Pencaitland | Homes

Utilities | Shops & Services

Historically, the location of housing in Pencaitland was along the line of the road from Haddington to the end of Beech Terrace, with the road from the Cross to the White House (now Lempockwells Road) going off the east-west road at the Cross. These roads formed the nucleus of the village, which was very small; from 1920 on, expansion was limited to the gradual building of council houses. The Conservation Area includes this historical core.

New Winton from east

New Winton from east

New Winton is located south and east of Tranent; The Square at New Winton comprises a mix of predominantly 19th century cottages, built by Lady Ruthven. On the opposite side of the road a small square has been built, and Gilbert Ogilvy designed some of the houses in the 1930s. The whole makes a delightful rural scene, not spoiled by a group of six new houses and one on its own, and the whole is most unobtrusive.

New Winton from north

New Winton from north

Glenkinchie is a hamlet of some 32 houses situated south of Pencaitland, with an estimated population of 100. The village’s core is based around the Glenkinchie distillery with further development extending towards Peaston Bank to the south (see Economy – Industry).

There were many farm-workers’ cottages on all farms in the parish, many of which were improved or renovated to some extent. Few of them were allowed to decay and were kept in reasonably good order. Now, however, because of reduced staffing of the farm some of the cottages have been let (or sold) to tenants who have little or nothing to do with the running of the farm. At Wolfstar, a row of farm cottages was demolished, and modern houses with greatly improved facilities were erected. At the old Wester Pencaitland Farm, the cottages and the farmhouse were converted into renovated dwellings, though the farmhouse was left more or less unchanged externally. The cart shed, probably the best vernacular building in the village, was converted into a house.

New houses have been built on the site of Lempockwells steading.

Standards of living – some recollections of homes in the parish

Throughout the parish there are many rows of stone cottages, which are more or less of a similar design: they have formed substantial and comfortable homes when modernisation has taken place internally, with the external features being retained.

As an example there is in the parish a row of three cottages built of random rubble in which is included a fair amount of very hard whinstone. The walls are approaching three feet thick, with a pantiled roof. However, there is evidence from the formation of the chimneys, which were replaced, that the houses were originally thatched. The age of the houses is uncertain, but they are shown on the first Ordnance Survey map (mid 19th century).

Before the 1950s, two of the houses had been amalgamated to form one dwelling with all facilities. The remaining house was uninhabitable (though inhabited), with no water or toilet facilities, but in a short time the resident was removed to a hospital. His hobby, when he was living in his own house, was catching rats. The number of rats was quite considerable and he registered his catch on the wooden door of one of the three empty privies now demolished. A larger quarry that was trapped was his neighbour’s dog. The third house was then joined to the others making a dwelling with five rooms, a renovated kitchen, and bathroom with bath and shower. Many old cottages are now serving a useful and pleasant function, with a long life before them.

Ralph Barker, describing Rose Cottage in the 1950s

[In the 1940s] at Beech Terrace, the bath was in the kitchen, the toilet separate, off the kitchen … there was a stone wash boiler in the corner of the kitchen… piped water was heated from the fire. There was a bed recess with curtains in sitting room. Other newer houses had separate facilities.

Janet Bassett

And on the changing profile of Pencaitland’s residents

In 1975, six stone cottages, originally built for miners about 1820, all belonged to elderly people who had lived in Pencaitland all or most of their lives. Each cottage had one to three rooms, and most had lean-to kitchens and bathroom extensions. Of the inhabitants, one was a retired miner, two the daughters of miners, one a farm labourer and one a retired lady’s maid.

Now all the cottages have rebuilt extensions and / or loft conversions. The one-roomed one was first extended, then joined with the cottage next door. The owners are now all commuters, with the exception of one who is retired. The cottages change hands frequently, being very popular with first-time buyers, so they are continually being changed, redecorated and improved. They are now occupied by a nurse, a retired teacher, two computer whizz-kids and an air hostess.

