ORMISTON, a parish, in the county of Haddington; containing 826 inhabitants, of whom 335 are in the village, 7 miles (W. S. W.) from Haddington. This place, which is situated on the western borders of the county, derives its name from the family of Orme, the earliest proprietors concerning whom any authentic notice occurs, and whose descendants continued in possession till the end of the 13th century. From the Ormes the lands passed to the Lindsay family, of whom Sir Alexander Lindsay was also proprietor of Paiston and Templehall, which, together with the estates of Ormiston and Muirhouse, he gave with his only daughter in marriage to John, second son of Sir Alexander Cockburn, constable of Haddington. This grant was confirmed by a charter of David Bruce, King of Scotland, in 1368, by which, also, that office was made hereditary in the family. Patrick Cockburn, a descendant, defended the castle of Dalkeith in 1542, from the assaults of James, ninth earl of Douglas, who had rebelled against his sovereign, and whom, having put himself at the head of the king's forces, he compelled to retire. In 1545, the celebrated reformer, George Wishart, having preached at Haddington, returned to Ormiston with Sir Alexander Cockburn and two of his friends; but in the night, the house was surrounded by the Earl of Bothwell and his followers, who demanded that Wishart should be delivered into their custody. This was ultimately complied with, on a solemn promise of his safety, which Bothwell observed so far as to refuse to give him up to Cardinal Beaton; but he afterwards surrendered him to the Earl of Arran, governor of Scotland, by whom he was delivered into the hands of the cardinal, who carried him to St. Andrew's, where he was executed. In 1747, John, second earl of Hopetoun, having acquired possession of part, purchased the remainder of the estate of Ormiston from the last representative of the Cockburn family, and became sole proprietor of the parish, which is now the property of his descendant, the present earl.
   The parish is about five miles in length, and of extremely irregular form, varying from a mile and a half to little more than half a mile in breadth, and comprising an area of about five square miles. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Tranent, on the east by that of Pencaitland, on the south by the parish of Humbie, and on the west by Cranston. The surface is generally flat, admitting of scarcely any variety; but the scenery is much enriched with woods and plantations, which are scattered over several parts; and the inclosures of hedges of white-thorn, interspersed with sweet-briar and honeysuckle, and the trees on each side of the roads that intersect the parish, forming pleasing avenues, give it an interesting and beautiful appearance. The river Tyne, also, flows through the lands to the north-east; but except after continued rains or floods, it is a narrow and shallow stream. The parish is amply supplied with water from numerous copious springs, of which some are strongly impregnated with iron, more especially one in the village, whence the inhabitants derive their chief supply. The soil is greatly diversified. To a small extent on each side of the river is found a light loam, resting upon a gravelly bottom; in other parts, clay, more or less tenacious; and in some, bordering almost on sterility, but rendered profitable by diligent cultivation. The system of agriculture is in a highly improved state. There is a considerable tract of good meadowland, which yields early and abundant crops of grass; a large portion of the ground is laid out in gardens producing all the usual fruits, of good quality; and in the village are two gardens for the supply of vegetables and fruits, from which during the season not less than 300 pints of strawberries are sold daily. The whole number of acres is estimated at 3270; of these about 3000 are arable and in a profitable state of cultivation, 130 meadow and pasture, and about 140 in woods and plantations. The chief crops are, grain of all kinds, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips. From the encouragement given to the tenants by the grant of long leases of their farms, the lands have been improved nearly to the utmost; the buildings are substantial and commodious; some of the farm-houses are even handsome, and the lands are well inclosed, and the fences well kept. On almost every farm threshing-mills have been erected, some of which are driven by steam; rape and bonedust manures, also, have been introduced with success. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5524.
