Post Medieval (AD 1550–1800)

Dunbar Town HouseChurch and State

From the mid 16th century, there were great changes in Scottish life, both in religion and state politics.

It was a turbulent time nationally but it was also a time when the merchants and burghers (towns folk) in the towns were gaining power and influence.

Buildings such as the Town House in Dunbar and the Musselburgh Tolbooth represent the places of local justice and commercial regulation, often having a gaol and a council chamber.

The new churches that were built at this time mirror the changes, with plain Presbyterian design becoming the norm, and older churches were remodelled to the new style.

A perfect example of this new sacred architecture is to be found at Bolton, all the more interesting as the parish church of Robert Burns’s family.

Mills and Doocots

Athelstaneford DoocotOther than castles and tower houses, doocots and pre-industrial mills are often the only other monuments visible in the landscape from this period.

Pigeons provided a valuable source of fresh meat, particularly in the winter months. Doocots were introduced by the Normans into Britain, and East Lothian’s countryside is particularly rich in them.

The earliest doocots are round dome structures, or ‘Beehive’ doocots, while the later form is square in plan with a sloping roof called Lectern doocots.

Before industrialisation, mills would have been set up to serve a group of farms or a small community. They were used to grind cereals harvested from the surrounding fields, using millstones turned by a waterwheel.


East Lothian’s coast is interspersed with harbours and safe havens, which have seen a long history of fishing, trade, and boat building.

There are several harbours to visit in the county (such as Morrison’s Haven at Prestongrange, Cockenzie, Port Seton, North Berwick, Dunbar), all of which have a different story to tell. The coastline is also peppered with wrecks of vessels from throughout the ages, some of which can be seen at low tide.

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