’s interests seem to have been different from his father’s. There is little recorded about his life in Edinburgh apart from a report of his trial in 1850 for assault on a railway guard who challenged him about vandalism after a hunt dinner. He and his wife soon moved out of Grange House. [ref]A few years after inheriting, Sir John leased a country estate at Skene in Aberdeenshire.[/ref] George F. Barbour and his family lived there from c1853-1856.[ref]George Freeland Barbour (1810-1887) “landed proprietor” on 1861 census, with business and charitable interests, grandfather of more famous namesake.[/ref] There was a steady flow of advertisements offering land for new buildings to north and east of Grange House, and in 1857 the mansion and its “pleasure grounds” were rented out to John Dalgleish.

School for Young Gentlemen

Grange House School opening announcement, 1857
Grange House School opening announcement, 1857

Mr. and Mrs. Dalgleish had been running an educational institution for young ladies in George Square for more than twenty years. Now, joined by their son Walter Scott Dalgleish M.A., they announced the launch of a school for “young gentlemen of the highest ranks”. They praised Grange House’s ideal location – elevated, south-facing, and well-sheltered – and a convenient distance for teachers “of established reputation” to reach from Edinburgh. The curriculum would vary according to whether a boy was destined for university, “mercantile pursuits”, the British or Indian civil service or army.  More details here.

Dreghorn Castle School, once Grange House School
Dreghorn Castle, home to the boys’ school that started in Grange House.

The 1861 census showed nearly 40 boarders: many from Scotland, with some from England or distant parts of the British Empire.[ref] According to the birthplace given in the census.[/ref] The school seems to have done well and soon moved to Dreghorn Castle, where there was far more space: sixty acres of grounds and new classrooms as well.[ref]Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, Vol. 17, 1864[/ref]

The school’s 1864 advertising gushed about the move to one of the “healthiest” sites in Scotland, and explained that at the Grange there was some…[ref] Greenock Advertiser, 6 August 1864[/ref]

…difficulty, in a district which is fast becoming a populous suburb, of securing the requisite facilities in grounds and otherwise for conducting a High-class School for Boys.


Edinburgh Town Council thwarts the Grange Estate

Lovers' Loan today. This stretch ran close to Grange House and its gardens. Photo by Kim Traynor.
Lovers’ Loan today. Grange House and its gardens were on the left of this stretch, which had hedges not walls. Photo by Kim Traynor.

The year after Grange House School moved away, 1865, one of the new villa owners in the Grange was indignant to find John Dick Lauder had ordered the cutting down of a hedge beside the ancient pathway called Lovers’ Loan. The laird apparently assumed he would succeed in an application to close it off and add an extra strip to his landholding. A court case started, but faded away after firm negotiating by the Town Council meant that Sir John had to back down. What his motives were, it is hard to say. He said at the time that he had given so many new roads to the public, for the convenience of residents of the Grange, that no-one could possibly need the Loan any more.[ref]Caledonian Mercury,13 April, 1865, and Scotsman, 18 April  and 11 July 1865[/ref]

School for Young Ladies

Grange House School for girld, 1864
The Mouats announce they are moving their school to Grange House, 1864

Four sisters, the Misses Mouat, had been running an “establishment for the board and education of young ladies” in South Gray Street. They moved it to Grange House after the young gentlemen left. There were resident “foreign governesses” and the “best masters” attending for “the various branches of education”. The healthy and charming situation was emphasised in advertising, as were the private grounds, and the closeness to the town’s “educational resources”.[ref]Hull Packet, 26 August 1864[/ref] In 1871 there were over thirty boarders in their late teens living at the school, along with several servants, three governesses from Belgium, Germany, and Shetland and, of course, Barbara, Christina, Marion and Robina Mouat. They paid about £350 a year in rent.[ref]See John Dick Lauder’s executors’ inventory, 1867.[/ref]

Elocution and an Educational Garden

Botanical garden designed by Patrick Geddes for Grange House School in 1883
Botanical garden designed by Patrick Geddes for Grange House in 1883

A new establishment for “the daughters of gentlemen” replaced the Mouats’ in 1882. It may well have attracted the same parents, and yet there were differences of emphasis. Mrs. Whaley Bouchier Nutt, and her husband advertised a gymnasium: unusual for girls at the time, even for graceful exercises. The rose garden was replaced with a unique botanical garden, to support education in natural sciences. Mr. Nutt had expertise in “vocal physiology and elocution” which he believed was essential to good health as well being an art form.[ref]Lecture reported in The Dundee Courier & Argus, November 26, 1892[/ref] He was a tutor at several other educational establishments as well as Grange House.

