- TRANENT, a parish, in the county of Haddington; containing, with the villages of Cockenzie, Elphinstone, Meadowmill, and Portseaton, 3887 inhabitants, of whom 2000 are in the town of Tranent, 7 miles (W.) from Haddington, and 10 (E.) from Edinburgh. The name of this place is of uncertain derivation, though it is generally supposed to be of Gaelic origin, and descriptive of the position of the ancient village at the head of a deep ravine watered by a small rivulet. Tranent has been the residence of some of the most distinguished families of antiquity, and was the frequent resort of many of the earlier Scottish monarchs, and, in subsequent times, the scene of many events of historical importance. On the invasion of Scotland by the Earl of Hertford, in 1544, the parish church was plundered, and almost destroyed, by the English soldiers under his command, who defaced and burnt the timber-work of the interior, and carried away the bells and every thing of value. During the invasion of the country by the English under the Protector, the Duke of Somerset, in 1547, an engagement took place here between the English and Scottish cavalry, in which the latter were defeated with the loss of 1300 men. After this defeat, many of the Scots, having taken refuge in the coal-pits in the parish, were pursued by the English, who, unable to dislodge them from their retreat, stopped up all the avenues that admitted air to the mine, and kindled large fires at the entrances, with a view either of forcing them to surrender or of suffocating them. The battle of Pinkie occurred on the following day, September 10, in which, according to some historians, 14,000 of the Scots were slain by the English. In 1745, the battle of Preston was fought within less than a mile from the parish church, on the 21st of September, when the royal forces, consisting of nearly 3000 men, were defeated by the Scottish adherents to the fortunes of the Pretender. After the engagement, the military chest belonging to the royal army was found at Cockenzie. In this battle, Colonel Gardiner was killed while endeavouring to rally a body of infantry near the present village of Meadowmill; he was buried in the parish church, and the bodies of others who were slain were interred on the farm of Thorntree-Mains, where, towards the close of the century, some of the bodies were discovered by workmen employed in making a drain, their clothes being in such preservation as to distinguish the royalists from their opponents.The parish is about five miles in length from north-east to south-west, and three miles in breadth; it is bounded on the north by the Frith of Forth, and comprises 5464 acres, of which, with the exception of 100 in woodland and plantations, and about fifty along the sea-shore, the whole are arable. The surface rises in gentle undulations from the Frith towards the south, attaining at its greatest height an elevation of 300 feet above the level of the sea; the sea-shore is flat and sandy, and the coast, which extends for about two miles, is a regular range of greenstone rock. The scenery is not strikingly varied, but is generally pleasing, and in some parts enriched with wood; and the views from the higher grounds embrace many interesting and romantic features. The lands are watered by a few small rivulets, which are concentrated in the coal-field, and thence conveyed to the sea in one united stream, thus rendered powerful enough to give motion to several mills in its progress. The soil towards the coast is light and sandy, though of late considerably improved; in some parts, an unproductive moor, of which a portion has been reclaimed by draining; in others, a deep, rich, and fertile loam, occasionally intermixed with clay. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is in a highly improved state; the lands are inclosed with hedges of thorn, kept in good order; tile-draining has been carried on to a very great extent, and rape and bone-dust manures have been introduced: the farm-buildings are substantial. The woods consist of oak, elm, and plane; and the plantations, which are chiefly on the grounds of St. Germain's, of every variety of forest-trees, for all which the soil is favourable with the exception of fir, which is not found to thrive well.The substratum of the parish generally is of the coal formation, intersected in some places with dykes of trap; and towards the coast, greenstone and whinstone are found. The coal has been wrought from a remote period: the upper seam is from six to nine inches in thickness, of very good quality, and found at about 220 feet below the surface. The second seam, at a depth varying from fifty to eighty feet below the first, is about five feet thick; and at a further depth of from thirty to fifty feet is a third seam, three feet in thickness. About 100 feet lower is a seam of four feet, and there is another of five feet, which has not been wrought. In addition to these, a thin seam of cannel coal has been found on the lands of Falside. The mines were