Innerwick | Environment

Land ownership | Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Of all the county’s parishes, Innerwick is probably the most geologically interesting.

The Lammermuirs are the oldest part of the county…laid down over 450 million years ago in the Silurian and Ordovician periods. They were subject to enormous pressures…material eroded from these hills…and now forms the deep red and purple rocks found south-east of Dunbar and along the northern edge of the hills…natural outcrops [of this sandstone] can be seen along Braidwood Burn. …millions of years followed during which carboniferous shales, coals, ironstone and limestone were laid down…only outcropping at Barns Ness.

…[The countryside around shows many signs of] the fourth and last great Ice Age. During periods of intense cold, 2000 feet of ice covered this area,…ice from the Highlands and Southern Uplands moving slowly down the Forth Valley to meet the ‘mer de glace’ from Scandinavia.

As the ice retreated, torrents of water carved the steep-sided valleys and sand and gravel formed ridges up to 800 feet along the edge of the hills…In its final stages, beds of gravel spread out between Innerwick and the coast; at Whitesands there is a raised beach 25 feet above sea level…marking a former post-glacial sea level.

Innerwick Exhibition

(the original taken from the East Lothian County Council Planning Dept. (nd) Outdoor Education Centre Handbook p3).

The climate is similar to that of the rest of the coastal plain, with a high level of sunshine; there are strong winds from the sea but the prevailing wind is from the west. There is not much snow on the coastal plain but as the ground rises and the terrain becomes more difficult, problems with winter weather increase.

There has been no significant change in the natural history of the area in the period. Rabbits were decimated in the 1950s, but have made a considerable comeback, so much so that their propensity to eat the floral tributes in the Thurston cemetery reached the Scotsman as a matter of ‘grave concern’.

The parish has two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): the steep valleys and diverse habitats of the East Lammermuir Deans (see Economy – Agriculture, Aikengall farm), and the woodland at Woodhall Dean, which is of value for its lichens.

The Outdoor Education Centre Handbook p4 neatly summarises plant life of post Ice Age Innerwick, and what can be seen today.

[As the glaciers of the ice age retreated] The warmer weather was the signal for the return of life to the area. Arctic plants slowly colonised the bare soil and their descendants still survive in some remoter ‘cleughs’. These were succeeded by the more familiar moorland plants – heather, bilberry and crowberry; hardy trees – pine, birch and rowan and finally the broadleaved species – oak, Wych elm (Scots) elm, alder and ash. Most of the woodland has long since been cleared to make way for agricultural or grazing land, but, on the steeper valley slopes, you will find woodland still resembling the ‘primaeval’ wood, an oak and elm ‘canopy’ broken by rowan and birch, blackthorn, elder and hazel scrub and a ground cover of wood rush, bracken and bluebell.

From the late 1970s, the one dramatic change to the environment was the construction of Torness Nuclear Power Station (designed by Howard Lobb); concerns about the safety of the plant and the toxicity of emissions continue in spite of the company’s reassurances.

Land Ownership

The valuation rolls that record land ownership in 1945 show how social change was already affecting this country parish. The post-1918 parish had been largely in the possession of the owners of two great estates; the Biel and Dirleton Estate (which included much of Innerwick) owned by the Nisbet-Hamilton-Ogilvy family, and the Thurston Estate, owned by the Hunter family.

Important changes to the first had already been brought about by the death of Mrs Nisbet-Hamilton-Ogilvy in 1920. The Innerwick part of the estate had consisted of Elmscleugh, Thorntonloch, Crowhill, Skateraw and Innerwick farms, and various other smaller properties. These were sold off and, by 1945, Biel & Dirleton Estate retained only minor properties in the parish like the school and Skateraw lifeboat House (the RNLI owned the station).

Sitting tenants like David Bowe at Skateraw, and Mark T. Simpson at Crowhill had for the most part purchased the farms. David Bowe farmed Skateraw but died in 1953. His widow continued to farm there until her sons Alastair and Michael came of age; Alastair, the elder son, joined the army and Michael farmed at Skateraw. The Bowe family sold the farm to Jack and Florence Taylor in 1972 and, while the land continued to be used for crops, some of it was taken over for the site of Torness nuclear power station, and in the 1990s, gravel and sand were extracted from temporary quarries by the sea. At the end of the period, management of the farm was shared between the Taylors, their daughter Sandra, and her husband Johnny Watson.

Victor C.V. Cowley – Mark Simpson’s stepson – later inherited Crowhill and farmed it. It was noted for barley beef introduced in 1962. The land was sold to Alex Taylor c1998 and some sold on to Dunlop of Elmscleugh. Some land was taken over for the building of Torness c1980. Victor Cowley still resides in the farmhouse but has sold the farm. Victor, who owns the ancient castle of Innerwick, was recognised as the Baron of Innerwick, having bought the title in 1997.

