Dunbar | Environment

Weather Extremes at Dunbar | Birds |Changes| Land | Townscape

The boundaries of the parish have not changed over the period. The east of the parish sits on limestone and shale beds, which provided the basis on which the cement industry was built. The local pinky-red sandstone is much in evidence in Dunbar’s buildings although brick, quartz harling and lintels of alien sandstones (some synthetic) have predominated in recent work. At the east end of the Hedderwick Links plantation was a large sand dune that was removed in the 1960s, the sand being taken to Fife for glass bottle making.

Work to control erosion at Belhaven Bay included the re-use of the old ‘tank traps’ (massive concrete blocks) as a wave defence (c1970) and the placement of mesh cubes containing smaller rubble at places on the coastal perimeter (c1990). Under St Margaret’s (Winterfield), the seawall was breached (c1970) and erosion has necessitated moving the coastal path successively inland. Parts of the cliff top promenade are less secure, through crumbling of the cliff; in one place a complete new sea stack was formed in scarcely 20 years (c1970-90). In 1989 the collapse of the cliff under the war memorial meant that this had to be relocated to a more secure site on the former Bayswell putting green (closed c1975).

Either as an effect of the sewerage pipe (the conduit affecting sand transport), or arising from the blocking of the Broadhaven, or even as part of a long term cycle (of which there is some evidence in old photographs) the depth of sand in summer on the East Beach at Dunbar became greatly reduced throughout the 1980s and 1990s; curiously, autumn and winter accumulations indicate that substantial amounts remain. An attempt to stem this loss was made with the partial restoration of a wooden groyne at Woodbush during the 1990s.

By the end of the period, major landscape improvements had been made to the site of the former Belhaven brick works between that village and West Barns, to the north of the road connecting them. In 1945, the site was being used as the town dump, a situation that pertained into 1965, after which the tip was levelled. When the site was closed, the western part was landscaped and graded, leaving the brickworks clay holes as much shallower ponds than hitherto (a substantial number of ‘tank traps’ were dumped to reduce the depth).

Considerable efforts were made to maintain the drainage of the site, which had suffered flooding for over 150 years by the 1970s (the ‘Divvy Dykes’ wall was built by Bailie David France in the early 19th century; he was the first to exploit the clay found here for brickmaking). Raising the surface level by landfill effected a partial solution; a more effective result was achieved by lowering the water table by planting willow. Most of the trees planted c1970 drowned except for a few at the southeast corner; the later willow groves were much more successful. The site later became Seafield Caravan Park.

The pond and the surrounds are attractive to water birds, and are used for educational purposes. Stan Bonnar’s Boy with a Fish sculpture is located here, having begun life as an exhibit at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988; this in spite of the thought of West Barns community councillors that it would become ‘an expensive bird roost’.

If there is one thing that Dunbar people are likely to boast about it is that their town is the sunniest and driest in Scotland (whatever North Berwick may think). However, natives of ‘Sunny Dunny‘ (Dunny: a neologism of the very recent past!) seldom notice the breeze, which even the Edwardians described as ‘bracing’. Weather observations have been made at Dunbar since May 1930 when Dunbar Town Council put instruments in place on an open site at Winterfield Park to the west of town. Over the years additional recording instruments have been installed so that today, each morning at 09:00 U.T.C. (Universal Time Co-ordinated, formerly G.M.T.) recordings are made of temperature, rainfall, wind speed and sunshine, while observations of cloud cover, state of the ground, wind direction and visibility are also noted. At the end of each month all information recorded in the pocket register is forwarded to the Meteorological Office in Edinburgh for inspection and correction, if necessary, before being stored in computer archives.

The Lammermuir Hills shelter Dunbar from the prevailing south-west winds which lose most of their moisture over the hills, causing clouds to disperse and allowing the sun to shine, hence Dunbar’s reputation as the driest and sunniest place in Scotland. Of the 33 recording stations listed (H.M.S.O. 1989), Dunbar is the driest with an annual average rainfall of 555mm over the 30-year period 1951-80. Over the same period, Dunbar is the sunniest of the 22 stations shown with an annual average of 1523 hours. The nearest rival in both categories is Arbroath with 599mm and 1499 hours. Dunbar can expect fog or haar (sea-mist) in May and, less frequently, in October, when east winds blow over the cold waters of the North Sea. A few miles inland there is bright sunshine.

Weather information currently held at Dunbar for the 14-year period 1987-2000 shows no particular trend although a study of mean temperatures over the years 1990-94 and 1995-99 reveals a slight increase in temperature of 0.4°C over the second half of the decade. There is also slightly less rainfall and a little more sunshine over the same period. Whether this is due to global warming or not is a moot point.

Years 1998 and 2000 have been the wettest in the past 14 years. And on 1 March 2001, six inches of snow fell in the early hours of the morning and remained, unusually, for five days, surprising even the longest established senior members of the community. So perhaps climate changes are on the way.

