Whittingehame | Belief

While there are a few Catholics, the Church of Scotland has long been the focus of worship in the parish. The considerable extent of the parish meant that residents attended whichever church was nearest, Morham and Stenton included; southern residents (and others from such as nearby Cranshaws) attended services at Kingside school during the summers of the mid 1960s and 1970s, as they had during the 1940s and 1950s, when monthly evening services were held.

The manse, parish church and churchyard are close to the original Whittingehame village site, and Whittingehame Tower. The beautiful old church is in what must be one of the most attractive locations in the county, set amongst trees in a corner of the estate. From 1723-1999, the church was used for regular worship, with a weekly service to 1973, then fortnightly until 1999. In 1999, Whittingehame was united with Stenton and Prestonkirk as Traprain parish. Unfortunately, since this union, the church is no longer used for regular services, which are held at Stenton (a 9.30am service, with coffee served afterwards) and Prestonkirk (a later service, with coffee served before). Whittingehame church is now used for special events, and there are four ‘regular’ services held a year – spring (Easter), Songs of Praise in summer, autumn (Harvest Festival) and Christmas Eve.

In 1971, the first female elder in Haddington and Dunbar Presbytery was from Whittingehame. Up to the 1980s, there were six elders; then the number was reduced to four (one of whom was Drew Harrower). Session meetings were held either in the manse or session clerk’s house. Unfortunately, the number of worshippers fell so much (in 1945, 147 communicants were listed; by 1998, that had fallen to 46), that union was the only way forward. From 1999, there were four elders representing the Whittingehame part of the Traprain parish – Drew, A Cockburn (who died in 2000), John Lindsay and Margaret Jeffrey.

The churchyard is now full, and burial is only possible if the location of a pre-purchased plot (lair) is known; the plan of the graveyard seems to have been lost. It was always the case that the plots lay alongside the paths, measured from the centre of the paths; however, over time the paths have become wider, and so the centre line has been lost. Burials here ceased in 1999.

There is a private burial ground on Whittingehame estate for the Balfour family. Whittingehame manse was sold on 14 May 1976.

1940-47 J.A. Laing
1948-56 C.O. Allan
1957 Whittingehame linked with Stenton under Whittingehame minister (Rev Stark)
1956-62 A.R. Stark
last minister of Whittingehame church
1963-73 W.R. Sanderson
(Moderator of the Church of Scotland 1967)
1974 Prestonkirk (East Linton) linked with Stenton & Whittingehame; Prestonkirk Manse retained for linked charge
1974-86 K.G. Hughes
1986-98 J.B. Lawson
1998-March 2000 vacancy
30 September 1999 union of Prestonkirk (East Linton), Stenton & Whittingehame as Traprain parish: the congregations had been vacant
2000 H.J. Haslett

Parish identity has changed dramatically since 1945, [with] the loss of younger people working on the farms. Loss of facilities within the parish [did not help] – the school, hall and bowling green. From 1980 on … [there was a] large percentage of residents working outside the area. [There was a] lack of interest in the wellbeing of [the] parish. There are now no community activities.

A final thought

A well-known Liberal Peer described a community as having four corners – a church, a school, a shop and a pub. We lost the pub with the old Whittingehame village, we lost the school to the desires of East Lothian County Council, we lost the shop when the post office closed and we have lost the church with amalgamation of the three parishes. Have we still got a community?