A history of the Sprot family at Spott written by Romer for her grandchildrenThis whole history can be printed from the scanned pages. to be uploaded shortly
Spott House, Dunbar, Eat Lothian, was bought from one of the Tweedale Hays by your father's great great-uncle, James Sport, about 1831. He married Mary Watt, whose brother was a great friend of his at oxford. They had no children but Richard Watt died young, leaving one daughter, Adelaide. Before he died, he asked Geat great Uncle James to be her guardian, He (James Sprot) was a very devoted to her ( and adopted her? ) and, when she was nine years old, she went to live with her aunt and uncle as Spott. She was an heiress and already had Spoke Hall, near Liverpool, and Bishops Burton in Yorkshire. She was a shy gentle, affectionate person, and I used to stay at Spott when your grandfather was alive and often took your father and Aunt Shiela to Spott after he was missing in Ypres. Much as she liked Uncles Harold and ivan, she used to say to me "But James (your grandfather) is dust of the mountains". She told me that that when her Uncle James died< Spott which was entailed had to go to the Sprots of Riddell, and as he couldn't get over the entail, he left her £60,000 ( I think) to buy in Spott. Miss Watt must have been a young woman in those days and she had set her heart on having Spott, as it had been her home since she was a child. She wrote to your father's great uncle, John Sprot ( General Spot of Riddel), and offered him £60,000 for Spott, but he refused to sell it, so she wrote again, offering quite a lot of Watt money, and he accepted but changed his mind the next day and ssaid he wouldn't sell spott- but, as it had been through the post Miss Watt was able to hold him to his first letter, accepting the offer, and after that there were rather strained relations. Miss Watt always kept up with your fathers grandmother, who married Edward Sprot of Drygrange, Earlston ( Roxburghshire), my mother in law. Great Great Uncle James had brought Miss Watt up to be a sort of Sqire, and there was nothing she didn't know about cows and bulls and farming. When she dies, she left everything n the last state of perfection, and the soli was the finest in Scotland. When we went to Spott, one of the Trustees, who was also Law Factor, told me they were saving every peny to buy in two Broomhouses and possibly the Brunt too, so that your father could comeinto six large farms. I remember Miss Watt telling me a story of the last May of Spott, who must have been rather rackety. He was seen in Ediburgh, walking down Princess street, and someone was heard to say " There goes Robert may with two Broomhouses in his pocket" it must have been soon after this that he sold spott to James Sprot ( a brother of your Great- grandfather Mark Sprot of Riddell) and migrated to Broxmouth near the sea at Dunbar
and after sold to the Duke of Roxburgh. All the rooks followed the Hays to Broxmouth except a few which multiplied. I remember how they used to spread themselves over Doon Hill behind Sporr every Sunday morning when they heard the church bell at eleven. One rook perched itself above them a little apart, we used to call him the minister. Spott was surrounded by rookeries, which may have been the reason it was supposed to be the bride of Lammermuir house, just the right distance from Dunbar and Fast Castle. The Minister of Spott wrote articles in the Scotsman about it. I dare say Sir Walter Scott may have taken the outside of Spott with the Rookeries close to the house and the inside of Winton Castle as written teh book round it. Miss Watt took me p to the Doon Hill once and showed me the circle of ancient trees stumps which had long been known as Lucy Ashton's Bower. In the time of the Hays the drawbridge was still at Spott, and the Doctor's wife told me her grandmother, who was Letitia Hay, remembered how it was always drawn up in the early evening, It was last drawn up in defence at the battle of Dunbar, when Cromwell's army took up their position at the foot of the Doon Hill and the Scot's army, listening to Ministers instead of General Leslie, came down form the hill overnight and hid each man- behind a corn stoop. Cromwell said "The Lord hath delivered them into my hands" And crossed the Spott burn and fought the battle over what were the gardens when we were there. Many skeletons were found when the hot houses were put up , as well as swords and canon balls, which I arranged in the William and Mary fireplace in the little oak panelled front hall. There was an old woman in the village who remembered her great grandmother telling her she saw the drawbridge being pulled up in the battle of Dunbar as they feared Cromwell's vengeance. The house was full of Scots fugitives.
She must have been a Great Great Grandmother herself to account for only teo links connecting such a chain of years. Up to 1813 there was only a very narrow bridge to the front door > It was a medieval one and far below was the place where the reivers used to drive in the cattle they had rounded up after a raid into England and little windows under the bridge where retainers slept. Those were the days when a pair of spurs was served up at dinner instead of the joint as a hint that the larder was empty and it was time for another raid across the border.
