This month and next month, we are going to look at buildings that have either been demolished or have had a change of use. The photos (from DDHS archives) are of the building that was once there and what the building/space looks like today.
The first photo above shows the Tin Tabernacle which was the hall of St Anne’s Church for many years. The building stood at the top of Parsonspool and has been replaced by the bungalow in the 2nd photo. You can read more about Tin Tabernacles, many of which were temporary churches prior to a permanent church being built, here. DDHS member Stephen Bunyan has written about St Anne’s and the hall, and he notes “The
temporary building was purchased second hand in Falkirk. It cost £27 10/-.The cost of erection was
£85 10/8. A subscription of £70was raised/. The hall was surveyed in 1930. It was reported that it
would last a further ten years and possibly thirty if looked after. On that basis an extension was
built, a porch, a W.C and Kitchen was added at a cost of £52 17/-“. The hall was used by local groups such as the scouts in the 1940s and 1950s and concerts were held there in the 1950s an 1960s. Stephen also notes that the hall was the venue of a nursery in the 1970s. Jim Herring has gathered some memories of the hall and these include pipe band practice from IM It was also there in the hall that we practiced marching for the first time, to start with we would march round the hall in circles in single file, then progress in rows marching up and down. It wasn’t that big a hall. We practised on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. TB remembers a table tennis competition in the early 1960s. He won the competition and went on to represent Dunbar in the East Lothian wide contest in Tranent. Many people remembered going to the nursery and some remembered The Tufty Club which was formed to encourage road safety. Other memories were of highland and tap dancing, practice for the band Barney, whist drives and later discos.
The Victoria Ballroom was originally built as a gymnasium for the soldiers billeted in the nearby barracks. The gymnasium was built in 1913 for soldiers who were housed for certain periods. In WW2, the barracks was used by the Officer Cadet Training Unit (good photos and interviews) and the soldiers did some training and fitness sessions in the gymnasium. There were dances during the war and particularly after the war in what was still the gymnasium. In researching his book Dunbar in the 1950s, Jim Herring interviewed band leader Toe Gillan who often played there. In the interview, Toe Gillan said that, because the gymnasium had been built by and for the army, it probably had the finest dance floor in Scotland in the 1950s and beyond. The late Jean Brunton remembered going to dances when the OCTU soldiers were there and Toe Gillan’s band was playing. The gymnasium was converted into the Victoria Ballroom in the early 1960s after the County Council took control of the barracks. In the 1960s, quite a few DDHS members will remember going to the dances there, and seeing local group Nick and the Sinners and popular Fife group The Mark V who once appeared on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury – alas without success. Very famous groups appeared at the Victoria Ballroom, such as The Bachelors, The Yardbirds, The Tornadoes, plus The Searchers, who had afternoon tea at the St George Hotel, as well as dinner and overnight accommodation at The Roxburghe Hotel. In the 1980s, the ballroom became a venue for professional wrestling which was popular on TV at that time. The building deteriorated and was demolished in 1989. You can see some of the adverts for the Victoria Ballroom here.
The first photo above – a proof copy – shows children enjoying the trampolines at the amusements which were situated near the East Beach. The Palace of Pleasure or Johnny’s as it was known locally, was a hub for tourists and many remember going there, where people would play on slot machines, play bingo, visit the monkey house – recalled as being smelly – or take their children to the carousels and trampolines – see the enlarged photo. Johnny’s was particularly busy on wet days or when the haar rolled in for 3 days at a time. People could also buy snacks, drinks and ice cream at the REFRESHMENTS SHELTER seen in the photo. The heyday of Johnny’s was in the 1960s when Dunbar’s population doubled (at least) with the influx of tourists. The busiest times were in July in the first fortnight – Edinburgh Trades Holidays – and second fortnight – Glasgow Fair holidays.
This month, we are going to continue looking at buildings that have either disappeared or changed in some way.
