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Haddington, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

HADDINGTON, a burgh, market-town and parish, in the county of Haddington, of which it is the capital, 18 miles (E.) from Edinburgh, and 419 (N.) from London; containing 5452 inhabitants, of whom 1878 are in the town. This place, the name of which is of very uncertain derivation, is of unquestionable antiquity, though, from the repeated destruction of its ancient records, comparatively little of its remote history has been preserved. It appears to have been a royal residence at an early period, and in various documents is mentioned as having been a demesne town of the kings in the beginning of the twelfth century. Ada, Countess of Northumberland, and mother of Malcolm IV., in 1178 founded here a convent for sisters of the Cistercian order, which she richly endowed, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary; and Alexander II., King of Scotland, was born at this place in 1198. The town, which was wholly built of wood, was in 1224 totally consumed by fire, supposed to have been the work of an incendiary, as, in the same night, the several towns of Stirling, Roxburgh, Lanark, Perth, Forfar, Montrose, and Aberdeen experienced a similar calamity. It was repeatedly burnt and laid waste by the English, during the frequent wars between the two countries, but always speedily recovered from its desolation. The abbey of St. Mary continued to flourish till the Dissolution; and in 1548, the Scottish parliament assembled within its walls, to deliberate upon the marriage of Mary, afterwards Queen of Scots, with the Dauphin of France, and to give their assent to her education at the French court. In 1598, the greater part of the town was destroyed by an accidental fire originating in the carelessness of a servant. Haddington suffered considerable damage, also, from inundations of the river Tyne, in the years 1358, 1421, and 1775.

The TOWN is pleasantly situated on the Tyne, which separates it on the east from the suburb of Nungate: communication between the town and the suburb is afforded by a good stone bridge of four arches; and over the same river are three other bridges within the limits of the parish. It consists principally of two parallel streets of unequal length, the longer of which, forming the High-street, and being a continuation of the road from Edinburgh, is spacious and well built, comprising handsome houses, and is intersected at right angles by a street of considerable extent. Haddington is well paved, and lighted with gas from works erected in 1835; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. The appearance of the place has been greatly improved by the erection of several elegant buildings; and for the accommodation of the town, a new and commodious market has been formed. The approaches from the east and west are pleasant, and ornamented with agreeable villas having fine gardens: there are also some extensive nursery-grounds; and the general aspect of the town, which is seated at the foot of the Garleton hills, is strikingly picturesque. A beautiful emblematic monument to the late Mr. Ferguson of Raith meets the eye on entering the town from the west. A subscription library has been established, which contains more than 1000 volumes; a parochial library, also, is supported with funds left for that purpose by the late Andrew Begbie, Esq. There is a valuable library, bequeathed to the town by the Rev. John Gray, of Aberlady, who also gave fifty merks per annum for the purchase of additional volumes; and in Haddington is also kept a library for the use of the presbytery. A mechanics' institution was founded in 1823, and is supported by subscription, for the delivery of lectures on chemistry, the various branches of mechanics, and other subjects; attached to it are a good library, a museum, and the requisite apparatus. Both the Agricultural and the Horticultural Societies of East Lothian hold their meetings in the town; and there is a branch of the Bank of Scotland, and also of the British Linen Company. A considerable trade is carried on in wool, and in the preparation of bones for manure; the only manufactories are an iron forge and an establishment for carriage-building: the tanning and currying trades are pursued to a good extent; and there are two breweries and two distilleries, on an extensive scale. The market is on Friday, chiefly for grain of various kinds; it is well attended, and is one of the greatest marts in the country for wheat. The market-place for butchers' meat is a neat and commodious structure, formed at an expense of more than £2000, defrayed from the public funds of the town. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the Haddington branch of the North-British railway.

Though Haddington has been a ROYAL BURGH from a very remote period, the earliest charter extant was granted by James VI., and is dated at Newmarket, the 30th of January, 1624. It confirmed all rights and privileges conferred by the charters which, in the repeated conflagrations of the town, had been destroyed, and vested the government in a provost, bailies, and council of merchants and tradesmen, by whom the other officers were chosen. The corporation at present consists of a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and nineteen councillors, appointed under the authority, and subject to the provisions, of the Municipal act of William IV. A baron-bailie is appointed for the suburb of Nungate, and also for the lands in Gladsmuir belonging to the corporation. The provost and bailies are ex officio justices of the peace within the burgh and liberties, and they have also, by their charter, the jurisdiction of sheriffs within the royalty; but they do not exercise this function, and the sheriff of East Lothian has concurrent jurisdiction with the magistrates of the burgh, who are assisted by a town-clerk and other officers. The magistrates hold a court weekly for the adjudication of civil cases, aided by the advice of the town-clerk; and also for the trial of petty misdemeanors, and for the maintenance of the police. There are nine incorporations, which have the exclusive right of exercising trade within the burgh, viz., the hammermen, wrights and masons, weavers, fleshers, shoemakers, bakers, tailors, and skinners: each of these fraternities sends two members to a council consisting of a convener, nine deacon conveners, and the two members of each incorporation. This burgh joins with Jedburgh, Dunbar, Lauder, and North Berwick, in the return of a member to parliament.

