DALKEITH (surveyed in 1893)
The former market town of Dalkeith, in Midlothian, lies on an elevated peninsula bounded by the North and South Esk rivers, approximately six miles south of Edinburgh. Although it is unclear whether the name has a Celtic or Gaelic origin, it appears to mean ‘wooded valley’ or ‘field by the wood’. The town has a long and rich history possibly stretching back to the eleventh or twelfth century, and its origins as a burgh of barony and burgh of regality can be traced to the early fifteenth and sixteenth centuries respectively. Originally under the control of the powerful Earls of Morton, the estate of Dalkeith was eventually purchased by the Buccleuch family in the mid-seventeenth century. A bustling and prosperous centre for local trade, the population of Dalkeith in 1891 was estimated to be 7,035.
At the time of survey, Dalkeith was dominated by a curving high street – a typical feature of Scottish towns - that extended for approximately two thirds of a mile from the gates of Dalkeith House (or Palace) to the railway station. An unusual feature of the High Street was its exceptional width; the first half, beginning at the Duke’s gates, was around 85 feet wide, whilst the remainder, leading towards the railway station, narrowed to approximately 30 feet. In typical style, the High Street provided a centre for local and retail trade, with residents occupying the lanes and closes that ran perpendicular to this busy thoroughfare.
As a busy market town, trade in late-nineteenth century Dalkeith was largely conducted during weekly markets in the town’s spacious High Street. Different days were allocated to the wide range of agricultural produce that was sold here. According to Wilson (1857), a great corn market, ‘the greatest for oats in the kingdom’, was held every Thursday, whilst every Monday there was a market for meal, flour and pot barley. Although a large proportion of the produce came from the surrounding area, farmers also travelled to Dalkeith from the neighbouring counties of Roxburghshire, Peeblesshire, Berwickshire and Selkirkshire. Horse and cattle fairs, and hiring fairs, were also regular occurrences throughout the year. The weekly influx of traders helped to create a thriving retail trade in the town. A significant development in the nineteenth century was the opening of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway, in 1831. Its appearance enabled the transportation of farm produce and minerals from the local area and, as such, allowed producers to take advantage of larger and more distant markets. Another significant development was the construction of the Corn Exchange (sheet VIII.7.7) in 1854. Built from a design by D. Cousin of Edinburgh, at a cost of £3,800, it was the largest interior grain market in Scotland. At the time of survey, Dalkeith’s main industries were, according to Groome (1894), ironfounding, brush making, carpet weaving and market gardening.
Dalkeith parish church and graveyard is located in the centre of town, on the north side of the High Street. Its position here ensured that no individual living within the parish of Dalkeith was required to walk further than three miles to worship. During the late nineteenth century the town was also home to several other places of worship, including two United Presbyterian churches; a Free church; a Congregational church; Wesleyan, Baptist, and Evangelical Union chapels; a Roman Catholic church and an Episcopal church.
According to Groome (1894), there were three schools in Dalkeith worthy of mention: the Back Street public school, the Burgh public school and St David’s Roman Catholic School. The accommodation for each was 220, 500 and 282 respectively, and the attendance record for 1891 was 166, 410 and 169.
Located within the centre of town at the time of survey were branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Commercial Bank, National Bank, Clydesdale Bank, and a national security savings bank. There was also a post office, a number of insurance agencies and several hotels.
Culture and Society
People’s lives and educational needs were enhanced by the existence of a subscription library, a circulating library and a scientific association, whilst the weekly paper, the Dalkeith Advertiser, enabled locals to keep abreast of the latest news. A number of clubs and societies were also well established by the late-nineteenth century, including an agricultural society, the Royal Infirmary Auxiliary Society, a total abstinence society and clubs for bowling, cricket, curling, golf, cycling and football.