In the 1920s, Thorntonloch had largely been converted into 26 smallholdings owned by the Secretary of State; over time they were sold to tenants and in some cases they have been resold. Thorntonloch House was owned by Thomas Grainger Stewart and then by his daughter Catherine; it was then owned by J. Somervail (1975-86), then by D.J. Fairbairn (1986-2000), and then Alexander (Sandy) Shaw. It was destroyed by fire on 15 March 2000.

The changes experienced by the Innerwick Estate between the wars were to set the pattern for our period. Thurston Estate was put on the market in 1948, following the death of the heir James Hunter in 1945, and his mother Mrs Mitchell-Innes (the younger daughter of Sir William Miller of Manderston) in 1946. The estate, the mansion house, gardens and cottages, detached policy cottages, a large number of village properties in Innerwick, Temple Mains farm, Thurston Home Farm, and Thurston Mains were offered for sale on 27 October 1948. Many of the tenants bought their farms or properties.

This then was the most significant change. It was matched later by changes in how the land was used, which in turn impacted on the makeup of the parish population. In the 1940s, the farms were dependent on a large labour force, which was paid low wages. As the period progressed, wage levels rose and in consequence, the number of employees was reduced so that by the middle of the period much of the work was being done by the farmers and one or two workers who were in fact often their sons and successors. As the need for workers declined, first the farm cottages and later the steadings became available for general housing. The record of ownership in 1945 is shown on the valuation roll (see CD-ROM) and later changes are recorded on later rolls, but the sale of Thurston made sweeping changes.

In 1947 Thurston Home Farm was tenanted by Walter Russell from Cadogan Estates, which bought it from Thurston Estate. The house and steading was bought by A. Dunham and the arable land by Peter Crichton in 1991. The house was resold to L. Hughes of Dunbar.

Thurston Mains was bought by David Clunie Gregor who sold it c1949 to Robert Jackson and Stuart Ritchie; Stuart Ritchie carried on on his own when Jackson died. Stuart Ritchie introduced improver sheep to the area and also had cattle grain and turnips etc. Stuart’s son Andrew carried on when his father retired, until 1985, when Andrew and his family went to New Zealand, having sold the farm to his sister Fiona and brother-in-law, Norman Oliver. They sold the sheep, and started a Cashmere goat flock and an Aberdeen Angus herd. Norman Oliver sold the farm to James Yates in 1999; he died in 2001 and his widow, Jackie now runs the farm.

The farms of Woodhall and Weatherly were bought in 1947 by the tenant Hamish Crichton. They were run as sheep and cattle farms with turnips for feed and a small acreage of grain. Weatherly was sold c1965 to John Gilmour from Fife who continued with sheep and cattle. It was sold c1985 to Mrs Middlemis who then sold it in 1993 Angus Jeffrey.

Part of Woodhall was rented by Hamish’s son Peter Crichton and run as an arable /stock farm. It was bought in 2000 and is now entirely arable with potatoes grain and vegetables. It is run by his son Richard. The other part of Woodhall was sold to Peter Cameron in c1973. His son-in-law Hector Macaskill is now farming it as a stock farm.

Templemains was bought by G. McClung, who specialised in potatoes but also had grain and a few cattle and sold c2000 to L. Moffat of Innerwick Farm.

Innerwick Farm, which had been part of the Nisbet Innerwick Estate, belonged in 1945 to Sir James Hope and at the beginning of the period was tenanted by Mrs Gregor. It was sold to Hugh Findlay who ran it as a dairy arable farm. He sold it to W. Moffat who ran it as a beef cattle farm with a small flock of sheep which have recently been sold; Lindsay Moffat has a pedigree herd of Simmental beef cattle.

Blackcastle (formerly Thornton South Mains) was bought by John W. Thompson from Sir James Hope in 1955/6. There was no farmhouse and the new farmhouse was built in 1962 and the cottage in 1966. In 1996 John Thompson (his son) moved to Nether Upper Monynut. Ross Thompson farms with his father and lives at Blackcastle.

Elmscleugh was owned by G.W. Pitcaithly; it was sold to John Smith c1955, and then to Quinton Dunlop c1965. Elmscleugh is now farmed by his son William Dunlop. They achieved the world record sale price at the time for a Blackface Ram at £56,000 in 1996.

Branxton was owned by Francis Usher of Dunglass and was tenanted by William Christison; it is still farmed by the Christison family.

Francis Usher also owned Birnieknowes; it was tenanted by Charles Sanderson whose family were there for most of the period; it is now farmed by Dunglass Estate.

At the beginning of the period Mrs A. Porter owned Cocklaw, which was bought by Lex Tweedie. It was bought by D. McCreath c1988; Lex’s son Gordon Tweedie went to Pleasance, Spott.