The first photo above shows the entrance to Winterfield Park, in the 1930s. The park was designated as The Public Park in 1920 and was built on land owned by St Clair Cunningham. The third photo shows the name of the park with the Dunbar crest on the front, although there is no date to tell us when the plaque was put up. The second photo shows the entrance as it is today and the view looks very similar to the one c1930s. There are some significant differences. Firstly, the extensive gardens next to the tennis court have been replaced mainly with grass. Secondly, behind the tennis courts, there is a red tiled building which was formerly the ticket office/changing rooms/toilets in the 1950s and 1960s. There may have been a ladies tennis match on when the original photo was taken as the players are all in their whites. Although the courts appear to be green in colour, former members of the tennis club in the 1950s are sure that these were certainly not grass courts, so the photo may have been enhanced at some point. Jim Herring contacted leading Dunbar historian David Anderson and he produced the definitive answer i.e.
Your image is from an Edwards of Selkirk photo, I think. His number sequence is a means of dating, but only approximately. If it is Edwards then this is either 2308 or 2547 (don’t have my scans here). In either case taken after 1936 but before 1939. Hence the vanishing railings – still plenty time for the war to take them. Pretty sure the courts were never grass – rolled & crushed cinders were cheap as waste from the town’s gas works, or similarly rolled & crushed burnt shale from Midlothian oil works served the same purpose. It’s all false colour on the pic anyway, so no telling if the courts are actually orange or grey (or red from scraped bloody knees). The flowerbeds survived along the side until the early 70s at least, albeit smaller. I think the kiosk was still there then, too (storing putting stuff too?), although the long changing rooms on the west side had arrived.
Finally, in the distance, you can see what was Winterfield Pavilion, of which, more later. In today’s photo, you can see the banner for the tennis company Yonex on the courts. No advertising in the 1930s-1960s.
The first photo above shows the public toilets and cloakrooms in the High Street. Next to the toilets, you can see the signs for the Dunbar British Legion, the blue one jutting out and the black one above the entrance to the Legion Close leading to the Legion buildings. In today’s photo, there is only a blue sign above the entrance. The first photo may be from the 1960s and next to the cloakrooms was La Femme, which was a clothes shop managed by Janie Lister. The shop was very popular with women at the time as it stocked a range of fashinable women’s clothing. In today’s photo, the shop is now Lewis George hairdressers. In both photos, you can see that there is an old Esso Blue Paraffin sign, and this was part of Dickson’s the ironmongers shop. The toilets and cloakrooms came to the aid of many summer visitors in the 1950s and 1960s, especially when it rained and bus parties had to wait until a certain time to re-join their bus. To use these toilets, people had to put an old penny (1d) in the slot and this is thought to be the origin of the term “spend a penny”. It was also the origin of the well-known graffiti in the toilets, which began “Here I sit…”.
The first photo above shows the doocot at Friarscroft, which stands to the left of the main road opposite the western end of Delisle Street. This Camore site tells us that “The small house of Trinitarian or Red Friars at Dunbar is stated to have been ‘biggit and foundit’ by Cristiana de Brus, countess of Dunbar, this foundation probably taking place in 1240-8. The priory was dissolved in 1529”. The impressive building was originally a tower in the friary church which was 39m long by 8m wide, so it must have been an imposing presence in its day and it would have dominated all other, much smaller buildings around it. The Camore site also refers to a cemetery to the south of the church and evidence of “medieval ploughing” to the north. To read more about the history of Friarscroft and of the excavations done there in 1981, see here. The photo is of course from much more modern times and Pauline Smeed commented “The buildings on the right are farm cottages with the horse mill, now converted and still there today on the corner by Friarscroft. The chimney and tank in the distance are the old gasworks, now Graham Place (named after Isa Graham). The long white building on the left before the Bleachingfield is the old washhouse. You can just see some washing on the line on the left side”. The first photo cannot be copied today because of the planting of trees, but the solid tower/doocot still stands as seen in the second photo. Third photo is taken from the car park of the houses at Friarscroft and you can clearly see the modernised horse mill building. The architectural structure of the horse mill is described in this Canmore site.
