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Gifford, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

GIFFORD, a village, in the parish of Yester, county of Haddington, 4 miles (S.) from Haddington; containing 525 inhabitants. This village, which is beautifully situated on the east bank of the Gifford water, and in the picturesque vale of Yester, is built chiefly on lands leased from the Marquess of Tweeddale, and held by tenure of certain feudal services. In consequence of agreeing to render these services, the inhabitants were exempted by the marquess from various taxes and imposts, and were endowed with a grant of common land, comprising sixty acres, valued at £100 per annum, and the produce of part of which, now under cultivation, is applied to the improvement of the place. The marquess, as lord of the manor, formerly appointed a baron-bailie, and held a Birla or Boorlaw court, to which was attached an officer called a constable. This court, which was discontinued only within the last fifty or sixty years, exercised jurisdiction in petty misdemeanors, and had a prison and stocks for the confinement and punishment of offenders. The constable continued to retain his office until the appointment of county or district constables. The village consists principally of two streets of regularly-built houses, one of which extends in a line with the avenue leading to Yester House, the property of the marquess, and terminates with the parochial school-house, a handsome building surmounted with a small cupola and town clock: at the extremity of the other street is the parish church. The inhabitants are employed chiefly in the various trades requisite for the supply of the vicinity, and partly in the cultivation of the adjacent lands. The weaving of linen was formerly carried on to some extent, affording occupation to more than twenty persons at their own houses; but since the introduction of improved machinery, it has greatly diminished, and not above three or four persons are little more than half engaged in that pursuit. A sub-post-office has been established, which has a daily delivery; and the East Lothian Agricultural Society hold an annual meeting here, to award premiums for improvements in husbandry, and for the best pens of sheep. Fairs for the sale of sheep, cattle, and horses, are held on the last Tuesday in March, the third in June, and the first in October, which are numerously attended, and at which seldom less than 4000 sheep, 500 head of cattle, and an equal number of horses, are brought for sale. All the poor used to receive soup three times in the week, from the kitchen of the Marquess of Tweeddale, when the family were residing at Yester; and they still derive an ample supply of fuel from his lordship's grounds.

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