West Barns Photographs

Below is a selection of photographs from the image collection at the John Gray Centre depicting life in West Barns.

Portrait of a Place

Photographs West Barns, With Village Hall In Foreground, 1902-30

On the left is the so-called Cuddy House.

Photographs People standing in front of houses in Edinburgh Road, West Barns (Edinburgh Road looking east), c.1930-1950

The building to the far right appears to be the Post Office, and a post-box is evident in the wall.

From 1930s, after the White Row was demolished.

Photographs Fishwife at the Lodge, Bielside, West Barns, 1880-1899
Photographs Working in the fields at West Barns, Dunbar, East Lothian, 1934.

Homer Ramsay, the millman, is on the McCormick Deering, while Jim Bell is driving the International T20 Crawler. Both these vehicles belonged to Alan U. Cunningham from Hedderwick Hill in Dunbar. Alan was part of J&J Cunningham & Company of Charlotte Street in Leith, which went on to become part of Scottish Agricultural Industries Limited.

The combine is a ‘bagger’ and bagged the barley as it moved through the fields. Special bags were used for this purpose, capable of carrying twelve stone of crop and printed with ‘A.U.Cunningham, Hedderwick Hill & West Barns Farm’. The barley was then sold to Belhaven Brewery and to Ushers Brewery in Edinburgh. Damp barley was dried in Belhaven maltings at a special concessionary rate. In the background is Tilton House, built with Seafield bricks.

Photographs Women working on a bulb farm in Dunbar, East Lothian, 1926

This is a very rare example of a bulb farm in Scotland.

The farm belonged to Walter Blom and Son. It was started up in 1926 with the help of expertise from Holland in the shape of a Mr William Turk. The three women in the foreground are wearing traditional ‘uglies’, cane-framed bonnets which keep off the dust and protect the face from the sun and wind.

The farm concentrated on the rearing of daffodils, tulips, crocuses, gladioli, lilies, dahlias and anemones, with ten acres under cultivation. Although the area of West Barns is somewhat windswept, the cultivation of bulbs in the open prevented disease amongst the plants and a corrugated iron fence protected the bulbs from the strong west wind.

Peter Aitchison worked here when 11 years old, budding the roses.

These are three Maitland sisters. They lived in the house to the top right of the picture. The reason for growing bulbs here was the  sandy soil, which attracted the Dutch farmer, Mr Blom.

Photography Group of men and women with children, posing in a field, West Barns Farm, 1915-1960

Top row (left to right):
4th – Willie Bell  (Kenny Borthwick’ grandfather)
Other persons are the members of the Bell family.

Main Street, West Barns Main Street, West Barns (West Barns Edinburgh Road looking east), 1902-1940

Print of a postcard depicting Main Street, West Barns

Photographs James R. Purves’ Grocery Shop, West Barns, 1928-1938

Print depicting James R. Purves’ grocery shop, West Barns. A woman stands in the doorway.

Now known as ‘Aggies’ Bar’ (adjacent to The West Barns Inn)

Photographs Abe Darling leading two horses, West Barns, East Lothian, 1931

For many tasks, farm horses worked in pairs, although sometimes the job was too heavy for two alone and a ‘trace’ or ‘theat’ horse was harnessed in front. Horsemen took care of a pair of horses once out of their apprenticeship because it was a useful number. The best pairs, like the horses shown, were well matched in strength and size.

Horses took over from oxen in Scottish farms as late as the eighteenth century. They were, in historian Sprott’s words, ‘more expensive to buy and feed, but they were faster and more intelligent’. They were used on some farms until World War II (1939 – 1945) when tractors, which had been introduced in the late nineteenth century, finally took over.

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West Barns Memories

Photographs Decorative arch at Post Office Row, Edinburgh Road, West Barns (Celebrating Queen Victoria’s Visit) 26th Aug, 1878

Print depicting a decorative arch at Post Office Row, Edinburgh Road, West Barns. The village is readying itself for the visit of Queen Victoria. To the left is a row of houses. In the distance are the chimneys of Beltonford Paper Mill.