Weather Extremes at Dunbar

Highest recorded 31.1°C (88°F) 31 July 1943
Lowest recorded -12.0°C (10°F) 11 January 1982

Generally summer temperatures are affected by a cool easterly breeze. Only when a S.W. wind is warmed up as it descends from the Lammermuirs do temperatures rise to the 80s. Height above sea-level (23 metres) and proximity to the coast help to moderate winter temperatures

Wettest day 71.4mm (2.8″) 3 August 1966
Wettest month 175.3mm (6.9″) August 1963
Driest month 4.5mm (0.18″) February 1959 and September 1971

August can be a wet month due to torrential rain in thunderstorms

Sunniest day 16.5 hours on 4 June 1973
Sunniest month 263.5 hours July 1976

Dunbar (Lat. 56°N) with 1500+ hours of sunshine per year cannot compete with resorts on the south coast of England eg. Eastbourne (Lat. 50° 46’N) with 1900+ hours

With the increase in housing, wildlife has been affected. Species such as deer have been driven further from the town, where they were occasionally seen north of the railway – one caused excitement c1975 in the Rectory garden. The Lochend development will inevitably add to this trend, although deer can still be seen in the woods to the south of the line. Within the town, feral cats may still be present (beyond a few older survivors that hang around the High Street and older part of town). Such animals were still obvious in some numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, when litters were still brought up in back yards and gardens. Seals are often to be observed in Victoria Harbour.


Town residents would probably note the increased presence of herring gulls nesting on High Street tenement roofs. The kittiwake colony – the only mainland colony on the Forth – has successfully weathered the loss of its original home (the Granary) in the early 1980s and has spread round the castle ruins to even extremely inhospitable sites. In 2000, there were 1191 nests counted. There appears to be a general decline in the numbers of migratory summer visitors, although there is a large colony of house martins on the Heugh Head cliffs (opposite the Pierrot pavilion). Housing development has pushed out species like the skylark, once common over Rigg and Floors to Knockenhair, and the Lochend developments are presently doing the same.

Raptors such as the kestrel were rare and notable in the 1960s, when the sight one adjacent to a classroom could halt lessons in the primary school; by the 1990s they were commonplace and sparrowhawks and buzzards had also returned. Broxmouth Park is home to one of the only two heronries in East Lothian. Others have noted the arrival of the magpie (unknown in 1950) and collared doves and the spread of black headed gulls. Wood pigeon and crows are much more noticeable with the cessation of traditional gamekeeping.

Eider have increased along the coast, where mallard are also common. Young gannets are often ‘beached’ along the eastern part of Belhaven Bay (Winterfield) on leaving the nest.

The main research on flora and fauna in the parish can be found in the management booklets produced by the East Lothian ranger service; these cover both John Muir Country Park and Barns Ness for which reports are regularly produced. The information provided below provides a brief summary of the rich variety of life that the park supports.

In the John Muir Country Park, positive management has sustained a population of amphibians – frogs and toads – and nearby common newt flourish in the Hedderwick Burn. To the east of the burgh, frogs, toads and the common lizard flourish around the old quarry ponds between Barns Ness and Catcraig.

Overall, numbers of butterflies and moths, with some exceptions, have declined. It is unlikely that any species has completely disappeared from the parish. Between 1985-92 orange tip butterflies expanded into the Dunbar area and are now not uncommon. Later in the 1990s it became unusual not to see overwintered peacock butterflies on the wing in the spring. Curiously, the related tortoiseshell and red admiral became less common at the same time. Migratory species such as the painted lady can still arrive in some numbers if conditions are right in late summer (and clouded yellow, though much scarcer).

Green veined white, small white and meadow brown are probably the most common species at present and the caterpillars of the large white are usually noticeable in summer gardens. Populations of small copper and small heath remain healthy in the coastal fringes. Common blue butterflies were present in Rigg and Floors until that area was developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They can still be seen at either extremity of the town, on the coast. John Muir Country Park houses a colony of dark green fritillaries, otherwise not present in the parish. Ringlet and speckled wood may persist around Lochend. There were small blue (not common blue) at Barns Ness in the 1970s; it is unknown if they are still there.

It is still possible to find ‘hairy oobits‘, the local name for the caterpillar of the garden tiger moth (and others), although less common than in the 1960s; fox moth caterpillars can be common at the country park and along the minor roads leading from West Barns, Belhaven and Dunbar south. Commonly found moths include various underwings, grey dagger and magpie (with strong footholds in Dunbar gardens); elephant hawk on the coastal cliffs, cinnabar at the country park and at Barns Ness, with six-spot burnet found in both places. Ghost and ermine moths are seen and the buckthorn in John Muir Country Park is a good place to find vapourer moths. In some years (1995) large numbers of silver Y moths migrate into the parish; in most years some are seen in late summer evenings. There are many others.

The march of the dreaded Scottish midge can definitely be said to have reached Dunbar, as the allergic responses of this writer (D.M.A.) can attest.

The major wooded portions of the parish remain in Lochend Wood, Broxmouth Park and Hedderwick. The latter is mainly a Scots pine plantation, Broxmouth a plantation of mixed woodland, including stands of beech and Scots pine, but including plenty sycamore, ash, birch and others with hawthorn and elder on the margins, and Lochend, clear-felled but replanted after the war, has native and a few relict exotic trees. All suffered from a period of mismanagement or neglect from the 1960s and sometimes to beyond 2000.

Currently (2000), Lochend Wood is receiving remedial treatment. After the completion of the development of housing around the wood, the intention is that it be maintained as community woodland (though still not formally agreed in 2003). From around 1970-2000 it received no maintenance at all, although weather and the environment provided some natural culling. It contains a few relict mature trees from the Victorian plantings around Lochend House and is liberally scattered with (decorative and kitchen) garden escapees – rhododendron, red currant, raspberry and gooseberry. Lochend Wood has the potential to be managed in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, despite its proximity to expanding Dunbar.

