Haddington | Homes

Standards of living | Shops & Services

Housing developments continued apace to accommodate the increasing population. Council housing built post-war included the later part of Briery Bank (Crudens 1947); Lynn Lea Avenue and Herdmanflatt (both c1947).

We moved from a temporary house in Longformacus which had no gas or electricity – we used Calor gas and paraffin lights.

The house was a prefab, which had been built immediately after war at Herdmanflatt. We moved in February 1954 and found it an excellent house. The front hall had space for a large coach-built Silver Cross pram – there was a cupboard for the Hoover and a linen cupboard – the heat from the living room fire was ducted through it.

The bathroom, a separate toilet and two bedrooms were off the hall. The front bedroom took a full bedroom suite. The bedside table had lamp and alarm clock. The dressing table had two small and one large hand embroidered doilies. Brush and comb set. There was also a fitted wardrobe. The back bedroom was a bit smaller but took two single beds, there was a bedside table with a lamp, and one wall had fitted cupboards.

The living room was big enough to take a three-piece suite and dining room suite. We also had one of the latest radiograms, which took ten records so we didn’t have to keep getting up to put on a new one. My father-in-law thought it was a lazy way to play records. A lamp stood on that as it was beside the fire. We had a record cabinet at the other side – with a lamp on it.

There was a wooden clock – mahogany I think – on the sideboard. It had Westminster chimes. Every 15 minutes thought this was great till listening to a play on the wireless. They were silenced from then on. We took the door off the shelved cupboard and had it as a bookcase. The drawers underneath had the children’s clothes. The large window cornered round to the side wall. The coal fire had doors like a small stove. By the time we moved in quite a few of the tenants had put in tiled fireplaces.

The kitchen was quite big, with a cooker, boiler (gas), tub and sink and of all things a small fridge all along one wall. I got my first washing machine next year and it took the place of the boiler (Hoover with power wringer – it cost all of £42). The back door opened outwards which also gave more room.

We had one fairly big cupboard and another with shelves. There was room for table and chairs – table was the first of the Formica topped ones bought in PT’s (Patrick Thomson’s – on the Bridges, Edinburgh). The stove was gas.

Mrs Alice Nisbet lived at Herdmanflatt, 1954-9, with her husband and two children

More houses were built at Princess Mary Road (1950-51); Fortune Avenue, Riverside Drive, Traprain Terrace, Hope Park (1956-57); Artillery Park (1958); Lydgait, Peachdales, Dunpender Drive, Seggarsdean, St Martin’s Court, Monkmains Road, Tyne Court (1975-76). The right to buy legislation severely depleted the council’s housing stock and made it virtually impossible to build new council houses.

The shortage of rented accommodation and the increasing length of the housing waiting lists have been alleviated to some extent by new housing constructed by Housing Associations. The Gourlaybank development was built in 1958 on ‘shared ownership’ basis by the Adam Housing Society. The houses are now mainly in private ownership. The Butts (1964) was also developed in cooperation with the Bield Housing Association.

The Butts, 1999

This was sheltered housing. There was one bedroom, a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. This had a low bath. There was gas central heating.

Joyce Walton

In more recent times it was realized that the way to increase the number of houses available for rent, without the right to buy, was to channel funds into housing associations. East Lothian Council has acted as a strategic fundholder to make these developments possible while continuing to act as landlord. The East Lothian Housing Association, in operation since 1988, had 148 houses including 91 transferred from original council stock. Homes for Life have 30 houses. Recent projects built by housing associations include the four-storey block in Hardgate on the site of the old cinema, flats in Davidson Terrace, which replaced the small parade of shops, flats in Market Street on the former bomb site, and Kennedy Court.


Langriggs, Haddington, 1967

Private housing development has made even more impact from the 1960s. One of the first ‘speculative’ developments was in the Burnside/Clerkington/Fairway area at the west end of the town. Another substantial estate was built at Somnerfield/St Lawrence. Smaller developments followed at Giffordgate, Mill Wynd, Templedean Park, Dunollie Gardens, Brewery Court, Millfield, Lennox Milne Court, Dunbar Road, Tyne Close, Lydgait Gardens and Sidegate Mews, with larger estates at Acredales, Wellside, Long Cram and Dobson’s Walk to the south of the Pencaitland Road. Other smaller building projects followed, such as Amisfield Park, and Alderston Road (Cala). More recent, larger-scale developments were built at Gateside and Alderston Meadow. There is constant pressure on the planning department to release land for housing. There is a controversial application to build houses below Briery Bank, which would affect the historic landscape around St Mary’s, and increase the traffic congestion in Sidegate. The large field to the south of the West Road, between Park Lane and Letham Drive, had been acquired for house building but planning applications have been turned down to date.

