This month features the Playhouse and some surviving photos of the exterior and interior of the picture house/cinema
The Playhouse stood at the Abbey Church end of the High Street and the space is now occupied by the Cherrytrees Nursery. The photos shows the Art Deco exterior of the Playhouse, with steps going up the middle and a board showing what films could be seen that week. In the 1950s, on the left hand side of the cinema was Frank Shield’s shoe repair shop and when you entered, there was a wonderful smell of leather and glue. On the right hand side at that time, there was Birrell’s sweetie shop. People bought sweets here before going to a film but there was also a counter which sold sweets inside the foyer.
The photo above shows part of the foyer in the Playhouse and this was taken after it closed in 1984. On the left is the where you paid for your ticket, and next to that is the entrance to the stalls. The stairs led up to the extensive balcony. For town the size of Dunbar in 1937 (when it opened) the Playhouse was a huge cinema and it was said that the people who came to judge the size of the potential cinema came in the summer months, when Dunbar was full of tourists.
The above advert from December 1950 shows the films – the “big” film and the “wee” film on Monday to Saturday. As there was no television, people often went to the picture house more than once a week. The advert also shows that it was Gaumont British News which was shown in Scotland, and not Pathe News shown elsewhere in the UK. You can see a trailer for Challenge to Lassie here – and you may be surprised by the location. Listen out for some truly awful accents.
The final photo above shows the inside of the cinema and it is in this photo that you can really see the Art Deco features – on the wall next to the screen, in the ceiling patterns and in the stylish lights. You can see the balcony upstairs and just catch a glimpse of the front row of the stalls. On Saturday mornings, when the matineees were shown, there was a mad rush of kids trying to get a seat in the front row.
This month and September 2019 will be devoted to maps of Dunbar at different times. For August, we will look at part of John Wood’s map of Dunbar which was published in 1830. Copies of the Wood map are on sale at the History Society and Tippicanoe in Dunbar HIgh Street and cost £4. There is a very good article on the origins of Wood’s map here. David Anderson has contributed to the notes below.
This part of the map looks at the eastern end of the High Street. Key features of this map are on the left hand side, the Masonic Lodge which was situated on the High Street next to what is now Douglas Reid’s showroom. You can read more about Dunbar Freemasons here. The tron or town weigh beam was originally outside (Weights marked)On the right hand side the 1st United Secession Meeting House is highlighted and the entrance to the church (aka meeting house) was from Church Street. Wood doesn’t seem to show the manse which was on the west side of the church. One very interesting feature of this map is that it shows that behind the left hand side of the High Street, it was mainly orchards and gardens.
The second extract from Wood’s map moves us up the High Street. On the right hand side of the map, we can see that James Lorimer owned a large section of land and this was called Sandwell Gardens, which were used as market gardens. The Assembly Rooms are clearly marked. This building was erected in 1822 for meetings of farmers around Dunbar and was used by George Low and Son in the mid 20th century for auctions. The historian James Miller mentions it being for civic receptions, celebrations, balls, etc on the back of the Napoleonic period. Also on the map is Crows Wynd, sometimes called Craws Wynd, which later became Cossars Wynd. We can also see that as we move up the High Street, the trees disappear from the left and are replaced, as on the right hand side, with small fields. There is also an increase in the extent of building on the right hand side. Also of note is the extent of land on the left hand side owned by the Reverend John Jaffray, who was minister of the Parish Church which was built a decade earlier.
The final extract shows the middle of the High Street, with the West Port on the left and Silver Street on the right. At the bottom of Silver Street, diagonally opposite is Coffin Street, known today as Colvin Street. To the right of Coffin Street a brewery is marked and this was the Dunbar Brewery. The John Gray Centre has more information on this brewery and on the history of brewing in Dunbar – see here. On the left hand side going down Silver Street is property owned by the Town Council – this was the new town jail and the vacant lot at the bottom right was the site of the original gasworks. There is a well marked on Church Street.
The map this month is from 1893 and is an extract from a 6 inch map of Haddingtonshire as East Lothian was known then. The first two quadrants of the map are discussed below.