Similarly the Wilderness Wood at Broxmouth was neglected after the Duke of Roxburghe sold it in 1960. There are plans afoot to remedy the neglect.

Hedderwick is in the best condition although suffering from erosion on the west. It was planted as a commercial pinewood c1950, after the military had relinquished control. While not included in the 1974 Tyninghame Area Access Agreement, Hedderwick plantation was the subject of a separate, later access agreement in 1989 between Tyninghame estate and East Lothian District Council.

Other woodland in the parish comprises small areas of plantation around steadings, field windbreaks, the policies of Bielside, the north end of Spott Glen, and similar small areas. Native trees and shrubs have been planted along road developments (1985-date) on the A1, and a recent innovation has been to include wildflower species, such as cowslip, in grassy plantings on embankments. The stand of buckthorn on Spike Island and the facing shore of the country park is managed to prevent its expansion.

Wildflowers remain common in places along road verges and on neglected land. Interestingly, rose bay willowherb, common on the railway line embankments and other suburban sites in the 1950s and 1960s has declined. Orchids (spotted marsh and common twayblades) can be found in J.M.C.P.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a problem on the Biel Water. Highly toxic chemicals – furano-coumarins – are contained in the leaves and in the sap, and contact with these can cause blistering, and in some cases, permanent scarring.

The parish has two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – the Barns Ness coast, and the Dunbar coast, which lies within J.M.C.P.

The variety of habitats of Barns Ness includes dune grassland, and the site is designated for its botanical and geological interest. Originally owned by the Duke of Roxburghe, in 1960 the new owners – Associated Portland Cement Manufactures Company Ltd. – gave the county council the 2½ miles of coastline at Barns Ness and White Sands. Barns Ness is interpreted for pedestrian visitors with a restored lime kiln, panels that explain the natural environment and a short booklet published in several editions during the 1970s.

The Dunbar coast SSSI is also of geological and botanical importance, and the site includes the best example of marine rock platforms in eastern Scotland. The coast from Lammer Island to Belhaven is interpreted with ‘mushroom’ signposts (recently replaced) and a booklet (c1976 and extensively rewritten in 2002 and republished), both interpretations themed around John Muir.

Since the establishment of the John Muir Country Park the area has benefited from active management, although the popularity of the park and increased vehicular access has placed a strain on the environment (path and salt-marsh erosion, disturbance of nesting birds, littering, etc.). The most significant physical change was the clearance of most of the large, concrete cubes – the ‘tank traps’ – and the anti-glider defences (poles protruding from concrete-filled oil drums) erected in the early days of the war. Some remain as a feature, some were recycled as coastal erosion defences at Belhaven Bay, and some stubs of the anti-glider poles are still there.

The J.M.C.P. is managed by East Lothian Council via their ranger service. Named after the farmer, explorer, naturalist, writer and conservationist who was born in Dunbar, the aim of John Muir Country Park is to manage public recreation and conserve the geomorphology, geology and landscape, and to sustain the biodiversity of the area. By 2000, over 370,000 visits were regularly made each year (see also East Lothian Countryside Management and the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service by Neil Clark, county volume).

The park was formed in 1976 and comprises 1667 acres, stretching from west of the Tyne estuary through to Dunbar harbour in the east. Vehicular access was negotiated at several points, mainly Tyninghame links, Linkfield and Belhaven, and the bridges across the Biel Burn (including the ‘bridge to nowhere’ on Belhaven sands) were renovated for pedestrian access.

There has been local concern about the environmental impact of industrial development in the area (see also Economy – industry). The industrial developments in question are the cement works (begun 1961, in production 1963-date) in the parish, and the Torness nuclear power station (begun 1978, commissioned 1988) in next-door Innerwick parish and the waste management site (first proposed 1991, licence granted 1996-date) that straddles the parish boundary (see Innerwick parish).

Cement works’ emissions: despite strenuous efforts, the area near the cement works’ plant has been ‘greyed out’ as dust from the manufacturing process is deposited; there is local concern about the scale of particulate emission from the plant’s chimneys. The number of chimneys at the plant was reduced in 1985, and since then the dust seems less of a problem. Recent experiments (late 1990s-present) to vary the fuelling of the process have prompted concern and debate in the local press. They include combusting rubber tyres (trials from 1998/2000) and solvents (from c1983) – a ‘recycled liquid fuel’ or RCLF which includes ‘non-recoverable everyday materials such as screen wash, paint, resins and brush cleaners’ (Dunbar Works Brochure – Internet Edition).

Impact on tourism: the stretch of coast from White Sands to beyond Barns Ness is now less accessible from Dunbar than hitherto and consequently less used. As the quarry is extended, a new coastal road (open 2003) is to connect from Broxmouth to this area, which may lead to its revitalisation. A new caravan site is proposed at Sloebigging (2004/5).

On a wider front, the construction of Torness nuclear power station to the east of the parish was a significant local event prompting many environmental concerns. Several groups (Parents against Torness, the Torness Alliance, and local branches of SCRAM (the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace)) were formed at the inquiry stage (late 1970s) and persisted throughout the construction (early 1980s). Margaret Thatcher opened Torness on 13 May 1989. The campaign against the station was dominated by a younger, more articulate and, it has to be said, non-native element: older residents were more concerned about social (a large temporary worker population) and economic effects. At least one local trader was able to retire early on the back of a period of good business; certainly many more had a period of prosperity.

