East Linton became a burgh only in 1863 under the terms of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1833 and its emendments and extensions, which allowed the formation of elected representative boards – all that was required was a certain population in a nucleated settlement and a letter of application from ‘responsible people’ appealing for the powers. They later accrued the panoply of the older Royal Burghs – provosts and bailies, robes and chains of office. Prestonkirk parish had in 1861 just under 2000 residents – with just on one thousand in the town, it qualified under the Act.
East Linton is the main settlement of the parish of Prestonkirk and owes its status to several factors, not least of which is a historic crossing point of the River Tyne, just upriver from the eponymous ‘Linn‘. The water of the river gave the early settlement a prominence as a centre of milling and, supplied by the barley grown all around, distilling. Its other industries supported the agricultural hinterland and the town hosted a historic market or tryst where itinerant labourers assembled for the harvest – and large numbers of livestock were traded.
As a result, in the 19th century, a relatively high proportion of the resident population had migrated from above the Highland line (c 2 1/2%; 1861 census) or Ireland ( c 5%; 1861 census). In that century businesses supporting the agricultural hinterland thrived – wrights, coopers, smiths and saddlers are noted in directories and the carters of East Linton organised as a society to regulate their trade. The 9 licenced grocers and sprit dealers and 6 innkeepers and vintners trading in the 1840s depended on East Linton’s market and the passing trade along the Great North Road – all of the carriers and coaches from places to the south passed through the town.
In the later 19th century East Linton produced several artists of renown and their friends and colleagues were attracted by the opportunities afforded by the local environment. One, Robert Noble, became a fixture in the community, even designing the burgh seal.
Although East Linton lost its burgh status in 1975 it has continued to thrive. There are fewer pubs and alehouses but the settlement’s growth has helped sustain a reasonable variety of retail outlets. Its last remaining mill is preserved as a monument in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
This brief page about East Linton is just a sample compiled from the resources at the John Gray Centre. You can find out more by searching our website or visiting us to study our collection of reference works and records from the burgh.
The Parish of Prestonkirk, Historical Notes, William Whitfield, edited and transcribed by Garry S. Menzies
Prestonkirk, the People of 1851, Diane D McNicoll