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Pencaitland

Spilmersford

Title: Spilmersford
Reviewed by Admin on Jul 3
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Heading south from the crossroads of the main road heading towards Saltoun, you pass the well kept New Cemetery and a quarter mile further stood the ruins of the hamlet of Spilmersford.  Carboniferous limestone was long ago burned at Spilmersford.  The deep excavations there now filled with water as well as the tumbled down kilns lay testify to the very considerable lime trade which was carried on in the 19th century and the limestone well cited for its fossil shells.

The lime kilns were long wrought by the Symington’s who did a lucrative and extensive business.  At one time a corn mill, a wauk-mill or fulling-mill, and a large sawmill were all to be found at Spilmersford.  The sawmill was located where the Humbie Water (called the Birn Water at part) joins the river Tyne.

In Forrest’s map of Haddingtonshire (dated 1799) mention is made to an old farm  steading with land calle Meagrie as then existed.  The current farm at Spilmersford is called Spilmersford Mains.

Although the name Spilmersford has remained after the village has gone, the spelling changed greatly over the years passing since.

In 1630, a document laid down before the Presbytery of Haddington and Dunbar reveals that many places have kept their old names but many other have changed.

The lands of Easter Pencaitland comprehending the town of Easter Pencaitland, Mains of Pencaitland, Deanhead, Boiges, and Spilmenfurde, pertaining heritably to Robert Richardson of Pencaitland.

The lands and barony of Wester Pencaitland, including the lands of West Pencaitland, Malgra, Miltoun, Broomrig, Foulstruther, Kinsoheburn (now Kinchiburn) and Woodhall, pertaining heritably to John Sinclair of Stevenstane.

The lands of Nisbet, pertaining heritably to Sir James McGill Cranston Riddel Kerr, Bart.

The lands of Belsis, belonging to Andrew Belsis of that ilk.

The lands of Paistoune and Ackers thereof pertaining to George Cockburn of Ormiston, and lands of Templehall Easter and Wester comprehending the lands of Huntlaw and Dryburghlaw, with lands of Woodhead belonging to Sir Andrew Lauder Dick.

A public school house stood for a long time at Spilmersford kept by the Amos family.  During limeburning, much business was done within its walls.  And being on the main road north south, was a favourite storage and hiding place for contraband ankers of gin and brandy to avoid the Customs Officers in Edinburgh in the old days of smuggling.  Such smuggling and bootlegging was popular until the advent of free trade in 1848.  (It is related that during the Napoleonic wars the whole population in one district of Kent ‘country gentleman, magistrates and clergy’ took a hand in the trade!  The established church showed a surprising liberality of sentiment in those times even interrupting sermons at Minster Church to enable the congregation to remove the brandy from the church vaults to neighbouring marshes on the rumoured approach of Customs.)

There is no evidence to suggest Pencaitland Church was ever used for such illegal activity but the Public House at Spilmersford appeared to have been the centre of such activity.

A few houses are still inhabited.  At the southern end there stands a bridge which crosses the Tyne and marks the boundary of Pencaitland with Saltoun.  The bridge was destroyed by terrible floods in 1948, which also caused much havoc in Haddington and other towns and villages that bound the river.  A temporary Baillie bridge was erected over the Tyne at Spilmersford and omnibuses were redirected to East Saltoun via Lempoch Wells and West Saltoun.

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