The waste site (initially under Haulwaste, then Viridor Waste Management Ltd.) brought more immediate health and safety concerns to the fore. There was much debate over how the waste would be transported. The use of rail was preferred over road, and bulk waste was sent by special train to the cement works siding. Nevertheless, on occasion it has proved necessary to move waste by lorry; the quantities involved make this an immense task.


In the countryside, greater efforts are being made to maintain hedges, although this varies from landowner to landowner and is mostly accomplished by mechanical cutting rather than traditional methods. Similarly, grass verges, which were still being cut by scythe in the 1960s, became the source of complaints in the 1970s and 1980s and are at present managed by mechanically cutting that portion nearest the roadway and around signs (to the benefit of roadside wildlife).

The watercourses in the burgh are all now utilised by farmers for major water abstraction (there is a new dam and header-tank within Oswald (Ossie) Dean glen, for example) for irrigation purposes (particularly potatoes).

In the burgh and the villages change has been bound up with development. In West Barns, industrial buildings were demolished and part of the land used to create a public space. The impression of the remaining green spaces within Belhaven-Dunbar is of a highly managed landscape and construction has removed such pockets of disused, wild, or farmland as formerly existed. The exception being the old gasworks site between the grammar school and Doon Avenue; since its closure c1960, contamination has remained a problem here with the result that a significant part of the centre of the town lies derelict and unusable – fenced off, yet irresistible to children. Many of the larger gardens and green spaces in the burgh have been sacrificed to housing or other changes of use. For example, by the building of the primary school and the creation of Dunbar United’s Countess Park football field (itself gone by 2000) Cowan’s Park has contracted from a wide, open green space to a mere fragment; the remaining part (mainly the old bleachingfield) is now hardly sufficient to accommodate the shows that visit a few times every year.

The site of Belhaven Loch is still an open grassy space, dissecting the ‘tree scheme’; both new schools have large playing fields on what was once the common farmland of the burgh and Lauderdale gardens (formerly the walled garden of Lauderdale House) have been transformed into an urban park with bowling green (and clubhouse) and children’s area. At the height of the town’s resort days Lauderdale had ‘crazy golf’ and a conventional putting green; these closed during the 1970s. The site was revamped in 1984 and at the end of the period there was planned a major investment to create an improved garden, child-friendly play spaces, and a new access. The Jubilee Gate gave access to Parsonspool, providing greater access to the gardens by the community.

Castle Park was transformed in the period 1986-92 as first the demolition of the Barracks was followed by three seasons of archaeology (1988-90), then the building of the new leisure pool and associated car parking. Many of the ancillary structures (garages, etc) came down in stages from the 1960s. A lawn area was created between the pool and the refurbished Lauderdale House – complete with David Annand’s Lady with Swan sculpture.

Land Ownership

In 1945, much of the landward sector of the parish was still owned by a handful of individuals most of whose families were long-established in the area. These included: the Duke of Roxburghe (Brunt, Little Pinkerton, and East and West Meikle Pinkerton, Broxmouth, Oxwellmains); Lord Bruntisfield of Boroughmuir (Sir Victor A.G.A. Warrender Bt) (Eweford, Lochend, Hallhill and Cowhill, part of Goldenstones and Latchpark, part of West Barns Mains, Newtonlees and Chesterhall, Broxburn) – the estate was disentailed (1946) and some farms were sold – by the time of the 1946/47 valuation roll, Alex Tweedie owned Lochend, Hallhill and Cowhill and Eweford. Major James Hay (Belton, South Belton, Old Belton); the trustees of the Earl of Haddington on behalf of Lady Binning (Hedderwickhill and Tynefield); part of Biel estate lies in the parish, owned by Lt Col Nisbet Hamilton Grant of Kilgraston (North Belton, Hedderwick, Howmuir, Ninewar, part of Beesknowe); James Hope (East Barns and Barneyhill); Georgia Black (Newhouse farm – part of); Sholto Millar (Ashfield market garden); the British Malt Products Company Ltd. (large parts of West Barns); John Rennie (West Barns farm); the London & North Eastern Railway Company owned land around the railway.

By 2000, most of the farms were owner-occupied, including those previously owned by the Duke of Roxburghe. Many of the first owners were the 1945 tenants or their families; some farms had been sold a number of times – but by 2000 there were still Cunninghams at Hedderwick, Rennies at South Belton, and Robertsons at North Belton (see Economy – agriculture).

Biel estate owner Lt Col Nisbet Hamilton Grant died in 1950; Biel then passed to his relative, Vice-Admiral Basil Brooke, and in 1958 he sold the estate to Charles Spence (Hedderwick, Howmuir and Tynefield tenant in 1945). The Spence family still owned Biel in 2000, having bought the estate after some tenants had already bought their farms (Hedderwick and North Belton).

The exceptions were those that comprised the land sold in 1960 to Associated Portland Cement Manufactures Ltd. James Hope sold them Barneyhill and East Barns, staying on at the latter until the last minute. The Duke of Roxburghe sold A.P.C.M. Ltd. Oxwellmains and Broxmouth estate, excepting Broxmouth mansion house and seven acres of its policies, which were acquired by Robert Hope. The mansion house passed through a number of owners (see Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction).

As a result, by 2000, Lafarge (formerly Blue Circle and before that, A.P.C.M. Ltd.) and the local authority were probably the largest landowners in the parish.