When great Uncle James bought the house he extended the bridge the full length of the house to the edge of the ravine under the drawing room window. Before that only a pony trap could drive up to the front door , It was very cleverly done and, when it had had time to mellow, it looked very like the old bridge,
Two burns ran around Spott - one coming down from the hills the other from Doon Hill, and they met far below the drawing room window . There was always the noise of rushing water round the house, though 40 feet below the ground floor below the ground floor there was the old kitchen housekeepers room , servants hall and the dungeons but I heard that old James Sprot had an immense dungeon under that bricked up when he bought the house. Miss Watt left a few relics of the Hays - among others a napkin woven with their arms and Motto "Dreadnoughts" (or "Fear Not" ) It was woven in the village in the eighteenth century and , when I told your father that Miss Watt was dead , he quite broke down and cried bitterly > hew as only ten, and I was surprised, but he said "She was a great friend of mine and took me for long walks and told me a lot about Spott and htat the shield with the Ray miniature must always stay in the drawing room at Spott, whoever has the house" The Hays had been there for 250 years and the house was bought by the Marquis of tweedale for his son, Lord Alexander Hay, whenhe bought Belton ( 2 miles away) for his other son. He bought it form a man called Murray, whos wife, Clara, was so angry that he sold it without telling her that she wrote a letter to Lord A. With a pretty awful curse, ending with "But I shall be at Spott when you are aa the Devil" Whenever we hear queer noises, we used to shiver and say- "Clara walkin".Mr (Lothian) Gray, the Minister, had the original letter.
Before the Murrays, the house had always belonged to Homes or Douglases. In the reign of Mary Queen of Scots the Laird was Sir Thomas Home and he was murdered by his sister in law ( a Douglas) to get the house. The Spott servants were all seized and sent to Hollyrood to give evidence. However James Douglas heard his friend , Bothwell, was going to make a raid on the palace to seize the young King ( James VI) and said he would help him. They both marched into Edinburgh and james Douglas battered on the prison doors and released his servants and made much noise that Bothwell had to give up hi attempt to seize the King. After that, the Spott servants disappeared and there was no evidence against Douglas . However he seems to have been succeeded by a Home, who became Earl of Dunbar and was one of the seven who rode to London with James VI of Scotland when Queen Elizabth died. The Bothwell of this story was, I think a nephew of Mary Queen of Scots, Lord Bothwell.
( note on side Revized title not a nephew)
There seems to have been a long gap before this and no records - probably because the English burnt down nearly every house, castle, or pile tower n the road from Berwick to Edinburgh, but Sott escaped as it was completely hidden by trees and hills. Then in 12 96, there was the record that Elias Spott had signed Edward I's Ragman roll and after that James de Spott had bought a mill and some land near Peebles. The Doon Hill ( behind Spott) had two rings at the top. One where the Scottish Army encamped before the battle of Dunbar, under general Leslie, and the other was the Pictish Camp against the Romans. The word "Doon" means hill fortress. There were many Gaelic names in and around Spott such as Cliqe- a Mintoll ( the toll house) and Spott was supposed to be from the gaelic word "Spoot" which means a burn rushing downwards- "in spate" when it is more or less on level ground. When I first went to Spott and the housekeeper was showing me the rooms, I said " This one is the room Cromwell slept in after the battle of Dunbar?" She said stiffly "General Leslie's room, Ma'am. It was a sunny south facing room, looking up to the Doon Hill, and I slept there for most of the time i was at Spott. One day some visitors were announced, who asked if they might see over the house. They said they were descendents of general Leslie ( their name was Leslie and they had a house in the highlands and ived in Mary Queen of Scots house beside the Dean bridge in Edinburgh) There were five towers at Spott and they were very interested when they saw the tower with the staircase opposite the room that was your nursery. They said the stone running up from just beside the dungeons ( on the side of the wall) was of some very rare marble or stone brought from the continent, and, as we went up the long flight of turret stairs, curling round and round, they said it was just like theirs in the old house in the highlands and there ought to be a "Belmaderie! at the top. I said there was only the store room but, when they saw it they said "But, of course, this is the BElmaderie! ( otherwise the room where the priest kept the Charters). Another very long tower was supposed to be a Flemish one ( the Flemings built the town hall in Dunbar in the 15th century). The room your father had was just over the fornt door and where the drawbridge must have been. I chose it in case of fire, so that he could climb out over the front door and let himself down fairly easily. The room had a powdering /...