This month we are still looking at buildings that have changed or disappeared.
The photo above was taken in 1935 and the John Gray Centre annotation states that “Traditionally maypole dancing was done by women, but later became popular with children. Each child holds one of the coloured ribbons and circles the maypole with a hopping, skipping step. Some of the children dance in one direction while the others dance the opposite way around the pole”. Looking at the crowds watching this event, this celebration of May Day was obviously very popular. The pavilion aka Winterfield Pagoda was originally built to house Pierrot shows and you can read more about Scottish Pierrots here. In the 1960s, the pavilion was converted into a toilet/shower/storage facility for the caravan park. The photo below was featured on the Resources Pages in 2019 (scroll down to June 2019.)
The park was used for many purposes in the 20th century, such as sheepdog trials, shows and circuses. The pavilion deteriorated and was demolished in 2016. You can see 15 photos of Winterfield Park and the now dilapidated pavilion here. Today, there is no trace of the pavilion but the park remains as a space for walking and sport, and admiring the wild flowers, past their best in the photo below.
The photo above shows the Playhouse Picture House/Cinema. The Playhouse was built in 1937 and is featured in Jim Herring’s book Dunbar in the 1950s. It was much bigger than people expected it to be and bandleader George “Toe” Gillan stated that the people who were responsible for estimating the size of the cinema came to Dunbar in the summertime. George Gillan continued “Now Dunbar was packed to the gunnels with visitors in the summertime and it was estimated that the population could have doubled. So they decided to build this big cinema, and people often wondered why Dunbar got a big, palatial-looking picture house, which they thought might have been more suitable for a much bigger town”.
The photo above shows the inside of the building and George Gillan’s term palatial is not far off the mark. The Art Deco design can be seen on the ceiling, the lights and beside the screen. You can read more about Art Deco cinemas here. The heyday of the Playhouse was in the 1950s and 1960s when popular pictures/films had queues stretching down Countess Road on Saturday evenings. The audiences declined in the 1970s and the building became too expensive to repair. It was demolished in 1988 and replaced by a medical centre.
The site of the old cinema – seen above – is now home to the Cherrytrees Nursery for children. The picture house is gone as are the adjacent buildings – a former shoe shop owned by Frank Shields and the Birrell’s sweetie shop. You can see a 1952 video of Birrell’s sweetie factory here. In both photos, the sturdy stone wall is still there.
The photo above shows what was once Stark’s garage, with the offices next to it. This garage was well-known for its Roto-Moto facility, whereby cars could drive into the garage for petrol and the car would be turned around to face the high street on a turntable, thus allowing the driver to avoid reversing. After asking for comments on the photo, Jim Herring could not find anyone who could identify the person holding the petrol pump. As the the two cars seen in the photo, the car next to the attendant may have been a Hillman Super Minx and the car to the right a Mini Van. At this time – 1950s/1960s – there were no service stations/garages as we know them now, whose sole purpose is to sell petrol. Also, there was no such thing as self-service, at least in small towns like Dunbar, at this time, so the photo is relevant to Dunbar’s social history.
Within Stark’s Garage in the 1950s, there was a television/radio repair shop and the photo above – copy donated to DDHS by Emily Winter (née Preston) – shows a bill sent to her father in Ash Grove in 1957. There were very few televisions in Dunbar at this time and most people could only have the wireless/radio for entertainment. You can see at the top left, under the Esso Dealer sign, the handwritten Radio Dept. Early TVs had valves which could be replaced – here it is a Mallard valve (photo) – and resistors (detail and photos). On the bill, you can see that one or more resistors had burned out and needed to be replaced. Today’s TVs have no valves or resistors and are unlikely a) to need repair or b) be capable of being repaired.
The view today is somewhat different, with the Post Office now where the garage offices used to be and the flats next door replacing the old building above the garage. The present Post Office replaced the old one across the road and the Old Post Office building is now Hector’s restaurant.