Nostalgia – Eyemouth’s noted house goes under the hammer

BERWICKSHIRE NEWS, AUGUST 24, 1920 – Notable Berwickshire landmark will shortly go under the auctioneer’s hammer.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 6:00 am

This is the mansion-house and land at Gunsgreen, Eyemouth.

This noted Eyemouth property was closely identified with old smuggling days; indeed, the mansion is said to have been built a wealthy merchant. There are many cellars and passages which must have been very serviceable for this illicit work popular Berwickshire and Northumberland coast in the olden days.

The Tower on Gunsgreen Estate is said have been erected by Cromwell when he visited Eyemouth in July and August of 1650.

The building, which stands about 30 feet high, and each side 20 feet wide, has a turreted top, beneath which, facing Eyemouth Harbour, is a stone-made cannon. The present Gunsgeen House is said be the second mansion bearing that name here, and that the first Gunsgreen House was near the Tower, and that the Tower (used in recent years by Eyemouth Golf Club headquarters) was retained as a coachhouse for the second Gunsgreen House.

Immense trade was done one time all along Berwickshire coast by smugglers who were organised on thorough and effective lines.

Smuggling was not the occupation of poor people for there were rich folk hereaway who did the work on the grand scale.

Gunsgreen is now over 200 years old, is of quadrangular shape, surrounded by a massive wall, and built in the style of turreted battlement.

This wall leads down to water’s edge.

Gunsgreen House was no doubt used in smuggling operations on a great scale, being situated in those days close to the head of Eyemouth Harbour, and had special landing places for boats, with access to the house by an underground passage.

Immediatley beneath the lawn on the front of the house is storage accomodation large enough for hundreds of casks or kegs.

Here are places of concealment cleverly conceived.

From this storage place are passages leading right into the rising-ground of Gunsgreen hill.

One of the subterranean passages links up with Burnmouth, two or three miles further south on the Berwickshire coast.

Gunsgreen House justifies its historic reputation as one-time home and haunt of smugglers.

There are two doors in about every room, one leading to the hall and the other to an adjoining aprtment.

In one part of the House there are five rooms, each of which can be entered without having to go out on to the landing.

Eyemouth people remember well the secret passages and recesses between the walls of the rooms, and also the massive grate or fireplace in the biggest room, which could be swung right out of its place like a grate being opened.

On this being done was a disclosed a secret passage to a flat below.

As a resort of smugglers, Gunsgreen House is a typical example.

Eyemouth not only had a large contraband trade in imports, but also in exports, notably in spirits from its own distillery, which shipped some thousands of gallons yearly.

Almost every house had its keg of whisky, and “shebeening” was a great industry at Eyemouth even 70 years ago, when whisky was to be had for 9d to 1s a quart bottle.

Berwick ships and also English craft regularly received, off Eyemouth, great quantities of spirits, unknown to the ever watchful Officers of the Preventive Service.