The Summer House
There is no record of when the Summer House was built in the garden of Moray House. Indirect evidence suggests that it was built in the latter half of the 17th century.
The earliest map (Reverend James Gordon's of 1647) shows Moray House facing 'Canongait' with its garden extending down to the South Back of Canongait, but with no Summer House building. However, Edgar's map of 1742, the first properly surveyed of Edinburgh and the Canongate, shows the small Summer House on the east wall of the lower garden. John Ainslie's map of 1780 (?) similarly shows the Summer House in the grounds of the 'Linnen Hall' (although the property still belonged to the Earl of Moray).
The Cowan family leased the house and garden in 1793/4. The family commissioned the Thomas Shepherd prints of 1829. These show how the Cowans had done much to restore the former Moray House as a fine family home. They converted the Summer House into a hot house with a conservatory addition, possibly for the growing of oranges or vines.
An 1856 drawing of Moray House Normal School and its garden clearly shows the Summer House.
The Summer House did not remain in this state for very long. In his memoir of about 1909 W G Penney writes of his school days at Moray House in the 1850s:
" It was originally a summer house, I was told, but when I saw it first it was an abandoned hot-house. Afterwards it was fitted up for a sewing-room. What pranks we boys played there! There was a furnace underneath it which was reached by an open stairway. I fell into that hole one day and broke my left arm, so that I retain a very vivid recollection of the little old building."
Shortly before the construction of Paterson's Land in 1911-14 the partly buried Summer House, in the lower playground, was renovated, the cost being met by a public subscription raised by Lord Guthrie. It seems that the present doors and shutters were fitted at that time. The ceiling was plastered and decorated with motifs copied from the Balcony Room in Old Moray House. The two stone animals were removed for safe storage.
Signing of the Act of Union in 1707
With the first election in May 1999 to the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh there was increased interest in the historical connection with the Moray House Summer House.
In 1707 the Earl of Seafield was Lord Chancellor of Scotland, charged with taking the Act of Union through parliament. It was he who uttered the famous words "there's an end of an auld sang" when the Act was finally passed.
At this time Seafield had a tenancy at Moray House. Together with the Duke of Queensbury, he led the faction for Union. James Grant, writing in 1880 says:
" There long remained the old stone summer house ...wherein after a flight from the Union Cellar many of the signatures were affixed to the Act of Union, while the cries of the exasperated mob rang in the streets without barred gates. 'No Union. No Union.' "
History does not explain why Seafield wished to append the signatures of Scottish Grandees to the Act of Union. The only necessary signature would have been the Royal Assent. Nevertheless the tradition persists that such an event took place. However, this is now considered unlikely, although some signatures may well have been set down in the Summer House.
Material compiled and edited 2002/03 by Hugh Perfect, Honorary Archivist, Moray House Archive and David Starsmeare.