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Parish of Ormiston

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: Ormiston
1834-45: Ormiston

Ormiston, a village and a parish of W Haddingtonshire. The village stands, 274 feet above sea-level, near the left bank of the Tyne, 2¾ miles SSE of Tranent, 8 WSW of Haddington, 6 ENE of Dalkeith, and 12 ESE of Edinburgh. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder described it in 1848 as ` occupying the central point of the valley, and with the red-tiled roofs of its houses rising here and there over the trees in which it is embosomed. Its main street, running ENE, with a row of trees upon either side, has the width of an English village, and from its centre arises a rude old cross, near which at the close of last century stood a pre-Reformation chapel, then used as the parish school-house. The village has now a certain air of decay about it, but in our younger days we remember that some of its best houses were inhabited by respectable persons of demifortune, who came here to live cheap, so that it afforded a quiet, genteel, and innocent society. ' John Cockburn of Ormiston (1685-1758), the pioneer of Scottish agriculture, here founded a farmers' club in 1736, the first it is thought of its kind in the kingdom. In the ten years before he had also established a brewery and distillery, a linen factory, and a bleachfield, the second most likely in Scotland. These all have been long extinct; but Ormiston has a post office, an inn, and a station on the Macmerry branch of the North British railway. Pop. (1791) 600, (1831) 335, (1861) 349, (1871) 349, (1881) 378.

The parish, which since 1648 has had the barony of Peaston annexed to it from Pencaitland, is bounded NW by Tranent, E by Pencaitland, SE by Humbie, and W by Cranston in Edinburghshire. In shape resembling an E, it has an utmost length from NNW to SSE of 4 miles, a varying breadth of 3 furlongs and 3 miles, and an area of 3443 ½ acres. The Tyne, here little more than a brook, runs 17/8 mile north-eastward across the northern district and along the Cranston and Pencaitland boundaries; Bellyford Burn, its affluent, runs 21/8 miles eastward, partly on the boundaries with Tranent and Pencaitland-, partly across the NE corner; and Kinchie Burn, its sub-affluent, traces two other parts of the Pencaitland boundary. Sinking along the Tyne to 270 feet above sea-level, the surface thence rises gently till at Dodridge Law on the southern border it attains a height of 700 feet. The parish of Ormiston ` is English in appearance, the Tyne running slowly in a deep alluvial bed through meadows, and the fields being everywhere divided by hedgerow trees, whilst the extensive and united woods of Ormiston Hall, Woodhall, and Fountainhall form a sylvan district of so great magnitude as, when we consider the rich agricultural county in which it is situated, might almost be termed a forest. ' The rocks belong to the Carboniferous Limestone series. Sandstone has been quarried, of poorish quality for building; limestone has been largely worked in the S; and coal exists in at least three workable seams, and appears to have been mined from early times; whilst ironstone also seems to exist. The soil along the Tyne is a light loam incumbent on gravel; in tracts further back is a stiff clay incumbent on till; on both the northern and southern borders is naturally moorish, but has been greatly improved by cultivation; and on a small tract in the W is an alluvium, producing good natural grass. About 180 acres are under wood; 140 are meadow and constant pasture; and nearly all the remainder is in tillage. From the Ormes, who bequeathed their name to the parish, the lands of Ormiston passed to the Lindsays, and from them by marriage (1368) to the Cockburns, two of whom held the office of Lord Justice-Clerk in the 17th century. In 1748 John Cockburn, mentioned above, was obliged to sell the estate to the Earl of Hopetoun, with whose descendants it has since remained. Ormiston Hall, 9 furlongs S of the village, is a building of 1745, in the tea-canister style of architecture that then prevailed. By 1832 three additions had been made to it in a similar style, one canister added alongside of another; but as it has no external pretension, it gives no offence, and within is extremely comfortable. The older house, 200 yards to the W, forms part of a court of offices. Hither on a December night of 1545 the Reformer George Wishart ` passed upon foot, for it was a vehement frost. After supper he held comfortable purpose of the death of God's chosen children, and merely said, 'Methink that I desire earnestly to sleep," and therewith he said, " Will we sing a psalm." Which being ended, he passed to chamber, and sooner than his common diet was passed to bed, with these words, " God grant quiet rest. " Before midnight the place was beset about that none could escape to make advertisement. The Earl Bothwell came and called for the laird, and declared the purpose and said that it was but vain to make him to hold his house, for the Governor and the Cardinal with all their power were coming; but and if he would deliver the man to him, he would promise upon his honour that he should be safe, and that it should pass the power of the Cardinal to do him any harm or scath. . . . As thus promise made in the presence of God, and hands stretched out upon both the parties for observation of the promises, the said Master George was delivered to the hands of the said Earl Bothwell, who, immediately departing with him, came to Elphinstone, where the Cardinal was.' So runs John Knox's narrative; and less than four months after Wishart was burnt at St Andrews. In the flower garden grows a spreading yew-tree, 18 feet in girth and 38 in height, which seems to have been a tree of mark so long ago as 1474, and still is in great vigour. An aisle of the ancient church, disused since 1696, still stands near the older house; and on Dodridge Law are remains of a circular fort. Natives were Admiral Sir William HopeJohnstone, K.C.B. (1798-1878), and the Rev. Robert Moffat, D.D. (1797-1883), the African missionary, who also has been falsely claimed by Inverkeithing. The Earl of Hopetoun is chief proprietor, 2 others holding each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 2 of from £50 to £500, and 9 of from £20 to £50. Ormiston is in the presbytery of Dalkeith and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £396. The parish church, built in 1856, is a handsome Early English edifice, containing 420 sittings. There is also a Free church; and a public school, with accommodation for 245 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 94, and a grant of £81, 17s. Valuation (1860) £5907, (1884) £7095, 17s. Pop. (1801) 766, (1831) 838, (1861) 915, (1871) 911, (1881) 1026.—Ord. Sur., sh. 33, 1863. See Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's Scottish Rivers (1874), and John Small's Castles and Mansions of the Lothians (Edinb. 1883).

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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