At the very heart of Haddington is to be found one of the semi jewels of Scotland, where the East Haugh runs towards the Nungate Bridge. Many times I have stood with visitors , whether from the South or further abroad, gazing Westwards from the old bridge over the Tyne, to the great church of St. Mary, Lamp of Lothian. I shall never tire of this, one of the most beautiful townscapes in Britain, and it never fails to astonish my guests with its grandeur and unspoiled beauty.

St. Mary’s Parish Church – with an Auld Alliance iris, to celebrate our twinning with twin town Aubigny.

Haddington has been a Royal Burgh since the 12th Century and in Medieval times it was one of Scotland’s more important towns, Kings and Queens from William the Lion, Alexander 11 [ who was born in Haddington ] , Henry 1V of England, Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots have had associations with the town. Wars and seiges took a heavy toll of Haddingtons’ medieval buildings, leaving only the great church which was itself partly ruined until its restoration in 1973.

The Lamp of Lothian Trust has played a key part in raising funds and public support for the restoration of St. Mary’s – Haddington House – the home of Jane Welsh Carlyle and the unique community centre of Poldrate Mill. These are among the key attractions of Haddington.

The Seige of Haddington had lasted one and half years, the longest seige in our History, and it reached Haddington in about 15th September 1549, their first act on taking Haddington had been to destroy the Kirk of St. Mary, their last was to set fire to the town, and so they went, taking with them the kirk bells, strangely unhindered in their retreat, which may in part have been due to the weather, the continuous rain which demoralised the English was equally a hindrance to their opponents. The River Tyne in flood has been a fearsome event even into recent times.

The Abbey which not many years before had hosted Parliament, lost its Abbess when she married, the buildings were abandoned and were soon ruinous, and no trace of it survives apart from some masonry which was probably used for improvements to the Nungate Bridge.

By 1561 Presbyterianism was well established and in that year work was started on the ruined St. Mary’s to re-roof the Nave and wall it off from the Choir and transepts. The Nave thus became a satisfactory venue venue for the new forms of worship, and the rest of the Church, open to the skies and the elements, soon bore the air of a romantic ruin, and so it remained for over 400 years, perhaps awaiting a miracle.

The Lauderdale Aisle occupies the former sacristy of St. Mary’s Church , built in the mid 1400s , it was reappropriated as a burial aisle for the Maitlands of Lethington after the east End of the Church fell into disuse at the Reformation of 1560.

John, 2nd Lord Maitland became James V1’s Lord Chancellor in 1586. He was credited with revolutionising Scotland’s goverance by removing power from Scotland’s aristocracy and creating an administation of professional people.

At his death in 1595, Maitland was laid to rest in the family burial vault at St. Mary’s Church. His wife, Lady Jean, was buried next to him on her death in 1609.

The vault before restoration in 1973.

Some years later, John’s son, created Earl of Lauderdale by James V1 in 1624, erected an elaborate monument to his father’s memory on the north wall of the burial aisle. James wrote an epigraph to the former chancellor to be placed on top of the monument, but this is now lost.

The Maitland Monument is a spectacular piece of commemorative sculpture. Richly ornamented, its one of Scotland’s most impressive memorials. It holds near full- size effigies of John Maitland and Lady Jean, and herald display.