History of Currie

Currie War Memorial: World War 1, World War 2
War Memorial
There is no accepted derivation of the name Currie but it is possibly from the Latin coria, a camp or meeting place, or from the Gaelic curagh/curragh, a mossy or boggy dell or the British word curi, a hollow.

Documentary Evidence

The earliest record of a settlement in the Currie area are a Bronze Age razor (1800 BC) found at Kinleith Mill and the stone cists (500 BC) at Duncan's Belt and Blinkbonny.
There are a few mentions of this area in mediaeval and early modern documents. One of the first is when Robert of Kildeleith became Chancellor of Scotland in 1249. Kildeleith means Chapel by the Leith, and survives today as Kinleith.
Robert the Bruce gave Riccarton as a wedding present in 1315 and in 1392 the land passed to the family of Bishop Wardlaw. In 1612 the land went to Ludovic Craig, a Senator of the College of Justice. In 1818 it passed to the female line and became the property of the Gibson-Craigs.
There has been a Christian community in the area for more than a 1000 years. In 1018, the archdeacons of Lothian set up their headquarters in the area. John Bartholomew's Civic and Ecclesiastical maps of the 13th century do not show Currie, but the Index of Charters 1309-1413 records Currie as being 'favourite hunting grounds' for the Lords and Knights of Edinburgh Castle. A settlement began to take shape around Currie Kirk and the main Lanark Road, which was the main route south and continues to be known as 'The Lang Whang'.

Crossing the Water of Leith

It is believed that the original Currie Brig dates from the 14th century and is significant in history because Dalziel of Binns passed over it in 1666 with his troops to cut off the Covenanters and bring them to battle at Rullion Green. Currie Brig unites the two parts of the village: the kirk, school, schoolhouse and farms to the south and the farms and settlement on the north bank and along the Lanark Road.

The World of Work

Currie arose as a small community centred on the town farms. In the early days (1600-1720) farms were self-contained and self-supporting. Turnpike (toll) roads (see below) developed and people left the farms to build them. Lack of labour hastened the coming of the steel plough (c 1775), but this in turn reduced the number of men required on the farms. Soon another change came as wrights and blacksmiths began to work locally and this was speeded up by the coming of industry attracted by the water power of the Water of Leith. With the advent of steam power and mechanisation by the 1840s, some mills had machines and life was very different. No longer were people in small communities sharing the necessities of life, but they were using money for everything. Although life was hard and the conditions poor, shiftwork was plentiful at the mills. Major relaxations consisted of bands, societies, galas and church attendance.

Currie Kirk and the Conservation Area

Currie Kirk is reputed to have been built on the foundations of the ancient Church of Kinleith and dedicated to Saint Kentigern in 1296. The Kirk in its present form dates from 1784, with later alterations in 1791 and the addition of steeple, clock and vane in 1818. Development around the Kirk comprised the manse, school and some dwellings. The farm buildings in the hinterland changed as agriculture advanced.
The Currie Conservation Area boundary extends from the Woodhall Arms to the Riccarton Arms, including the buildings on the north of Lanark Road West, then turns south to take in Currie Brig, the cottages on Kirk Brae, Currie Kirk and the manse. About 80-100 people live within this area.

Fairs

In the proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland there is a reference to early 18th century Fairs and Sports Days in Currie, with prizes of a ribboned bonnet, garters and a knife. This tradition was carried on by the Currie Friendly Society which started in 1765, and it become the custom to tour the area with flags collecting donations before the Sports day. The day ended with the Trooping of the Colours in the field behind the village smiddy. The winner of the Sports took custody of the flag until the following year.

Education

The earliest record of education in the area is contained in the Minutes of Edinburgh Town Council in 1598, when Baillie Lawrence Henderson was sent to "the toun o Currie to help the gentlemen of the Parish select a Schoolmaister"; however it is not stated where the school was situated. In 1694, the heritors appointed a Mr Thomson to teach scholars in the Church until Thomas Craig of Riccarton found a place for the building of a school and house for the schoolmaster. The site chosen was where the white cottage stands in Lanark Road West opposite Curriehill School. (The Community Council have affixed a plaque on the wall of the cottage to mark the event. ) The foundations of the school were laid in 1699. The school and school house cost 500 merks. and the salary of the Schoolmaster, a Mr Thomson, was 20 pounds Scots per year.
From the 1970s onwards, Heriot-Watt University moved from its city centre location to occupy the lands of the former Riccarton Estate, gifted to the university by the then Midlothian District Council. The move has now been completed and the main campus of Heriot-Watt University occupies and manages a superb wooded area with enough space for future expansion.

Penny Post

Although the postal service in Scotland grew slowly throughout the 18th Century, most of it was at first only between the main towns and very little was done to provide a service within the towns. In 1744 a Peter Williamson, who owned a coffee house and a printing establishment in Edinburgh, started a Penny Post within the City. Having set up Receiving Offices in Edinburgh and Leith, it ran for 18 years with a staff of six postmen, who received pay of 4/6d per week. This service was taken over by the Post Office in 1792. The 10 mile limit was abolished in 1795 and thereafter a steady expansion of the Edinburgh service look place. Currie was included in 1806.

