Limestone was quarried to the south-east of Longniddry until the late 19th century. The water-filled quarries, once a breeding ground for toads and newts, remained until the 1960s when they were used as dumps for domestic refuse by East Lothian County Council, and filled in.
Longniddry lies just outside the East Lothian coalfield; in the 1950s to the end of 1962, a small mine was operated at Glencairn, near Cantyhall, just to the west of the village. The massive Blindwells opencast mine exploited a massive swathe of countryside between Longniddry and Tranent from the 1970s until the end of the century, and latterly approached to within a mile of the south-west corner of the village.
Rainfall is low, the prevailing wind is from the west, and since Longniddry lies not much above sea level, snow does not usually lie long. Snow showers which leave Gladsmuir and Tranent white, often leave Longniddry merely wet.
As far as wildlife is concerned, the most obvious newcomers are collared doves and magpies, which were unknown in 1945 but are now very common in Longniddry. Buzzards now nest in Gosford Estate, and whereas a sighting would have caused great excitement even 20 years ago, they are now frequently seen around Longniddry and even over the village itself. Grey squirrels were unknown in the 1940s and 1950s, but now abound in the woods around Longniddry, and are seen occasionally in gardens. Foxes are seen much more frequently than before in the surrounding countryside, and have been spotted in the village.
Brown hares have declined drastically in the fields around Longniddry.
…they’d have a hare shoot, and they would come from Cantyha’ right along through towards Ballencrieff … and it wasnae unusual for them to shoot two hundred hares. Now I would hazard a guess that you’d be lucky to see two hundred hares in East Lothian!
Partridges have also become much scarcer, and the water hen seems to have disappeared from the local burns.
Many fine old trees around the village have now succumbed to old age. However, two ancient sycamore trees in front of Longniddry Primary School are of note because John Knox is traditionally said to have preached beneath them. Almost all the elm trees in and around the village have fallen victim to Dutch elm disease since the 1970s. However, one near the shops in Links Road so far remains miraculously unaffected.
The foreshore lost most of its wartime concrete blocks in the 1960s, but acquired three large car parks (Tindall, F.P. (1998) pp37-40). The largest, at Ferny Ness (just in Aberlady parish), incorporates a network of permanent and semi-permanent tracks in an area formerly noted for its wildflowers. In the 1960s, East Lothian County Council carried out a programme of work to stabilise the sand dunes and check erosion along the foreshore. Sea buckthorn, marram grass and sea lyme grass were planted with remarkable success.
Apart from these changes to the foreshore itself, a striking change to the view from the beach came with the construction of the monstrous bulk of Cockenzie Power Station across the bay.
Land Ownership (see also Homes)
A century ago the question of ownership of Longniddry was simple – almost everything was owned by the Earl of Wemyss, whose main residence, Gosford House, lies around a mile and a half from the village. Wemyss & March Estates are, in general, very reluctant to sell buildings, preferring to renovate and rent and, with a few exceptions, most of the older property in and around the village is still in their hands. The farmer at Longniddry Farm is a tenant of Wemyss & March Estates, as are the proprietor of the riding stables at Harelaw, the market gardener at Redhouse, and the farmers of Wheatrig and Setonhill.
Other farms in the Longniddry area are Seton East, Seton Mains, Chesterhall, Southfield, Redcoll, the Coats, Harelaw, the Spittal, and Lochhill.
The farmers of Redcoll and Southfield own their farms. Elsewhere the picture is confusing. The Spittal has been divided up among neighbouring farmers, as has much of Lochhill. There is no longer a resident farmer at Seton Mains, Seton East or Chesterhall, and the land is farmed from elsewhere. The land within Gosford policies is let out to various farmers, while the adjacent Harelaw fields are farmed by the estate itself. The steadings at Chesterhall and Seton Mains have been converted into housing. Harelaw steading is now an equestrian centre. Seton East steading has been almost entirely demolished, and the remaining building houses a farm shop.
Virtually no cottagesare now needed for farm workers, so farm cottages have been renovated and either sold or rented out. Thus, for the first time in history, only a tiny minority of the population of the farms in the Longniddry area is actually engaged in farming.