The number of operational farms has decreased due to the absorption of farmland for residential, commercial and industrial use and those that remain are predominantly owner-occupier or ‘led farms’ – that is farms worked from an adjacent steading, such as Hallhill and Newtonlees, both now run from Eweford. As elsewhere in the county, several steadings have been rendered surplus to contemporary requirements. On the survivors, equipment parks spread and large barns and sheds now dwarf the earlier buildings.

Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Parts of Belhaven (1969) and Dunbar (1969, extended 1979) are designated Conservation Areas, and the parish is rich in buildings of interest, many of which are listed. The burgh alone has at least seven at grade A – the 13th century belfry at Friar’s Croft; the courtyard through 71-75 High Street; the Town House (tolbooth) – late 16th century and early 17th; New Inn at 34 High Street (Alexander Ponton 1788-91); 56-60 High Street (1743); Lauderdale House (1735, extended 1792-4); and the Gothic revival parish church (1819-21). In 2000, around twelve buildings in the parish were on the Scottish Civic Trust’s Buildings at Risk register, which was set up in 1990, most significantly the fire-damaged shell of the Bellevue Hotel.

A more recent building but still of great interest is The Priory, High Street, Abbeylands, one of a group of three buildings built to a high quality. It is B listed, built by J Jerdan and son 1910 with a buttressed terrace wall,1913 also by J Jerdan and son. A conservatory was added in 1912. The Bield, also B listed, was built by J Jerdan and son,1911. The third building is The gardener’s cottage [now called Priory cottage]. These three buildings, forming a unit, were commissioned by David L Bowe, potato merchant, with the Bield as a home for his mother. The sense of unity they must have had was destroyed by the unsympathetic intrusion of a large bus garage. This was scheduled for demolition in 2000 but was likely to be replaced by a sheltered housing complex. The site is important as the probable site of the former Carmelite Friary.

Dunbar retains the layout and charm of an early burgh, and many of the shop frontages still adhere to Dunbar’s particular mediaeval burgage plot dimensions (Dennison). Strict planning has prevented the proliferation of illuminated signage. Closes punctuate the High Street and lead into the backlands of the old plots. Many of these are now built on; properties such as Fairbairn’s shop cover almost a whole plot, and extend well to the rear of the site. The problems intrinsic in trying to overlay modern planning requirements on such an old structure are well known to Dunbar. Modernisation has tended to be neglected, with the result that the town has retained numerous old and often charming properties, but these tend to demand specialist attention – and a lot of investment – for any updating to work. This explains the all too visible presence of many rundown buildings in the town, despite many being listed.

In 2000, the major issues for the High Street area would appear to be access issues under disability discrimination legislation (for the remaining public buildings); a need for further restoration of many properties; and car parking.


The stone walls around Dunbar suffered from piercing for housing access (North Road, Belhaven Road). Within the town, a relict part of the town wall was unfortunately allowed to be truncated c1990 (Bamburgh Close) and the Monk’s Walk, which was easily passable for its entire length within living memory, is now inaccessible except for a portion restored to give access to a new supermarket built in the field of Friars Croft. In 1706, Defoe described Dunbar’s walls as ‘in disrepair’.

So, since 1945, the burgh has greatly expanded, with the usual recycling as buildings were demolished, or made redundant. More recently there has been a trend to restoration and renovation, just in time to preserve much of the character of the burgh. Nonetheless, the physical fabric of the town of Dunbar changed considerably during the period.

Of the many buildings that have been lost over the past 50 years – not all of them intentionally – a number were of significance. Several were allowed to lie unoccupied for some years prior to demolition.

The Barracks complex (1913) was redundant by 1958 (Tindall p248); from 1961, it was owned by the county council. Its future was under debate by the town council as early as 1971, and it was used variously as factory (a scampi production business) and club (Air Training Cadets in the Barracks and a boxing club in the basement of Lauderdale House) and other accommodation until the 1980s. Lauderdale House also housed the Doone Art Gallery from 1965-6, a short initiative by two local men. By 1986, the site was attracting interest as a location for a leisure development. The increasingly derelict Barracks complex was demolished at the end of December 1989. This complex included the stables, the gymnasium (Victoria Ballroom – see Leisure), and the guardhouse – known as the Captain’s Cabin. This last building survived the first phase of demolition; a new toilet block replaced it in 1998. Many of the ancillary structures (garages, etc) came down in stages during the 1960s. The hospital block survives as the A.C.F. building.

The wholesale clearance of part of the Shore (facing the Old Harbour) area, through the loss by fire (1985) and subsequent demolition (1987) of Cromwell House (18th century) was regrettable to say the least. Tindall (p66) waxes lyrical about the last kipperer in the town – Craig’s situated in Castle Gate opposite the Volunteer Arms; this was demolished sometime before the second world war. In 1954, the Customs House (established 1710) between the two harbours was demolished. Similarly, the old Writers Court district was lost by demolition and rebuilding in the early 1960s; some stonework was preserved in the gables of the new build.

The old burgh school at Woodbush went in May 1978, and nearby, the Golf Hotel in Church Street (a bank in Georgian times) was destroyed by fire in January 1992) – Lamer Court (houses) replaced it. The Roxburghe Marine Hotel (built as a home for the Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe, and converted shortly thereafter; a company was formed to run the hotel in 1897) was closed (c1985) for several years before being finally demolished in March 1996, the site to be redeveloped for new flats (2002/3).