extensively wrought by the Seaton family, afterwards earls of Wintoun, who obtained a grant of the lands from Robert Bruce, and were formerly cleared from water by levels cut through the rocks, though now chiefly by steam-engines: the produce was generally conveyed to the port on the backs of horses. After the forfeiture of the estates by the Earl of Wintoun, the works were sold to the York Building Company, of London, who, in 1722, laid down a tram-road of wood, which continued till 1815, when an iron railroad was constructed by the Messrs. Cadell, who had obtained possession of the mines in this parish, and who still work them. About 400 persons are employed in the collieries; and the produce, averaging 60,000 tons annually, is shipped from Cockenzie. Freestone is extensively quarried for building, and whinstone for mending the roads; some faint indications of ironstone have been observed; and in the sandstone quarries, various fossils of trees, and specimens of fern, are found. The rateable annual value of the parish is £15,081. The chief mansion-house is St. Germain's, the residence of David Anderson, Esq., an ancient structure originally a preceptory of the Knights Templars, conferred, on the suppression of their order, by James IV. on the principal and fellows of King's College, Aberdeen; it is pleasantly situated in grounds richly planted, and containing many stately trees of luxuriant growth. The village, or town, is mostly inhabited by persons connected with, and working in, the coal-mines; and several of the people are employed in the salt-works carried on here, which were introduced by the Earl of Wintoun in 1630. Facility of intercourse with the market-towns of Haddington and Dalkeith is afforded by good roads, which pass through the parish; and there is a daily post to Haddington and Edinburgh.The parish was anciently of much greater extent than at present, including the whole of the parish of Prestonpans, which was severed from it in 1606, and also parts of the parishes of Gladsmuir and Pencaitland. It is in the presbytery of Haddington, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £295. 13. 5., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £20 per annum. The church, erected in 1801, is a neat substantial structure adapted for a congregation of 912 persons, and containing twenty free sittings. A church was erected in the village of Cockenzie in 1838, by subscription, aided by grants from the General Assembly and the East Lothian Church Extension Society, and £150 raised by the Rev. A. Forman, of Innerwick; it is a neat edifice containing 452 sittings, from the rents of which is derived the minister's income. There are in the village of Tranent places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession. The parochial school affords a liberal course of instruction to about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with £40 fees, and a house and garden. In the village of Tranent are three schools supported by subscription; and a subscription library is also maintained, which has a useful collection of volumes. An hospital was founded near the village of Meadowmill by the late Mr. George Stiell, of Edinburgh, who endowed it with property producing an income of £900 per annum, for the maintenance and education of a limited number of boys and girls, and for the support of a free day-school. This institution, for which a handsome building has been erected, at an expense of £3000, is under the direction of governors, consisting of the Lord Justice Clerk, the sheriff of the county, and others; the boys' school is under the care of two masters, of whom the first has a salary of £40, and the second of £30 per annum, with board and lodging, and the girls' under a mistress who has a salary of £18. There are no longer any remains of the old palace of Seaton, which was frequently the resort of the ancient monarchs of Scotland while in possession of the Seaton family; the few remains that formerly existed were removed to make room, and afford materials, for a modern house, by the late proprietor of the estate. When James VI. was on his way to England after his accession to the throne, the funeral of the first earl of Wintoun was proceeding from the palace; and the king, out of respect to this friend of his family, ordered his retinue to halt, and remained in the garden till the procession had passed. The ancient church of Seaton, to which considerable additions were made by the Seaton family, was a beautiful structure in the decorated English style of architecture; and the remains are carefully preserved by the Earl of Wemyss, the present proprietor of the estate. The castle of Falside, which offered resistance to the progress of the Duke of Somerset, was burnt on the morning of the battle of Pinkie; but from the great strength of its walls, a considerable portion is still remaining, to which some additions have been made.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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