In 1975, only one owner had a car, and the farm labourer the use of his tractor. He would park it outside his cottage at lunchtime, causing a considerable obstruction in the narrow road, but nobody seemed to mind. Now every household has one or two cars, making a total of eight.

Just up the road were potato sheds causing much grinding to and fro of laden lorries and trailers. The sheds have been replaced by a small development of nine very neat suburban houses, and the lorries by a large number of sleek cars.

Liz Strachan, about Tyneholm Cottages

In the 1920s, Mr Reid of Tyneholm made available a portion of land for council housing in the area south of the present Queen’s Drive. It is probable that these were the first introduction of council housing to the village. Thereafter the council kept adding to their housing stock until 1940. From the end of the war, housing was difficult so a few temporary houses were built. Thereafter council houses were built in each decade until the available land was used up. Housing for the elderly was provided in Wester Pencaitland.

1950s Interior of a pre-fab, Institute Place

We moved in with my husband’s parents when we married, [making a household of] four adults (two aged late 20s: two in their late 50s). [They lived in a prefab which] was detached in its own grounds, with a garden back and front. [The] back garden was quite large – used for growing vegetables, except for drying green.

The prefab was of metal construction [- even the] fitted cupboards in each bedroom were metal. [There were] two bedrooms, a large living room, a bathroom and a good-sized kitchen. [The] fitted kitchen [had] metal cupboards; a double sink (Belfast) – one deep for the washing; an electric cooker. [There was] no heating except an open fire, [on which we burned] coal and wood collected [from] nearby woods. [There was a] back boiler for hot water.

Margaret Fairbairn

[There were] no new houses so young couples had to live with parents. Houses now change hands frequently.

Janet Basset

Post-war, a small number of new houses were built.

At Park View (1940s) there were

two sinks, one deep ‘glass queen’ ribbed glass washboard, no “poshers”[sic], and a big boiler in kitchen for clothes washing. Washing machines arrived in the late 1950s… a clippy rug (rag rug) was the only carpet when I married in 1955, otherwise lino. For cleaning, there was a Ewbank or a carpet-beater. Everyone used cast-iron bath, once a week, otherwise they sat on the draining board with their feet in the sink.

Janet Basset

Later, private housing developments on green field sites account for the increase in Pencaitland’s population. A number of housing estates are scattered about the village, particularly in the east village and at Spilmersford. Building took place through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Wester Pencaitland
Lamberton Court 31 houses, early 1970s, Lempockwells Road
Bruce Grove 15 houses, early 1970s, Lempockwells Road
Dovecot Way 9 houses, c1976, by bridge
Old Farm Court 9 houses, completed and occupied in 2000


Easter Pencaitland
The Glebe 14 houses (pre-1976, near the school)
The Green 49 houses, built in 1988


East end development
Vinefields (1980s) 64 houses + others
Tyne Park (1990s) 31 houses
Mill Way (1990s) 17 houses
Limekilns (1990s) 48 houses
Spilmersford View (1990s) 9 houses

The increase in housing stems mainly from speculative building by private developers, including Wilcon Homes, Ideal Homes, Avonside Homes and Wimpey. A better mix of housing styles and sizes could well have been achieved at the east end near Spilmersford but, in the event, was not. The designs had no links to East Lothian. Indeed, they resembled the designs of 80% of the houses being built anywhere – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham or Chester among others. While an individual house may be quite pleasant, when built in large estates they become boring. Frank Tindall wanted something better – but the developers ‘won’. The houses’ lack of any particular architectural merit eventually resulted in the reduction of the designated Conservation Area of the village in the mid 1990s, when the housing areas of Vinefields, Mill Way and Limekilns were removed.

There was a certain amount of snobbishness in 1945 by the owners of property, who were proud of being homeowners; this outlook was more prevalent in large towns and cities. The rural population was more closely knit and were part of the community. This outlook changed very little in the first decade (1945-55) but swiftly in the following decades. Of course it took a long time for the new population to merge with the older villagers but many of them participated in village affairs, partly through the church. Other people did not join in village affairs and merely commuted between home and work.