This row of houses on West Barns main street was built in brick from nearby Seafield Brick and Tile Works. In a district where even the humblest houses were of stone construction, they were innovative for their time, the mid-nineteenth century.

The floral arch was a traditional way of marking important events, common in many towns and villages across East Lothian. It comprises of poles and staves clad in flowers and foliage.

Queen Victoria visited Broxmouth House, to the east of Dunbar, at the invitation of the Duchess of Roxburgh. The Queen was taken on several coach tours in the vicinity. All the villages and towns she passed through were decorated for the occasion.

Photographs Members of the Annandale family sit on a horse-drawn sleigh, at the porch of Bielside House, West Barns, 1880-1899

Snow is evident on the ground, and the people on the sleigh have furs on their laps.

Bielside House in West Barns was designed in an Italianate style by Robert Rowand Anderson and built in 1866 as the family home for the proprietors of the Beltonford Paper Works, the Annandales. In 1900s the house was in a near derelict condition and was sold and refurbished, part of the grounds being developed for housing.

Alexander Annandale Junior purchased Bielside after the family firm opened substantial paper works at West Barns. The coachman on the photograph is believed to be Mr Melville (of East Linton) whose son became a noted artist.

Photographs Members of the Annandale family sit on an open landau, at the porch of Bielside House, West Barns, 1880-1899

The house previously had been called Distillery House;,this was before it was purchased by the Annandale family who created a 10 acre Bielside Estate.

Photographs Man and boy, members of the Annandale family, posing for a photograph in front of Bielside House, West Barns, 1880-1899
Photographs A Group of soldiers of The Royal Scots, West Barns, 1914-1919

Postcard depicting a large group of soldiers of The Royal Scots in uniform. Behind them is the shop of W. Purves, grocer at West Barns.

Photographs  Three soldiers from The Royal Scots Territorial Force, West Barns , post 1908-1918

Print depicting three soldiers from the Royal Scots Reserves, West Barns outside Peter Atchison’s house (next to The West Barns Inn).

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West Barns Industries

Photographs Workers at The Maltings in West Barns (British Malt Products Workforce), 1901

Taken the year that the McAdams of British Malt Products opened in West Barns. Those depicted are, back row left to right: Mr Henderson, Peter Fairbairn, remainder unknown. Standing on the extreme left (with the chain) is Ivor McAdam. He was the owner’s youngest son. The lady in the white blouse is Miss Brodie.

Workplace photographs became common in the last years of the nineteenth century. By the Edwardian period a popular theme was a group photograph of workers with their tools and equipment to hand.

There are two women in the group, both wearing men’s flat caps; most of the men pose with their tools, mostly shovels used to turn malt. In the front row one of the men holds the maltings’ cat and a dog sits under his neighbour; both animals were “employed” on the site to control vermin.

The photograph was taken at Steel’s Brewery at the head of West Barns. It was after it was taken over by the McAdams and when they first started making malt extract there.

Photographs Elevation of West Barns Distillery, view from 1838

Drawing by Pat Wilson made in 1991 for Ally Knox. By the end of the 20th century, the Scottish whisky industry was predominantly located in the highlands and islands. In previous centuries substantial distilleries had been located in lowland barley growing areas, for example, as here at West Barns.

This is a black and white drawing in ink showing the (north facing) elevation of WEST BARNS DISTILLERY 1838. The subjects comprise a mixture of buildings, some on a domestic scale, others plainly industrial, chimney stacks and a conical roofed drying barn.

West Barns was once part of the Royalty of Dunbar, a peripheral territory of the burgh. It was the location for the mills, which were powered by water from the Biel Water at the western edge of the village. The same supply was later used by this distillery, a brewery, maltings and major paper works.

Belhaven Brewery, West Barns Workforce at Belhaven Brewery, April 1928

Print depicting workforce at Belhaven Brewery. They pose in front of a door above which are a number of dates – 1719 (founding), 1887 (fire), 1814 (fire). The foundation is actually a relocation date. They are, back row, left to right:

Left top – Harry Dawson

Middle – A.D. Hunter (owner of the brewery) and in front of him are his children and his family.

