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Notable Dates and Brief History of Duddingston with original Photographs by Elaine Ferguson:

from the Twelfth Century Duddingston Parish church
1297 Sir William Wallace found shelter in the Figgate Whins
1360 The Sheep Heid Inn at Duddingston was established
1645 The plague hit Duddingston Village
late 1700s 1700s the small village of Figgate sprung up on either side of the road that stretched from Musselburgh, skirting past the ancient village of Restalrig, up to the busier thoroughfares of Abbeyhill and Holyrood road
13th Sept 1744 A water spout broke over the western slope of Arthur Seat causing flooding around Duddingston Loch
1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie stationed his troops at Duddingston
1755 First recorded census of the parish of Duddingston
1778 Bronze age weapons that were found in Duddingston Loch
1st Oct 1921 Celtic Stone cross unveiled outside Holyrood High School. It is a memorial commemorating the people of Duddingston who fought and fell during the First World War

The area of Duddingston has been inhabited since before the 12 century. Some evidance has been found that there was once an island village constructed on piles in Duddingston Loch and it is believed this was the source of the many bronze age weapons that were found in the loch in 1778. The Roman occupation from the days of Agricola (A.D. 81) has also left it's mark, and coins have been discovered in the neighbourhood of the old Roman road, now Fishwives Causeway. The Norman invasion is represented with the building of the Norman Church overlooking Duddingston Loch, called Duddingston Kirk.

Duddingston Kirk and Loch
Duddingston Kirk and Loch today from "Windy Goul"

One of the best times to see the loch is in winter when it can become a magical place nestled under the ancient volcano that is Arthur Seat.
Frozen Duddingston Loch

The sport for which the loch was most famous is curling and skating. Indeed one of the most famous images of Duddingston is still the painting by Sir Henry Raeburn of Rev. Robert Walker, minister of the Canongate Kirk, skating on Duddingston Loch in 1784.

The Duddingston Curling Society was created on the 17th January 1795 and over the years its list of members were many of the leading Scotsmen of the day. Its final demise came around the 1850's when the popularity of the game gave rise to a great many clubs with artificial ponds and the old time-hounered society gradually fell into decay.

Rev Walker

Up to the latter part of the 11th century the area was heavily forested all the way from Duddingston Loch to the Figgate estuary at Portobello and was called the Forest of Drumselch , or King's Forest, and it probably included the Forest of Figgate as well. By the time King David I had granted a charter to erect the abbey of Holyrood in 1128, the area had largely been deforested and had become heath-covered moorland with whin covered downs near the sandy shore. David I gifted the land of the parish to the Abbot of Kelso at the beginning of the 12th Century, and Kelso Abbey remained the feu superior of the Barony of Duddingston until the time of the Reformation, when the land reverted to the Crown.
The name Duddingston appears to be saxon and is likely to have been derived from the settlement of a Norman family of the name Dodin which was leased from Kelso Abbey. The Saxon termination of town (originally meaning enclosure or hedge) then gave it the name Dodinstun, similar to other local names such as Ormiston, Levingston and Elphinston. Through time the name became Duddingston.

The economy of the Village was originally based on agriculture and the weaving of reeds from Duddingston Loch into coarse fabric known as Duddingston hardings.

In 1297 it is said that Sir William Wallace found shelter in the Figgate Whins with two hundred of his followers prior to a successful raid on the North of England.


The Church or Kirk of Duddingston is probably the oldest piece of stonework in the parish. It consist of a nave, chancel and tower, although many changes have been made over the centuries it still retains some of its original features.

Duddingston Kirk
The Jougs at Duddingston Kirk
Evidence of mid 14 century justice is still evident in the "jougs" (from jugum, a yoke) attached to the outside wall of the Kirk. It would encircle the "criminal" round the neck and consisted of an iron collar in two halves fastened by a clasp and suspended by a chain about 6 feet from the ground. They were used to punish blasphemy, swearing, drunkenness, the abuse of husbands by their wives and other such like offences.

Another ancient relic from the past that still remains to this day is the "Louping-on-stane". This recalls the days when honest farmers of the parish brought their wives with them to the kirk riding the same horse.

The stone platform with its steps enabled the farmer's wife to mount up behind her lord when the church service was over.

The  Loupin Stane at Duddingston Kirk
Dudingston Kirk Lane into Queens Park
From the register of burials in Duddingston Kirk there appears to be a high rate of mortality during the 17th century. The average age of death was about 25 years old. In addition there were a number of times where the plague claimed many more lives than normal.
The greatest was in 1645 when no less than 160 burials were recorded of which over 140 had died from the plague. For a small village the likes of Duddingston this was a significant depletion of the local population. For the plague victims a separate place of burial had to be found for fear the infection might spread. These unfortunate souls were recorded as being buried "at the fute of ye lone", which although difficult to identify was probably at the foot of the lane leading from the village into the Queens Park where the old Park Lodge now stands.

In Duddingston around 1713 there were as many as 6 or 7 public houses in the village and one of the oldest is the Sheep heid. It has held a licence dating back to 1360 and is the oldest pub in Edinburgh if not Scotland. The only opening hours restriction was that during sermons on Sunday no taven or inn was allowed to open its doors. This rule however was not always followed as parishoners liked to enjoy some bread and cheese and a pint of ale between seromons. Severals cases for infringement were brought before the session!
Sheep Heid Inn
Duddingston Loch is fed by a small stream from the "Wells o' Weary" which maintains a uniform depth in the loch and so it generally varies little in water levels. There is however a point in its long history that is worth noting. On 13th September in 1744 a water spout broke over the western slope of Arthur Seat and cascaded down the hillside. It tore a channel in the hill and gave rise to the area of Arthur Seat we know today as "The Guttit Haddie" and caused flooding over the adjacent meadows.
The Guttit Haddie

In 1745 the Barony of Easter and Wester Duddingston became the property of the Earl of Abercorn. He set about converting it into a residential place. Farms were enlarged, roads made and hedges planted. In 1746 he introduced the system of lease which held a 19 year tenure. In 1763 the Earl built a mansion near to Wester Duddingston, called Duddingston House, and it was finished in 1868 at a cost of £30,000.

Also in September of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Highland army were stationed at Duddingston after their victory at Prestonpans and no doubt Charlie popped into the Sheep Heid for a quick pint. Towards the end of October Prince Charlie reviewed his troops on Portobello Beach on the eve of his campaign to wrest the crown from the Hanoverian dynasty.

Portobello Beach

After many successes and on reaching as far south as the city of Derby, the army were forced to retreat with the Duke of Cumberland in persuit. The hopes of the return of the house of Stuart to the throne ended on the fatal field of Culloden.

In the first recorded census of the parish of Duddingston in 1755, there was a population of 989. The parish at this time covered a number of villages in the area, mainly Easter and Wester Duddingston and Magdalene or Maitland Bridge. Later the building of Joppa caused the extension of Easter Duddingston. Click the map on the right for a larger image of Duddingston Parish.
Duddingston Parish circa 1895

In 1767 the earl of Abercorn added to the Duddingston estate the Barony of Brunstane. However at this time the lands of Figgate were not included as they had previously been sold to Baron Muir and then on to Mr William Jameson, commonly known as the father of Portobello, see the history of Portobello for more information on Willaim Jameson.

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