Haddington being the county town, the courts for the shire are held in it at the appointed periods; and recently, some elegant county buildings have been erected at the west end of the town, in the old English style, at a cost of £5500, from a design by Mr. Burn. The foundation stone was laid, with masonic honours, in May 1833, by Sir John Gordon Sinclair, Bart. The edifice contains the sheriff and justice-of-peace court-rooms, and other offices connected with the county; the front is of polished stone, and other parts of the building are also of a superior material. It occupies the site of some old ruins that consisted of a vault and part of an arched passage, the pillars of the Saxon style; but all traces of the history of these remains, thought to have been the most ancient in Haddington, are now lost. The town-house, for the transaction of the business of the burgh, has been improved at an expense of £2000, paid out of the corporation funds; it is a neat building, including an assembly-room, with a handsome spire. There is a prison containing the requisite apartments for the classification of prisoners.

The PARISH is about six miles and a half in length and six in breadth, and comprises 11,169 acres, of which 9312 are arable, 1250 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. Its surface is pleasingly undulated, and the scenery enriched with woods of ancient growth and with flourishing plantations. In general the soil is fertile, and well adapted for all kinds of grain. The rotation system of husbandry is practised; considerable improvement has been made in draining and inclosing the lands, and the introduction of bone-dust and rape for manure has much contributed to the fertility of the soil. The crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodious; and every improvement in agricultural implements has been carefully adopted. In this parish the woods consist chiefly of oak, hazel, and birch; and the plantations of Scotch fir, larch, and spruce. The annual value of real property in the parish is £33,648. Amisfield, a seat of the Earl of Wemyss', is a stately mansion on the south bank of the river Tyne, surrounded by a well-planted demesne and extensive park, which, during the annual sports called the Tyneside games, celebrated there under the patronage of the neighbouring nobility and gentry, are much resorted to. Stevenston, a seat of Sir John Gordon Sinclair's, is beautifully situated to the east of Amisfield, also in a richly-planted demesne. Lennoxlove, anciently Lethington, a seat of Lord Blantyre's, is a handsome mansion, part of which, of great antiquity, and built by the Gifford family, consists of a square tower of massive strength: the park is of considerable extent, and contains some fine old timber; it was first inclosed with walls by the Duke of Lauderdale, who was born here. Monkrigg is an elegant modern mansion, finely situated, and encompassed by some highly-enriched scenery; and Coalston, a little to the south, embraces an interesting view of the grounds of Lennoxlove, and of the surrounding country. The other seats in the parish are Clerkington, Letham, Alderston, and Huntington.

Haddington is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Haddington, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and in the patronage of the Earl of Hopetoun. There are two ministers, making the church collegiate; the stipend of the first minister is £343, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £24 per annum, and the stipend of the second minister is £366, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum. The church, supposed to have been built in the 14th century, is a venerable and elegant cruciform structure in the decorated English style, with a lofty square embattled tower: the choir and transepts are in a dilapidated condition, but the nave has been commodiously arranged for a congregation of 1240 persons. In the aisle belonging to the Lauderdale family is a splendid monument of varied marbles to Lord Chancellor Maitland and his lady, with recumbent figures in white marble. This fine church, which is 210 feet in length, was part of a magnificent monastery of Franciscans, where Lord Seton, one of its greatest benefactors, was buried in 1441; the buildings were partly destroyed by Edward I. A handsome chapel of ease was erected in 1838, to which a district was for a time annexed, containing a population of 1878. There are also an episcopal chapel, and places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the Old Light Seceders, Independents, and Wesleyans. A grammar school is endowed by the corporation, who appoint two masters, and pay their salaries; it is open to all the sons of freemen. A parochial school, affording a useful education, is supported by the heritors; the master has a salary of £34, with £50 fees, and a house and garden. The parish poor receive the interest of £300, the aggregate amount of several bequests. The late David Gourlay, Esq., bequeathed a field of four acres, with £450 in money, and £840 in the funds, in trust to the ministers of Haddington, for the relief of the industrious poor not on the parish list. A dispensary for administering medicines to the sick poor is supported by subscription; and a savings' bank has been established, in which the amount of deposits is above £1000. In the suburb of Nungate are the remains of St. Martin's chapel, formerly belonging to the abbey of Haddington. John Knox, the reformer, was born in this parish, at Giffordgait, adjoining the town, in 1505, and received the rudiments of his education in the grammar school. The distinguished family of Maitland resided for many years at Lethington, which they obtained by purchase. Sir Richard Maitland, who died in 1586, was lord privy seal, and author of some poems of merit. His eldest son, William, filled the office of secretary of state in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots; and his next son, who was created Lord Maitland, of Thirlstane, in 1590, was lord high chancellor of Scotland till his death in 1595. Haddington confers the title of Earl on the family of Hamilton.

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