Photographs Beltonford Paper Mill Or West Barns Maltings, 1870-1920

Print depicting Beltonford Paper Mill or West Barns Maltings. In the foreground are planted fields.

The West Barns Guide Girls used to camp on the fields.

Photographs Looking across ploughed fields to West Barns (West Barns looking from the east), 1920-1940

The field is known as Clay Knowe and it belonged to Mr Colin Stark, who donated it to the people of West Barns and is now the grounds of The West Barns Primary School.

Photographs Four Maltsmen turning one of the three malting floors at Belhaven Brewery, 1950-1954

For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the family company of Dudgeon and Co., the owners of Belhaven Brewery near Dunbar, made their own malt. As the centre of the district that produced excellent barley, the brewery operated Maltings were just one of many similar operations.

A black and white photograph of a low ceiling room with round metal pillars supporting girders holding an upper floor. The room has whitewashed walls and the floor is covered to some depth with grain, which is being turned by four men using wooden shovels.

Malt for brewing is made from barley in several steps. Steeped grain is spread on the floor to sprout, a process that converts some of the starch in the grain to sugars, and then carefully dried. Cleanliness is essential to ensure no contamination at subsequent stages of brewing.

First on left – Ernie West (Gordon West’s great grandfather)
Centre – Willie Brunton.

Photographs Ruins of Beltonford Paper Mill, West Barns, after the fire of 2 April 1892

Smoke is still rising. To the right is a tall chimney.

At 3 a.m. on 2nd April 1892, fire spread rapidly through the main building. Wagons of coal and paper several metres away also caught alight. The fire was so intense that nearby West Barns was under threat. Due to the hard work of the local fire brigade and the mill’s night shift, and as there was no westerly wind, the village was saved. Around half the buildings were rescued. Initially, views about rebuilding the mill were optimistic and it was expected to be working again in 9-12 months. However, due to the ill health of Alexander Annandale Junior, the mill never re-opened.

In 1894, the surviving buildings were bought by Alexander Hunter and became a Maltings. The Annandale family kept some of the buildings such as the flour mill, bake house and stables, but these were demolished in 1895. Around 1910 Robert and William McAdam’s company British Malt Products (BMP) took it over as a going concern. Despite another major fire in mid- 1940s, the business survived until 1970 when BMP was sold to the Associated British Malters. The works were sold to East Lothian council in 1974, but demolished after another fire. Until 1992, the site was derelict. Then, 800,000 tons of rubble and all traces of the remaining buildings were removed as part of the Dunbar Initiative, an effort to bring the land back into industrial use.

Photographs Interior of Beltonford Paper Mill, depicting a machine, beside which stands a man and children, 1880-1892

This large piece of equipment was installed at Beltonford Paper Works; it appears to be used in the paper finishing process. The skilled hands working the machine would have been recruited from another mill, of which there were many in the Edinburgh area, but most of the labourers were recruited locally.

This is a black and white photograph of a man working with a large piece of machinery, which has several sets of rollers and drums wound with white paper. The operator is watched by several young male and female labourers. Children started at the age of twelve and both boys and girls found employment, often being put to counting and packing sheets of finished paper.

Photography Beltonford, West Barns, post 1892

Print depicting an industrial complex. In the foreground is the reservoir (exactly one acre square) and two tall “chimneys” are evident. The latter are really large malting kilns. This dates the image to after the paper mill fire, as these were put in by Dudgeon’s when it became a Maltings.

Photography Edinburgh Road, West Barns, 1870-1920

Print depicting Edinburgh Road, West Barns. In the distance are the chimneys of the Maltings.

The large chimney on the left was part of Sherriff’s buildings. The white cottages on the left were mill workers’ cottages.