In 1895 Whaley Nutt died and his widow left Edinburgh. Grange House was then unoccupied for a while except for the gardener, gate-keeper etc. in their cottages.

More about Mr and Mrs Whaley B. Nutt and their school here

Fashionable Society at Grange House again?

By 1901 a retired colonel and his wife were living in Grange House. Alexander Ferrier Kidston-Kerr was the son of a Lanarkshire shipping magnate and went to Merchiston Castle School near Edinburgh. He spent 33 years with the Black Watch, or Royal Highlanders, and won medals for his part in major campaigns in Africa.[ref]He was a Kidston like his father until 1903 when he inherited an entailed estate in Kinross requiring him to add the name Kerr.[/ref] He and his wife Jean were involved in military charities, went to smart social occasions connected with the Black Watch and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society, and hosted fund-raising events at Grange House.

There may not have been dancing into the small hours as in the house’s heyday, but at least there was a military band when they held an “American Tea” for charity, in 1904. The event was fulsomely described in the press. For one newspaper, it was the Lord High Commissioner’s appearance among the other 500 guests that led the story. He…

…had tea in the drawing-room and spent almost an hour in the house and grounds…there was a constant stream of carriages and motor cars to the principal gate, over the ivy-clad arch of which three Union Jacks fluttered gaily in the breeze.[ref]Scotsman, 27 May 1904[/ref]

Another paper concentrated on the ladies’ fashions, saying that some of the frocks were “really worth recording”.

Mrs. Kidston-Kerr’s toilette was grey crepe de chine trimmed with bands of ecru lace and her toque was composed of flowers.[ref]Dundee Evening Telegraph, 31 May 1904[/ref]

The rent on the valuation roll was £220 a year, including a home in the courtyard for the coachman, Horatio Snook. In the Nutts’ time the council’s assessed rental value was £328. Had the house deteriorated so much?


old terrace retaining wall
A section of wall likely to have been part of the original terracing in the Grange House gardens.

The colonel died in 1926, aged 84, his wife two years later. Lord and Lady Ashmore lived at the house briefly.[ref]Scotsman, 10 March, 1836, and P.O. directories. Lord Ashmore was a judge in the Court of Session.[/ref] Even before the next Dick Lauder baronet inherited in 1936, the property was in the hands of a Mr. A.R. Knox[ref]Scotsman 23 March 1836[/ref] and in that year the house was demolished. New housing and a new road, Grange Crescent, took its place. A section of retaining wall there is probably a remnant of the old garden terracing.[ref]It matches the alignment of lines on old maps, too.[/ref] Otherwise, only the (re-located) wyverns on gateposts remain nearby, though a few stone pieces with inscriptions and some garden ornaments went to the Huntly House museum, and heaped rubble from 17th century outbuildings lasted into the 1960s.


  • David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century Vol V,Douglas 1892
  • Jane Stewart Smith, The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family, Constable 1898
  • Historic South Edinburgh, Charles J. Smith, John Donald, 2000
  • Sciennes and the Grange, Malcolm Cant, John Donald, 1990
  • NLS maps online, especially the Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh of 1853, 1877, and 1894
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman etc.

Pictures and thanks

Alexander Ferrier Kidston-Kerr, Jean Howe McClure, Catherine Glen Kidston
Grave of Colonel and Mrs. Kidston-Kerr in Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh
  • Grange House was photographed by Jane Stewart Smith in the 1890s.
  • Lovers’ Loan photo is copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
  • Thanks to the book below, I discovered what the school “botanical garden” advertised was like, and was able to find Geddes’ design.

