Until the Reformation, the bishops retained the power of uniting and disjoining parishes.
After the Reformation this power was entrusted to a Royal Commission and hence every parish recognised by it was acknowledged as a civil parish. The parish boundaries do not necessarily correspond to the boundaries of farms within the parish, nor do they conform to county boundaries.
Until 1891, the southern portion of the parish was in Berwickshire. From then until March 1983, it was in East Lothian. At that time, people living in and around the Bothwell and Monynut valleys (parts of not only Spott parish, but Innerwick and Oldhamstocks parishes as well) requested that the area be returned to Berwickshire, largely because the roads and tracks from the area to the remainder of East Lothian District (as it was then) over the hills to the north were frequently difficult to negotiate or impassable due to adverse weather conditions. The task of clearing snow from the roads was the remit of East Lothian Council’s snowploughs and often difficult to achieve (although a small snowplough was kept at the smithy on the Cranshaws road). Children from this part of Spott already attended Cranshaws Primary School and Borders Region already maintained the roads; some health and social services provision was provided from Berwickshire, but district nurses had to come from Dunbar. People living in the Bothwell valley also felt that they would be better served by the provision of basic local services, such as refuse collection, by Berwickshire. In the days before postal votes, unless they could walk or ride over the hills to Spott they had been virtually disenfranchised so they wished to be able to vote at Cranshaws. The Secretary of State recommended the change in 1983; as a result, part of Spott parish ‘moved’ to Berwickshire (see also The Local Government Administrative Areas of East Lothian: 1975-2000 by Douglas Buttenshaw).
The part of the civil parish that is presently in East Lothian runs from just south of the A1 road, from the Bourhouse (Bowerhouse) road in the west to the edge of Easter Broomhouse farm in the east, to a line across Friarsdykes Dod in the south. The Berwickshire portion lies from there in a ‘V’ to the Whiteadder river. In total, Spott parish is around twelve miles long and at its widest about five miles. The ecclesiastical parish is broader, running from the Pitcox road in the west to the Dry Burn in the east. The north/south boundaries are the same as the civil parish but end at Friarsdykes.
There are several small quarries in the parish. The working of the last one to be used, at Halls farm, was discontinued soon after the war. The Lammermuir fault line runs from Broxburn into Spott parish in a straight south westerly direction through Spott village to Spott Mill and along the northern edge of Pressmennan wood. Southwest of this fault is the Lammermuir escarpment with its steep gradients – Doon Hill rises to 177m, the Chesters Fort 185m. The hills further south are higher still; Lothian Edge rises to 348m. South of Lothian Edge is the Lammermuir plateau, mostly over 300m above sea level.
The oldest rocks, greywacke, are in the southwest of the parish, the area on the west side of Halls farm, including Lothian Edge. The escarpment area northeast of this and east of the fault line is formed from conglomerate rocks. The effects of water erosion are everywhere, especially from the melt-water channels formed around 15,000 years ago as the ice age was ending. They cut deep into the hillsides leaving deep gorges as along the Cauldburn and the Black Loch, and deposited ridges, terraces of tile, along the way. Spott Glen is much broader than the small Spott Burn now requires. Also due to erosion, especially from ice, the hills in the parish, like Spott Dod, tend to have their gentler slopes to the northeast.
The Reverend Duncan Turner was, undoubtedly, a very enthusiastic weather observer at Spott during his retirement. From 1979-96, he took readings of barometer pressure, maximum and minimum temperatures and rainfall. He also observed wind direction, wind speed and visibility – all of which were recorded each day in a handy pocket-sized diary. Figures for pressure and rainfall were then plotted on a graph pad to give a line graph showing the highs and lows, the peaks and troughs throughout the month.
Mr Turner also prepared monthly weather tables in his homemade record booklets. From the figures for each month, he would work out the averages of each of the main readings – pressure, temperature and rainfall over a period of ten, eleven and twelve years. This would involve quite a lot of arithmetic but would show variations in monthly totals and averages over the years where one would expect to find some years generally milder and wetter than others.
The year 1995 was chosen to compare figures recorded at Dunbar with those for Spott and it was found, not surprisingly, that summer temperatures at Spott were higher than at Dunbar and winter temperatures were lower. Rainfall amounts were very similar. The weather station at Dunbar is on an exposed site at Winterfield Park, 75 feet above sea level and about 200 yards from the sea shore, whilst the Spott location, a few miles inland, at 250 feet above sea level is possibly in a more sheltered area. Proximity to the sea and difference in altitude has effects, which are clearly seen in the respective figures.
In conclusion, Mr Turner was a dedicated amateur meteorologist with a love of figures and graphs. He was obviously prepared to spend quite a lot of time on his hobby and consequently we should be grateful that has left valuable record of weather conditions in the Spott area over 15 complete years. These should be preserved and made available to students of local history, agriculture and meteorology and so on.