Private ownership gradually became the norm. In 2000, every house in the east village (except a small cluster of council houses in Easter Pencaitland) is privately owned, as are the Beeches houses. The majority of council houses are still council-owned in the estate in Wester Pencaitland, but a small number have been purchased by their owners under the right-to-buy legislation; these are fairly easily recognised, as the owners exercise their own tastes in windows, garden walls and doors. The opportunities for home ownership were just not there until tenants were able to purchase houses from council stock.


There has been a public water supply available over the whole period, although the sites of public wells are still obvious. In one case, on the boundaries of Saltoun and Pencaitland parishes a field spring supplied a single cottage some 300 yards away. The cottage was demolished c1975, and a new house was built on the site, the spring no longer being used.

For sewage, a few homes still relied on private cesspits, but most had disappeared by the 1970s. At least one cottage – Rose Cottage, Lempockwells Road – had no sewage provision until 1952; there were probably more homes in the same situation.

Mains electricity is provided throughout the parish.

All had electricity, very few were without. For heating … mostly coal and kindling from the woods. Ranges went out, cookers came in. Bedroom fires to dry clothes – did not feel cold at time. Coal delivered to retired miners, others on coal van. Back to solid fuel in last 10 years [since the 1990s].

Janet Bassett

Mains gas was supplied in Pencaitland in the late 1980s. A very few residents use LPG.

Terrestrial television reception is good. Most residents can receive satellite TV but, except for some exceptional cases, an aerial is required. Mobile phone signals, too, can be received.

There are street lights in the main streets of the parish.

There is a regular rubbish collection (wheelie bins), and bulky items can be uplifted by arrangement.

Shops & Services

For other than ‘everyday’ shopping, Pencaitland residents travelled to the big Co-op in Tranent, where, twice a year, the ‘divvies’ (dividends) made it possible to afford new clothes; another occasion when clothes might be bought was at gala time. ‘Luxury’ goods were few and far between:

In the 1940s and 1950s [it was all] sensible shoes (hardwearing), wellies, ‘guthy rubbers’ (plimsolls), hand-me-downs, coupons and rationing; then anoraks came in and winter coats went out – because of cars. Long coats came back in; hats, gloves and scarves were out. Umbrellas were rare in the 1950s, and Packamacs arrived in the 1960s.

We had Sunday clothes and working clothes; [they had to be] washable, as few could afford dry cleaning. [There was] no mail order, but firms came round the village with vans, which would take orders. Men have more clothes now, not just work clothes and best. Pullovers went out. Women wore aprons and wraparound, a little tea apron for entertaining in.

[There were] no bubble baths or shampoos until the 1960s, and no deodorants. [There was] a different soap for washing and washing-up – Lux and Palmolive. Perfumes of the time included ‘Californian Poppy’ and ‘Evening in Paris’.

Post-war, men’s hair was short back and sides, with Brylcream; in the 1950s, teddy boy [styles came in. Hair was] shoulder-length for women, older still in buns. A gents’ barber went round the houses, and a postman cut hair in the evenings. Perms for women, tight ribbon around hair and roll; used metal curlers and pipe cleaners and rags, scarves around head.

Janet Bassett

While there is no true ‘commercial centre’ to the village, there are and always have been a number of small shops serving the community. Premises changed hands fairly frequently but new proprietors usually carried on with the same wares. For many years, these shops were supplemented by a whole tranche of mobile services.

Many people were also able to be self-sufficient:

until the 1970s, some people kept hens [in the] very large gardens [of the houses] in Queen’s Drive. Someone bred rabbits for food and fur. Everyone grew and swapped things…. fridges came in late in the 1950s – there was no place to put them anyway. In a fruit and veg growing area, people ate what was in season, and the fruit and veg. van came round. We helped ourselves to turnips from passing horse and tractors. [We ate our] main meal at night, treats at weekends. Soups, stews, mince, roasts a luxury, large breakfast on Sunday, sausage, bacon, black pudding – no lunch – sat around table for all meals. TVs changed that, not so much baking.

