ormiston main street

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ormiston main street

 

ormiston main street

 

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moffat monumetn

Ormiston

Ormiston, East Lothian is situated 30 minutes drive east of Edinburgh.

It is one of the most famous planned 18th century villages.

Ormiston was built as a result of the zeal of John Cockburn of Ormiston Hall to improve agriculture and encourage industry in his estate. The earlier village had been to the west beside the mill by the river crossing.

ormiston curling pond

Cockburn's father had rebuilt the church in 1696 on its present site and Cockburn laid out his village along the present Main Street, clearly defined by the sharp bend at the south end.

The village and fields were laid out by Lord Gordon, a London civil engineer who himself built a house. Timber and stone were provided by Cockburn for those who took plots.

The design of the houses was the responsibility of their owners but they were controlled by some extend by Cockburn for he wrote:

'I can give my consent to no house being built on the main street of the town but what are 2 stories high. Every man concerned in the place has an interest in having the main street appear as handsome and to look as well as it can and not have little paltry houses'.

Building was begun in 1735 and by 1746 the town was finally accomplished.

Enclosed fields and modern methods of farming had been introduced on Cockburn's estate from the beginning of the 18th century and between 1736 and 1747 the agricultural club met at the village inn.

The new village was meant as a source of employment for the rural poor and industry was set up. The brewery and distillery had been established in 1726 and to these Cockburn tried to add a linen industry.

The Dutchman Keyeer, was brought in as a flax expert and the Irishman, John Christie to superintend the rural layout of the fields.

A school for teaching girls spinning was founded so that by 1740 there were 40 linen looms in the town.

Blacksmiths, shoemakers, candle makers, bakers and maltsters were all at work but Cockburn himself had overspent and was forced to sell to the Earl of Hopetoun.

Although the linen manufacturing was not a success, Ormiston remained a prosperous community helped by the quality of houses which in the early 19th century were sometimes let to 'gentile' families.

With the development of modern mining methods in the 20th Century, the rich coal seams have been exploited and the village has much increased in size but it retains in the main street, the quality of Cockburn's plans.

The small obelisk at the east end of the main street commemorates Robert Moffat, famous Scottish pioneering missionary and friend of David Livingston, who was born in the village in 1795.

Text by John Gifford.