East Lothian

Mercat Cross, Ormiston
©2021 Gazetteer for Scotland

Mercat Cross, Ormiston

Located south of Tranent in East Lothian, Scotland's first planned village, Ormiston was built in 1735 on the model of an English village by one of the initiators of the Agricultural Revolution, John Cockburn of Ormiston (1685 - 1758), using strict guidelines for its appearance. He put housing for artisans and cottage industries (spinning and weaving) around the original 'mill hamlet'.

When he did not achieve the expected return on his investment he sold the enterprise to the Earl of Hopetoun in 1747; the linen trade became a failure and by 1811 the distillery had shut down. A brewery and one of Scotland's first bleachfields were built here as well. Ormiston later became a mining village. Initially small pits were dug in the surrounding area, but later three larger collieries were opened by the Ormiston Coal Company; Limeylands (1896), Tynemount (1923) and Oxenford (1926). By the 1940s these were employing more than 700 men, but between 1952 and 1962 they were all closed. A Miners' Institute (opened in 1925) remains. The railway came to Ormiston in 1862 but passenger services ceased in 1933 and the lines were lifted with the closure of the last mine in the early 1960s.

The village includes a 15th-century pre-Reformation Mercat Cross, unusual for its truly cruciform shape. There is also a monument to the missionary Robert Moffat who was born here in 1797.

Located a mile (1.5 km) to the south is Ormiston Hall, which was built 1745-48 for John Cockburn but later extended by the Earl of Hopetoun. It was destroyed by fire during World War II. The reforming preacher George Wishart was captured by the Earl of Bothwell while hiding here in 1545. Standing nearby are the ruins of the pre-Reformation St. Giles Parish Church. Also in the grounds of the Hall is the Great Yew of Ormiston, which is thought to be 1000 years old.

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