New exhibition at John Gray Centre traces history of Hepburn family of Smeaton

A new exhibition at the John Gray Centre, Haddington details the history of the Hepburn family of Smeaton over a 400 year period from when the land was first gifted to Adam Hepburn, the third son of Sir Patrick Hepburn of Waughton in 1538 and ending with the sale of the house and the auction of its contents in 1934.

The exhibition was curated by David Affleck of East Linton with the support of East Lothian Council Museum Service. With the help of items on loan from the Scottish Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Scotland and Sir Alastair Buchan Hepburn of St Andrews, the 7th Baronet, it looks at the aftermath of the death of Sir Archibald Buchan Hepburn of Smeaton, the 4th Baronet in 1929.

In 1764, a George Buchan inherited the estate and Barony from his uncle George Hepburn who died with no male heir. He adopted the surname and Arms of his Hepburn ancestors and made it his home for fifty-five years. Three generations of Buchan Hepburns then made their own significant contribution to the earlier Hepburn heritage which included the era of James, 4th Earl of Bothwell, a member of the wider Hepburn family. The challenge for the exhibition is to share this family’s remarkable story with the help of objects, photographs and paintings now available for public display. It also considers information on people for whom the house and estate were significant in their lives as well as those with Buchan and Hepburn family names.

In January 2018, a rare book documenting two Botanical expeditions to Africa in 1904 and 1909 was advertised for sale. The authors were Sir Archibald Buchan Hepburn of Smeaton (1852-1929) and his nephew, Nigel Douglas McDouall of Logan, (1872-1942).  The newly discovered book is only one example of the rare treasures that had been possessed by the Hepburns of Smeaton before their house was sold and its contents auctioned in 1934. Some objects in the house at the time of Sir Archibald’s death dated back over five centuries and included articles that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.

The exhibition opened on 16th June 2018 and is planned to continue for an eighteen-month period. Hopefully it will also attract representatives of the House of Hepburn with East Lothian historical connections who represent part of the Scottish diaspora. 


Published: Tuesday, 24th July 2018