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Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington
Sidegate, etc.


SIDEGATE, or, in the old spelling, Sydegate, is perhaps one of the oldest localities in the burgh of Haddington. In 1429 the King’s Wall, which enclosed Haddington, is noticed in old records. On this wall the south gate, or port, with its watch tower, stood at the corner of the present wall of Dr Howden’s property of Maitlandfield, in the Mill Wynd. The port was taken down in 1766, and the stones used in building new cells in the jail. Haddington could once boast of a St John Street, which is said to have got its name from the Knights Templar of St John, who had a tenement at the Custom Stone. It ran from the Custom Stone to Myles Burn, and is now merged into Sidegate or Longcauseway. The Longcauseway extended to the south gate, and then Poldrate, as it is now called, came in ; formerly the name of it was Poudret, or in French, rtpaide droite, part of a fortification, which no doubt existed in the time of the French occupation of Haddington. On the authority of the Rev. John Gray, founder of the Town’s Library, it was also called Peaudroit, i.e. Malt Street. Poldrate joins with the Haugh. In an old view of Haddington taken from the Briery Bauk, of date 16 o, a copy of which, in fine order, is in the possession of Mr Cowan, bookseller, the south entry into the burgh, with the East Mill and entry into the cathedral, &c., are shown. Sidegate was then, and still is, the entrance from the south and south-west parts of the county, from which there has always been a very considerable traffic into Haddington, especially on market days.

In Sidegate stood the residences of many old Haddington families. Provost M'Call (who was provost in 1723 and 1728) had his house at the foot of Sidegate Lane. It was a grand old house in its day, having an enclosed court in front with trees in it, which some old Haddington folk still recollect Its baronial tower and spiral staircase still exist. It is one of the few specimens of the old style left in the burgh. The Myalls were an old Haddington family, now extinct M'Call’s Park (where the Knox memorial is built) was their property. Provost M'Call was postmaster in his day. After Provost M'Call’s death the house was occupied by Mr Donaldson, town-clerk, who had married one of the ladies. All the Donaldsons (late of Tenterfield) were born there.

A little further up the street, on the same side, stands Haddington House, a venerable old building, once the residence of one of the Lauderdale Maitlands, and latterly of James Wilkie, Esq., of Ratho-Byres and Gilchriston, who was commonly called “Old Justice Wilkie.” He died in 1825, at the advanced age of ninety-two. Mr Wilkie was a much-esteemed gentleman. He was the first agent of the Bank of Scotland in Haddington. In his later days it was a beautiful sight to see the venerable gentleman coming down the steps of his house supported by his daughters, to enter his carriage for his daily drive at twelve o’clock precisely. He had two favourite black horses, Captain and Admiral. Ebenezer Leckie was long his coachman. His house was the home of friendship and kind hospitality, both during his lifetime and that of his excellent and esteemed daughters, the Misses Wilkie, whose names, for their affability and kindness of heart, will be long remembered by all who knew them.

At the bottom of Sidegate Lane, or, as it is vulgarly called, Bedlam Close, is an old smithy, which was long occupied by John Cochrane. His nickname was “Hinges,” owing to his universal toast at convivial meetings of the Hammermen’s Corporation, of which he was a member, “May the hinges of friendship never rust.” He had a number of sons who were all bred smiths. It is handed down as a tradition that this smithy was in existence during the occupation of Haddington by the French and English alternately in 1548, &c., and that their swords and bayonets were sharpened there. The smiths of these warlike times were all armourers. The present aspect of the smithy (of which Mr George Knox is the occupant) shows its age and antiquity. During the barracks time there was a famous public-house called the Bee-hive, next the smithy, kept by John Whitelaw. In it the volunteers, after their drill on the Haugh or Lennoxlove Parks, often met, and drank “groatum” (a heavy sweet ale) and "paupers” (whisky and small beer), drinks nowadays quite obsolete.

