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Woolmet House

Updated: Sep 11, 2021


This is not Biggar Castle!

Woolmet House 1928


The mansion stands at the ancestral seat of Woolmet, in the softly rolling hills, four miles south of Edinburgh. The family lived there for the next 300 years. It would further appear that the castle was rebuilt or enlarged or repaired at least twice since it was built in the late 12th century. This date is also incorrect, there may have been a castle at one time or another.

Woolmet House was a large and impressive mansion built for Archibald Napier (1575-1600) around C as a wedding gift from his wealthy father Archibald Napier of Merchiston Castle (father of John Napier and Alexander Napier, Lord Laurieston ).

"A tower house was re-built around 1590 by Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, father of John Napier, for his first son by his second marriage, also named Archibald (1575–1600), known as Napier of Woolmet. Logically, this would be no earlier than 1596, the age of legal majority then being 21. There is no evidence that he ever occupied Lauriston Castle, and he was murdered in 1600 returning to his home, Woolmet House, south of Edinburgh. It is likely that Lauriston was instead occupied by William Napier (c.1577–1622), the second son of his second marriage. What is certain is that in 1622 the property was inherited by Alexander Napier (the third son of the second marriage) who four years later adopted the title “Lord Laurieston”. Lord Laurieston died in 1629, but the house continued to be occupied by his widow and three young children.'

The property was than purchased by the James Edmonstone and sold in 1673.

" In 1673 James Edmonstone sold Woolmet to Major John Biggar (m. Alisone Edmonstone), whose only child (also incorrect) married William Wallace, a nephew of Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie, Lord Justice-Clerk. On uniting himself to the heiress, Wallace (a descendant of the Scottish patriot) assumed the name and arms of Biggar. The present mansion probably was reconstructed by this family. Over the main doorway and on several of the dormers are carved the initials 'W. B' together with the coat-of-arms of the Biggar's. Eady in the eighteenth century the fortunes of this family became connected with the south side of Edinburgh. The first to settle there was Robert Biggar, grandson of Major John Biggar of Woolmet, and one of the unfortunate shareholders in the Darien scheme. "

The House was demolished in the early 1950's due to mining subsidence. The surviving gateway now forms the entrance to Danderhall Miners' Social Club and Recreation ground.

Some of the carved stone was incorporated into the Castle of Mey Caithness by Sinclair MacDonald Architects for Queen Elizabeth and Northfield House, Preston.

The door and the Coat of Arms have been incorporated into Outlook Tower Edinburgh.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

The building and the museum were refurbished by town-planner Sir Patrick Geddes (1854 - 1932) in 1892 and later managed by his daughter Norah Mears (1887 - 1967). In 1955, the 17th Century doorway to the west in Ramsay Lane was installed, having been brought from Woolmet House in Midlothian, demolished two years previously.

The Coat of Arms of the Biggar's of Woolmet break through the pediment with the Biggar Family Motto


  1. Photos's By Tammy Biggar 2010

Those that remained at Woolmet are the descendants of Major John Biggar who seemed to have survived the upheaval of the border Clans between 1605-1640.

Coventry, M. (2008) Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh. Page(s): 40,587 RCAHMS Shelf Number: F.5.21.COV

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