Photograph Henry Young standing next to machinery at Beltonford Paper Mill, c.1870-1920
Photographs Beltonford Paper Mill, West Barns, 1870-1920

Print depicting former Beltonford Paper Mill, which after the fire became West Barns Maltings.

House on the far left belonged to the Knox family.

Photographs Former Beltonford Paper Mill, West Barns, 1870-1920

Print depicting former Beltonford Paper Mill which became West Barns Maltings. In the foreground are ploughed fields.

Knox’s house on the left. To the far left was where malt sugar was made, used in producing Mars bars and Crunchies. There used to be a large sign across the building which read “Purveyors of horse malt.”

West Barns Mills West Barns Mills, 1870-1920

Print depicting West Barns Mills, in the centre of the village.

According to local historian Ally Knox: ‘This is what became the BMP Refinery. At one time, it was Dunbar’s West Mill a complex for flour and meal; a flax mill was also on the site. BMP bought the site in the early 20th Century. The chimney to the left is square. The chimney built for the refinery was round. Where the door is, became the boiler house. There were four fires on this site.’

In the bottom left corner there is a well for the horses, once a common public provision.

Photographs Beltonford Paper Mill Or West Barns Maltings, 1870-1920

Print depicting Beltonford Paper Mill or West Barns Maltings, near Dunbar. To the left is an engine on train tracks. To the right are small bales of hay with haymaking implements.

In 1862, Alexander Annandale, who was a paper manufacturer in Lasswade, Midlothian, bought the farm and estate of West Barns, including corn mills belonging to the burgh of Dunbar. There was rapid development in West Barns. Reservoirs were built and sewage rights secured; a factory, stores, engine house and housing were built; and a spur line right into the site linked directly to the nearby North British Railway.

Red and white bricks from Seafield Brick and Tile Works at Belhaven were used to build the new paper mill. Each of the two chimneys was over a hundred metres tall. It was completed in 1864. In the following year, the plant was installed. It was hoped that the mill would produce 50 tons of paper a week, but by 1866 it was producing only 20 tons. In 1866, the mill was made into a public company. This extra cash flow allowed the mill to be upgraded and to produce 70 tons of paper a week. Improvements were instituted in 1887, including new machinery, which meant that by 1892 it was producing 80 tons of paper a week. Unfortunately, on 2nd April 1892, there was a major fire. (See caption Ruins of Beltonford Paper Mill, West Barns, after a fire on 2 April 1892)

Photographs Dudgeon’s Maltings, West Barns, 1894
Photographs Pug Engine at Beltonford Maltings, after c.1892

Small steam ‘pug’ locomotives worked the private siding off the main Edinburgh-London line. After the mill closed in 1892, the site became a Maltings for the Hunters of Belhaven until 1910, when British Malt Products took over the Maltings from the Brewery.

Many of East Lothian’s larger Victorian industrial concerns were deliberately sited adjacent to existing railway lines.

George Knox, Ally Knox’s grandfather, is standing on the loco. The bricked-up windows date from the period of the Paper Mill.

Photographs Members of The West Barns Co-operative Society, 1900-1940

Print depicting members of the West Barns Co-operative Society Committee. Behind them is a wooden and corrugated iron shed.

Top row (left to right):
4th & 5th – Gilhooly?

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West Barns Primary School

Photographs West Barns Primary School children posing in front of a stone building, 1923

Second row (left to right)
5th – Tommy Barrie

Photographs Children From West Barns Public School, Class 2, 1902-1910

Postcard depicting children from West Barns Public School, Class 2.

Photographs West Barns School children posing in front of a stone wall with their headmaster, 1943

Top row, left to right:
2nd – Scott Hume (played for Partick Thistle)

3rd – William Grierson

5th – George Campbell (played for Hearts)

Second row:
6th – Purves (of Seafield Crescent, Belhaven)

7th – James Grierson

Bottom row:
1st – later Mrs. Davidson
2nd – Mary Hamilton
8th – Moira Aitchison (Peter Atchison’s sister)

Photographs Football Team, West Barns School, 1956

Print depicting a football team from West Barns Primary School.

