Cockenzie and Port Seton

East Lothian

Cockenzie Harbour
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Cockenzie Harbour

Located on the coast of the Firth of Forth, between Prestonpans and Longniddry. Cockenzie and Port Seton are combined burghs with long traditions of fishing. Cockenzie in particular was a fishing and whaling centre with a harbour built in the early 17th Century. Port Seton has the larger harbour, but is now a holiday resort. It was traditionally a fishing and salt making village with the latter declining by the mid-19th century. Before the First World War, Cockenzie and Port Seton had more than 150 registered fishing boats, worked by 650 fishermen. Inshore fishing still takes place from both harbours, although on a rather more modest scale. Coal has long been important to the local economy and Cockenzie may have had the earliest railway ever when a wooden wagonway using horsepower was built in 1722 to transport coal. Mining in East Lothian ceased c. 2000 with the closure of the Blindwells opencast site beyond Blinkbonny, located a half-mile (1 km) to the south, and the immense Cockenzie Power Station, which had used much of the coal, closed in 2013. Blindwells is being redeveloped for housing.

Much 18th-century economic development was initiated by the Cadell family, especially John Cadell who lived in Cockenzie House, built in the late 17th century by the Winton estate. Nearby stands Seton Collegiate Church (14th C.), and Seton House (1791, by Robert Adam) which is on the site of the razed 16th-century Seton Palace where Mary Stuart stayed soon after her husband Darnley was killed.

Box-Meeting Day is an annual festival held here on the third Friday of September, celebrating the traditional return of the fishermen from their summer journeys.

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