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Gladsmuir, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

GLADSMUIR, a parish, in the county of Haddington, 3½ miles (E. by N.) from Tranent; containing 1699 inhabitants. This place, which was a wide uncultivated moor, is supposed to have derived its name from its being the resort of vast numbers of kites, or gleds, as they were commonly called. Part of the lands belonged to William Baliol, who appears to have sworn fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296; he was proprietor of Hoprig and Penston, in the present parish, and acquired the lands of Lamington in the county of Lanark by marriage with a daughter, it is said, of William Wallace. The family took the designation of Lamington, altering their name to Baillie; and their lineal descendant is the present proprietor of Lamington, Hoprig, and Penston. Gladsmuir parish is five miles in length, extending from the Firth of Forth on the north to the river Tyne on the south; it is four miles in breadth, and comprises 6731 acres, of which 6386 are arable and in good cultivation, 302 woodland and plantations, thirty-four occupied with homesteads, and seven and a half with roads. The surface rises gradually from the northern and southern extremities, forming an elevated ridge nearly in the centre of the parish, on the highest point of which the church is situated, and along which passes the great London road. The shore of the Firth, which bounds the parish for about a mile, is rugged, and interspersed with large masses of detached rocks. The Tyne, which forms a boundary for something more than a mile and a half, is here but an inconsiderable stream, scarcely sufficient for turning some mills in its course. In the lower lands are several copious springs, affording an abundant supply of water. The scenery is generally pleasing, and in some parts embellished with rich and flourishing plantations: from the higher grounds are obtained extensive and interesting views.

In this parish the soil is various; in some parts a rich loam, in others loam intermixed with clay, in some light and sandy, and in others a deep moss: the crops are barley, oats, wheat, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is in a very advanced condition: the lands have been greatly improved by draining, and by the introduction of bone-dust, rape, and guano as manures; much waste has been reclaimed, and many tracts of sterile marsh brought into a highly-cultivated state. The farm-houses are substantial and well built, and on many of the farms are threshing-mills driven by steam; the lands are inclosed with hedges of thorn, and ditches, which are kept in good order. Great attention is paid to the rearing of live stock: the sheep, of which from 2000 to 3000 are pastured, are chiefly of the Cheviot breed, with a cross between that and the Leicestershire; and the cattle, of which 500 are annually fattened for the markets, and the milch-cows, are many of them of the Ayrshire breed. The woods consist of oak, beech, lime, birch, elm, chesnut, and hazel; and the plantations of Scotch fir, spruce, and larch. The lands are rich in mineral wealth, and the inhabitants, in addition to their agricultural pursuits, are extensively employed in mining. The substrata are principally coal, limestone, and ironstone. Coal is very abundant, particularly in the district of Penston, where it has been worked for some centuries; the old mines being almost exhausted, new ones have been opened in the same field, and every where coal is found in abundance. The seams vary in thickness from thirty-two inches to three feet; steam-engines have been erected in the new pits, to drain off the water, and the workings are successfully carried on. In 1835, a blacksmith at the village of Mc Merry, on the property of St. Germains, in sinking a well behind his house, discovered a vein of parrot-coal, which was profitably wrought for some time, but afterwards failed. Between Gladsmuir and the village of Samuelston, the magistrates of Haddington attempted to form a colliery on a portion of land that belonged to the burgh; but after an outlay of more than £2000, they abandoned the proceedings. Limestone is worked in several parts, and near Longniddry is a kiln for burning it into lime; there are also kilns in other places, but the works are not carried on to any great extent. Iron-ore is frequently found, and was wrought for some time on the lands belonging to the Earl of Wemyss. The annual value of real property in Gladsmuir is £11,103. Elvingston House, a seat in the parish, is a handsome mansion, completed in 1840, and pleasantly situated in a tastefully laid-out demesne, approached on the east by an avenue of trees about 300 yards in length. Southfield, the property of the Earl of Wemyss, is also a handsome house, surrounded with plantations, and now in the occupation of a tenant. At Greendykes are some farm-buildings of very superior character. The nearest market-town is Haddington, which is the principal mart for the agricultural produce, and with which, and the neighbouring towns, facilities of communication are afforded by excellent roads: the London road passes for nearly three miles through the parish, and the numerous cross roads are kept in good repair by statute labour. Great facility of intercourse is also afforded by the North-British railway, and its Haddington branch.

The parish consists of the lands of Samuelston, Penston, Elvingston, and others, which in the year 1650 were severed from the parishes of Haddington and Aberlady, and a church erected at Thrieplaw, which continued to be the parochial church till 1695, when another edifice was built, and the original one was suffered to fall into decay. Gladsmuir is in the presbytery of Haddington, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; alternate patrons, the Crown and the Earl of Hopetoun. The minister's stipend is £316. 17., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £8 per annum. Gladsmuir church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, is a handsome structure, built within the last few years, and adapted for a congregation of about 750 persons. The eminence on which it is built commands a magnificent prospect embracing the Firth of Forth with the county of Fife, the North Berwick and the Traprain hills, the vale of Tyne and the Lammermoor hills, the distant heights of Dumbarton and the county of Perth, and a vast variety of other interesting objects. The parochial school affords education to nearly 100 children; the master has a salary of £34, with £32 fees, and a house and garden. There are also schools at Samuelston and Longniddry, the master of the former of which has a salary of £15, paid by the Earl of Haddington, and of the latter one of £9, paid by the Marquess of Lome and the Earl of Wemyss; in addition to the fees, and a house and garden rent-free each.

In various parts are the foundations of old houses, leading to an opinion that the parish was once more populous. There are also remains of several ancient mansions, namely, the mansion of Longniddry, the seat of a branch of the Douglas family; the houses of East and West Adniston, of which scarcely any vestiges are remaining; and the old mansion-house of Penston, once of great strength, with arched roofs, but which has been long a ruin, and its remains converted into farm-buildings. Some stone coffins have been discovered at Seaton hill, containing human bones; they were generally of red flagstone, about five feet long and two feet wide, and near them was found an urn filled with burnt bones. On the lands of Southfield, some labourers, while making drains, dug up a considerable number of small British coins of silver; and several similar coins have been found at Greendykes. John Knox, when compelled to leave St. Andrew's, took refuge at Longniddry, where he acted as tutor to the sons of Mr. Douglas; and during his stay there, he preached the reformed doctrines in a chapel near the mansion-house, which still, though in ruins, retains the name of "Knox's Kirk". On the property of Lady Ruthven are slight vestiges of the church that was situated at Thrieplaw; upon the establishment of the coal-works at that place, the remaining walls were incorporated into the dwellings of the miners. In the same vicinity, near the village of Penston, are the ruins of an old windmill, which, in the earlier working of the collieries in the neighbourhood, was erected for the purpose of drawing off the water from the pits, which is now much more effectually done by steam-engines. Dr. Robertson, the historian, principal of the university of Edinburgh, was at one time incumbent of this parish, where he succeeded his uncle, Andrew Robertson, in 1744; and during his residence here, he composed the greater portion of his History of Scotland.

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