A History of Gilmerton

The lands of Gilmerton were cultivated or farmed out by David 1st, and remained in the possession of the crown until the time of Robert the Bruce. No charters exist of an earlier date than his reign and those who occupied the land were called the King’s Tenants. Sir John Herring held the lands of Gilmerton, Drum, and Goodtrees, and Sir Walter Somerville got half these lands by marrying Sir John Herring’s daughter Giles. The heirs of Sir John had held part of the lands of Gilmerton for a considerable time, for Patrick Herring granted a charter in favour of Archbishop Wauchope of Niddrie-Marischal for a small piece of land in Gilmerton, dated 4th February 1498. He also had a crown charter of three husbandlands called Boggisland in Gilmerton, in 4th January 1503. There is a charter of confirmation to Patrick Herring, Laird of Edmondstone, in Clydesdale, for the lands of Gilmerton dated 1st April 1380 at Carnwath. Sir Gilbert Herring, a grandson of Patrick, was a great spendthrift, and sold the lands of Gilmerton to William Ramsey. The lands were also held by the Earl of Strathearn, confirmed on 10th November 1434. Earl Menteith became superior of the lands by marrying the sole heir of David Earl of Strathearn.
In 1502, James 4th raised an action against those who had served Lord John Somerville, for not acknowledging the King as superior for the lands of Drum, Gilmerton and Gutters. The King won his case as superior over all of these lands, and Lord John Somerville, James Ramsey, and Patrick Herring had to pay the King, eighty Merks yearly, as being due to him and his predecessors backdated by sixty years. About this time, Simon Preston, Laird of Craigmillar and others had been trying since before 1500, to take possession of the lands of Gilmerton and Gutters. Simon Preston maintained that Lord John Somerville’s father William had borrowed money, pledging the lands as security. They lost their case before the Lords of Council, and had to pay a considerable amount of money.

Sir David Crighton of Lugton acquired the lands of Gilmerton from his father Patrick Crighton of Cranston-Riddel in 1609. In 1621 he was commissioner to Parliament for Edinburgh, and for planting Kirks; and the lands of Todhills, then part of the Drum Estate, were ratified to him in 1647. Mr John Baird, Lord of Session, under the title Lord Newbyth, purchased the lands of Gilmerton from Lugton in 1669, and also purchased Foord and Whitekirk in Haddingtonshire, having them under one barony of Newbyth. He married Margaret, only daughter of Sir James Hay of Linplum in Haddingtonshire, 2nd Earl of Tweeddale. By this marriage he had one son, William who became Sir William Baird, and a member of the Scots Parliament. He was sent to London in 1680 on a deputation to Charles 2nd, where he was created Knight Baronet. Sir William married for a first time, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Gilmour of Craigmillar, Lord President of the Council and Session, and had two sons John and Alexander. Memorials to some of those mentioned can be seen in the Elders Room at Liberton Kirk. Sir William married for a 2nd time Margaret third daughter of Lord Sinclair, but there were no children. Sir John born 13th October 1686, succeeded his father, but died at Berwick in September 1745. His brother Alexander married first, Ann daughter of Mr Wauchope of Niddrie, and afterwards Margaret only daughter of Lord Belhaven, but died in 1743 leaving no children.

Meanwhile Robert Baird second son of Mr James Baird had received a large legacy from his father and became a merchant of some note in Edinburgh. He purchased the lands of Saughton Hall and others, and married Elizabeth Fleming by whom he had six sons and five daughters. The 5th son William was the father of General Sir David Baird, hero of Seringapatam, and great grandfather of Sir James Gardiner Baird who resided for many years at Inch House. The owner of the lands of Gilmerton at the end of the 19th century was Sir David Baird of Newbyth, whose memorial can be seen in the Elder’s Room in Liberton Kirk. The Baird family never occupied Gilmerton House, which was built in the middle of the 16th century, but none of the proprietors lived there for 220 years. The house was let to many tenants, and at the end of the 19th century had several mining families living there. There was a friendly society connected to the village for over 200 years, which was also a benefit society, to which members paid a small sum annually and heirs received a certain amount on the death of a member or any of his family. The society erected a public hall on the north side of the village about 1850. At one time, many of the inhabitants were employed in the working and carting of coal to Edinburgh. Coal was mined in the lands of Gilmerton as early as 1427, and there is a contract between James 4th Lord Ross of Melville, and his wife Jean Sempill on the one hand, and John Herring in Gilmerton and his colliers on the other, dated 11th November 1573, to work the coal on their land. At the beginning of the 19th century there were many breweries in the village, twelve licensed houses and a candle factory. The village at this time was mainly inhabited by colliers, and in 1785 a Rev. John Campbell opened a preaching station for Sunday evening services. A church was erected under the General Assembly’s Church Extension Scheme, and was opened on 20th April 1837. Much of the money needed was raised by Mr Anderson of Moredun and several of the heritors of Liberton Kirk. This church was feued by the Liberton Kirk Sessions from Sir David Baird for £2 per year, and a constitution was granted in 1838 by the Assembly. The first minister, the Rev. Walter Fairlie from Whitehaven, was inducted on the 16th August 1838, but resigned to join the Free Church of Scotland at its beginning in May 1843. A new school and offices under a school board were erected in 1875, and the old school which had been supported by Sir David Baird, Miss Innes at the Drum and David Anderson of Moredun, was turned into a reading room. In 1883 the late misses Anderson of Moredun erected and endowed a school at the north end of the village, chiefly for girls and young children. A little to the west of the village stood the hamlet of Carthall which in 1780 contained 96 inhabitants who were principally engaged in carting coal to Edinburgh. To the North West stood on the side of a burn, another hamlet called Brocken Briggs, however both disappeared in the early part of the 19th century.

