My intended action this time will be "Something a Little Bit Like the Siege of Newcastle" (1644) – you will hear more of this shortly. Because of the impending presence of guest generals (and my experience of guest generals is that the beggars sometimes wish to have some idea what is going on), I am working on tidying up the rules, and writing them out in a form which might be understood by someone apart from me – in particular, all the scribbled pencil tables and post-it notes need some attention.
Anyway – I hope to set out more details of all this over the coming few weeks, including (maybe) a revised draft of the siege rules. In the meantime, I have become a little diverted by some of our local castles here in East Lothian.
It is, in any case, a topic which I find interesting, and there are a great many sites around here which have history related to the ECW. The most recent distraction came during my studies of the activities of the Covenanter Armies – I was reading about the East Lothian regiment which marched into Northumberland with Lord Leven (subsequently appearing at, for example, Marston Moor and the sieges of York and Newcastle), and it seems that the colonel and patron of this unit was Sir Patrick Hepburn, who lived at Waughton Castle.
Now I know Waughton – it is about 4 miles from where I am sitting – and I know there is a pile of old stones and the remains of a medieval doocot (dovecot, to English readers) on the farm at Old Waughton, but I know nothing about the history of the place – it really doesn’t look very interesting.
Wrong. A quick look at Andrew Spratt’s splendid website devoted to reconstructions of Scottish castles reveals that Waughton Castle was a fine thing – in fact here it is.
So, if it was still the home of an important local family in the mid 17th Century, how has it vanished so completely? – so much so, in fact, that a reclusive old nerd like me (who has plenty of free time, a camera and walking boots, and lives, as I say, 4 miles away) did not even know it was there.
Mr Spratt likens the disappearance of these old fortified houses to children’s sandcastles on the beach being swept away by the tide. Yes, it is true that there were a number of dramatic incidents such as Cromwell and Monck destroying the places, but even in the cases where the places just fell into disuse there was a sort of gradual tidal wave as the locals requisitioned the stone to build houses, barns, field boundaries. I must have seen the stones of Waughton Castle many times, but they are built into farm steadings and stane dykes. They must have migrated in countless small carts and barrows over the centuries. There may be some on our garden rockery…
So I have resolved that I will take a bit more trouble to spend some time looking at Andrew’s website, and visit what is left of these local places. Apart from the well-known National Trust sites at Tantallon (Douglas family) and Dirleton (Ruthvens), within a very few miles of here I know of Waughton (Hepburn), Hailes (more Hepburns), Innerwick, Yester and many others, I also now see that the ruin in the woods on the farm here at Auldhame, which is less than a mile away and which I had previously believed to be an ancient abbey, is now thought to have been a house destroyed by Monck after the Battle of Dunbar. Hmmm – Andrew, you have my full attention. There is also a tale that the Laird of Lochhouses (2 miles from here, now a working farm) was wounded at the Battle of Dunbar, followed home by English dragoons and shot on the doorstep of his “tower” – this patently is not the extant Victorian farmhouse, so I think there must be another ruin somewhere nearby.
|Auldhame - 15 minutes squelch from here|
The church at Whitekirk (also about 2 miles away) is reputed to have been used to stable some of the Roundheads’ horses after Dunbar, but there are innumerable such stories, and there is a whiff of resentful outrage in this one – as an example of the sort of heretic rascals these chaps were.
|Whitekirk Parish Church|
Anyway – if the weather starts to improve, I would welcome the excuse to go squelching round the local countryside in search of ancient stones. I shall have to stock up on pork pies to add excitement to the packed lunches.
Please note that I use Mr Spratt's illustrations without any permission to do so - if you are interested in this, I would recommend that you visit his website via the link in this post - well worth the time.