Other recollections of homes in the parish

Chalybeate, 1990s

This was new private housing built in the 1980s – [xxx] rubbish. It was an end of terrace house, with back and front door. There were two bedrooms, a living room, a fitted kitchen-dining room, and bathroom with shower/bath. There was white meter heating and cooking. There was a garden, and a separate lock-up garage. We double-glazed it in 1992.

Joyce Walton (the xxx denotes the name of a well-known building firm)

Carlyle Court retirement flat, 1990s

This is a small development of 24 private retirement flats near the town centre. I have a new first floor flat in a block of four. I have my own front door. There are two bedrooms (each with a fitted wardrobe) a living room, fitted kitchen, and bathroom with shower/bath. There is a large cupboard in the hall. Heating is all electric storage heating. There is a resident’s car park, and communal gardens (paid for by residents).

Cliffie Brown

Standards of living – recollections

After the war, rationing applied not only to foodstuffs, but to furnishings as well. Nessie Gell kept a copy of this furnishing plan from a magazine in 1945, the year she was married.

Furnishings – utility furnishing plan for a three-roomed flat (maximum allowance 60 units)
Price Units
Living room £. S. D.
Sideboard 10. 7. 0. 8
Dining Table 5. 15. 3. 6
Dining Chairs (4) 5. 2. 0. 4
Fireside Chairs (2) (dark or light oak) 4. 18. 0. 10
(oak/ mahogany) bedstead (4ft 6in) 4. 7. 3. 5
Wardrobe (4ft) 15. 16. 9. 12
Dressing Chest 9. 15. 9. 8
Table 3. 8. 6. 6
Chair 14. 3. 1
60. 4. 6 60
 Curtains – 15 yards of 36 inch curtain material is allowed coupon free on Priority Docket.Floor Covering – 1 Priority Docket is the most you can get that allows 20sq yards of linoleum or felt base. No utility carpets.

Members of the Haddington Remembered Group recalled the following:

On clothing and personal care in the 1950s

Hats were worn by everybody. Ladies would never think of entering church bareheaded. Going to town (Edinburgh), one dressed in one’s best with hat and gloves summer and winter (white gloves in summer). Hats were mostly velour in winter and straw in summer. Berets were popular (girls and ladies), men wore flat caps (tweed), felt hats, and bowlers for dress occasions. Girls wore pixie hoods and berets, and some schools had regulation hats with school badge. Boys had school caps also with a school badge, in winter wore knitted balaclavas. Ladies also wore headscarves, sometimes tied turban wise and covering curlers. Shoes, peep-toe and platform, were the smart wear, wooden wedge heels, mules and strappy sandals. For dress occasions stiletto heels were worn – they were very high and spindly which marked lino and wood floors. Boots were worn in winter – high fashion was ‘Morland’ – suede and fur lined, sometimes knee high and heavy (expensive).

Shoes and boots were repaired regularly. They were still usually leather but man-made fibre was coming in.

For summer and evening, petticoats were often starched net. Fully-fashioned stockings were for best as they were considerably dearer. These were sometimes pure silk, later nylon.

Housewives wore overalls or pinnies of various styles for housework usually changing after most of the work was finished. Then a small decorative pinny protected the front of your dress when you did the afternoon cooking and washing up.

At school girls wore gymslips – and white blouses and cardigan or blazer. Gymslips were navy fine serge, pinafore dress style with three box pleats back and front and a girdle of navy blue or school colours. Pleated skirts or kilts and jerseys were worn a lot at other times, lisle stockings or wool socks. Plain black shoes – were often Clark sandals or Startrite.

Boys did not wear long trousers until they reached their 14th birthday, until then usually it was grey shorts (knee length), jackets or blazers, flannel or cotton shirts. Wool socks were worn with plain shoes or boots. Hand knitting was very popular (jumpers, cardigans and socks). Home dressmakers made ladies’ and girls’ dresses cheaply from remnants.