Upper right quadrant of the 1893 map (Click on all maps to enlarge – recommended)
The first part of the map to be highlighted takes in Broxmouth Estate, including The Wilderness , Dunbar Golf Course and the shoreline around the course. At the top right of the map, you will see the letters L.W.M.O.S.T. This stands for Low Water Mark of Ordinary Spring Tides. Below that is the High Water Mark. To the left of this can be seen Lawrie’s Den a rock stack off the golf course – see photo here but there is no explanation of the name. To the left of the Den, you can see Fluke Dub, described here as “A Small hollow bed of Sand Situated between high and low water mark and near the mouth of Brox Burn. Fish called flounders commonly called flukes are caught here hence the name”. To the right of Lawrie’s Den, Mill Stone Neuk is named and this was, according to the Canmore site, “A site where millstones have been quarried. Circular depressions may be visible, along with unfinished or broken millstones”.
On the golf course, you can see West Links and Mid Links as if they are two separate courses. to the left of Mid Links, is Sloebigging described here as “A Farm Steading in the policy of Broxmouth. It consists of a dwelling house two Storeys high outhouses And cottages the dwellings are Occupied by the Servants of the establishment of the Countess Dowager of Roxburgh and the land about 180 Acres is farmed by the Owner”. Under Authorities for Spelling are listed “Mr Denholm Broxmouth Dunbar, James Bishop Broxburn Dunbar, G Rennie Oxwell Mains Dunbar” but it is not clear who the owner might be. There is no information on the origin of the name. On the same site, The Vaults – see below Lawrie’s Den – is described as “A Row of three Cottages on the links at the Sea Shore about 1/2 Mile NE [North East] of Broxmouth House And derives its name from having been used as a Corn Store when the rents were taken by the Fuars; the whole basement rooms were arched or vaulted (hence the name) It has recently be converted into three commodious cottages, Occupied by Fisherman, And the property of the Duke of Roxburgh”. The authorities here are listed as “Mr Denholm Broxmouth Dunbar, G Rennie Oxwell Mains Dunbar”.
At the bottom right of the map, Strand House is named. This Canmore site which relates to the finding of burial cists, refers to “Trial trenching of the area of the demolished 19th-century Strand House and sheepfolds failed to unearth significant archaeological features or finds”.
Lower right quadrant of 1893 map
The second section shows the land to the south east of the town. At the top left, you will see West Lodge and South Lodge below. Historic Environment Scotland comment “The house [Broxmouth House) is now approached from the West Lodge, a single-storey 19th century building, as shown on the 1799 county map (Forrest, 1799). The entrance at the South Lodge is in use, and leads along the Green Avenue (1876, OS 25″) with a curving driveway flanking it to the east which was probably inserted in the 19th century”. The Forrest 1799 map can be viewed here. Below South Lodge, Broxmouth Ward is prominently shown. This Canmore site refers to an archaeological find “An early Bronze Age Beaker, Type F from Broxmouth Waird, Oxwell Mains, Dunbar, is preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), Edinburgh, No. EG44”, with Waird replacing Ward. For a detailed definition of Ward/Waird in this context, see here.
Further south is Little Pinkerton which is still a farm with cottages and a big house today. There may or may not have been a chapel at Pinkerton – see here. To the right is Fuller’s Hill referred to here as “[Situation] About 1 Mile W by S [West by South] from East Barns A hill of slight elevation on the farm of Meikle Pinkerton. Its surface consists of arable land. On it is a Trigl [Trigonometrical] Station called by Trigl [Trigonometrical] Party after the farm”. The site of the Battle of Dunbar 1650 is highlighted and above that there is a milestone (M.P.) showing Dunbar 2 miles away and Renton 12 miles away. Renton was obviously an important place in 1893 and you can read about its history here.
Oxwell Mains, now the site of the cement works, was a farm at that time and in 1854, this was described as “[Situation] About 3/4 Mile W by N [West by North] from East Barns. A farm house and out houses in good repair having a farm of about 400 acres of land attached. The property of the Duke of Roxburgh. A little to the S.W. [South West] of this farm house is the ruin of an old windmill”. The Old Windmill can be seen on the map to the southwest of the farm.
The nearby lime works were described in 1854 as “Large lime works having kilns attached on the farm of Oxwell Mains, the property of the Duke of Roxburgh”. To the southwest of the lime works, the Old Quarry is noted on the map and in 1854, this was recorded as Burlage Quarry “[Situation] About 1 Mile W by N [West by North] from East Barns. A large limestone quarry on the farm of Meikle Pinkerton. It is now but little wrought, and is nearly filled with water”. The term little wrought would not be used today. The 1854 references come from here. Further south, Fuller’s Hill is noted but no origin of the name could be found. It is still on modern maps, such as this one.
Overall, one of the key facts to be gathered from the analysis of this map is just how dominant the Duke of Roxburgh was as a landowner in this area.