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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Yester

Parish Representative:
Margaret Maslowski

Introduction

The parish covers some 3660ha (9044 acres) and extends from Linplum in the north to the moorland of Lammerlaw (527m) and the Lammermuir Hills in the south, and from Hopes Water in the east to Aikeyside in the west. The main watercourse, Gifford Water, meanders southeast to northwest across the parish, passing through Gifford village, the main area of settlement. The northern farmland contrasts with the open moorland to the south, and much of the parish is well clothed with woodland. There are two small reservoirs high in the hills: Lammerloch (5 acres, opened 1905) and Stobshiel (6 acres, opened 1914) on the boundary with Humbie. Both are situated in deep valleys. The parish boundary is the same as it was in 1945.

The main settlement of Gifford lies in the north of the parish; long before 1945, Gifford was well known for fairs at which large numbers of cattle and sheep were sold. The Pound, a grassy enclosure in front of the High Street, would be used for this purpose. At the end of the war, Gifford was fairly small, consisting of Main Street, High Street, Duns Road, two Wynds, Station Road (mainly council houses) and some private houses in Tweeddale Avenue. In 1939, 16 council houses had been completed on Park Road, and ten in Walden Terrace (some of which were requisitioned by the army during the war).

In 1945, Yester was still affected by rationing although it was possible to eke out supplies with rabbits etc, also some families still kept hens. Some service men and women had returned from the war but there were several men who died on active service. Women had taken on duties in such as the Land Army, working in NAAFI canteens (one of which was in the village hall), and also on postal deliveries, and they lost their wartime jobs (eg the two postladies) when servicemen returned.

Very little damage occurred during the war, only the odd bomb, dropped by planes on their way back to Germany, which happily fell in open fields. Houses and property that had been commandeered by the army were returned to their owners.

In 1945, this agricultural parish had a traditional estate at its heart; most of the houses belonged to Yester estate, which had its own slater, plumber, some twelve foresters, six or more gardeners, joiner and grooms, as well as a staff of about 20 in Yester House. There were twelve farms with tenants with arable crops on lower ground and sheep on hill ground. The estate was sold in 1967/68 and, at a stroke, the fabric of the parish changed, as it moved from being owned by one family to being owned by many.

Gifford village, 1960

Gifford village, 1960

Nevertheless, the 17th century planned village of Gifford retained its charm throughout the period. New housing developments were not permitted to impinge on its appearance, being tucked away from the village centre, and Gifford remains a popular tourist attraction.

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