Janet Bassett

The local post office provided an excellent service with daily deliveries and collections. From 1990, it was located on the other side of the road from the previous building.

The Co-operative store operated to the late 1970s selling groceries, fruit and vegetables. The building was used after that (briefly) as a farm supply shop and then, equally briefly, as a bathroom supply shop. In 2000, the old Co-op building is being used by the local nursing home as offices.

A bicycle and motor repair shop (Rudkins) operated from a site to the rear of what is in 2000, the Spar shop, to 1992; it did not sell fuel.

The Spar shop opened in 1986, when Mr Ali Imtiaz took over from the Taylors; it sells general groceries, confectionery and lately, papers. Petrol pumps appeared at about the same time. It was extended when the repair shop closed in 1992. In the late 1970s, the building had been used as a general food shop, run by Bill and Elsie Taylor, and included a small delicatessen counter.

The Winton Arms shop (1945-60) sold general goods and groceries.

Papers were available from the White House, west village (Milligans).

From 1962-98, the several proprietors of the The Old Smiddy (formerly the blacksmith’s shop and subsequently Dick Bailey’s (joinery and building workshop and yard), offered food and drink, but the restaurateurs in general were fairly short-term. By 2000, it was empty, and the site is to be redeveloped for houses.

At the Boggs Holdings, several smallholders sold fruit, eggs and vegetables.

[We shopped] once a week according to pay, [usually at] weekends. All the food was available in Pencaitland shops. Paper shop, post office and bakery, garage for bikes and shoes, Paraffin, Co-ops for everything.

Janet Bassett

The Winton Arms was a country inn, serving bar snacks.

The men went to the pub at weekends. They tended to have a binge and get drunk when they got their pay packet, otherwise abstained. If they drank at home they were looked down upon and regarded as secret drinkers. Now, with fewer miners and manual workers and increased prosperity the pattern has changed. More drink at home through the week, not just at weekends.

Janet Bassett.

A wide range of mobile traders served the village over the period.

Fish, bread, fruit, “Willy come early” (who was always late) the hardware van [with his] lamp in [the] dark, also sold treacle.

Janet Bassett

The following summary gives a feel of what vans called; the dates given are all very approximate:

  • Bakers: Co-operative society van (1945-80s); Laidlaw of Haddington (1945-70); Wahlberg of Pathhead (from c.1970).
  • Boot repairer: (1945-60)
  • Butchers: Co-operative Van (1945-90); Pow of Tranent (1945-90), and there was another mobile butcher operating for a short time (1981-90?).
  • Coalmen: J Brand (1945-date); Fortune (1970-date); Turner (1970-date). Coal deliveries were made to ex-miners in bulk.
  • Fishmongers: Reekie (1945-date); Dickson of Prestonpans also called (dates obscure).
  • Fruit and Vegetables: Marr of Tranent (1945-80); Andrew Johnson (1980-date); Roots & Fruits (since the late 1990s).

Over the period, Pencaitland was visited (irregularly) by various ice-cream vendors. A chip van was a regular sight between 1945-70. The trader employed a portly boy reminiscent of the Dickens character in the Pickwick Papers. The van’s approach was signalled by the trader leaning out the van window, wielding a heavy hand bell.

Pencaitland had a local library, in the old school. A mobile library served the village from 1970 on.

The services available in the parish included: Pencaitland Pest Services; the blacksmith / farrier; a caravan park – mostly for parking; childcare – small scale; a cleaning service – mainly window cleaners; electrician; joiner. By 2000, the public toilets were losed

Pencaitland’s registrar for many years (before 1945) was John Cosser. After his death, John Inglis Hepburn was registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the Pencaitland district (1958-67), when the small districts were centralised. Pencaitland was then merged with Tranent.