Morham | Environment

Land ownership | Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

By the end of the period, foxes were getting more brave and were openly seen killing rabbits, pheasants and so on, with the result that pheasants, partridges and red-legged partridges were getting more scarce. There were some mink in the burns, and badgers were in evidence in the glens at each end of the parish. A few roe deer could be seen in the wooded areas. Rabbit numbers cut down by myxomatosis in the 1950s were again building up to plague proportions, in spite of the presence of feral cats along the Standingstone road and at Crossgatehall. Skylarks were very scarce, and collared doves and buzzards were coming nearer. During the 1990s, peregrine falcons from Traprain Law hunted overhead occasionally, and kestrels and sparrow hawks were more numerous. The parish fields had, by and large, retained their stone walls.

Crossgatehall signpost (Sonia Baker)

Crossgatehall signpost (Sonia Baker)

The lime trees round the school playground were a gift from Lord Wemyss in 1877. By 2000 only two remained. In the 1960s, the burn became contaminated with silage effluent; all the fish were killed, but it took a couple of years before the source of the problem was identified. Along the glen and in the glebe, mature elms were lost to Dutch elm disease, and the old willow near the bridge finally died off in the 1970s.

The undergrowth in the glen, trampled by many children’s feet over the years, was, by 2000, regrowing vigorously – an indication perhaps that not only were there fewer children in the village, but that play itself had changed. The parish is probably the only one to still have a long-gone landmark signposted; from Papple, the traveller is directed to Morham by way of Crossgatehall – the 19th century site of the hostelry of William and Kirsty (his daughter) Robertson. The name lingers on, applying to the crossroads en route to Luggate. Crossgatehall – pub, cottages and smithy -disappeared around 1870. All that remains are a few clay pipe remnants and, in the north-east field, a faint shading on the soil in certain light.

Land Ownership

In 1945, of the seven farms, only Standingstone was still listed as being part of a ‘traditional’ estate, the Wemyss Landed Estates Company. As such it was rented out to a farming tenant, Archibald McAlister Barr, then by the 1950s it was owned by the Woyka family. Late in the 1990s the family retained the farmhouse, about six acres, and two cottages, selling off the rest. Two cottages were sold and made into one. Some land was bought by Clark of Luggate, and by a Mr Cucchi, who also bought one of the cottages.

On two of the Morham parish farms, the same families farmed throughout the period: the Middlemass family at Northrig and, since 1880 the Drysdales at Mainshill. Morham Bank seems to have changed hands c1945. The valuation roll listed Thomas and James Muir as owners, but the county yearbook named the late R Tait. By 1948 it was owned by the Merchant family; they remained as owners to the 1990s, then it was sold to Mr Oliver. Two of the cottages remain in his ownership.

Two further farms remained in family ownership for many years: the Swanston farm at Rentonhall was sold to the Thomasons, and the farmhouse to Hendry Younger. A new farmhouse was built by Thomason, and one cottage was left.

The Waddells farmed West Morham to the late 1960s; it belongs to Peter De Pree, of Beech Hill.

In 1945, David Lowe & Sons, the Musselburgh growers and market gardeners, owned Morham Mains and Morham Loanhead, with William Murray as tenant farmer. By 1960 the Simpsons owned Morham Mains, remaining there for the rest of the period. The only sizeable private property in the parish, Beech Hill, remained in the De Pree family throughout.

Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction

Morham’s parish church and graveyard are A listed; the church was built in 1724, incorporating an earlier church, and the Dalrymple Aisle was added c1730. Morham manse (1826) and attributed to James Gillespie Graham, and Morham mill bridge (1796) are B listed.

However, many of Morham’s charms are, typically for East Lothian, hidden up farm tracks, nestling in sheltered spots. Many of these farm buildings were identified by Historic Scotland as of special note. The following are B listed: Mainshill (farm cottages, for their ‘particularly picturesque’ qualities); Morham Bank farmhouse (c1800) and walled garden; Morham Mains, the cottages and the farmhouse; Rentonhall, c1800, and its substantial walled garden; West Morham farmhouse, possibly built round a 17th century original. Mainshill also has an exceptional classical facade to its old cart and granary sheds.

Of lesser importance are the C listed farm buildings, which include: Morham Loanhead – an example of ‘standard farmhouse form’; Renton Hall cottage; and at Standingstone, the farmhouse, the farm cottages – ‘unscathed and picturesque’ and their retaining walls.

Beech Hill lodge and gate piers are B listed. The original Beech Hill house was destroyed in 1944 when a Mosquito from East Fortune crashed on it. Four civilians and the two-man crew were all killed. The new house was built in 1952, designed by Lindsay Jamieson.

The Northrig steading, destroyed by fire in the 1980s, was rebuilt and modernised. At Morham Mains, over time from the mid 1960s, Bill Simpson demolished the farm steading, gradually replacing it with a modern range of farm buildings.

Two old steam-engine mill chimneys, at Standingstone and at Morham Bank are also of note. The red brick Standingstone chimney is of a rare design, with a square cross-section (Dunnett, 1968, p32). At West Morham a windmill here for pumping water fell into ruin in the 1970s.