Bottom row (left to right):
7th – Gerald Smith

Photographs Football Team, West Barns School, 1955-1970

One boy holds a ball.Front row (left to right):
1st – Appleby?
2nd – Paxton
3rd & 4th – Gray brothers from South Belton
5th – KnoxBottom row:
1st left – David Aitchison
3rd – Gary McLeman
4th – (holding ball), James Thorburn’s son
5th – Alastair Knox
6th – Simpson
7th – Davy Simpson

Photographs Football Team, West Barns School, 1960-1980

Print depicting a football team from West Barns Primary School. One boy holds a ball. In the background is a small stadium.

Top row (left to right):
2nd – Kevin Miller (Nancy Miller’s youngest son)

Photographs West Barns Primary School children posing in front of a stone wall (a class in the 1950s), 1955-1959
West Barns School West Barns Primary School children posing in front of a stone building, 1928-1929
Photographs West Barns Primary School children posing in front of a stone building with their teacher, Miss Robb, 1919-1920

Top row (left to right):
2nd – George Winter

Photographs Group of school children and their teacher, West Barns, 1915-1925

Top row (left to right):
3rd – George White

Third row:
Girl standing on far left – from the Darling family

Bottom row:
2nd – Kenneth Borthwick’s grandmother

The head teacher – Paddy Mill

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West Barns Leisure (Gala Days & Clubs)

Photographs Beltonford Paper Mill Brass Band, near Dunbar, 1880-1892

The men hold an array of instruments. On the bass drum is the text ‘Beltonford Paperworks’

The Annandales provided instruments for The West Barns Band (sometimes called The Works Band).

Bottom right with trombone- George Knox (Ally Knox’s grandfather)

Photographs Opening of West Barns Bowling Green by Patricia Hunter, 1951

Right of Mrs Hunter is her husband, Sandy. Second from the right is Major Wills. Far left, at the front, is Alec Purves.

First on the left – Ally Purves. Also featuring Ronny Knox (Ally Knox’s brother).

Photographs Children in fancy dress At West Barns Gala Day, 1920-1929

The boy in kilt and sporran is Alex Purves (son of village grocer).

The boys on either side are Alec Knox (Ally Knox’s father) and Donald Ross. The boy in the back row wearing the Stetson is Adam Guthrie. One of the girls next to him is Aggie.

Second to right on top row – Nancy Miller’s mother.

Photographs Football team at West Barns Primary School, 1902-1925

Two soldiers stand with the players. In the background is West Barns Primary School.

Photographs West Barns Girl Guides posing formally 1920-1929

With them is a West Highland Terrier, their mascot.

Ally Knox’s auntie might be one of the guides. Her name was Elisabeth Lewis, later Mrs Aston and lived at West Barns Mains (Hedderwick Farm)

Photographs Members of West Barns Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (SWRI) in fancy dress , c.1920-1929

Bottom row (left to right):

2nd – Mrs. Lindsey (Nancy Miller’s mother)

Photographs Group of boys and girls in fancy dress at West Barns Gala Day, c.1955-1965
Photographs Members of The West Barns Bowling Club, 1900-1950

Print depicting members of West Barns Bowling Club. They sit with a large trophy in the middle.

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3 thoughts on “West Barns Photographs”

  1. John McFarlane says:

    I used to live in West Barns in late fifties early sixties. We used to live in the semi-detached Villa next door to the race horse stables, not too far from the maltings.That steam pug photo brought back a memory too. I used to get to ride on that when I was just a toddler!

    1. George Smith says:

      My grandfather worked at the Beltonford maltings, late 1940’s until early 1958, and lived in one of the houses belonging to the maltings. The pair of semi-detached cottages which belonged to the stables are still there, but everything to do with the maltings has gone.

  2. Patricia Grierson says:

    West barns school photograph 1943
    Middle row next to teacher James (Jimmy) Grierson and brother William (Wullie) 3rd left back row – then living in the house, now demolished, next door to village hall. Does anyone have any photos of the house?

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