Harehead and Upper Monynut were owned by the Trustees of Sir G. Grant Suttie and occupied by the Trustees of Walter Elliot. These farms, together with Bushellhill owned by John Thomson & Sons, and Crichness farmed by John Allan, were ‘moved’ to Berwickshire by the boundary changes of March 1983 (see Spott parish – Environment and The Local Government Administrative Areas: 1975-2000 by Douglas Buttenshaw, county volume).

Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Within Innerwick village there are a number of listed buildings, some of which were part of the Thurston Estate to 1948 (see Thurston, below).

The former manse (Mansewood), Tyme Cottage and the red pantiles and rubble walls of the Temple Mains east range, cart shed, threshing mill, engine house and the red brick chimney (Dunnett, pp20, 21) are all B listed and add to the attractiveness of the village. The farmhouse at Skateraw, north of the railway is also B listed. Innerwick House, the church, Knock Cottage, Birrell’s House and Temple Mains cottages are C listed. The parish farms of Crowhill, Easter Aikengall, Thurston Home Farm, Thurston Mains and Woodhall all have farm buildings noted for their aesthetic value.

Thurston Estate

It was in 1745 that the first ‘Hunter’ acquired Thurston. He was ‘Hunter from the Parish of Christchurch in the Island of Barbados’ and married ‘Agnes, daughter of James Hunter in the County of Ayr’.

This was a very desirable property. When Thurston went up for sale in 1948, the sale book described it as ‘a residential and highly productive agricultural property of renown’. The house was described as ‘an impressive Mansion House of noble design – beautifully situated and superbly designed’.

The Hunters were keen agriculturalists and meteorologists. For many years they contributed a column to the Edinburgh Courant. In the 1900s, they were almost completely self-supporting, but their way of life was no longer tenable after two world wars. As well as Templemains and Thurston Mains farms, they owned Thurston Home Farm (where Jock Thomson was manager). They had market gardens, a dairy, garaging for four cars, a laundry, a sawmill, their own self-generating heating system and a joiner’s shop. Approximately 20 indoor staff were employed. The family trust also owned a fair part of Oldhamstocks.

Mr Hunter, with pony and trap, would drop Mrs Hunter at Innerwick church while he would go to Oldhamstocks. In the gallery of Innerwick church is a part at the front where the Hunter family sat with all the estate workers behind. If the service at Oldhamstocks was finished early, Mr Hunter would sometimes appear and take Mrs Hunter away before the end of the Innerwick service.

The benevolence of the Hunter family towards the village was staggering. They built a ‘custom built’ post office and fitted out a large room in Innerwick House as a library. They also erected the Jubilee horse trough, 1887, on the road between Thurston and Innerwick village.

A man of kindness to his beast is kind,
But brutal actions show a brutal mind
Remember! He who made thee, made the brute
Who gave thee speech and reason, formed him mute
He can’t complain, but God’s all-seeing eye
Beholds thy cruelty, and hears his cry
He was designed thy servant not thy drudge
Remember! His creator is thy judge.

Innerwick Exhibition

Richard Hunter died in 1910 and Mrs Hunter later became Mrs Mitchell-Innes. She died at the age of 87 in 1946, predeceased by her son James in 1945. The family is commemorated in St Anne’s Church Dunbar in a stained glass window on the theme of the Beatitudes.

The estate passed to Major Baillie of Manderston. This was challenged by his sister and the estate was sold.

When Thurston Estate was sold off on 27 October 1948, the mansion house, unfortunately, was not sold. There were one or two enquiries – police academy, nursing home etc. – but nothing came of them. The house was demolished in 1952, and the stone was carted to Nunraw (Garvald) to be used as part of the foundations of the new Nunraw Abbey.

The site of the house and gardens was sold to A. Brownlie, wood merchants of Earlston and a sawmill was set up. It was later sold to the SSEB for a workers caravan site it was used firstly for the caravan site (c1979) for Torness workers, and then for their construction village. This village was demolished in 1988. The site was sold to Andrew Dunham and is now the location of Thurston Manor Caravan Park (first proposed 1994).

In the village, one of the most noticeable buildings is the old post office, now a private house. Its curved wall, sundial and verse (1893) –

New Post Office

O’er every hour that’s brightest
A shadow creeps,
And he whose laugh is lightest
Full often weeps.
Oh look we for the morrow
Which hath no night
Where lost is every sorrow
In God’s own light

– appealed to Charles Green:

If read towards the close of a summer’s day with a shadow on the dial, the verse is strangely appropriate. The eye seeks the far distance and steamers at sea; behind stretch the hills; beside him the quiet village; in the foreground the churchyard and beyond the site of the old castle. It is a world in miniature. The inscribed dial gives the human and the spiritual touch, in miniature also it may be, but it is there.
(Green C.E. 1907 p203)