The Napoleonic Garrison in East Lothian

A page to mark the Bi-centenary of The Battle of Waterloo and to record the Napoleonic Garrison in East Lothian.

The Peace of Amiens in 1801 marked an interlude in the Napoleonic Wars. It ended when Napoleon declared himself emperor; war broke out in 1803. Almost immediately, a massive force was deployed in an anti-invasion role to East Lothian. By November of that year timber barracks had been erected at Haddington and Dunbar. The details of those at Dunbar were recorded by James Miller:

The Infantry barracks consisted of 104 huts – viz. 2 mess-rooms, with kitchen, cellars, etc; 8 field officer’s rooms, 42 for officers, 45 for soldiers, 25 for servants; and 2 for staff-sergeants; besides stables for 40 horses, an hospital, store-houses, guard-houses, etc.

The Artillery Barracks consisted of 34 huts – viz. 1 mess-room, 2 field-officers’ rooms, 12 for officers, 12 for soldiers, 7 for servants; besides stables for 140 horses, gun-shed, smiths’, farriers’, wheelers’, and saddlers’ shops, guard-house, stores, etc.

The Cavalry Barracks consisted of 44 huts – viz. 1 mess-room, 4 field-officers’ rooms, 16 for officers, 4 for quarter-masters, 4 for sergeants, 12 for soldiers; besides stables for 320 horses, hay-sheds, granaries, guard-house, store-rooms, etc.

Plan of Barracks at Dunbar

Plan of Barracks at Dunbar

Thomas Hume of Lawfield, Barrack-master

Thomas Hume of Lawfield, Barrack-master

Thomas Hume secured the position of Barrack-master at Dunbar. He had plans drawn up of his command (and a silhouette picture survives to show him surveying his domain). Hume was responsible for both arranging the billeting of units posted to Dunbar – and for ensuring that there were sufficient supplies for their sustenance while there. This was a lucrative position to have. Miller alludes to the benefits the consequence of the military influx had on East Lothian in general – and on some fortunate individuals in particular:

Account of a 'golden age' in East Lothain

Account of a ‘golden age’ in East Lothain

The troops posted to Dunbar (and Haddington) were generally Militia and Fencible units, those raised for home service and embodied for the duration of the war, as well as the volunteer bodies of East Lothian and adjacent counties, which were in arms for short periods only. There is no comprehensive list, but traces are common in the parish registers – recording the deaths, marriages and family births of the soldiers serving. A local author and historian has produced a booklet giving an account of some of the regiments involved at Dunbar.

Hedderwick was leased for a period by the military commander, George Don, before he was posted to more active service. It was a convenient location for his headquarters – near to the Dunbar Force and the beaches, but also in communication with his troops at Haddington.

The barracks at Haddington were only slightly smaller in extent than those at Dunbar, being laid out at Artillery Park. The HQ was at Goatfield House and James Roughead of Haddington was Barrack-master. He tabulated the accommodation and added a note of the supplies that had to be provided:

Details of Haddington Barracks

Details of Haddington Barracks

A quick calculation shows that Roughead had to facilitate the delivery of around 22 tonnes of coal weekly! Most could be sourced at Prestonpans and Tranent – but it then had to be shipped to Dunbar or delivered by road to Haddington. So at each stage there was profit for the colliers, coal company, carters and shippers, and (of course) the middle man! The same applied to each and every commodity that the troops required (excepting the Government supplied equipment controlled through similar national contracts).

All good things come to an end. The barracks were sold off or dismantled for other uses and the troops dispersed. But many of the benefits remained: the capital that had flowed into the hands of agriculturalists and merchants went into improvements in both the countryside and in the burghs. Additionally, a goodly amount was invested in the East Lothian Bank (check the list of directors and investors) – but that’s another story.

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