The Playhouse Cinema (1937 – 84) was demolished in January 1985, to be replaced by a new health centre (opened 1986). The Victorian iron bridge, an entire platform and other fixtures at Dunbar railway station were removed, probably at the same time as electrification of the line and a general upgrade took place in 1989. In 1987, the 1890s interior of the parish church was lost through fire; the building has been restored and rededicated (see Belief).

Changing imperatives in the Health Service had rendered redundant the Old Cottage Hospital (open 1927) in Yorke Lodge. Closed in 1973, it was demolished by 1984, when the first phase of the Lammermuir House civil service benevolent home began in May 1985. A few of the decorative red sandstone carvings from Yorke Lodge survive in the new structures. Dunbar’s famous outdoor Safety Swimming Pond (built in phases through the 1920s and renovated in the early 1960s) was demolished and the site returned to its ‘natural’ state, between January and June 1985, having had its last season in 1982; its replacement – the Dunbar leisure pool – did not open until 1992 (see Leisure).

The past 50 years has probably been the quietest ever period for new construction on the High Street frontage, although there was a phase in the 1950s when many properties were clad in cement rendered as ashlar. Only the former Starks garage (which itself utilised the shell of the old United Presbyterian Church – the Erskine church – which had been sold in 1927) has been demolished (September 1987 – February 1988) and rebuilt as Old Kirk Close (1996). This is a tenement and residential courtyard and pend (see Homes). The only other loss on the High Street was the demolition in the mid 1990s of the Empire Cinema (open 1923-50s) entrance foyer at 44 High Street, leaving a gap site now called Empire Close. There has been considerable development of backlands – mostly for residential use, for example Lawson Court, although this included an industrial unit.

Many more buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair: since a fire in February 1989, the shell (which seems to have shrunk over time) of the lingering, ruined Bellevue Hotel (1896-7, architect James B. Dunn) serves as a reminder of what the town has lost; its fate still awaits resolution.

Having been a popular hotel for town and business folk, rather than the tourist trade, in 1990, the St. George Hotel (a former coaching inn c1625, rebuilt 1828) on the High Street, was empty; it was back in business briefly in the mid 1990s, but thereafter, it closed. Various proposals were forthcoming for conversion into flats, and planning permission was granted in 2000. The building was then gutted, but its interior had long been gone.

On Lamer Street, the ‘Dreadnought‘ – an 18th century maltings, then warehouse, then lodgings, and in 1929 theatre – survived as an enormous red sandstone hulk. Various uses have been proposed – including a visitor centre (1970s), and a hostel for scuba divers (1990s); in 2003, work is in hand to transform it into flats. The maltings adjacent to Custom House Square was redeveloped 1982-5, as housing – the Granary. The Assembly Rooms (1822) on Church Street have not quite gone, but the interior has; the building has been in a state of suspended animation since renovation work ceased in October 1996.

The old Newhouse farm horsemill in Dunbar, renovated in the 1960s and described by Tindall (p166) was by 2000 falling to pieces once more. The Town House (400+ years old) – reconditioned before (the harling being removed) and after world war one (when a new administrative block was built) – has survived the period virtually unscathed, although external erosion is a problem. Running repairs have been maintained as necessary, and it remains one of the key buildings on the High Street.

At the end of the period there were growing concerns expressed about the future of several ‘strategic buildings’ such as the old Abbey Church (1850, Thomas Hamilton) at the southern end of the High Street; the Corn Exchange (1855) which needs refurbishment; and the New Inn, an Adam building – its last role being as a St Andrew’s old folks’ home. Number 86 High Street, an 18th century three-storey tenement with a 17th century block to the rear is classed as ‘at risk’. One redundant building that is a success story is Lauderdale (previously Dunbar) House (see Homes).

The earlier half of the period is marked by new-build on greenfield sites and comprehensive clearance on brown-field sites (like the Writers’ Court area). Moving into the 1970s the chance of reinstatement increased, and by the 1990s, reinstatement seemed to be the preferred option (excepting where conditions or accident made this prohibitively expensive for the contractor).

This reinstatement of redundant buildings and the consequent regeneration of many of the older parts of Dunbar is one of the underlying themes of the past 50 years. Changes in legislation, the implementation of a coherent planning policy, and a growing awareness of the built landscape as living heritage have all had an effect on the architectural changes in the town.

The Dunbar Initiative (first meeting 1 November 1986) supported this reinstatement policy. With the aim of regeneration, this was a joint project with Lothian Regional Council, East Lothian District Council and Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd. (LEEL). It was an improvement and development scheme for co-ordinating public and private investment, in business and residential properties, and in environmental matters and was initially proposed by E.L.D.C. when

‘it was realised that Dunbar was in a steep downward spiral as a holiday resort, in spite of its fine sandy beach, historic attractions and record as one of Scotland’s sunniest spots’ (unspecified newspaper report 1987)

The comment by Sir Charles Fraser, then chairman of LEEL, at the presentation of the £4.5million cheque to the East Lothian Community Development Trust (manager of the pool project), has a certain irony when read in 2000:

‘the whole fabric of the town was becoming run down, but the last thing that was wanted was for it to become a commuter centre for people working in Edinburgh 29 miles away.’

The Dunbar Initiative office was inserted into the old public waiting room building (which housed the library at the start of the period) on the High Street where another part became a Tourist Information Office (the loss of the waiting room was much regretted by the remnants of the day trip trade).

