History of Currie
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Return to Currie Community Council home page.