Opposite Haddington House was the dwelling-house of Provost Martine (provost in 1781). It once belonged to the old East Lothian family of Halyburton of Eagles-cairnie. It was taken down and rebuilt some years ago. The old house, as well as Provost Pringle’s (provost in 1815) below it, now the property of Mr H. Coalston,

had an enclosed court in front. The Post-Office was long there, until it was removed to the Custom Stone, by Mr Peter Martine, in 1818 or 1819. The guards, with the mail bags, used to drop off the mail coach at the Custom Stone, and walk up and receive the Haddington bags in return. On a large board was painted the time of departure and arrival of the two mails a day, east and west. James Anderson (“Letter a penny”) was the deliverer of letters, and afterwards his daughter Kirstie, who carried all the letters in her white apron, and charged one halfpenny per letter for delivery in addition to the postage, which was very heavy in those days.

Two tanneries long existed in Sidegate, but they are now both broken up, to the loss of the trade of Haddington.

Above Provost Martine’s house was the old manse of the first minister of Haddington, now owned by Mr List Dr Barclay occupied it during his incumbency, and until his death. He died in 1795. He was a man of considerable ability, and drew up the statistical account of the parish of Haddington, which was published by the Society of Scottish Antiquaries in 1785. Dr Barclay was succeeded by Dr Lorimer, who lived long in the old manse. The present manse was built in 1820. Where the avenue to the manse of the first minister now is, there was formerly a row of houses, which belonged to Peter Dewar. At the top of the row stood Jamie Lees’ bakehouse, celebrated for its famous pies.

Above the old manse there stood for a long period a barn, on the site of which an elegant mansion has now been built by the Misses Cook. The barn was long used for thrashing, by the flail, the crops of the small Acredale farmers in those days. George Goodale, a very decent man, was tasker, and Sarah Instant, also James Smith, redded the barn for many years. It is almost needless to say that the primitive mode of thrashing by the flail is now extinct. But barn as it was, this building was the place of many a theatrical performance, more especially when the military lay in Haddington. The theatre was patronised by the gentry and respectable folk of town and country, and drew crowded audiences. A Mr Chamberlain was at one time manager, and Stephen Kemble and other celebrities have acted in it. The barn and garden behind had at one time been attached to Milne’s Park, and belonged to the late George Milne, Esq., of Len-ridge. The ground where the manse of the second minister now stands also belonged to it Opposite the barn stood a row of old houses, which were taken down by Miss Wilkie. Several hecklers (a trade now extinct) of the name of Edgar had their shops there at one time.

Maitlandfield now claims our attention. It formerly belonged to Colonel Maitland of Pogbie. He was a distinguished Indian officer, and long colonel of the old East Lothian Yeomanry. He lived in good style, and kept a pack of harriers. At the time of the Radical War, in 1820, the East Lothian Yeomanry, with Colonel Maitland at their head, were called out to proceed to Glasgow; but they only got the length of Airdrie, the Radical rebellion having been soon quelled. It was told of one of the troopers that he wrote on paper and pinned in the inside of his waistcoat, certifying that this was the body of-, and asking any one who found his body on the field of battle to be sure and send word to his disconsolate widow. After Colonel Maitland’s death, Maitlandfield was purchased by the late Dr Howden.

A building opposite Maitlandfield, but now taken down, was at one time a starch manufactory, carried on by Mr William Wilkie. Afterwards, it was converted into an hospital for the sick soldiers from the barracks. A large school, kept at one time by Mr Andrew Mylne, afterwards minister of Dollar, and by a Mr Walker, flourished in the under flat of the old hospital.

The house now occupied by the Roman Catholic clergyman, was once called Poudret House. The old name of the Mill Wynd was St Ursula’s Loan. The large tenement on the west side of the street was built by the late Mr William Wilkie during the time of the barracks, and got the name of Wilkie’s “ Big House.” On an adjacent and now vacant piece of ground once stood an old house which was called the chapel—having been first occupied by the Episcopalians as a place of worship. In 1688, the Rev. John Gray, founder of the Haddington Library, was one of the first Episcopalian preachers in it; and, in 1714, a Mr John Wilson occupied the building. Long afterwards it was occupied by Mr Chalmers’ congregation, who were ejected from their meeting-house when a split had taken place among them. In a loft in this old chapel private theatricals used to be performed—the late Mr Matthew, Mr Richard Hay, Mr James Johnston, and others, being among the amateurs.