   The substrata are chiefly limestone and coal, both of which are wrought to a considerable extent, and the latter from a very remote period. The principal vein of coal lies in the grounds of Ormiston Hall, in various parts of which the surface, being undermined, has fallen considerably; and the Hall itself appears to have been much endangered, and rendered secure only by under-building to a very great extent. Upon the south side of the river are three seams of good coal, the uppermost thirty inches in thickness; the second, of equal quality, thirty-three inches; and the lowest, from thirty-three to forty-three inches thick. On the north side of the river the seams are all, with some trifling cross workings, entire. The limestone in the southern part of the parish is wrought, and there are kilns for burning it into lime: freestone of various quality is also abundant. A quarry of freestone which was opened to the north of the Hall, produced stone only of a coarse and easily friable quality; but on the western confines of the parish, another was opened in 1808, of which the stone was more compact and durable, well adapted for building, and used in making additions to the house of Ormiston. Ironstone is likewise plentiful, as is manifest from the quality of many of the springs; but no attempt has been hitherto made to explore it. Ormiston Hall, the residence of the Dowager Countess of Hopetoun, is a handsome mansion, erected by Mr. Cockburn in 1745, near the site of the ancient baronial castle, which has been converted into offices and servants' apartments. It is situated in an extensive and richly-wooded demesne; the gardens contain every variety of fruits, flowers, and shrubs, and the pleasure-grounds are laid out with great taste and judgment. In the flower-garden are some fig-trees, planted by the then proprietor in the beginning of the last century, and which produce the finest specimens of that fruit in this part of Britain; also a remarkable yew of more than 200 years' growth, which is still in full vigour, and measures seventeen feet in girth at a height of five feet from the ground. The village is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the Tyne, and consists of one broad street of well-built houses, shaded with rows of trees, and having good gardens attached to the principal. In the centre of the village is an ancient cross, that appears to have been connected with some religious establishment near the spot, of which the chapel was for a time used as a schoolroom, but of which scarcely any thing authentic is known: this cross, whereof the lower part was becoming dilapidated, has been secured, and forms an interesting feature in the landscape of the village, which is peculiarly pleasing. A post-office has been established here; and facility of intercourse with the market-towns in the neighbourhood is afforded by good roads, of which the turnpike-road to Tranent passes for five miles through the parish, and by three bridges erected by subscription, under the patronage of the Earl of Hopetoun, who himself contributed largely.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Dalkeith and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The stipend of the incumbent is £230: the manse, situated near the village, is a comfortable residence, enlarged in 1779; and the glebe comprises seven and a half acres of profitable land, valued at £15 per annum. The church, about a mile and a half from the village, is a very plain edifice with a small belfry, erected in 1696, and adapted for a congregation of 345 persons; the seats are all free. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £29. 18. 9., with a house and garden, and £1. 1. 9. from a funded bequest; and the fees average about £20 per annum. There is a school at Paiston, three miles distant, of which the master has a house and garden rent-free, with the interest of a bequest, amounting to £1. 5., and a small sum paid annually by the proprietor, in addition to the school fees, which average £20. A similar school is maintained in the hamlet of House of Muir, chiefly inhabited by colliers; the mistress has a house, and a small salary from the Dowager Countess of Hopetoun, besides the fees. Branches of the East Lothian Itinerating Library have been established in the village of Ormiston and at Paiston; and there is a library of about 100 volumes, belonging to an association for the protection of property, kept in the parochial schoolhouse, under the care of the master. At the southern extremity of the parish are the remains of a circular camp, surrounded by a double intrenchment, but rapidly disappearing under the extension of agricultural improvements. Between East and West Paiston, half a mile distant, the interval appears to have been occupied by houses of which scarcely any of the foundations are now to be traced. There was also a cemetery, supposed to have belonged to a religious establishment called Templehall; but the site is now planted. John Cockburn, of Ormiston, to whom the district is eminently indebted for the present prosperous state of its agriculture, was born at Ormiston Hall in 1685, and during the lifetime of his father sat as a member of the Scottish parliament, and distinguished himself by the active part he took in the Union. Having, during his subsequent residence in England, made himself acquainted with the improvements in English agriculture, he resolved to introduce them into this part of his native country; and in order to induce his tenantry to the requisite exertions for their full reception, he granted them leases of their farms for thirty-eight years, renewable for nineteen years at the end of that time, and at the expiration of every nineteen years afterwards. He died in 1747, after having devoted his whole life to the benefit of the district.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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