History of Garvald

Garvald is a pretty little East Lothian village, lying South-East of Haddington, South of East Linton and East of Gifford. It sits in a valley at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills, and alongside a burn called the Papana Water, on what was an historic route from the Borders to the coast. The village is built almost entirely from red sandstone giving the village a distinctive character. There are many listed buildings and the village itself has been given conservation status.

At the East end of the village stands the Parish Church, which was built in the 1100s but remodelled in 1829. It is bright and airy inside, and still used for worship every other weekend. At the west end sits the former Free Kirk, with its free-standing bell tower, which is now the village hall. In and around these two buildings there are a collection of private houses. There is a small village green, and opposite that, the Garvald Inn and there is a large community park, woodland and childrens’ play area.

In 1991 local historian Irene Anderson published a book which was updated and converted to digital format in 2017, see Garvald, the History of an East Lothian Parish (PDF/web version for viewing on a computer or tablet device). More information on Garvald can be found on Wikipedia and village photos are in the Gallery. For an aerial photograph of the village, see the ScotlandsPlaces website. In 2006 a new eco waste water treatment system using reed beds was installed.

The photograph below was taken by local resident Graham Barnes for World Pinhole Photography Day on 29th April 2012, using a modern digital camera fitted with a plastic body cap (with a homemade pinhole) rather than using a lens. This results in slightly out-of-focus but artistic images. Another of the images taken in the village (called Whhoosh!) was selected for the World Pinhole Photography Day 2012 international exhibition.

Village street

Copyright 2012 Graham Barnes


Before this website was set up, a regular edition of the Garvald and Morham Village Newsletter kept residents informed. Some of the previous editions are available here in PDF format. If you require Adobe Reader to view the document, click the link below to download the Reader software.

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66 thoughts on “History of Garvald

  1. Jennifer Smith

    Just came across this great site after looking for East Hopps. Garvald. My 5th GGrandfather John Dickson, born there 21 March 1740. Married Euphan Hunter born Humbie 1739. Marriage 2 Dec 1764 at Garvald. I am in Geelong, Australia. Have them on my Ancestry Tree. Wray(jd_wray01). Any further information from anyone would be greatly appreciated. My DNA is 50% Scottish of which I am very Proud. Thanks again.

  2. Mary Turnbull

    Hello Charles. The camp was used as accommodation for the men who gave up their holidays to help build the new monastery. The Glasgow fair fortnight was particularly busy!!!!! Then it was an unofficial gang hut for us kids.

    1. Judith MCCarthy

      Hi Mary
      Just found out my Great Grandfather was born here. Born May 19 1856 David Denholm. The family moved to Queensland Australia ( unsure what date that was )
      So have been looking up the village history
      Judith McCarthy ( Denholm)

      1. Merv DENHOLM

        Hi Judith,
        I noticed you were looking for information on your Great Grand Father David Denholm, who was born in Garvald.
        If your father was William Redman Denholm, we may be cousins. If that is correct I may me able to fill in a few gaps on the Denholm family tree for you.
        Merv Denholm, Como WA

          1. Merv DENHOLM

            Hi Judith,
            Sounds as though we are cousins.
            My Father was Samuel Vernon Denholm, known as Vern.
            You will be able to locate my land line number via white pages. Happy to pass on some info on family tree over a coffee at a local cafe.
            I live in Como WA

          2. Merv DENHOLM

            Hi Judith
            I would love to catch up fora coffee and a chat about our Great Grand Father.
            You can find my land line number in white pages.
            Merv Denholm
            Como WA

  3. William Aitchison

    My Great Grandfather (GG) James Aitchison was the Blacksmith at Tanderlane smithy in 1871. His wife was Rosanna Hobbins. He placed the headstone for his father (my GGG) and his mother Isabella Gray in the Garval churchyard as well as his father’s second wife Isabella The headstone also has my GG’s wife Rosanna Hobbins. My GG moved to Haddington and then to Edinburgh. I would be interested in any information relating to them or to Tanderlane (was it a house, a farm or a Lane?)

  4. David Sligo

    My G.G.G. Grandmother Fannie Hunter was born in Garvald in c.1762, and worked as a domestic servant at Seacliff House, North Berwick. Her son, my G.G Grandfather David Sligo was born in Garvald in 1785. I have been in the Village but not found the Hunter name.
    My wife’s maiden name is Thomson, and her maternal family traces back to Garvald in the nineteenth century.

    1. Vanessa

      Hi There
      Hope this is the correct place to post and isn’t intruding, here goes:
      Really long shot I know but my interest is Seacliff House. Just wondering if the original poster or anyone else local has any info regarding Seacliff that isn’t on the net, old photos would be amazing! I also recognised the name Sligo and know that George Sligo owned it at one point and am guessing he was related to the David Sligo’s GG Grandfather. Any info would be gratefully received.

      I have copied and pasted the original poster’s question:
      David Sligo – July 15, 2020 at 7:10 pm – My G.G.G. Grandmother Fannie Hunter was born in Garvald in c.1762, and worked as a domestic servant at Seacliff House, North Berwick. Her son, my G.G Grandfather David Sligo was born in Garvald in 1785. I have been in the Village but not found the Hunter name.
      My wife’s maiden name is Thomson, and her maternal family traces back to Garvald in the nineteenth century.

    2. Jennifer Smith

      Hello I have 1 Hunter with a small link to Garvald. My 5th GGrandmother Euphan Hunter born 1739 at Humbie. Possible Parents David Hunter & Susan Couan/Cowan. They married 10 Nov 1738. Euphan Married john Dickson at Garvald 2 Dec 1764. They had Children born at Garvald & Yester.

