The attractiveness of Stenton village stems from its abundance of traditional architecture, interspersed with open spaces.
In the 1930/31, twelve council houses were built at Roodwell. After 1945, two more council homes were built in the Croft, and four more at Roodwell. In 1983, the district council built 16 houses and two workshops backing onto the Croft homes. The council houses have now been sold on to the East Lothian Housing Association; some of them are privately owned, via the right-to-buy legislation of the 1980s.
The greatest change to the buildings in Stenton has been the change of use; the grocery, bakehouse, smithy, and joiners are now all private houses. The buildings round the old horse mill are now three separate homes. Derelict houses have been restored in a sympathetic way and internally brought up to date for 20th century living; extensions have been built at the back of a number of houses, and in places, pairs of cottages have been joined to make one house for a family. Even as late as 1981, there was at least one house still with an earthen floor.
In 1996, the old barns on ex-church land at the glebe were converted into a house and, in 2000, a house was being built in the walled garden of the manse. In the late 1990s, two new houses were built opposite Roodwell, on the site of the old garage.
During the felling of Pressmennan wood (1955), temporary houses were built for the forestry workers and their families. There were four, two in the field next to the village hall, now the swing park, and another two near the Tithe Barn.
From 1993, we rented one of the cottages at Pitcox. The location was superb, and the water excellent. We had the use of an allotment garden and this and the glorious natural sounds of the countryside made up for the shortcomings of the house. Mind you we were desperate for a home, and were glad to have it. The rent was reasonable too.
The house was in a four-house terrace; it had a living room, pokey kitchen, bathroom with loo, and two good-sized bedrooms (12′ x 12′). The front faced south, and was flooded with light all day; the back was dark. In the living room was an open fire, which was part of a c1930s fire and oven complex. The heating vents (to draw the heat over and around the oven) had been blocked off, and we found it necessary to block off some of the draught that directed the heat round the back boiler with some strategically placed bricks. Even so, the fuel consumption was high – five bags of coal a month plus logs galore – and the only room heated was the living room. The water tank reached a high temperature very quickly, and we often had to draw off the water to get rid of the boiling noise it made.
The rest of the house had electric heaters, but I used a Calor gas fire in the front bedroom, where I worked; I got nervous at how fast the electricity meter whizzed round when the heaters were used, which was rarely.
The galley kitchen was as it had been originally, excepting that the coal cupboard was now part of the house; it never quite dried out, and tins of food rusted if left in there. Next to the coal hole was a larder, which was excellent. Out the back was the rough track that encircled the houses, and each tenant had an enormous (and dry) shed, complete with an electricity supply, and an equally large log store. Coal was stored in coal bunkers. There was plenty of space for the washing lines at the back; on windy days, the washing sometimes escaped.
The majority of residents in the parish have mains water supplied by the East of Scotland Water (previously East Lothian Water Board). The water supply comes from Whiteadder Reservoir.
Biel estate and Pitcox (owned by branches of the same family) have their own, spring-fed water supply (see Economy – Industry). The estate and farm cottages were improved in 1951 when water and modern sanitation was introduced.
Stenton village has used mains electricity since 1928. There is no mains gas. Residents either use LPG, oil or electricity to heat their homes. The main streets of the village are lit as well as the side streets. People can receive terrestrial TV and satellite with satellite dishes. Mobile phones are difficult as the reception is not good; Ruchlaw West Mains cannot receive a mobile phone service at all.
In the post-war period, Arthur Harris’ garage organised the village refuse collection, taking bins to the quarry at the west end of the village on Saturday mornings; the village boys helped to load the bins onto the lorry and got a ride back along the village, returning the bins to their owners. In 2000, there was a regular rubbish collection on Tuesday both for the usual waste collection and for larger items on request.
Shops & Services
In the late 1940s, there were a number of shops and small businesses run from the village.
By 2000 the shops, the inn, and the old post office had changed use. Apart from the inn, which became an art gallery, these buildings were no longer used for commercial purposes and became private houses.
Only the post office was left. A bakery, started c1994 in one of the Crofts’ work units, had closed. Residents in the parish have to shop elsewhere – going to East Linton, Dunbar or Haddington. With the improvement in car ownership, Edinburgh too is accessible to the majority of people in the parish.
A licensed grocer was run by the two Miss Fairgrieves next door to the present art gallery; the village lads bought their beer from them and drank it in the old swing park. The Miss Fairgrieves retired around 1950 and sold the shop to Mr Tom Veitch. The grocer’s was upgraded and a van was acquired which was a travelling shop and took orders.
Tom Veitch started the pub in the grocer’s storeroom and called it the Oaks. In 1959 or 1960, he sold the pub and the shop closed completely. Connor bought the pub and the Macaulay Gallery ran alongside the pub from 1980. The Oaks closed in the late 1980s, and the art gallery (initially the Macauley Gallery, latterly the Stenton Gallery) took over the premises.
Mrs Anderson, Mrs Isa Smith and Mrs Betty Cowan ran the post office. Mrs Anderson from the Old Post Office, the others from a wooden building. In 2000, Doreen Thomson ran the post office from Roodwell.
In the l940s to mid 1950s, Onion Johnny’s travelled by train from Edinburgh to East Linton then cycled up to Stenton. At about the same time there were visits by Indian and Pakistani salesmen with suitcases of silks and other materials. Two travelling hardware vans came out from Dunbar – Robertson and Dicksons. They sold paraffin and the like. There was a baker from East Linton and three butcher vans came from Dunbar – Miller, Robertson and the Co-op – plus a fish van and a large lumbering vehicle driven by a Mr Sanderson. He sold and repaired all kinds of footwear.
(see also Economy)
In 1945, Arthur Harris ran the garage, and a radio and bike shop; it was situated at the east end of the village near the Rood Well. Arthur Harris retired in 1955/56; sales of petrol ceased in the mid 1980s. In the late 1980s, Robert Gray, and then Alastair Corstorphine ran the garage. It closed in the mid 1990s as a car repair business.
Two men worked in the smithy until it closed about 1955. The Harrowers owned it latterly and Will Watt was the smith prior to Harrower. The smithy is now a private house. Andrew Halliday was the village joiner, undertaker and registrar. He had two to three men working for him. The joiner’s shop was at the foot of Weavers’ Row and closed in 1977.
A painter and decorator, John Learmonth ran his business from the village until about 1970. A Mr Broadwood was a cobbler in 1947.
The bakery at the Old Bake House was by owned James Bell. It provided employment for three to four men and a van went round the district. The shop was next to St Mary’s and the bakehouse was opposite across the Wynd; both of these are now private houses. Willie Nicolson ran the bakery after the Bells and it closed in 1955.
John and George Lawrie ran a gardening business, working at many of the big houses in and around the village.
Mr Weir ran the Pressmennan Farm Dairy until 1962. A milk van went round the parish driven by Mary Buglass – ‘Milky Mary’. Until c1950, milk was collected at the cottage opposite the Tron.
In 2000, there remained some business in Stenton parish. There was a mosaic workshop in one of the Croft units, and R.N. Irwin & Son, Slaters and Plasterers (established 1993) continued to work from Stenton. With the expansion of home working, and improving computer networks, there were probably many other successful small businesses operating in the parish. Examples of known expertise in the 1990s included garden design; fitting, welding and engineering services; hairdressing; general gardening services; antiques; and architectural services.