Heritage and Culture

The House of The Binns

By Sophie

The House of Binns is an estate with a colourful history. Once known to be owned by a man so mean, he played cards with the Devil, this striking building can be found nestled in between two rolling hills near Linlithgow.

The name 'Binns' comes from the Celtic word for hill, 'Ben'. Although the estate was inhabited early on by Archibald Meldrum, the most famous residents, by far, are the Dalyells.

Thomas Dalyell was an up-and-coming butter merchant and purchased the impressive estate with his earnings. An ambitious man, he constructed a home that can best be described as stately, finishing his work in 1630. He was quick to become a member of the landed gentry and although remembered for his success, he would never leave as much of an impression as his son.

Known as Bloody General Tam France by age 13. Later he served as a colonel in Ulster. He was captured several times, banished from Scotland with a price on his head. He then escaped from the Tower of London, where he fled to Russia to fight the Tsar.

When the Brittish monarchy was restored, Tam was appointed commander -in-chief and ordered to subdue the Covenanters. While tales of his cruelty may have been exaggerated, he was not known as Bloody Tam for nothing. He is alleged to have shot entire families without decency of a trial and thrown women into dungeons filled with vicious animals. He was also known to have used "The Boot"' a horrific torture device that crushes limbs. Drawing from his experience in Russia, he also imported the thumbscrew to Britain.

Scots have long had an interest with the supernatural. It was rumored that Tam would play with cards with the Devil in the House of Binns on a regular basis. As you can imagine, the Devil was the usual victor, however Tam was clever enough to get the best of him once. In a fit of rage, Satan threw the card table out of the window and into the pond outside.

Nothing more was known about this terrifying night, until the pond dried up 200 years later. A marble-topped card table was found at the bottom.

The table has since been restored and is now on display along with the playing cards, goblet and spoon that were known to be used in the famous game.

If visiting the House of the Binns today, you can see General Tam's boots. It is said that if they were to be filled with water, the water would boil.

There are also a number of other artifacts from many of the houses other, less violent, inhabitants.