Learning from the Lasses: Geddes’s Women: by Walter Stephen, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Luath Press Ltd

Grange House School and Mrs. Whaley Bouchier Nutt

Dysart Harbour the year after Helen was born. In 1861 her family lived a few hundred yards away, in Quality Street.
Dysart Harbour the year after Helen was born. In 1861 her family lived a few hundred yards away, in Quality Street.

What kind of person would make a good headmistress for a Victorian school for young ladies in a mansion in the suburbs of Edinburgh? Presiding over the one in Grange House from 1883-1895 was Helen Hamilton Black: a strong character, her story suggests.

She was born in Fife in 1853 to a father who was a naval officer descended from naval officers, while her mother came from a family of Indian Army officers with Scottish roots. After a childhood in the small coastal town of Dysart, by 17 Helen was at a small boarding school near Bristol. When she was 20 she married in Frankfurt.

Helen Hamilton Black or Johnson or Nutt or Chamberlain

Helen Hamilton Black was a boarder here at Willsbridge House in April 1871. Photo Paul Townsend
Helen Hamilton Black was a boarder here at Willsbridge House near Bristol in April 1871. Photo Paul Townsend

Her husband,  Robert Helenus Johnson, was the son of a judge in Bombay. The couple went to India and lived in Guntur where Robert worked for the Bank of Madras. Their first son was born a couple of years later, but Robert soon died and Helen gave birth to their second child in London. By the time this little boy was three, Helen was “assistant lady superintendent” for an Edinburgh “Institute for Young Ladies”.[ref]Based in Charlotte Square[/ref] Her responsibilities included a dozen teenage girls boarding in the house where she, her children and three servants lived too.[ref]Her mother may have lived with her too. She is with Helen in both 1871 and 1881 censuses and died at Grange House.[/ref]

Her own school and a second marriage

In 1882 she announced in the press that she would be opening her own establishment in Grange House. A couple of months later came her marriage to Whaley Bouchier Nutt, a lecturer in “vocal physiology and elocution”. Whaley had already arranged to rent the Grange mansion house in Edinburgh. More about his life below.

Advertising the education on offer at Grange House, 1890.
Advertising the education on offer at Grange House, 1890.

It was called an “establishment” for the education of “the daughters of gentlemen” and not a “school”. However conventional this sounds, there are signs that Mr. and Mrs. Nutt had some unconventional and innovative ideas.

A “scientific” botanical garden, designed by Patrick Geddes, replaced the rose garden. Presumably the school taught natural sciences, which Geddes believed offered a “unique combination of educational advantages”.[ref]Transactions of Botanical Society of Edinburgh, Vol. 16[/ref] There was a gymnasium: quite progressive for girls’ education in the 1880s, even if they stuck to “ladylike” exercise. Whaley believed there should not be too much emphasis on cramming facts, and  thought that “fashioning the organs of speech” would help both mind and body.[ref]Lecture reported in Dundee Courier 26 November 1892[/ref]

Grange House in the late 19th century
Grange House in the late 19th century

The Nutts were friends of the pioneering Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, and supported women’s suffrage.[ref]Englishwoman’s Review, December 15, 1886, and April 15, 1890[/ref] Whaley was said to be a “philanthropist”, and they involved the girls at Grange House in fund-raising sales and concerts for an Indian aid mission, with Helen especially supporting their Girls’ Union.[ref]The Indian Female Evangelist. July 1, 1886[/ref]

A new life in South Africa

During her time at Grange House, Helen gave birth to two children: a daughter in 1884 and, ten years later, a son. Whaley died the year after the baby boy was born, in 1895. He left Helen everything he had, but this was just furniture and school equipment and nine hundred pounds of life insurance.[ref]By June, the owners had started eviction proceedings against the Nutts, so there may have been financial difficulties even before Whaley’s death in March.[/ref] Soon she took out a tenancy on a smaller, cheaper house and announced that her school would open there that autumn.[ref]Carrielee in the Colinton Road – Glasgow Herald August 7, 1895[/ref] However, before the end of the year she married again, in London. Her new husband, Harold Goddard Chamberlain, son of a navy Paymaster-General,  was twenty years younger than she was. They moved to South Africa where their son was born in 1898: Helen’s fifth child. She was 44.

