The appearance of Haddington in the 21st century belies the fact that, a millennium ago, it was one of the four most populous places in Scotland. It was then as now the centre of a rich agricultural hinterland and was one of the first places to be made a burgh by the reforming king David I. He saw burghs on the English and European pattern as a key to the development of his kingdom – and the securing of revenues for the Crown.

Haddington flourished on trade, religion and royal patronage: a royal palace stood outside the West Port of the burgh, and David gave the revenue from Haddington to his daughter-in-law Ada de Warenne. In 1178 Ada established a convent to the east of the burgh on the Tyne; a second settlement, Nungate, associated with the Abbey lands later became an integral part of the burgh. Within the burgh, other properties were granted to religious bodies – the church of the Franciscan Order was noted for its beauty (the original ‘Lamp of Lothian’) until it was burnt in 1536, the Burnt Candlemas, along with the then parish church. The new parish church, consecrated around 1400, inherited the title and stands today. Other religious bodies associated with properties in Haddington include those of Dunfermline, Kelso, Coldingham, Dryburgh, the May, the priory of St Andrews and the Knights Templar. As well as these ‘tofts’ and ‘houses’ the burgh accreted several chapels: St Laurence’s, St Catherine’s and St Ann’s with St Martin’s in the Nungate. The early trade of the burgh was based on the agricultural economy of the district – wool and the processing of hides as well as grain. Weaving and tanning survived into the 20th century and malt products are still part of the economy.

Early trade was regulated through the establishment of craft incorporations – Haddington eventually boasted of nine – and a merchant guild. Franchise was limited to ‘burgesses’ – those who could maintain a property or trade within the burgh boundary – who elected a council from within their number. Traditionally, Scots burgh councils were ‘ane dozen’ representatives; by the 18th century Haddington was had a board of 25!

Haddington’s situation made it vulnerable during the many Anglo-Scots conflicts that raged from the 13th to the 16th centuries and much of the earlier fabric of the burgh was destroyed and rebuilt several times – apparently on the earlier foundations.

In calmer times, the inhabitants of Haddington looked to their community for support and entertainment. The 19th century saw a great flourishing of specialist societies (as well as the demise of the town’s ancient incorporations). This list has been compiled from almanacs, guides and the pages of the Haddingtonshire Courier – more detail might be found by consulting our records.

St John’s Kilwinning Lodge (Freemasons) No 57 Freemasons
United Agricultural Society of East Lothian Agricultural; Trades
East Lothian Horticultural Society Gardening
Town Public Library (Gray’s) Library
Free Public Library (Gray’s) Library
Savings Bank Savings
Penny Savings Bank Savings
Property Investment and Building Company Mutual
Dispensary Medical
Subscription Library Library
Subscription Library in connection with the town’s library Library
Parish Library (Begbie) Library
Town and Country Library Library
School of Arts (Mechanics Institution) Education
Reading Room Education
Infant School Education
Tyneside Games Sports
School for the Education of Neglected Children Education and charity
Kirk Session Fund for Schooling Poor Children Philanthropy or charity
East Lothian Itinerating Libraries (Samuel Brown’s) Library
Female Penny-a-week Society, for the relief of the poor Savings
Female Society for the relief of the poor Savings
Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick Medical
Work Society for the Employment of Destitute Females Philanthropy
Clothing Club Philanthropy or charity
Blanket Society Philanthropy   or charity
Ancient Fraternity of Gardeners of East Lothian Friendly or mutual
Carters Society Friendly or mutual; Trades
Caledonian Society 1761 Friendly or mutual
Dyers and Others Society Friendly or mutual; Trades
Friendly Society 1775 Friendly or mutual
United Society of Smiths of East Lothian Friendly or mutual; Trades
Nungate and Haddington Brotherly Society 1802 Friendly or mutual
Benevolent Society 1803 Friendly or mutual
Constitutional Society of Weavers of East Lothian 1806 Friendly or mutual; Trades
Widows Society Friendly or mutual
Society for granting Annuities to Widows Friendly or mutual
Yearly Society Friendly or mutual; Saviings
Monthly Tract Society Religious Education
Tract Society Religious Education
Town Mission Religious Education
YMCA Religious Education
St John’s Mutual Improvement Association Mutual or religious
St John’s UF Church Guild Religious Education
Trinity Church Mens Guild Religious Education
West UF Church Christian Fellowship Association Religious Education
Association for Churchyard Protection Burial
Incorporation of bakers (baxters) Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of masons Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of wrights Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of smiths (hammermen) Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of butchers (fleshers) Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of shoemakers (cordiners) Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of tailors Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of skinners (tanners) Incorporation; Trades
Incorporation of weavers (wabsters) Incorporation; Trades
IO Oddfellows MU, Haddington District Unity mutual friendly
Loyal Tyneside Lodge, IO Oddfellows MU Unity mutual friendly
Juvenile Lodge, IO Oddfellows MU Unity mutual friendly
Haddington District, AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
Court Lamp of Lothian AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
Juvenile Court (Jane Welsh) AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
Female Court, AO Foresters Unity mutual friendly
AO Shepherds Sanctuary Lamp of Lothian Unity mutual friendly
Shipwrecked Fishermens and Mariners Unity mutual friendly
Total Abstinence Society Temperance
Temperance Refreshment Rooms Temperance
Haddington District, IOG Templars Unity Temperance
John Knox Lodge 134 IOG Templars Unity Temperance
Star of the East Lodge 424 IOG Templars Unity Temperance
Abbey Lodge (number unknown) IOG Templars Unity Temperance
St Martin’s Rechabite Tent Unity Temperance
Baths and Washing Houses Hygiene

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