The rabbit population was almost wiped out by the introduction of the myxomatosis virus after the war but numbers have increased in recent years. Hare shoots were a regular occurrence in the 1960s when there were so many that their numbers had to be controlled. The hare population was almost decimated and only in recent times have there been signs of regeneration. Foxes, badgers and roe deer have all increased in number.
The corncrake used to be a regular summer visitor to Spott parish, where it nested in the long grass and hay fields but sadly it has not been seen or heard in many years. Both the house and tree sparrow populations have decreased alarmingly although they can still be seen in most farmyards and buildings. Jays, buzzards and magpies have returned to the area in recent years. On the Lammermuir Hills there were many grouse, pheasants and blackcock. Their numbers have drastically declined as have the number of swallows, skylarks and lapwing and only a few thrushes are to be seen. Partridges are very few as they eat mainly insects which feed on turnips and these are seldom grown now. The number of crows has increased.
The Woodhall Dean Wildlife Reserve, on the parish boundary with Innerwick, is owned and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust; it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Opened in 1986, it covers some 60 hectares and is one of the last remnants of a wood of a relatively pure form of sessile oak, which is relatively unique in southeast Scotland. Described in the SWT leaflet as ‘… an area of multi-stemmed oak trees that derive from a practice known as coppicing. Outwith this small area of coppice there remain many fine “granny” oaks, some more than 300 years old.’ There are a host of common and rare wild flowers, mosses and lichen. It is a haven for many birds and butterflies. There is a flourishing badger set and roe deer and adder may be seen.
The dam at Spott Lake, which supplied water for Dunbar, was destroyed in the floods of 1947 and the loch became a stream again. There are plans to build a small dam again and make the area a wildlife reserve. The old curling pond in Spott Glen has been widened and deepened to form a pond to attract wild duck.
Many hedgerows and fences have been removed to form larger fields, although on Pathhead farm, three fields, suitable for horse ploughing, were made into six smaller fields, half arable and half grazing. Woods were stripped from the Spott estate toward the end of the war. Some planting of shelterbelts has been carried out over the years and recently the sides of the glens have been planted with hardwood. Many field walls have disappeared as field sizes have increased.
In 2000, Spott estate covers one of the major areas of land in the parish, and is owned by the Lawrie family. The other large landowner is Jeffrey of Halls farm, a mixed farm to the south west of the parish. The remaining land is divided between another four farms. All are privately owned. This is in stark contrast to the situation in 1945, when most of the farms were still part of the East Lothian ‘big estate’ network. Owners included: Sir George Grant-Suttie (Bothwell); James Sprott and, from 1947, Sir James Hope (Spott estate); Earl of Haddington (Easter and Wester Broomhouse); Biel estate (Halls and Pathhead); Caverhill estate (Friarsdykes); Duke of Roxburghe (Boonslie); Major James Hay (Beltondod) (see also Economy – Agriculture).
Townscapes, Buildings and Landscapes of Distinction
Spott House and Bourhouse (Bowerhouse) are the main properties of note in the parish.
Spott House and its associated buildings are B and C listed by Historic Scotland for the boundary walls, piers, ‘chapel’ and game larder; Spott Home Farm cottages; kennels with railings; lodge with gate piers and quadrants; stable court and groom’s house. The dovecot is A listed. The oldest part of the house may date from c1296, when Elias de Spot swore fealty for his lands to Edward I of England. In 1836 it was owned by James Sprott who remodelled it to plans by William Burn.
Bourhouse is A listed for its gates, wellhead, terrace and boundary walls, and for the dovecot. The lodge with gate piers and parapet is B listed. Built by David Bryce for Major General Carfrae in 1835, to 1949, the house had its own estate, with farm (Pleasants), and policies. There are traces of habitation on the site that date back to the Bronze Age; it is reputed to have links with the knights of St John.
The property has changed hands a number of times since 1945: Brigadier Grainger Stewart, 1939-46; Robert Hope bought the estate in 1946, quickly separated Pleasants farm from the house and estate, and sold off Bourhouse and its grounds to R. Lawson-Johnston the same year (1946). Rowley F. Scovell owned Bourhouse from 1948-72; Eric and Rosemary Hall followed to 1982; Ian and Moira Marrian to 2000; right at the end of the period, Bourhouse is owned by Mark and Rebecca Tindall.
Other listed buildings in this small parish include:
A listed: Spott dovecot; Halls farmhouse with retaining walls and gate piers (Halls farm cottages are C listed).
B listed: Spott church with session house, graveyard walls and railings; Easter Broomhouse cartshed and granary; in Spott High Road (also known as Main Street) Rosebank and cottage (now known as Lowood and Canongate) and Ivybank.
C listed: 1 High Road; schoolhouse community centre; The Standards; Wester Broomhouse, Wellhead Tower.
Spott farmhouse was demolished in 1964. Several farm buildings elsewhere in the parish were much neglected over the period, but from 1980 on, many were ‘rescued’ and reinstated as homes (see Homes).