Two of her best-known relatives are traveller and publisher John Reddie Black, her step-brother, who had the same name as their father, and war-zone journalist George Steer, her grand-son.

Whaley Bouchier Nutt

Whaley lost his father, Major Justinian Nutt, when he was about twelve. His family were settled in Cheltenham, but he lived in Rugby for two years, and went to school there as a day boy. In his 20s he spent time in Melbourne, with trips back to England. While in Australia he patented an invention for scouring wool. The Rugby School register called him a “Merchant at Manchester”, and there is evidence of a short-lived textile business partnership based there.

Whaley Bouchier Nutt - sketch published after his death in 1895
Whaley Bouchier Nutt – sketch published after his death in 1895

During the 1860s and 1870s, his name crops up in Cheltenham and Leamington newspapers. Mostly these are bland reports on the social pages of him arriving or departing, but a description of a lavish “Bachelors’ Ball” in 1871 says he came in fancy dress “as a Greek”.

After his business partnership was dissolved he started performing “dramatic readings”. Many were near his home in Cheltenham, where he lived with his widowed mother, sister Mary and three servants, but some were further afield. When he was 34 a census gave his profession as “public reader and lecturer”. Reviews described good audiences (not unconnected with his family’s social standing, suggested one reporter) but they were not whole-heartedly enthusiastic.

In 1882 he married Helen in Cheltenham. A local paper called the occasion a fashionable wedding, with an “elegant déjeuner” for family guests including Whaley’s cousin the Rev. J. W. Nutt, who assisted at the ceremony, and Helen’s uncle General Fulton.[ref]Cheltenham Looker-On, 16 Dec. 1882[/ref]

Once in Edinburgh, Whaley’s profession was generally given as “vocal physiologist and elocution” tutor. He called this a “fine art” that brought charm and grace to people’s lives as well as being beneficial to physical health.[ref]Lecture reported in Dundee Courier 26 November 1892[/ref] He taught at Loretto School, the Watt Institute and elsewhere, as well as at Grange House.

In the 1890s he was a visiting tutor at St. Mary’s College in St. Andrews, and at the London-based Chaffee-Noble Training School of Expression. As well as elocution and gesture, the London curriculum included “aesthetic physical and vocal drill”, gymnastics, recitation and criticism.[ref]Advertising in the Morning Post etc.[/ref]

When he died in 1895, a brief obituary called him an “elocutionist of considerable ability”, a man “of a philanthropic disposition” and a “Liberal Unionist in politics”.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 6 March 1895[/ref]

More on Helen Hamilton Black’s parents, husbands, children and other genealogy

More on Whaley B. Nutt’s family and ancestors


  • Willsbridge House by Paul Townsend, with Creative Commons license. Added text from  P.O. directory 1863.
  • Dysart Harbour by Samuel Bough, 1854, from Wikimedia.
  • Grange House from McGibbon and Ross, The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland, Douglas 1887-92
  • W.B.Nutt sketch from Edinburgh Evening News, 6 March 1895


Helen Hamilton Black and her family

Helen Hamilton Black, her husbands, children etc.

Helen Hamilton Black b. 22 August 1853 Dysart, Fife, first child of John Reddie Black and Emma Fulton

Robert Johnson, Helen's first husband, was christened at Bycullah, India - probably in this church
Robert Johnson, Helen’s first husband, was christened at Bycullah, India – probably in this church.

2nd February 1874 in Frankfurt she m. Robert Helenus Johnson (b. 21 Aug 1842, bap. 13 Sep. 1842 at Bycullah, d. 14 June 1877, Guntoor), son of Frances née Jeffreys (m. 1826, d.1843) and John Lewis Johnson (1796-1872), judge in Bombay Court.

  • Lewis (Duncan ?) Johnson b. 2 Feb 1876,  Guntoor, at Loretto School, nr Edinburgh in 1891.
  • Robert Francis Hamilton Johnson b. 3rd Oct 1877, London [Internet sources say he worked for Customs and Railway Dept, Cape Colony, S.A. and married a niece of James Xavier Merriman. No reason to doubt this, but can’t confirm it.]