The East Mill, next the Haugh (no doubt one of the mills of the monks), has long been the property of the burgh.. A view of it with its mill-wheel (a very primitive concern), is given in the old view of Haddington above noticed. The thirlage belonging to it, including multures, sequels, and knaveship, is now extinct, except that of malt. An old resident in Haddington used to say that there were two things he abominated—viz., thirled mills and Established Kirks. Mr Hogarth, the tenant of the East Mill, made great improvements and additions to it, and a very considerable trade is now carried on in the mill, which had not been the case for many years past.

A woollen manufactory was commenced in 1750, at the side of the present mill-lade, under the auspices of Andrew Fletcher, Esq. of Salton, and afterwards by Lord Milton. It was carried on under different managements until 1787, when it was purchased by Mr Wilkie, who continued to manufacture coarse woollen cloths. Two brothers of the name of Dawson, from Yorkshire, were the last who carried on the trade there. The figure of a sheep in the front of the building still marks the site of the manufactory.

The prettily situated mansion and grounds of Tyne Park once belonged to the Lindsays of Eaglescarnie. It, with the field adjoining, was the Friars’ Croft of the old Abbey Church. The fine old family house, Tyne House, long the residence of William Wilkie, Esq. (the young justice), is another of the few remaining standard houses of Haddington.

There was no stone bridge across the Tyne at this point until 1817, when the Waterloo Bridge was built. There was a ford, and stepping-stones, and a wooden bridge for foot-passengers a little way above it. The mound from which this first foot-bridge started is yet well marked a little below the Sting-dam sluice. The foundation of the Waterloo Bridge was laid with high masonic honours by the Marquis of Tweeddale on the 18th June 1817, being the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. The Rev. John Steel, minister of Morham, was chaplain, and John Winton (the Earl) carried the Bible. The pretty piece of lawn, the Haugh, adorned with its fine old trees, and Braehead Boundary Bank, are much admired by strangers, although, curiously enough, the natives generally seem less sensible to its charms. An old stepping-stone crossing at the head of the Upper Haugh has been superseded by an ornamental iron foot-bridge, principally through the exertions of Provost Stevenson, after whom the erection is named. The bridge has greatly enhanced the attractions of the Haugh as a promenade.

The Briery Baulk, or cross road from the Gifford to the Coalston Road, is a pretty walk—commanding an excellent view of the fine old church, the valley of the Tyne, the Nungate Bridge and Nungate, John Knox’s house, the Garleton Hills, Yellow Craigs, &c. The Briery Baulk formerly extended west past the new farm-steading of Lennoxlove Acredales, until it joined the road across the ford. Some trees still standing mark its lines. Richard Gall, in his poetical address to Haddington, thus describes the scenery from the Briery Baulk:—

How bonny spreads the Haugh sae green,
Near yonder holy ruins seen !
The Briery Baulk how sweet at e’en
Wi’ muses’ sound,
Where well the wandering e’e may glean
Each landscape round!

An’ peeping frae yon broomy height,
The Yellow Craigs break on the sight,
Where aft the youngsters take their flight,
Wi* hearts fu’ gay;
Ah me ! the linties* joy to blight
For mony a day.

There others round the greenwood ply,
An fearless midst their thoughtless joy
The Kayheughs climb—wild, rugged, high,
Wi* hoary side;
While rooks and cushats dinsome cry,
Baith far an’ wide.

But let me breathe my heart’s warm flame,
Aneath yon auld tree’s aged frame,
Where friendship past may justly claim
A silent tear,
To trace ilk rudely-sculptured name
O’ comrades dear.


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