History of Newbattle Abbey
Newbattle Abbey is set in 125 acres of beautiful parkland just outside Edinburgh and contains a wealth of Scottish history. Built on the site of a medieval Cistercian Abbey, the main building has been remodelled and extended and today showcases the best of Scottish craftsmanship and interior design.
Over nine centuries of exciting history, Newbattle Abbey has only ever had three owners. The first of these were the Cistercian monks who founded the Abbey of Newbattle in 1140 during the reign of King David I. The Newbattle monks were the first to mine coal in the area and were most probably Scotland’s first miners. Their economy extended to sheep farming and they established salt pans at Prestonpans in East Lothian. During various skirmishes with English troops over the centuries, parts of the original Abbey were destroyed by fire or demolished.
Declaration of Abroath
It was at Newbattle Abbey that the Declaration of Arbroath, in the form of a letter submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320, was drafted. Sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the only survivor of three created at the time and makes the case for Scottish Independence. Written in Latin, it is believed to have been drafted by, amongst others, Bernard, abbot of Arbroath Abbey, who was the Chancellor of Scotland at the time. This is what gives the letter its name as there was no meeting in Arbroath.
The Lothian family dynasty was established when Mark Ker became lay Abbot of Newbattle Abbey in 1547. After the Reformation in 1560, Mark Ker rejected Catholicism and became a Protestant. As a reward he was given Newbattle Abbey and its vast estates. Down the centuries, members of the Lothian family forged distinguished careers in the church, diplomatic service, government and army. Mark Ker’s son was given the title Earl of Lothian but a few generations on this was elevated to Marquess.
Over time, Newbattle Abbey has been remodelled many times. In 1836, the notable architect William Burn began to add an extra storey and servants wing. Development continued in the 1860s when David Bryce included a new family wing, which was followed by extra accommodation, including a new boudoir for Lady Lothian. The 9th Marquess of Lothian commissioned a further extension in 1886 to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria. From the rediscovered Crypt, a consecrated Chapel was fashioned in 1893.