December 1882 in Cheltenham she m. Whaley Bouchier Nutt (b. 4 August 1846 Cheltenham, d. 4 March 1895 Edinburgh)

Read about Helen and Whaley Nutt and the school they ran – click here.

Their children:

  • Emma Cecilia Armitage Nutt, b. 1884, Grange House, Edinburgh
  • Lindsay Llewellyn Nutt (known as Lindsay Llewellyn Chamberlain by 1915 at  Sandhurst) born 2 July 1894 Grange House, Edinburgh, baptised 18 Aug. in Llanaber, Wales, Sandhurst College, Lieut. with 25th Punjabis in First World War, farmer in Ofcolaco  when he m. Vera Adeline Fotheringham in Pietersburg on 4 March 1924.

1895 Q4 in London Helen m. Harold Goddard Chamberlain (b. Dec. 1872, Dartmouth, son of Edward and Susannah, in South Africa he was an accountant)

  • D’Eyncourt Goddard Chamberlain, b. 24 Feb 1898, Sandhurst College, Major at death on 2 December 1942, buried Tunisia

Helen Hamilton Black’s parents, siblings etc.

Dysart Harbour c1850 - part of the home landscape of the Black family.
Dysart Harbour c1850 – close to home for the Black family.

John Reddie Black, HHB’s father, was born 25 Jan 1787 in Dysart, Fife, and died there 7 Jan 1862.

He was the son of James Black, R.N. and Grizel Reddie/Reddy, who married in 1784 in Dysart. (Grizel was apparently born in 1760 in Dysart to John Reddy and Elspet Spence). He was brother of Lieut. James Black, R.N., (b. 22 July 1785,  died before 1849 while serving in the West Indies.) JRB’s other siblings were Grizel, Jean, Alexander, Andrew and George John Purdue. Nephew of Lieut. John Black, R.N., who died 1814.

m.  22 July 1818 Sophia Kiffiana Juliana Hurdis (bap. 29 July 1784, d. 1842, dau. of Jas. Hurdis, Esq., of Seaford, Sussex, sister of Capt. George Clarke Hurdis, R.N.)

  • Ann Catherine Black 16 Feb 1820, died Dec. 1841
  • James Hurdis Black 20 Sep 1821, dip. Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, Nov. 1844, admitted Society of Apothecaries, 22 Aug 1850
  • Grace Sanderson Black 6 Oct 1823, m. Thomas Henry Tuckett 22 Jun 1852, Fife, d. 1871, 1856 and 1871 at Comely Park, Dunfermline, THT a road surveyor, with children:
    • Thomas Lindsay Burn Tuckett b. 1856
    • Stanley Phipps Kerr Tuckett b.1858
  • John Reddie Black 8 Jan 1826, bap. Episcopal Chapel, Kirkcaldy
  • Henry James Black

Secondly, JRB senior m. Emma Fulton (bap. 29 May 1830 Trichinopoly, India, d. 24 June 1889, Edinburgh)

  • Helen Hamilton Black 22 Aug 1853
  • George Stow Black 5 Aug 1855, in 1890s Lloyd’s Captains Register 
  • Emma Caroline Black 5 Sep 1856
  • Henry Somes Black b. 23 May 1858, Navy Commander 1886, m. Jane Greig Miller 3 Jun 1892, Aden, d. Juniper Green nr. Edinburgh 3 Oct 1919, in 1911 living in Bedford with wife and children:
    • Jean Moray Black, age 17 (in 1911) b. Bombay, Ian Reddie Hamilton Black age 12, born Rangoon, Henry Lindsay Black age 9, born Glasgow, Kenneth Ross Hamilton Black age 6, born North Berwick
  • Ann Spence Black 22 May 1860, at 1871 census with mother and brother Henry in Dunfermline at Grace S. Black or Tuckett’s house, 1881 census at Helen’s house in Edinburgh

All John Reddie Black’s children were born in Dysart.

