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Cockenzie, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

COCKENZIE, late a quoad sacra parish, including the villages of Meadowmill and Portseaton in the parish of TRANENT, and part of the parish of PRESTONPANS, in the county of of HADDINGTON; the whole containing 1061 inhabitants, of whom 570 are in the village of Cockenzie, 1 mile (N. E.) from Prestonpans. This village, which is situated on the shore of the Firth of Forth, is almost wholly inhabited by fishermen, who during the winter are chiefly employed in procuring supplies for the markets of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in the spring engage in the whale-fisheries of Greenland. The fish taken here are cod, whitings, flounders, and oysters, of which last there are beds of excellent quality; and in summer those who have not engaged themselves in the whale-fishery go to Caithness for herrings, which they take in large quantities, and sell to the curers. In autumn, they are employed in dredging oysters, and catching such herrings and other fish as appear in the Firth. The number of boats belonging to the fishery is thirty, of which ten are of sixteen tons' and twenty-one of seven tons' burthen, they are all without decks, but well and strongly built, and capable of enduring a very heavy sea. A considerable foreign and coasting trade is also carried on, in which two vessels, of 100 and 120 tons respectively, belonging to this place, are regularly employed; the number of other ships annually entering and leaving the harbour averages from 250 to 300, of the aggregate burthen of 20,000 tons. The harbour was constructed in 1835, by Messrs. Cadell, at an expense of £6000; it is easily accessible at all times of the tide, and affords great security to numerous vessels driven in by stress of weather. It has sixteen feet depth of water at spring, and ten feet at neap, tides; and though formed more especially for shipping the produce of the collieries, from which an iron tramway has been laid down to the port by the proprietors, it has been of great benefit to the fishery of the place. In 1846 an act of parliament was passed authorising the construction of a branch of nearly a mile and a quarter, to Cockenzie harbour, of the North-British railway. A mill for grinding bones and rape-cakes, chiefly brought from Germany, for manure, is driven by steam, and employs a small number of the inhabitants not engaged in the fisheries; there are also some salt-works in the district. A fair, formerly of some importance, but now chiefly for toys, is held in November. The church was erected in 1838, by subscription, chiefly through the instrumentality of H. F. Cadell, Esq., aided by grants from the General Assembly's and East-Lothian Church-Extension Societies, and a contribution of £150 raised by the Rev. A. Forman, of Innerwick. It is a neat edifice, built at an expense of about £600, adapted for a congregation of 450 persons, and capable of being enlarged by the erection of galleries. A school is supported by subscription.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis