Historical description of Haddingtonshire, Scotland

HADDINGTONSHIRE, a maritime county in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the north and east by the Firth of Forth, on the south by the county of Berwick, and on the west by Edinburghshire. It lies between 55° 46' 10" and 56° 4' (N. Lat.) and 2° 8' and 2° 49' (W. Long.), and is about twenty-five miles in length and sixteen in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 224 square miles, or 144,510 acres; 8752 houses, of which 8010 are inhabited; and containing a population of 35,886, of whom 17,279 are males and 18,607 females. This county, which is likewise called East Lothian, as being the eastern part of Lothian, an extensive district including also the shires of Linlithgow and Edinburgh, was before the time of the Romans inhabited by the Gadeni, and subsequently formed a portion of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria till the year 1020, when it was ceded to Malcolm II., and annexed to Scotland. From that period, for nearly two centuries, it appears to have remained in almost undisturbed tranquillity, and to have made considerable progress in agriculture; but during the wars to which the disputed succession to the Scottish throne gave rise, it suffered materially, and in 1296 became the scene of the battle of Dunbar, in which Baliol was defeated by the English. Not to mention other events connected with the county, in 1650 it suffered from the English under Cromwell, on the same field; and in 1745 the battle of Prestonpans occurred, between the forces of the Pretender and the English under Sir John Cope, since which time it has enjoyed uninterrupted peace.

The county is in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and comprises the presbyteries of Dunbar and Haddington, with twenty-four parishes. In civil matters, the district, for a very long period, was merely a constabulary subject to the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Edinburgh; but in the reign of James II. of England and VII. of Scotland, it was erected into an independent county. It contains the three royal burghs of Haddington (the county town), Dunbar, and North Berwick; and the populous villages of Prestonpans, Tranent, Aberlady, Belhaven, Ormiston, Dirleton, Stenton, Tynninghame, Cockenzie, East Linton, Gifford, and Salton, with numerous smaller villages. Under the act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament.

The SURFACE is varied. Towards the shores of the Firth of Forth it is nearly level; but it rises by gentle undulations towards the south, for some distance, into ridges of moderate elevation, which extend from east to west, and increase in height as they approach the southern boundary, where they form part of the Lammermoor hills. These hills, on the south-east subside for a considerable extent into a level plain, and on the west into the fruitful valley of the Tyne, between which and the Firth are some hills of inferior height. The principal heights on the ridges are the Gunlane and Garleton hills; and from the open plain rise two conical hills, at a distance of seven miles from each other, one of which, called North Berwick Law, has an elevation of 800, and the other, called Traprain Law, of 700 feet above the level of the sea. The chief rivers are the Tyne and the Peffer. Rising in Edinburghshire, the Tyne flows in an eastern direction, through the pleasant vale to which it gives name, and turning numerous mills in its course, falls into the sea at Tynninghame. The Peffer, a much smaller stream, has its source in the northern part of the county, and passing through a tract of level ground in two different directions, east and west, falls into the sea in the parish of Whitekirk on the east, and into Aberlady bay on the west. The Salton and Gifford waters are tributary to the Tyne; while Beltonford burn, which has its source in the parish of Garvald, after a course to the north-east, flows into the sea at Belhaven bay, to the west of Dunbar harbour.

About two-thirds of the land are arable, and the remainder meadow and pasture, with some extensive woodlands and plantations. Though various, the soil is generally fertile; and the system of agriculture is in the highest state of improvement. The crops are wheat, oats, barley, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips: wheat is the staple crop; the turnip crops are said to surpass those of any other part of the kingdom, and the county has long been distinguished for the excellence of its agricultural produce in general. The farms vary from sixty to 250 acres, and are under very skilful management: the lands are well drained and inclosed, and abundantly manured; the buildings and offices, also, are substantial and commodious. On the several farms are threshing-mills, many of them driven by steam. The Lammermoor hills afford good pasturage for flocks of sheep, mostly of the Cheviot breed, and partly of the black-faced; the cattle are partly the short-horned, but chiefly of the Highland breed. The substrata of the Lammermoor district are of the transitional, and those of the lowlands of the secondary, formation. Coal is found in the west, and limestone of the finest quality is abundant. Ironstone clay, and clay of good quality for bricks, occur in various parts of the county; and sandstone of compact texture for building, and trapstone for the roads, are quarried to a great extent. About 6000 acres are occupied by woods and plantations, which are in a very thriving state; and at Tynninghame are some remarkably fine hedges of holly, one of which is twenty-five feet in height, and thirteen feet in width. It is worthy of mention, that the first manufactory in Britain for the weaving of holland was established in this county, and that the first mill erected in Scotland for the preparation of pot-barley was at Salton. The county is, however, almost wholly agricultural, the manufactures carried on being unimportant: draining tiles are made; and there are some distilleries and breweries, with a few other works. The making of salt was once carried on to a great extent at Prestonpans; but it is now very much diminished. A herring-fishery off the coast employs about 300 boats during the months of August and September, accommodation being found in the harbour of Dunbar. Facility of communication is afforded by the North-British railway; and also by good roads, constructed under various acts of parliament, and kept in repair by commissioners. The railway passes through a country of undulating surface, richly cultivated, and agreeably diversified with hills and valleys, patches of wood, villages, and hamlets. Some fine and extensive views are obtained from the line: during a great part of its course, it forms a sort of shelf or terrace along a surface gently sloping to the sea; and excepting at a few deep cuttings, the traveller is seldom out of sight of the Firth of Forth, the coast of Fife, and the German Ocean. The annual value of real property in the county is £258,743, of which £221,714 are returned for lands, £31,558 for houses, £4908 for mines, and £563 for quarries. There are numerous remains of antiquity, consisting of mounds, encampments, and the ruins of ancient castles, abbeys and other religious houses, all which are noticed in the articles on the several parishes.

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