Saltoun | Economy

Industry | Forestry | Agriculture

Both Margaret McCormack and Jeannie Sandilands went into service in Gifford, on leaving Ormiston school in the early 1950s.

Nowadays, like many other rural parishes, most of Saltoun’s population work outwith the parish. It is not known how many parish residents work outside East Lothian, but probably a significant number.

With the exception of the museum and tearooms, the parish has no facilities specifically for tourists. The Haddingtonshire Courier Yearbook of the early 1960s mentions a camping site but no one has any knowledge of this; the Fletcher estates apparently owned it.


Lime production for agricultural purposes – for ‘gooding the land’ (Tindall, F. P. p24) had been the main industry of the area but after 1960 it was no longer produced. It was extracted from a site on Gifford Road by opencast mining by the Co-operative Wholesale Society (C.W.S.).

A small sawmill on Petersmuir Road was transferred to part of an old limekiln site in the 1950s. Later this became a coal yard, which closed in 1999. A plant hire business then rented space in part of the coal yard and is still in existence.

A large sawmill has existed at Petersmuir since 1950; it has had several changes of owners (including Leon’s) but is still functioning. It was custom-built, and the buildings have extended over the years. It employed 15 people in 2000. Other than the presence of large timber lorries on the roads it has little effect on the parish.

Craftspeople have been engaged in basket making, jewellery, soft furnishings, woodcraft, furniture making, knitting, metal work, painting and embroidery over the years. There is no outlet for craft work in the parish except for the Tithe Byre. Some craftwork, such as the two communion chairs for the church in Bolton, has been made to order.


All significant woodland in the parish is long established. Saltoun Big Wood has been a forest in active timber production for much more than 50 years; it is currently owned by Sir Francis Ogilvy, having previously been in public ownership. Other areas of forestry production are Dryden (Hamilton Farming Enterprises Ltd.), and Petersmuir (the Maxwell family). There is a mix of nursery and mature stock, and of a range of ages. Petersmuir is mixed and deciduous; Saltoun Big Wood is mixed woodland, but mainly coniferous.

A small percentage (less than 1%) of local timber is processed at Petersmuir; the bulk of the wood processed by the sawmill is from outside the parish.


There are no agricultural smallholdings in the parish, although there is a smallholding just across the river at Milton Bridge beyond West Saltoun, which has goats and a good collection of peacocks, ducks, geese and exotic waterfowl.

Saltoun parish is rich in farms, which are the biggest employers locally. The last 55 years have seen a few changes of ownership, but no significant changes in farms; all the farms are owned, but some are operated ‘in hand’ by farm managers (see Land Ownership). There has however been a change of methods. There are fewer stock farms, and therefore less need for growing root crops and grass for food. Farms are turning to grain crops: barley is still produced for the brewing industry, but oat production has declined; the acreage of oil seed rape production increased from the 1970s. Of necessity, and to comply with EU legislation since the early 1990s, farmers make more use of set-aside.

Larger buildings have been erected for grain stores, to accommodate farm machinery, and for over-wintering cattle, leaving the original small buildings for storage. The use of bigger machines has improved the work rate and is more economical. The seasons are less well defined now, with harvests often starting in July and many a field will be cleared and ploughed by the middle of August. The use of chemicals has helped to give more winter cropping. There is no organic farming in the parish, but, with the influence of FWAG, many farmers are becoming more aware of environmental issues (see The Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, Michael Williams, county volume).

The foot and mouth epidemic of the 1960s did not affect the parish directly, but farmers took the recommended precautions such as disinfectant at farm entrances etc., as they did again in the 2001 epidemic. Restrictions on moving stock and on exports caused problems.

  • Saltoun Home Farm / Middlemains – Fletcher estate (660 acres) is mixed arable and stock; it grows white cereals but no turnips, oats or potatoes.
  • Gilchriston – Maxwell (360 acres) is arable, growing mainly wheat, barley, oil seed rape, and some grass. (Today it is farmed with Cauldshiel in the next parish with a total acreage of 1040).
  • East Saltoun, Greenhead, Barley Mill, Greenlaw – Hamilton Farming Enterprises Ltd (756 acres) is mainly arable, growing cereals, barley, oil seed rape, some potatoes and forage peas.
  • Blance – Scott (370 acres) is a mixed farm.
  • Samuelston South Mains – Logan (200 acres) is arable, growing mostly potatoes, wheat, barley, and oil seed rape.
  • Saltoun East Mains – Morton (310 acres) is an arable farm.
  • Herdmanston Mains – Waddell (372acres) is mixed stock and arable, growing mostly grain (more intensive) and turnips.
  • McNaughton’s Nursery Plants, located beside the river Tyne at Spilmersford grows, but does not sell plants. This is a family-run business linked to Macplants at Boggs Holdings in Pencaitland.

From the mid 1990s, between East Saltoun and Petersmuir a kennels and cattery replaced two separate earlier enterprises of a fox farm (breeding silver foxes) and a breeder of Scottie dogs.