Emma Fulton’s parents were Caroline (Hurdis, widow) when she was m. in Sep. 1820 at Cannanore to Major John Fulton (b. 30 March 1875 Markinch, d. 21 Jan 1853 Innerleven, Fife). Their other children, Emma’s siblings, were:

  • Graeme Auchmuty Fulton b. 19 Nov 1820, Cannanore, Major General of Madras Infantry d. 1886 St. Helier, Jersey
  • James Robert Fulton b. 31 Oct 1821, Cannanore


  • Johnson Black marriage –  The Standard, February 16, 1874;
  • RH Johnson death “son of the late JL Johnson, Esq, judge, Bombay Court”- Aberdeen Weekly Journal July 21, 1877
  • Birth of son [RFHJohnson] to widow of RHJ in London – Aberdeen Weekly Journal  October 10, 1877
  • Loretto School Register for LDJ and RFHJ
  • Sandhurst records for LLC and d’EGC
  • Naval Biographical Dictionary, 1849
  • Index to Wills and Administrations
  • Frances, wife of John Lewis Johnson, died 31 July 1843 Morning Post (Bombay news) -Oct 25 1843


Captain Justinian Nutt and others

Justinian Nutt - from Royal Museums Greenwich collection
Justinian Nutt, in a portrait showing him as officer and gentleman – Royal Museums Greenwich

In 1740 Justinian Nutt was part of a great adventure which led to his rise into the officer class. He went on the round-the-world Anson expedition, first as a lieutenant’s servant and then as the Centurion’s master: an experienced seaman in his late thirties but not yet a commissioned officer.[ref]Rodger, The Wooden World – J. Nutt was “about 36” in 1740[/ref] This indicates that he was not born a “gentleman”, though there is no record of his origins.

After years of service, Justinian Nutt was made a lieutenant and then a captain. Promotion on merit and social mobility was possible in the navy of that era, though unlikely for anyone born “beneath” the lower-middle class, with no schooling at all. Sons of tradesmen who supplied goods or services in dockyard towns, and sons of warrant officers, were more likely than other non-gentlemen to have the opportunity of getting a good start in the navy as an officer’s servant.[ref]Rodger, The Wooden World[/ref]

Scroll down page for Justinian Nutt’s descendants/family tree

Justinian Nutt marries Miss Cooke with her £10,00 - Gentleman's Magazine 1749
Justinian Nutt marries Miss Cook with her £10,000 – Gentleman’s Magazine 1749

By the late 1740s Captain Nutt was an officer at Greenwich Hospital, and in 1749 married Elizabeth Cook who brought with her a dowry of £10,000. Their two sons were given names honouring their father’s senior officers and comrades from the Anson expedition. Lord and Lady Anson and Sir Peircy Brett were godparents to George Anson Nutt. His brother, Justinian Saunders Bentley Nutt, was christened with Captain Saunders and Captain Bentley as his godfathers.

Brett and Bentley were among Captain Nutt’s executors when he died in 1758, and may have helped oversee the boys’ education, along with their uncle Francis Cook. (In 1761 Mrs. Elizabeth Nutt married Lieutenant Charles Bresson, who spent most of his life on shore, having lost a leg as a young man.) For more than a century, navy or army careers were almost the norm for Captain Nutt’s male descendants, with a Justinian in each of four generations.

This makes Whaley Bouchier Nutt, great-grandson of the captain’s, stand out as someone who followed his own path. After researching his role in an Edinburgh school, and discovering that both his father and brother were called Major Justinian Nutt I wanted to know more about his forebears. Read more about the school run by his wife, Helen Hamilton Black or Nutt, or go to a page about him, his wife, Helen Nutt, and their children. Scroll down for an outline of the Nutt family.

Justinian Nutt and the men from the Centurion recovered from danger and scurvy on the Pacific island of Tinian c1741.
Justinian Nutt and the crew of the Centurion recovered from danger and scurvy on the Pacific island of Tinian in 1742.

Four generations of Justinian Nutts and their siblings

I hope the layout and colours, along with dates, will show which generation is which. Please use the comments section for any queries.

Justinian Nutt, b. c1704, d. 1758, Captain at time of marriage in 1749 to  Elizabeth Cook(e), (b. Winchester 1726, d.1797, 2nd marriage to Charles Besson 1761.)