The lands of Drum were on the south side of the parish and were owned by Sir John Herring before 1320. Shortly before his death, he disponed half of the lands of Gilmerton to his nephew Patrick Herring, but soon after, his great grandson Sir Gilbert Herring was forced to sell the estate to William Ramsey in order to pay his debts. Around Gilmerton Grange in February 1302, an English army of 10,000 men under Sir Robert Neville camped before the battle of Rosslyn. This battle on 24th February resulted in a complete rout of the English by the Scottish army under the command of John Comyn and Simon Fraser.

Sir Walter Somerville married Giles, only surviving daughter and heiress of Sir John Herring in 1375, and duly inherited the Drum estate. Their son Sir James Somerville inherited the estate, but was killed at the battle of Durham in 1346, leaving no heir. He was succeeded by his brother Sir Thomas Somerville who had three sons and two daughters. To the eldest, Thomas, he gave the estates of Drum, Gilmerton, and Goodtrees, however he died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Sir William de Somerville. He had two sons, Thomas and William, and Thomas succeeded to the estates and became the first Lord Somerville. About 1427 both coal and limestone had been found in the lands of Gilmerton, which made him a very rich man. He married Janet Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, Lord Darnley, and had two sons, William and Thomas, and three daughters, Mary, Giles, and Margaret. He died in 1444 and was succeeded by son Sir William, who had two sons and two daughters, his eldest son John succeeded his father in 1451. John married twice and died in 1477, being succeeded by his son William, who married Margaret, daughter of Lord Montgomery, and had two sons, John and Hugh. John succeeded his father in 1488 and was killed at Flodden in 1513.

John Somerville having been killed at Flodden in 1513, was succeeded by his brother Lord Hugh Somerville. He married first Lady Ann Hamilton by whom he had no children, and then married Janet Maitland by whom he had 3 sons and 3 daughters. His eldest son James succeeded his father and became a great loyalist and joined Mary Queen of Scots at the battle of Langside in 1568, where he was badly wounded. He married Agnes, daughter of Sir James Hamilton, and had 2 sons and 2 daughters, and died in 1571. His eldest son Hugh succeeded him and recovered the lands of Gilmerton, Drum, and Moredun which had been in the possession of the Somerville’s of Cambusnethan. He got a charter under the great seal in 1578 and rebuilt the house of Drum in 1585. He married Eleanor daughter of Lord Seton by whom he had 16 children. One of the sons, John was accidentally shot dead by his brother William. Later another Hugh Lord Somerville succeeded to the lands of Drum, Gilmerton, and Moredun, and died in 1640 aged 70. He and 2 of his sons who died young were buried in the centre of Liberton Kirk opposite the pulpit. Although searches were made during recent reconstruction work in the Kirk, nothing was found. Lord Hugh was succeeded by his son James who married Lillias Bannantyne in April 1631, and soon afterwards bought a piece of ground on the south side of Gilmerton called Pilrig’s Mailing. Lord James died on 3rd January 1677 and was buried in the Abbey Church of Holyrood House, by his lady’s side. His son James died in 1690 leaving an infant son also called James who became heir and married a daughter of Murray of Deuchar. He died in 1709 and was succeeded by his eldest son another James, 13th Lord Somerville who married Anne Baynton in 1724. Lady Anne died in October 1734 and was buried in Liberton Church. Lord James built the current house from a design by Adams; the old house was burnt in 1692 and had been in a ruinous state until 1730. He also recovered the title, restored the fortunes of the family, and died at Drum on 14th December 1765 leaving 2 sons. The elder, James 14th Lord Somerville was an officer in the 2nd Dragoon Guards, and left the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel on 7th August 1793. He died unmarried on 16th April 1796. His brother Hugh died at York House, Clifton on 7th May 1795, and his son John became 15th Lord Somerville, and died unmarried in 1819. His half-brother Mark became 16th Lord Somerville, but he died unmarried on June 3rd 1842, and his brother Kenelm became 16th Lord Somerville. He married Frances Louisa, daughter of John Hayman, Esq. On 3rd September 1833, and had 2 sons and 5 daughters. The original entrance to Drum was on the north side by Ferneyhill and the pillars were still there in the 1890s. John 15th Lord Somerville sold off the estate in lots in 1800. The mansion house and principal part of the lands were acquired by James Hay of Bhaglepore, who sold them on to Robert Cathcart W.S. except for the deer park which had been bought by Robert Baird of Newbyth, who sold it on to Mr Wauchope of Edmondstone. Mr Cathcart also in 1809 acquired from Lord Somerville, the lands of Todhills. At about this time His Lordship sold Drum Farm to Mr Baird, and in 1817 his trustees sold half of Todhills to Mr John Tod W.S. Finally in 1820 The mansion house and the remaining lands were sold to Gilbert Innes of Stow. Mr Innes was succeeded by his sister Jane, on whose death the estate passed to Alexander Mitchell of Stow. In 1862 Mr Mitchell sold the property to John More Nisbett of Cairnhill, who also bought the Drum Colliery. In 1865 Mr More Nisbett bought half the lands of Todhills from Mr Tod’s trustees.

In the dome of the stables is preserved an old church bell, which I believe was salvaged from Liberton Kirk bell tower which was badly damaged during a fierce storm in August 1744.

Source material is from :- Account of Parish of Liberton by Rev. Thomas Whyte 1793, A description of Liberton Parish by Rev. James Begg 1839, and Liberton in Ancient and Modern Times by George Good 1893.

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