Working men wore flannel shirts, three-piece suits (with waistcoat), and a double-breasted jacket. Grey flannel trousers and blazer was the smart younger casual wear often worn with a pullover sometimes Fair Isle. Tweed sport jackets were popular too. Overcoats (full length) were tweed or heavy Wilton.

For bed, men wore striped winceyette pyjamas, ladies long winceyette nighties or pyjamas and in summer cotton. Nylon was very popular for a while for underwear, nightwear, bed sheets and blouses.


Slip and pant sets – French knickers – some ladies still wore pants with varying lengths of legs, some still with elastic round the leg hem. Corsets were of varying styles and support. Suspender belts, roll ons – all in one, all stretch or sometimes with hooks or zips at the side or up front. Strong boning was not so popular. Playtex introduced an all-rubber roll-on (torture). Bras were not very good fitting – the cup sizes still had to come. Vests were still worn, in winter wool or interlock, summer lighter interlock or airtex. Children wore liberty bodices; these could be made by ‘Chileprufe’ but sometimes were made of fleecy backed cotton.

Men’s underwear – most wore long johns, wool or heavy interlock in the winter – lighter interlock long johns or shorter pants in summer. Vests usually matched.


Children’s hair was often worn with a fringe. Girls often had plaits.

Most ladies had short hair, usually permed. Perms usually took between 3-4 hours – heated curlers were used – they were slipped to an electrically heated machine then clipped on to your hair. You ended up with railway line waves and tight sausage curls. If you tried to wash your hair at home you ended up with frizz – it was best to go and get a shampoo and set. Shampoos were limited. Amami – comes to mind – no conditioners – henna colouring and peroxide blondes. Home perms came in but were very messy to use and unless you were very adept you could end up with a frizzy mop. Hair nets were in use – fine ones worn in day time and a thicker one at night. Hair was sometimes worn in a long ‘page boy’ (hair turned under all the way round). If you could not afford a perm – a band was fixed round your head then you tucked your hair into it forming a roll.


Deodorants were not used much. We put on cold cream at night.

Make-up was usually vanishing cream, face powder, rouge, lipstick sometimes mascara.

Scents were – ‘Soir de Paris’ – ‘Californian Poppy’.

Shops & Services

Food & drink | Meals and mealtimes | Co-op | Farmers’ Market

Town centre shopping has changed dramatically since 1945, for though the population has almost doubled, agricultural workers and those in local factories have been largely replaced by commuters to Edinburgh and elsewhere, while the coming of supermarkets has adversely affected smaller local shops. The first supermarket in Haddington was Laws (of Gateshead), opened in 1982, in the former premises of William Dods & Son, Seedsmen that Laws had purchased in 1976. Taken over by Wm Low of Dundee in the mid 1980s, a new store was built in 1992, and taken over by Tesco in September 1994. The building was later expanded further. Tesco now presents the local stores with competition from a wider choice, tempting ‘special offers’ and virtual one-stop shopping, and pulls in shoppers from across the county. Home freezers have also made less frequent shopping possible.

Members of the Haddington Remembered Group recall

Food & drink, 1990-2000

There was less home-produced food. Although vegetables were still grown in private gardens, this was probably less so than in years past. Fruit trees in gardens [meant that] jams or chutneys were still made especially for church fetes, sales etc. Rabbits were less popular since myxomatosis in the 1960s, and very few people now keep their own poultry.

With the advent of Tesco in Haddington families will do a large weekly shop – or even monthly, but older couples or single shoppers may call in everyday, meet friends, have a coffee and chat etc., most of the shoppers have a car.

Supermarkets are the main shopping outlets as there is choice of products; car parking and the whole family shop can be done in one go. Most families have a fridge-freezer and food can be stocked up instead of having to buy a loaf, for example, every day.

Meals and mealtimes

More and more meals now are eaten watching the TV. Less formal meals sitting round the table and holding a conversation. Food is eaten in the street, as there are so many takeaways and fast food outlets. Schoolchildren are allowed out of school at lunchtime and eat chips, hamburgers etc in the street, and drink fizzy drinks.

