Haddington (surveyed in 1853)


Haddington lies alongside the eastern bank of the River Tyne in the Lammermuir Hills, bordering the Southern Uplands. In 1853 it lay on the main road between Edinburgh and north-eastern England.

The name 'Haddington' is thought to mean 'Hada's people's farm'. Hada is a person's name. The words inga meaning 'people's' and tun meaning 'farm', are both derived from Old English.

The Old English name reflects the Anglian settlement of large areas of Lothian in the seventh and eighth centuries AD and probably indicates that there was a settlement of some sort on the site at that period. The town itself may be of medieval date and was officially given royal burgh status after the accession of David I in 1124.

The town's position near the border meant that it was often vulnerable to attack, being burnt by the English king John in 1216 and by Edward III in 1356. In 1548-9 an English garrison was besieged in the town by combined French and Scots forces.

The town was the birthplace of the Scottish king Alexander in 1198. More controversially it is suggested that it was also the birthplace of the Scottish Reformer, John Knox.

In 1851 the population of the parish was 5,525, of whom 2,887 lived within the town. This was a slight decrease on 1831 when there were 5883 in the parish.

Town Planning

The medieval core of the town can be seen in the street pattern of long narrow properties at right angles to the High Street and Back Street. In 1853 it was still a relatively small town, with little development in the backland property behind the buildings on the street frontage. To the east of the town, across the Tyne, there was the suburb of Nungate around the former site of a medieval convent.


St Mary's Church is a fourteenth-century building with some fine carvings surviving. The church had long been described as the 'Light of the Lothians', but this name was probably first used of the church of the Franciscan priory destroyed in the Reformation, either because it was such a fine building, or because it could be seen over a great distance when lit up at night.

By the time of this survey nothing remained of the medieval castle, although Coventry (2001) suggests that it was on the site of the County Buildings in Court Street, which had been built in 1833 at a cost of £5,500 (which would be around £306,000 today). Nearby, the townhouse was adorned with a spire 150 feet tall in 1831.

One mile to the south of the town lies Lennoxlove, a fourteenth-century towerhouse which was extended in the seventeenth century.

Trade and Industry

A woollen industry had flourished in the town in the seventeenth century, but by the time of this survey this had declined and only one small woollen mill remained, although there was considerable trade in wool.

A weekly corn market was held and a number of corn mills can be seen along the banks of the Tyne where they used the water power from the river. Most of the remaining industries were small-scale businesses supporting the needs of the surrounding agricultural hinterland.


The countryside around Haddington was mostly used for growing wheat, barley, oats and pease. The writers of the Statistical Account (1845) describe Haddington as 'the largest wheat market in Scotland'.

There had been several abortive attempts to mine coal in the area, the most recent in 1823, but none of the coal seams had proved productive.

Religious Life

In the medieval period, Haddington had been an important religious centre on the pilgrim route from St Andrew's to Compostella in Spain. St Mary's Church in the town had been an important pre-Reformation teaching centre; after the Reformation it was re-used by the reformer John Knox and has continued as a parish church since. In 1853 there were two Free churches, St John's and Knox's, two United Presbyterian churches and Episcopalian and Roman Catholic chapels.


There was a grammar school, a parish school and a girls' school as well as a school for the poor. An interesting example of the Victorian desire to educate the masses was the institution of Samuel Brown's 'Itinerating libraries', the headquarters of which were in Haddington.