In Longniddry itself however, over the years Gosford Estate has released land for development. A housing scheme for first world war veterans, was built near the station on land acquired from the Wemyss Estates by the Scottish War Veterans’ Association. These were semi-detached and terraced, single and two-storey homes, brick-built and harled and with slate roofs. Land was also acquired by the county council and, between the wars, three streets of council houses were built – Elcho Terrace, John Knox Road and Amisfield Place. By 1945, six streets of private housing had also appeared, ranging from modest bungalows to impressive villas – Links Road, Elcho Road, Seton Road, Douglas Road, Kings Road and Gosford Road.
In the early 1960s the Wemyss Estate began selling feus on 68 acres of land to the west of the village. Meanwhile, the fields on the east side of Longniddry, lying between Wemyss Road and Gosford Road, also filled rapidly with private housing. The building of further council houses ground to a halt in the 1980s.
Until the mid 1960s, a roughly equal balance was maintained in Longniddry between owner-occupied houses, and rented houses. Most of the rented homes belonged to East Lothian County Council, but around 40 belonged to the Scottish War Veterans’ Association and perhaps about a dozen to Wemyss & March Estates. After that, with the advent of massive private building around the village, the balance became heavily weighted in favour of owner-occupation. The arrival of the right-to-buy for council tenants, taken up enthusiastically in Longniddry, skewed the situation even further in favour of private ownership. According to figures supplied by East Lothian Council housing department, council housing stock in 1975 was 189. Although 37 houses have been built since then, at 31 March 2001 council housing stock was only 113. Since 226 council houses have been built in Longniddry, and only 113 remain in council hands, 113 must therefore have been sold. Thus, exactly 50% of former council housing in Longniddry is now owner-occupied.
Townscapes, Buildings, & Landscapes of Distinction
Longniddry has few historic buildings, although several buildings have been awarded B listed status by Historic Scotland. The old village was demolished by a late 18th century ‘improving’ laird. His modest mansion, Longniddry House (B listed), is supposedly 18th century, but its origins are obscure. The West Lodge is Longniddry’s most eye-catching building, and is A listed. This ornate Victorian arch in red sandstone spans the entrance to Gosford policies. Its seemingly mongrel inscription, ‘JE PENSE FORWARD’ is in fact two separate mottos. It is the only part of Gosford that falls within the parish; Gosford House is in Aberlady.
The school (B) is a handsome stone building with a clock tower, completed in 1931, and designed by county architect F.W. Hardy. Much of the stone came from the demolished mansion of Amisfield. A large modern extension was also completed in 1978.
McWilliam (Buildings of Scotland) deems worthy of mention the houses for war veterans in the ‘Garden City’, begun in 1916 (architects Henry and MacLenan); all 18 are B listed. Also noted are the substantial and solid semi-detached council houses in Elcho Terrace (Dick Peddie and Walker Todd 1921). Of the 20th century villa development, two houses in Gosford Road are singled out – ‘Harmony’ (Tarbolton and Ochterlony 1933), and ‘The Cottage’ (Basil Spence c1955); also ‘Eventyre’ at the foot of the Lyars Road (Ian G Lindsay of Orphoot, Whiting and Lindsay 1936), commenting solemnly: ‘Its basic Scots Palladianism is timid but at the same time rather wilful’. Eventyre is B listed.
The cottages in Longniddry Main Street are utilitarian 19th century accommodation for rural working families; (numbers 7-10 are C listed). Number 8 is an 18th century survivor, and probably represents the house and barn of a small tenant farmer. Lorne Cottages are built in a more decorative style with ornamental chimneys. There is a monogrammed date, 1867, on the adjacent steading.
Some local farm steadings have been partially demolished to accommodate modern farm buildings. Others have been converted into housing. At Longniddry Farm the original steading is more or less complete, and it and the farmhouse are B listed. At Harelaw, the farmhouse and cottages have been tastefully restored (again, B listed). The steading, now housing riding stables, is entered under an interesting little tower with a pointed roof, which contains a doocot.
Longniddry Golf Course (1921) was designed by Harry Colt. The clubhouse was built c1929 using stone salvaged from Amisfield.