Closet in a little tower. The walls of PSott were tremendously thick and below the dining room there were long shafts to let light to the dungeons. There were arrow windows all over the house and it must have been fairly impregnable before the drawbridge was removed. Miss Watt always wanted the martins to build in the windows. There is an old saying that there will be no strife in a house where the martins build. As soon as we went there the martins began to build and they were there all the time. There is another saying that when bees swarm and make honey in the eaves, the daughter of the house will marry. Before your Aunt Sheila grew up we found the eaves full of honey. N o recollections of Spott would be complete without mentioning the fact that it was supposed to be haunted, and I can only say I never saw the traditional ghost or any other but had several strange dreams ( at long intervals) and told Miss Watt. She asked me to tell the Minister and to tell him to write them down. The first was on our visit when your grandfather was with me and there was a house party for shooting. It was in the big room where your parents always slept. I dreamt of an old man in that same bed, or one in the same place, and evidently dying. A tall dignitary in the vestemets of a Cardinal or Archbishop (?) swept in, followed by acolytes, and he performed some ceremony which I think must have been the last rites - extreme unction. I woke up and told your grandfather, who thought I ought to tell Miss Watt. She told me to ask the Misister to look up the records and writ eit all down . We found that a Laird of Spott had married Cardinal Beeton's niece and he may often have been at Spott. That would have been in Pre- reformation times as Spott kirk was one of the seven oldest parish churches in Scotland and a parish priest of SPott had become the Archbishop of St Andrews. I forgot all about the Cardinal (/) till Miss Watt died and the first night I slept in Spott after that I dreamt or heard a heavy man's footsteps coming along the passage to the room that was afterwards your nursery, and the swish, swish, swish of skirts and long garments. He walked into the room , which had suddenly turned icy cold, and came and stood by the old four poster I always slept in. I was petrified and kept my eyes tightly closed, so saw nothing. Gradually, the room beagan to get warmer ( it was a hot night in june) and I felt this presecence evaporating, and at last all was quite normal again, and the temperature of the room, from being like zero, was quite warm and I was no longer frightened /..
and went to sleep quite happily. I was convinced it was the Cardinal. After a long time I dreamt of him for the third time- I can't remember anything about it now. My experience of Spott and supernatural manifestations was that there were long periods of calm and peace and nothing happening, and then someone came to the house who seemd to stri things up. It was usually the most unlikely person. A cousin of mine stayed for ten days and said nothing would induce her to stay another night in the house, and I can only say there was pandemonium for all those ten days. She changed her bedroom every night and said there was nothing to choose between them - furniture being dragged overhead ( I suggested rats but there were none except in the dungeon) , frightful dreams ( as she described it "blood everywere " ) and at last she said she Must sleep in Cromwell's room, which was so sunny and cheerful, and she was sure that would be alright, especially as I was in it ! About Midnight we heard rappings on the door and on the outer wall but managaed to get off to sleep again. Then at 3am we woke witht he moonlight streaming in and the door opening slowly. We both sat up in bed, petrified, but to our relief, Mlle Julia ( aunt Shiela's French Governess) walked in, saying " I 'ave seen 'er ". She was a slightly cynical Frenchwoman who had heard about the ghosts ( Clara Murray perhaps?) but not the traditional ones, and had remarked she didn't believe in them. She stood there, holding a candle , and told me she woke up in the bluw room , which used to be Miss Watt's bedroom ( next door to cromwell's room ), and saw a rather tall portly women standing by one of the windows. She couldn't see her face as she was looking out over the garden and she was wearing "a cap and collar like Dutch", so that put her down to about the time when Lord Alexander Hay got the house. Of course, this story flashed round the neighbourhood and the next morning Miss Balfour ( sister of Lord Balfour - A J B. ) arrived on the doorstep and asked if she might take it all down in Mademoiselle's own words. ( The Balfours are keen on Psychical Research) . The traditional ghost was a woman in Puritanical dress. Mlle Julia told me she lit the candle and watched her for at least three minutes. That, I think was June, and on a hot day in August we were all sitting around the dining room table having tea when mademoiselle and Aunt Shiela came in, looking rather blank, and Aunt Shiela said "where is the little girl?" I said there was no little girl and them Mlle Julia asked me to come out into the hall and told me sshe had seen a woman and a little girl walk across the hall to the dining-room. She herself was walking down the the stairs and told Aunt S, to wash her hands and brush her hair before tea, and added there was a lady with a little girl who had come to tea. Malean the /... Page 7 Butler, said no one had come. Mlle Julia, after thinking it over, said they were not dressed in fashions of this time. The little girl was about 8 or 9 and had a big leghorn hat - they looked quite real and she had no idea that thye were not. I had a god deal of trouble keeping cooks in such primitive quarters - only lamps and candles - and when I first went to Spott there was the old spit and we always used a strange ( 18th century) contraption to heat the plates. It stood in front of the kitchen range filled up with plates and when they call Ashets in Scotland. There was an exact replica of it in an old dolls house belonging to the MacDougall of Lunga. (( N.B this dolls house is at present at barrackan)) To be continued....
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