The scheme provided immense investment and regeneration in the town. It also supported such projects as the new pool, and improvements to the harbour area, and the Bleachingfield.

It made available substantial sums directed towards the regeneration of the town core, mirroring the Town Improvement Scheme of the 1950s and the ‘slum clearances’ of the 1920s. Over the run of the Dunbar Town Scheme (part of the Initiative) many buildings received attention – with twelve in 1995/6. The scheme offered grants of up to 50% to a maximum of £10,000 – window restoration, facelifts and shop signage were amongst grant winners. Thus, in some respects the successive ‘initiatives’ and ‘schemes’ suggest that a 35-year cycle of support might be essential to maintain the ever-aging fabric of the High Street and older parts of the town.

In September 1999, the Dunbar Initiative won a Best Practice Award from the British Urban Regeneration Association for its work to ‘improve the local economy and the fabric of the town centre, and for bringing forward projects from housing, business development and tourism to property development and the Splash Leisure Pool’ (East Lothian Courier annual retrospective 1999)

Other ventures were private but often aided by specific grants. Often this was a process of discovery that shed new light on buildings and their history. Examples include John Muir House which was redeveloped c1980, and again planned (2001); numbers 56-60 High Street when a date stone was discovered in the eaves (reading 1743); and the building known as Bamburgh Castle (with its double barrel-vaulted cellarage) redeveloped in 1992. Other reinstatement came about as a condition of planning consent for other work; when in 1986, a new supermarket was built in Friars Croft, the stabilisation and re-pointing of the 13th century friary belfry (converted into a doocot in the 16th century) in Friars Croft and of the north end of the Monk’s Walk were part of the planning approval. The major new buildings of merit are the leisure pool and Lammermuir House. The pool was designed by the Glasgow office of Building Design Partnership (B.D.P) and was officially opened on 8 September 1992 by John Smith MP. Its dramatic roof dominates the harbour area and has provided the town with a new landmark building; it failed initially to cater adequately for disabled users, and this situation took until December 1995 to remedy. The work was carried out partly as a result of the generous bequest of Molly Keith.

On the East Links, H.M. the Queen formally opened Lammermuir House, designed by Campbell & Arnott for the Civil Service Benevolent Fund in their centenary year, on 30 July 1986.

Belhaven has now all but melded to the burgh. It remains a pretty village, with a number of pale pastel coloured houses, many of which are listed, along Shore Street and North Road. However, the only A listed property in Belhaven is the Belhaven Brewery and associated buildings. Belhaven House is set in a 2ha (5 acre) garden in the village. In the 1930s, this was a garden containing a selection of interesting plants, many tender; like all gardens, it was vulnerable. The earlier plant collection had largely gone by the time Sir George Taylor (1904-93, botanist and plant collector) moved there in 1970. For 21 years (1970-91), he ran the garden under the auspices of the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, of which he was director, after the Trust purchased the house and garden in 1970 from Sir Thomas Waterlow Bt. Sir George Taylor was a botanist and plant collector of renown, collecting in Africa, Nepal and Bhutan, and Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1956-71. In 1984 he was awarded the Scottish Horticultural Medal by the Royal Caledonian Society of Horticulture; he was also involved in the new 17th century-style garden at St Mary’s Pleasance, Haddington (1973-75).

Belhaven House was recorded by the SNH / HS Inventory as being of outstanding value as a work of art, and as an horticultural collection. In 1986, the garden was described ‘… in all it is a fascinating garden, containing a treasure trove of plants from all over the world’ (SNH (1997) p21). In 1991, the Taylors retired (Sir George died 13 November 1993) and Belhaven House became the home of Mr and Mrs Mark Tyndall.

West Barns was until the 1970s a settlement with industries; it is now primarily a residential village. To its inhabitants, West Barns village is most adamantly not part of Dunbar.

The ten-acre Bielside estate was created in 1890. It was eventually broken up and sold, with Bielside House (original 1866, extension by R. Rowand Anderson) itself being sold in the 1990s, and left empty.

In 1946/7 and again in the 1970s the West Barns maltings were destroyed by fire. Associated British Malt Products (who had purchased it from Dudgeon and Company) sold the site to East Lothian County Council in 1972, and the three tall chimneys of the maltings, and the remains of the old flourmill were then demolished. The 18th century mill became the early 19th century distillery, subsequently Dudgeon’s maltings (late 19th century); Dudgeon sold to A.B.M.P. and they malted barley but produced malt extract, a molasses-like sticky liquid – hence ‘refinery’.

One maltings site is now the site of Hughes’ lorry park. Another is now a car park; the mill lade that supplied the water of the big water wheels is filled in, although its retaining walls survive. The rest is grassed over and trees planted; the war memorial was installed here in 2000.

In the wider parish

Several striking farm buildings adorn the rural scene. The 18th century steading at Hallhill (NOT the new area of housing development which has confusingly been given the same name) is an excellent example of a steading converted to housing in the late 1980s; the steading engine house red square chimney has been retained as a feature and the doocot has been incorporated into the whole. Dunnett’s 1968 review flagged up a number of farm buildings of interest; these included the cart and granary sheds at Newtonlees, South and North Belton, the Brunt, Eweford, Hedderwick, and the horse mills at Hedderwickhill farm and at Howmuir, where there is also a red brick chimney.

