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East Barns

Ploughmen and horses at East Barns

Ploughmen and horses at East Barns, early 20th century

It is constructive to compare East Barns, which lay arond 2 kilometers southeast of Dunbar, and West Barns at a similar distance in the opposite direction. They both had similar origins, a similar coastal situation on good arable land and, in the medieval period, a similar agricultural character. But whereas the latter flourishes today, East Barns has gone!

The difference lies in the underlying geology. For years East Barns sustained a lime burning industry utilising abundant shallow deposits. With the start of the 20th century, the scale of the mining increased (to provide flux for the iron and steel industry) and ultimately the area was selected for a large integrated cement works, which was erected at Oxwellmains in 1962. Quarrying has worked around the site of the works, dislocating all the farming communities in the vicinity and also working the land on which East Barns lay.

At its peak, East Barns was a hamlet of a scant 2 dozen or so households. However, in the immediate vicinity the farms of Barneyhill, Oxwellmains, East Barns and the three Pinketons (formerly East, West & Meikle)  added up to another 50 (in the mid 19th century). Catcraig, Strand House, East Barns Kiln and Oxwelmains Kiln added another dozen. Most of the population was agricultural or associated with the lime industry but there was a grocery in East Barns itself, with a smithy and a carpenter’s business. The village had a school (opened at the tail end of the 18th century). From 1768-1820 there was a meeting house belonging to a congregation of the Anti-burgher faction of the Associate Synod or Presbytry. Catering to like-minded folk from several nearby parishes, this place of worship subsequently relocated to Dunbar.

Vi Marshall’s account in the East Lothian Fourth Statistical Account describes the last days of East Barns. If you, or someone in your family, lived or spent time in East Barns, we would be delighted to hear your stories.

6 thoughts on “East Barns”

  1. Michelle says:


    My nanna was born in East Barns in 1939 and I am trying to find a school photo with her in it, so you know where to look?

  2. David Haire says:

    HI Hanita,
    I have someone enquiring about East Barns farm and Land Girls. Would East Barns farm have been in existence during the 39-45 war? Who could I put the enquiree in touch with who might know names of Land Girls on that farm or those farms most immediate?
    Any ideas gratefully received. Thanks DH

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi David,
      We think the farm did indeed exist during WW2 but we do not know who might have a list of Land Girls names. Perhaps you could try the National Records of Scotland. They might be able to advise. Best Wishes.

  3. David Mason says:

    You might be interested in this pewter charger being auctioned this month in NZ. Comes from East Barns church 1763.

  4. Asia Siestrzewitowska says:

    I attended East Barnes Primary School from 1958 to 1964 but can find nobody or nothing about the school wonder if any one can help

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Asia,
      Thank you for your comment. There are East Barns school log books and admission registers from various years in our Archive collection. However, many of these records are closed to the public while some are open, depending on the year and other details. You can email us at [email protected] if you have any further questions about this.
      Unfortunately, we do not have any alumni information. Perhaps the East Lothian Courier can help. Best Wishes.

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