Very few people have a full cooked breakfast and may have cereal and toast but older people still seem to have porridge. With the advent of foreign holidays, Italian, Chinese, Indian and other ethnic foods are popular although there are still queues at the fish & chip shops.

Most women now have a job and the children can come home from school, see what is in the fridge or freezer and put whatever it is into the microwave. Also more men are into cooking than in previous generations. Dishwashers have become more widely used towards the end of the 1990s.

The established local food shops have closed one by one, until not one of the ten grocers recorded in the Third Statistical Account of 1953 remains. The small supermarket, Kwiksave, in the Nungate has not proved a serious rival to Tesco. There is no delicatessen at the end of 2000, but a new one will be opening soon. Only one greengrocer out of five has survived. The sole remaining butcher gets his meat largely from local farms, makes some of his meat products in-house, and sells game from a local estate in season, with a sideline in sheepskin rugs. The five bakeries in the town in 1945 have been replaced by three, of which two are branches of East Lothian firms, while the other is based in the north of England. There are two fish shops in the High Street, but no dairy remains. There is one confectioner, and a shop selling grains and oriental ingredients. Takeaway food used to be the prerogative of the two fish and chip shops, but the choice is now much wider. Many other outlets, such as bakers and cafes cater for the lunch-time market of office workers and school pupils – the latter tending to eat al fresco, the discarded packaging contributing to the litter problem in the town centre. Two wine shops compete with the wide selection offered by Tesco, and Kwiksave’s smaller range.

The Co-operative Society, once prominent and extensive, is no longer represented. Haberdashery, drapery, ladies’ fashions, ironmongery, furniture and carpets all went quickly. The baker, butcher and grocer retreated to new, custom-fitted premises in Market Street; decline slowed, and the East Lothian Co-operative Society was absorbed by the Borders movement, but the premises were closed in the 1990s. Craig’s shop in the High Street sells furniture, furnishings and carpets, while drapery is also available at another High Street shop, and at Mackays. A mill shop has opened recently, but the goods are not produced in Haddington, unlike the goods from the former mill shops of Kilspindie and the West Mills. There is also a wool shop catering for knitters, and a small shop selling sewing materials.

Co-operative grocery store, 
 Market Street, 

Co-operative grocery store, Market Street, Haddington

Meals are provided by the six hotels and six public houses; there are restaurants at the Waterside and Poldrate, and for earlier diners an Italian restaurant in High Street and a bistro in Newton Port. There are also an Indian and a Chinese restaurant. Two cafes are to be found in the High Street, and another forms part of the Peter Potter Gallery at the Sands. Bed and Breakfast is available both in the town and in at least one farmhouse outwith it. Brown’s Hotel, in the West Road, caters for the top end of the market.

A Farmers’ Market is held monthly, having begun in 2000, and there is a market held once a year during the Haddington Festival. Main the saddler in the High Street has been long in this trade, and continues to provide for the needs of riders, and other sporting pursuits, as well as ironmongery, DIY equipment and outdoor clothing. At the other end of the town is a hardware and household goods shop, while in Market Street another shop sells china and cookware of high quality, including Haddington souvenirs of their own design. Several shops selling small antiques and bric-a-brac have come and gone over the years; at present there is one in the High Street: while Leslie and Leslie, auctioneers, valuers and removers, hold sales, as in 1945, at their premises in Kilpair Street, and have a shop and offices there. There is a shop selling bathrooms and accessories, and another deals in fireplaces. In addition to clothing for men, women and children at Mackays, there are two shops selling ladies’ garments, a menswear shop, a highland dress specialist, and a shop specialising in baby and childrenswear, and the hiring of nursery equipment. There are also two shoe shops, one of which has lately opened a special shop for children. Two dry cleaners provide aftercare, and both shoe shops carry out repairs. Five hairdressers have been succeeded by nine businesses caring for feminine self-esteem, and some of these also cater for men’s hairdressing, in addition to one barber. There are three chemists (including a long-standing branch of Boots), three shops dealing in gifts such as toiletries, etc, and one florist. A plant nursery is in Knox Place.

Two newsagents are in the town centre (formerly three, but papers can also be bought at the supermarkets and some ‘convenience’ shops – of which there are four in the suburbs around the town). There is a bookshop in Market Street, and above it a picture gallery specialising in19th and 20th century paintings, offering framing and restoration services, and specialised exhibitions. A print shop also has premises in Market Street. There are two printing businesses, one of them associated with the local paper. Two bookies have premises in the town centre.

