Dunbar Town House


Air view of Dunbar

Dunbar from the air

HER map link

Historic OS map references: Dunbar

The former Royal Burgh of Dunbar has a rich and varied history. It is one of Scotland’s oldest places – we can deduce that the name was probably in use before the Romans ventured this far up the island of Britain!

Its history is interwoven with many of the significant events of the nation because its strategic position gave it a prominence far beyond its size. It was the site of two significant battles, in 1296 and 1650 as well as other minor skirmishes and fights throughout Scotland’s turbulent past. In more peaceable times its inhabitants diversified their skills. It became:

  • a manufacturing centre for its rich agricultural hinterland
  • a processing centre for the produce of the farms
  • a fishing centre, one of the main ports for the annual herring drave
  • a trading centre, whose mariners ventured far and wide, sometimes legally and sometimes operating well beyond the reach of the excisemen and
  • a holiday resort, the bright and breezy burgh that thrived on the benefits of sea-bathing coupled to a sunny, dry climate (compared, at any rate, too much of the rest of Scotland).

The 19th century saw a great flourishing of specialist societies. This list has been compiled from almanacs, guides and the pages of the Haddingtonshire Courier – more detail might be found by consulting our records.

Dunbar Castle Lodge No 75 Freemasons
Subscription Library Library
Miller’s Circulating Library Library
Mechanics Institution Education
Society for Educating Poor Children Education
Charity School Education and charity
Infant School Education
Reading Room Education
Subscription News Room Library and Education
Reading and Billiard Room Education and amusement
District Horticultural Society Gardening
Herring Club 1780 Unknown
Dunbar Lifeboat (Directors) Life-saving
RNLI Life-saving (National)
Sailor’s Box Trades
Sailors Box 1712 Trades
Sailors Society Trades
Master Bakers’ Association, Branch Trades
Licenced Trade Protection Association Trades
Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Benevolent Society Friendly or mutual
Merchant Seaman’s Fund, under Act of Parliament Statutory
Clothing Society Charity
School Children’s Clothing Society Charity
Ladies Destitute Sick Society Philanthropy or charity
Nursing Association (Dunbar, Belhaven and Spott) Health
Charity Industrial School Philanthropy or charity
Friendly Society of Tradesmen Friendly or mutual; Trades
Second Friendly Society Friendly or mutual
Mutual Assistance Society Friendly or mutual
Second Mutual Assistance Society Friendly or mutual
Mutual Assistance and Savings Society (Siddon’s) Friendly or mutual
Benefit Society Friendly or mutual
Industrious Friendly Society Friendly or mutual
Belhaven Factory Weavers’ First Friendly Society Friendly or mutual; Trades
Belhaven Weavers’ Society Friendly or mutual; Trades
Phoenix Friendly Society Friendly or mutual
Beneficent Saving Society Savings
Building Society Mutual
Destitute Sick Society (not SH) Friendly or mutual (?)
Anti-mendicant Society Friendly or mutual (?)
Total Abstinence Society Temperance
Total Abstinence Society and Band of Hope Temperance
Belhaven and West Barns Maine Law Society Unknown
Coast Mission (Union) Religious Education
Scottish Coast Mission, Branch Religious Education
Parish Church Mission Religious Education
Young Men’s Christian Fellowship Association Religious Education
Monthly Visitors Tract Society Religious Education
Association for Churchyard Protection Burial
Cemetery Company Limited Burial
Combination Hearse Society (Dunbar and Spott) Burial
Loyal Hope Lodge, IO Oddfellows MU Unity mutual friendly
Lodge of Oddfellows Unity mutual friendly
Black Agnes Lodge of Gardeners (and Benefit Society) Unity mutual friendly
Horticultural Society Gardening
Court Star of the East, AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
Juvenile Court AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
Cospatrick Lodge IOG Templars Unity Temperance
IOG Templars; Belhaven Unity Temperance
IOG Templars; East Barns Unity Temperance
Operative Masons Association of Scotland, Branch Trades Union

Our collection of Dunbar pages is growing but, if there is a subject or theme that interests you that is not yet represented why not contact us or write something yourself? Comments can be added to most pages. Each page is just a snapshot or snippet, based on the sources in the John Gray Centre. There are many resources that can help anyone interested in Dunbar’s history: maps and plans, a vast range of documents once held by Dunbar Burgh Council and, through our map search facility, detailed information on the archaeology and significant buildings of the town.

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