Other unspecified buildings of note were listed at the Pinkertons. As Dunnett’s review took place before the development of the cement works, he noted unspecified features at Oxwellmains and Barneyhill (now gone). At East Barns, the cart (1847) and granary sheds, and the red chimney Dunnett flagged up are now on the Buildings at Risk register together with the late 18th century Grieve’s House at East Barns village. As the quarry workings entered the next phase, these buildings were all to be demolished. Later, it was proposed that the buildings could be re-erected elsewhere; by 2003 this seemed increasingly unlikely to happen.

Two mansion houses were demolished; Belton in 1967, and Hedderwick House (18th century) in 1961. Belton was originally a mediaeval peel tower, extended at various times and finally in 1865; Belton came into the possession of the Hay family in 1486, when he married Elizabeth Cuningham, heiress of the Cunninghams of Belton. In 1967, Belton had been derelict and roofless for some 15 years, following the death of Major Hay. The property passed to a relative in the south of England, and was sold with Belton Farm.

In the 18th century, Hedderwick House was the home of General Handyman, then home of James Hamilton of Ninewar. It then became the property of the Earl of Haddington, who leased it to St Clair Cunningham. By the early 1960s, faced with the demands of three properties – Mellerstain, Berwickshire and Tyninghame – the Earl of Haddington decided Hedderwick had to go.

Lochend House (a William Burn (1826) replacement for the original) had been a much earlier casualty, after it was burned down in 1859. The original mansion was early 17th century, with a magnificent gateway arch dated 1684. Heritage concerns were raised in the spring of 1996 when it was realised that the A listed stone arch, a fragment of the earlier mansion at Lochend, had appeared built into the courtyard of Leithen Lodge near Peebles. It was removed without planning or Historic Scotland consent. The responsible party was ‘Castle of Scotland Preservation Trust’. This unsatisfactory situation appeared to have no resolution as Historic Scotland simply re-listed it in its new location!

At the end of the war, one of the Duke of Roxburghe’s several properties, Broxmouth House (built c1774, probably by James Nisbet), was in need of a lot of attention. By 1951, the 9th Duke of Roxburghe was seeking a divorce; his first marriage was dissolved in 1953 and the Duke remarried. The interests of the cement industry and the Duke happily coincided, with the result that the estate was sold in 1960, mostly to A.P.C.M. Ltd. Robert Hope acquired Broxmouth mansion house and seven acres of its policies; he built a wooden house nearby, and the mansion house passed through a number of owners. In 1966, it was bought by Sir John Kennedy, who extensively renovated the house; G. & T. MacGregor Ltd. in 1970; John McGlashan in 1974/5; Robert Eggo in 1978. Broxmouth House was latterly owned by Blue Circle Property Division. It has recently been sold (2001) to a Mr Dunham.

The house’s associated parkland is of great importance as a designed landscape; by 2000, the landscape was at risk from development – its value seemingly unacknowledged by the many recent owners.

Broxmouth Park is an 18th century landscape garden, largely neglected and under-valued in the latter years of the 20th century; from 1960 it was owned by A.C.P.M. Ltd., with seven acres of policies sold separately with the mansion house. In landscape terms the whole site should be viewed as a single entity. The value of Broxmouth Park today is due to the inspired work of John, 1st Duke of Roxburghe. The nine cascades and bridges, the South Lodge and gateway were attributed to William Adam, pre-1743. The 3rd Duke (1740-1804) added to both the house, and the landscape, adding the lake to the north-east. The walled garden is 18th century, with 19th century additions – mostly associated with fruit growing – and potting sheds and bothies of about the same period. Other buildings in the landscape include the Sea Lodge and Observatory, also known as the Sloebigging Tower, built in 1850.

The estate is enclosed by high rubble walls; these are higher round the enclosed Deer Park.

In 1939, Dunbar Golf Club demolished buildings near the 18th century vaults – used at the end of the period as a mower store. Fishing families from the Vaults (and other places) moved to new housing at Victoria Harbour. A small cemetery, together with a lodge (1950s), lies at the south-eastern corner of the deer park. To the north-east, the landscape has been intruded upon by quarrying activities, and the park is sandwiched between this and the ever-growing town of Dunbar. In the modern era much of the garden was laid to lawn. The gardens and policies are not open to the public. Broxmouth Park was the subject of a Local Plan (PL1) in April 1999.

The SNH/HS Inventory (published 2001) recorded the park as being outstanding in many respects: as a work of art; for its historical, archaeological and architectural worth; for its scenic value, and in its value for nature conservation. The park had several narrow escapes from housing and development proposals in the 1990s. Blue Circle’s revamped plans for Broxmouth were announced in October 1996. The planning application proposed 200 homes on Deer Park and a public country park centred on Broxmouth Houses and grounds, with craft shops, garden centre and other tourism-related developments, thus shifting the emphasis of the original plans submitted in 1990, which had included a golf course, golf academy, hotel and 150 homes.

In 2000, it was reported that the Deer Park and Broxmouth Park might be sold by Blue Circle in an effort to ‘counter a takeover bid by Lafarge’ (East Lothian Courier 2000 July 14). The proposals for housing development around the Deer Park cemetery were turned down as the council favoured housing expansion at the Lochend site.

In summer 2001, a Public Inquiry was held to hear an appeal from Blue Circle against the council’s decision not to grant planning permission for houses round the Deer Park cemetery. The Garden History Society of Scotland submitted evidence to the Inquiry, using newly discovered estate plans to support the case against Blue Circle.