1.  George Anson Nutt (b. 1750, Catherington Hants, godfather Lord Anson, Captain of H.M. 33rd regiment, d.1828)  m. (1) 1783 Mary Smith  m. (2) 1793, Mary Tymewell Blake, d. 1841

  • George Francis Nutt, b.1784, gentleman cadet (army) 1798, d. before 1832
  • Mary, b. 1785, m. Rev. Francis Pelly of Siston, Glos.1806 (He married again 1813)
  • Justinian Nutt (b. 1786, d. 1853), Major in Bombay Engineers, G.A.N.’s “eldest son” by time of his marriage at Bridstow in 1832 to Cecilia Armitage (b. 1804, 5th daughter of Whaley Armitage )
  1. Justinian Armitage Nutt b. December 1832, Major in Bombay Engineers  when m. Lucy Amelia Anstey in 1865, d. 1907 (They had children with Justinian as first or middle name who died as babies in Bengal.) 
  2. Cecilia Mary Nutt b. 1834 Somerset m.1859 John Edward Sutherland Lillie, Bengal Civil Service
  3. Mary Eleonora Nutt b.1836 d.1915
  4. Rachel Emma Nutt b. 1839 Frankfurt
  5. Henry Lowther Nutt b. 1841 Frankfurt, 1868 in Aden m. Eleanor Olivia Anstey, by 1882 Major in Bombay Staff Corps, d. 1896
  6. A daughter b. 1844, Cheltenham
  7. Whaley Bouchier Nutt (b. 4 August 1846 Cheltenham, d.1895 Edinburgh), in 1882 m. Helen Hamilton  Black or Johnson (b.1853, Dysart, Fife, d. South Africa, from 1895 Helen Chamberlain)
  • Henry Anson Nutt b. 1796 Speen, Berks., entered Madras Cavalry in 1819 after attending Woolwich Military Academy, 1833 m. Helen Young, d. 1834
  • Charles Nutt b. c1798 Speen (Rev., lived East Harptree c1860) – sons John William Nutt b. 1834, James Anson Francis Nutt, cadet 1863, Lt-Col 1897, RA, daughters Jane, Maria, Elizabeth

2.  Justinian Saunders Bentley Nutt (b. 1751 Fareham, d. 1811), his will says he was “of Upper Brook Street”, “formerly Commander of His Majesty’s Ship Thetis”.

  • George Lloyd Nutt b. c1800


The portrait of Captain Nutt is a small version, taken from the BBC website, used here in the spirit of “fair dealing“, to make a point about his social status.

The print of Tinian (mis-labelled Tenian) was included in A Voyage round the World, in the Years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV by George Anson, Knapton 1748, and the digital copy comes from Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia CC4.0


    • N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy, Fontana 1988
    • Boyds Inhabitants of London Transcription 1754
    • Entries from family bible transcribed in Fragmenta genealogica by Frederick Arthur Crisp, privately published 1889
    • The register book of marriages belonging to the parish of St. George, Hanover square, in the county of Middlesex, Vol 1 1723-1787 – see this for Besson marriage and check date of G.A. Nutt’s first marriage – sometimes another date is given
    • JNutt’s wedding – Morning Post, 24 January 1832, and other newspapers
    • GA Nutt’s death – Birmingham Gazette 13 October 1828
    • Birth of son to the lady of Major Justinian Nutt, on the 15th at Bath – Morning Post – 19 December 1832
    • Death of relict of GA Nutt –  Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 5 August 1841
    • Marriage of Cecilia M Nutt – Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette – 9 July 1859
    • Marriage of HL Nutt – Edinburgh Evening Courant 20 November 1868
    • Birth of daughter to lady of Major Nutt  – The Morning Post, July 16, 1844
    • Birth of son to lady of Major Nutt – Cheltenham Chronicle, 6 August 1846, W.B.N. age 34 in April 1881 census
    • Reports of Cases Decided in the High Court of Chancery: 1859 to 1865 by Sir Richard Torin Kindersley, Vice-Chancellor, Volume 1
    • Death of Mrs. Charles Besson – Greenwich Oracle and Public Advertiser October 19, 1797
    • Marriage of GA Nutt’s “only daughter” – The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 76, 1806
    • Wills of Justinian Nutt (1758) and Justinian Saunders Nutt (1811)
    • And the usual genealogy sites. See “About” page for these.