The needs of pets are catered for by one shop, and there is also a well-established veterinary practice. Two shops specialise in sports equipment and clothing. TV is available for sale or hire in 2000, and there is a commercial videotape library. A High Street shop provides care for such equipment. There are two watchmakers and jewellers; an optician; and although there is no shop catering for the serious photographer, several sell simple cameras and provide a developing and printing service. One small shop trades mainly in greetings cards and wrapping paper, though these can be obtained from other outlets also.

As in 1945 there are four banks in Haddington, but the British Linen and Commercial have been absorbed into rival banks, to be replaced by the Clydesdale and Lloyds/TSB. The Alliance and Leicester Building Society is in the High Street, while McVies, solicitors, are agents for the Dunfermline Society. There are five firms of solicitors in all, and as many estate agents; also a specialist in insurance.

Although there are many more cars on the roads, facilities for motorists have scarcely increased. Two outlets sell petrol (a reduction of at least two), while these and another dealer service and repair vehicles. This dealer sells cars, new and second-hand, and one of the petrol stations does likewise. One long-established coach works restores cars suffering accident damage, while another specialist deals with electrical systems. A High Street shop sells and repairs bicycles, and there are two travel agents.

Tarmacking in progress, High Street, Haddington, October 1953

Tarmacking in progress, High Street, Haddington, October 1953

Two joinery and glazing businesses, two plumbers, a washing machine repairer, an undertaker and an old established blacksmith are still based in Haddington. Small advertisements in the Courier offer painting and decorating services, and various odd jobs. There are two architects, a security firm, and a specialist in office equipment; another advises on the installation of business systems. The former gas and electricity showrooms have closed; but the post office still occupies its 1905 building in Court Street.

The profile of Haddington’s small businesses and shops has continually changed, especially over the last 20 years of the period. By 2000, unfortunately there are a considerable number of empty premises.

Members of the Haddington Remembered Group remember shops & shopping in the late 1940s:

Laidlaw’s Bakery van went round the country area calling at farm cottages etc, usually twice a week. Their shop premises were situated at Hardgate in Haddington and extended towards the river Tyne. The bakery was situated to the rear of the property. At one time, Laidlaw’s cooked meat joints for a local market stallholder, Tony Moran. Above the shop Laidlaw’s had the well-known tearooms. [These] were capable of catering for wedding receptions. The owners’ living accommodation was above the tearooms where a family of five was raised.

Mathieson’s Bakery was situated at the southwest end of the High Street [on the site] presently occupied by Norman Craig. Again the bakery was situated to the rear of the shop. The restaurant was upstairs and was popular. One lady who had to attend a school orthopaedic clinic remembers on those days being taken to the restaurant and having potatoes, sausage rolls and beans which was a highlight of her day as she had missed her school dinner.

Miss Yorkston who served at the counter was part owner of the shop and was a memorable character with her deep voice and effusive “thank you”.

Other bakeries in the town were:

The East Lothian Co-operative Society – bakery, restaurant and shop in Lodge Street.

McLean’s Bakery Shop – bakery and shop, mid-south side of High Street.

Davidson’s, later Callender, later Swan’s and even later Laird’s. These all occupied the bakery and shop on the north east side of Market Street. The Laird family renovated the property to provide a restaurant.

Main’s Saddler’s shop has been in the Main family for many years and has provided an excellent service to all sections of the community. Prices are always reasonable for all the ironmongery, leather goods, farming and gardening items required by any household. Many farmers will also be grateful for the efficient service they provide. On entering the shop the customer will be met by a cornucopia of all kinds of goods. It is a real Aladdin’s cave. On asking for almost anything you can think of, a member of the family will go straight to the correct shelf for your purchase.

Other long established businesses included:

  • Gardiner’s Chemist – now occupied by Moss.
  • Orr Newsagent – stationer and at one time printers.
  • Paterson’s – newsagent & stationery for many years was owned by and known as Minters.
  • Mirtle – popular sweet shop in High Street is now occupied by Signum, jewellers.
  • Nisbet’s – known as “Nissies” was another popular sweet shop. Situated at the southwest end of Court Street it was ideal for children on their way to and from school.