The Water of Leith

The Water of Leith rises in the Pentland Hills and flows for a distance of 36 kilometres to meet the Firth of Forth at Leith. From its source among the heather covered moorland and rough pasture above East Colzium, the Water of Leith flows into Harperrig, one of Edinburgh's compensation reservoirs. These were constructed to augment the power required by the extension of new industries further downstream.
The Water of Leith must once have been a clear and sparkling river. An Act of Scottish Parliament in 1617 decreed that the standard pint jug was to contain 'three pounds seven Ouncches troye of cleane rynand water from the Water of Leith', but later the quality of water deteriorated. As Edinburgh New Town grew and villages outside the city expanded in association with the establishment of industries along its banks, the Water of Leith became too convenient as a ready made drain and rubbish dump. Acts of Parliament were obtained in 1896 to authorise the construction of sewers down the length of its valley and these relieved the overburdened river of much of its unpleasantness.
Thanks to the building of these sewers, to the more recent endeavours of the Forth River Purification Board and to the occasional activity of groups of young volunteers, the Water of Leith today, though not yet as sparkling as a highland burn, is sufficiently clean to maintain its annual stock of trout. The Water of Leith valley and its tributaries, especially the Bavelaw Burn, provide the principal wildlife corridor between the uplands of the Pentland Hills and the lower Water of Leith valley and the central urban area. The importance of this corridor can be judged from the variety and number of different trees, shrubs, and other flowering plants recorded in one particular place by the Lothians Branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, namely a total of 147 different plant species, as well as a variety of birds and evidence of roe deer and badgers.

Roads

Toll-bars were introduced on many roads in the area in 1750 and were not discontinued until 1883, although Currie toll house itself was not built until 1860. The toll keeper was responsible for collecting tolls from traffic using the route of the present Riccarton Mains Road. The toll house, at the junction of Riccarton mains Road and Lanark Road West, was demolished during the 1960s when the road was widened. The position of the well serving the house is marked on the footpath.

Railway

The railway came in 1874, with the development of Currie station next to The Water of Leith. Ribbon development continued along the roadside. The Riccarton Arms was originally the farmhouse for Wester Currie Farm. It appeared under its present name in 1876. The Gibson Craig Memorial Hall was built in 1901 and the High School (now Curriehill Primary School) in 1903.

Blinkbonny

The hamlet of Blinkbonny grew up during the late 19th and early 20th century alongside Blinkbonny Farm. Millworkers' houses were erected by the owners of Kinleith Mill, along with other houses for the use of workers who came to work at Torphin Quarry. At the turn of the century there was increased agricultural production in the area, but with improved methods less labour was required. There was a gradual reduction in the mills' labour force and the coming of 'dormitory dwellers' and the need for more services. The population rapidly increased.

Expansion

The period 1921-1951 brought great changes with the building of more council houses in Currie and private building along Lanark Road.
Wider scale development began in the late 1960's/early 1970's. House builders started to promote Currie as a pleasant commuting suburb of Edinburgh and much house building took place to the north of Lanark Road West. Currie High School was constructed on its present site in 1960 and extensively refurbished and renewed in 1997. The physical topography has ensured that the original historic core to the south of Lanark Road West including the Water of Leith has remained undeveloped. In March 1972 the historic centre of Currie was declared a Conservation Area.

Hermiston

To the north of Currie Community Council's area is the village of Hermiston, bounded to the south by the A71 (Calder Road) and to the north by the Union Canal. Hermiston was originally known as Langherdmanstoun and developed as a centre for farming and brewing. The village has strong associations with Riccarton Estate, the site now occupied by Heriot-Watt University.
Hermiston House, listed in charters dating back to 1696, was the Dower House of Riccarton Estate. It is a modest two storey mansion whose Baronial characteristics can be attributed to William Burn, who remodelled the house around 1830. A pedimented window is dated 1633 and the gargoyle in the main elevation is from Corstorphine Church. The house was restored and modernised by Esme Gordon in 1955. It is a Category B listed building along with its west lodge, gate towers and boundary walls and is now the residence of the Principal of Heriot-Watt University. The former lodge to Hermiston House is now 62 Hermiston and is also by William Burn and also B-listed.
Hermiston Farm House was originally part of the Riccarton Estate. It dates from the late 18th century with extensions of circa 1830, possibly by William Burn. The 18th century steading lies immediately to the west. The farm house group is B-listed.
The small scale and irregular form of Hermiston is typical of a Lothian 'Ferme Toun', representing its origins in a group of farms worked by tenants which were later amalgamated into a larger single unit. Its character derives from the domestic scale and vernacular style of its mainly single storey cottages, which date from the early 19th century, and the open form of the land to the north. The core of the village is based around Hermiston House and Farm, which provide cohesion to the irregular pattern of other buildings. The principal building materials are stone, render and slate which contribute to the architectural character of the village.
The whole of the village of Hermiston has been declared a Conservation Area by the City of Edinburgh Council.



Currie War Memorial. Further information can be had by consulting 'The Currie War Memorial with details of Balerno and Juniper Green', compiled by Malcolm Fergusson, which can be found at Currie Library, Balerno Library and Edinburgh Central Library, or by writing to Malcolm at 16 Cairns Drive, Balerno EH14 7HH.


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