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Parish of Tranent

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Tranent
1834-45: Tranent

Tranent, a town and a parish of NW Haddingtonshire. The town is 11/8 mile SE of Prestonpans station, 7½ miles W by S of Haddington, 3½ E of Musselburgh, 6½ NE of Dalkeith, and 9½ E of Edinburgh. It stands, 200 to 312 feet above sea-level, on a ridge of rising-ground; and its ancient name, Travernant, means ` the hamlet on the vale' -from the Cymric tref, 'a homestead or village, ' and nant, ` a valley.' Its main street extends from E to W along the public road, and is fully ½ mile long. The buildings along this street consist partly of villas and partly of shops, and have a neat and elegant appearance. There are other streets branching off, but the buildings in these are not equal to those in the main street. It is fair, however, to add that all over the town there is much improvement as compared with what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Built, it is said, by the Picts about the middle of the 11th century, and demolished in 1797, the old parish church is now represented by only a small ruin, which the late Mr Cadell converted into a mausoleum. This church about 1145 was confirmed by Thorald, the son of Swan, to the canons of Holyroodhouse. The present plain building, with a square tower, was opened in 1801, and has been lately cleaned and redecorated. It contains a harmonium (1882) and 912 sittings. The churchyard has been much improved within the last few years, and commands a view of the Firth of Forth, unsurpassed for beauty and variety. Other places of worship are a Free church (1843), a U.P. church (1826; 637 sittings), and a Primitive Methodist chapel (1870; 250 sittings). The Catholics, who number 400, have neither chapel nor schools, but a site has been bought, and a building fund is in progress. The great ornament of the town is its public school, which cost £6500, and was opened on 8 March 1877. It is a stone Elizabethan edifice, with clocktower and spire, and was designed by Mr Starforth of Glasgow. Stiell's Institution, 5 furlongs N of the town, was built in 1821-22 at a cost of £3000, from a plan by Mr Burn. Till 1884 it provided a free education to some 150 children, having been endowed by George Stiell, a smith and builder in Edinburgh, and a native of Tranent; but the funds will now be expended in bursaries and scholarships for the district, and in making special provision for secondary education in connection with the public school, the boarding and clothing of a few poor children, and the free education of many others. A branch of the Royal Bank now occupies the new premises (1874) of the City of Glasgow Bank; and the town has besides a post office, with money-order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, gasworks, 2 inns, a reading-room, a public hall, a volunteer corps, etc. Waterworks, costing £7000, and capable of supplying 300, 000 gallons per diem, were opened on 10 May 1883. The water is drawn from Crichton springs, about 8 miles off. There is a small iron-foundry and agricultural implement works; but weaving, nailmaking, brewing, candle-making, and straw-plaiting are all extinct; and the inhabitants are principally tradesmen, coal-miners, and day-labourers. Queen Mary was once in Tranent, as noticed under Seton; and Colonel Gardiner was borne to the manse from the field of Prestonpans. He was buried at the W end of the old church, but no tombstone now marks his grave, which is included within the present church. In the ` No Militia ' riot of August 1797 eleven persons or more were killed and twelve wounded. A police burgh under the General Police and Improvement Act (Scot.) of 1862, Tranent is governed by a senior and five junior commissioners. Pop. (1851) 2096, (1861) 2257, (1871) 2306, (1881) 2235, of whom 1101 were females. Houses (1881) 457 inhabited, 32 vacant, 4 building.

The parish, containing also Elphinstone village and the conjoint fishing-village of Cockenzie and Port-Seton, is bounded N by the Firth of Forth, E by Gladsmuir and Pencaitland, S by Ormiston and by Cranston in Midlothian, W by Inveresk in Midlothian, and NW by Prestonpans. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 41/8 miles; its breadth varies between 13/8 and 3¼ miles; and its area is 6176¾ acres, of which 258¼ are foreshore. The coast-line, 21/8miles in extent, is all quite flat, except for two greenstone dikes, at Cockenzie and E of Port-Seton, and has a beautiful beach of fine sand. The interior looks, in some views, to be almost level, but really rises southward from the shore, with slow gradient and gentle undulations, attaining 475 feet at Falside Hill and 492 near Elphinstone. The rocks belong to the Carboniferous Limestone series; and, owing to the seams cropping out at the surface, coal has been worked here for upwards of six centuries. Some time between 1210 and 1219, Seyr de Quinci granted a coal pit at Preston to the monks of Newbattle-the earliest notice of coal mining in Scotland; and in 1547 the inhabitants took refuge in the coalpits a few days before the battle of Pinkie. The chief existing mines are those of Tranent and Elphinstone; and from these large quantities are sent out weekly by rail and sea, few coals being more prized in the markets of Scotland. Sandstone has been worked in several quarries; and trap is quarried for road-metal. The soil is partly light and sandy, partly reclaimed morass, but chiefly a rich loam, inferior to none in Scotland. Excepting some 50 acres of sandy downs on the coast, and 100 or so of plantation, the entire area is regularly or occasionally in tillage, and wears a finely cultivated aspect. The ancient parish comprehended -all Prestonpans (till 1595), and considerable parts of Pencaitland and Gladsmuir; but did not comprise the barony or ancient parish of Seton, which was annexed to it in 1580. Bankton, Elphinstone Tower, Falside Castle, St Germains, and the palace and church of Seton are all noticed separately. Eight proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, and eight of between £100 and £500. Giving off the quoad sacra parish of Cockenzie since 1885, Tranent is in the presbytery of Haddington and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £400. The three public schools of Tranent, Cockenzie, and Elphinstone, with respective accommodation for 557, 392, and 154 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 419, 293, and 133, and grants of £366, 12s. 6d., £244, 10s., and £108. Valuation (1860) £18, 252, (1875) £27,185, (1885) £24,631. Pop. (1801) 3046, (1831) 3620, (1861) 4647, (1871) 4852, (1881) 5198, of whom fully 1750 are in Cockenzie quoad sacra parish.—Ord. Sur., shs. 33, 32, 1863-57. See P. M`Neill's Tranent and its Surroundings (Edinb. 1883; 2d ed. 1884).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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