Elphinstone, East Lothian

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East Lothian
Remains of Elphinstone Tower (geograph 1961775).jpg
The remains of Elphinstone Tower
Grid reference: NT396702
Location: 55°55’19"N, 2°57’58"W
Post town: Tranent
Postcode: EH33
Dialling code: 01875
Local Government
Council: East Lothian
East Lothian

Elphinstone is a village in East Lothian. It stands two miles southwest of Tranent on the B6414, and one mile north-west of Ormiston.

Half a mile west of the village, Elphinstone Tower, built in the 13th to 15th century, is a former five-storey tower, now a ruin, with only the lower level remaining. The Elphinstone clan held the lands of Elphinstone of which Sir Alexander Seton of that Ilk was lord.

The Protestant reformer George Wishart was brought to Elphinstone by Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell en route to St Andrews where he was tried and burnt at the stake.

Elphinstone Colliery was formerly the main employer; now Inveresk Research International is one of the main employers in the area. Elphinstone Tower Farm produces cereal crops.

The population has been declining, but the village still has basic amenities, including a Primary School, community centre, shop, inn and a miners' welfare club.


There is a popular myth in Elphinstone about how the village got its name. It tells that a witch called Meg had servants who were elves. One day she went day to the burn in between the village and Ormiston and ate in her carriage, telling her servants not to disturb her. One of the elf servants broke into her carriage once she had fallen asleep and stole some of her left overs. Meg however awoke and caught him. She took him back to Elphinstone and trapped the thief in her stone or "Meg's chuck"; hence the name 'Elf in stone'.

In fact the village appears to take its name from its mediaeval oonwers, the Elphinstone family, who also had lands in Stirlingshire. How they were named is not certain: a family traditionhas then descended from a Flemish knights named Helphenstein, while another theory has it derived from Alpines tun; the farmstead of Alpin. (Another theory, reminiscent of the idle legend might be to derive the name from Ælfenstan meaning "Elf-stone".)

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