Heritage consultant David Hicks brings us the stories behind some of East Lothian’s historic properties.
Most locals will associate the Lodge in North Berwick with its public gardens, but the buildings there also have a fascinating story to tell. They were once the home of the powerful Dalrymple family, and saved from the wrecking ball by a public outcry over 50 years ago.
What is known as the Lodge is actually a complex of buildings, built at different times from the early 1700s to the 1800s. The oldest part is the Wall Tower with an outside staircase called a ‘forestair’ and a small slit window which originally lit a cellar on the ground floor. Look out for the doocot next to the steep path leading to the play-park, still a home for pigeons but perhaps no longer eaten by the residents.
A hidden feature of the site is a brick-lined tunnel which stretches from the buildings into the park behind. Its purpose is a bit of a mystery, perhaps an ice-house or maybe a passage for herding cattle?
In the early 1700s the site was part of a brewery, probably using water from the nearby St Andrew’s Well. In 1747 the Wall Tower was bought by the wealthy Dalrymple family as a town house, and over the years the family extended and added buildings, creating the site you see today. In 1939 the site was gifted to the town council and the gardens opened to the public, but the buildings were in a bad state of repair and continued to deteriorate.
In 1962 a plan emerged to build new council offices and a community hall on the site, and to demolish the historic buildings. A combination of local protests and the determined efforts of Frank Tindall, the county’s dynamic chief planning officer, allowed time for an alternative plan to be developed. The idea was for the National Trust for Scotland to take over and repair the buildings, converting them into flats for sale. Agreement was finally reached, and in 1968 the property once again became a place for people to live.