  5. christian Henderson

    I have recorded data showing family living within Garvald from at least 1752-1873 and a planning a trip back to Scotland hopefully when all things turns around in the world. I’ll be looking for my Great, Great Grandfathers last home which was called the Shepherd’s Cottage at Tanderlane.

    1. Geoffrey A Stevenson

      Hi there, I would like to establish contact with you. I have a direct relationship to Janet Henderson Doig who was recorded as being the wife of John Doig the Innkeeper at Garvald in the 1871 Census. She was the sister of my great great grandmother Ann Stevenson nee Henderson, originally from Dunse but by then the wife of the George Inn keeper in Haddington. Please contact me if interested (site admin can share my email with you, just ask!). I have a lot of Henderson research to share and am particularly interested in how long the Doigs were there and in what role. Thanks, Geoff Stevenson (USA).

      1. Christian Henderson

        My great, great grandfather was William Henderson. My family just found an old document from past reunions in North Dakota, they originally settled in Indiana.

    2. Seth Holden


      I would like to make contact with you. I have just uncovered records that my great, great grandfather William Henderson and his father were born and lived in Garvald. I live in the US and have visited Scotland several times without this new information and intend on visiting here the next time I’m back.

      1. Geoffrey A Stevenson

        Hi there, my interest is via a Janet Doig nee Henderson. Her husband John Doig was the Inn keeper at the Garvald Inn as recorded in the 1871 Census. John was originally from Kingsbarn near St. Andrews in Fife County. Janet was born in Dunse in 1808. One wonders what might have caused them to move to Garvald and if there was any link to your William Henderson’s family? Her father was named George Henderson and perhaps he was the link? Her sister Ann was married to David Stevenson (of Brechin then Edinburgh) and they moved to Haddington about 1859/60 when he became the Innkeeper of the George Hotel there. John Doig died in Garvald in 1872 I have not been successful in finding our how long the Doigs were at the Garvald Inn or what happened after John died. Any thoughts?

        1. christian henderson

          Sorry for the late reply Geoffrey , I’ll be in Garvald for the first time this summer during July 2023 , im meeting some distant relatives there at Tanderlane where my family was last listed as living at .

      2. Christian Henderson

        Seth my Great Great Grandfather is William Henderson who last settled in North Dakota where I’m from (though now in California).

  6. Charles G Runcie

    Does anyone have any stories or history about the POW camp that stood in the village? Why was it built there? When? Who were prisoners there? Why Italian? Did any of them stay and settle in East Lothian after the war? Why was it not pulled down until the early 70’s, when Burnside Court was built? Have often wondered.

    1. Sabine Bennemann

      Dear Mr. Runcie,
      Somewhat by chance I came across your question concerning the POW camp in Garvald. Actually, my late father Helmut Bennemann, German, born in 1926, was a prisoner of war there for a while. In total, he was held as a prisoner of war in Scotland for more than two years, in different camps, Edinburgh, Gosford Camp and others. He wanted us children to know what had happened before and during the war and also where he had been and what he had experienced. So, in the beginning 70’s, when I was about 13, we went to Scotland for a three week holiday and visited the places he had been in Scotland. Staying at Dunbar Barns Ness campsite, one afternoon we went to Garvald. He told us that there he had to work for different farmers, who treated the POW more or less well for obvious reasons. But the best memory he had was that of an elderly lady who treated them very well and where they had enough to eat (and also good things) – which was an extremely wonderful experience and he was very grateful for it – and he often talked about this later on in his life.
      When we were walking in Garvald, one lady asked us if we were looking for something in particular. Thus, my father told her that he had been prisoner of war in Garvald whereupon she invited us to have tea at her house – and astonishingly her husband remembered having once played football against a POW team and my father remembered a football match against the village.
      My father mentioned that there were Italiens in in POW camps in Scotland, however, I do not have any details.
      As you raised your questions already in 2020, I hope in the meantime you have received more information from other sources.
      Best regards,
      Sabine Bennemann from Germany

      1. Charles Runcie

        Sabine – have just read your reply. What a wonderful memory! How lovely to know even in the worst of times the human spirit can cut through, and people can be decent to ordinary human beings who are caught up in a war not of their making. I bet that tea was delicious, and I’m glad your father had a fairly happy time at Garvald.

        best wishes

        Charles Runcie

        1. Malcolm Sanders

          A little bit of info:
          Garvald – now Burnside Court area, NGR NT 587 708.
          Listed as a hostel holding Italian pows in 1942 and 1943. This is confirmed with Italian pows from Garvald recorded as working at nearby Eastfield Farm, Whittingehame. The list records that the hostel was administered by the main camp at Glenbranter (Camp 6) – possible as Gosford (see below) was not opened until 1944, but over 100 miles away.

          November 1946 – hostel attached to Gosford Camp 16 for German pows – strength 65. (Not listed in Camp records for Gosford before this).

          Probably closed as a pow camp shortly after this as workers who constructed Nunraw Abbey in 1947 were located here.

          See – http://eastlothianatwar.co.uk/page-9/PoW%20Camps.html – for a picture of the camp before it was demolished.

          1. Malcolm Sanders

            I can add a tiny bit more;
            The hostel was listed with Italian pows 1942/43 attached to Glenbranter Camp.
            *Then still with Italians 5 May 1944 attached to Donaldson’s School Camp
            Finally listed attached to Gosford from late 1946 with German pows.

  7. Bob Wilson

    We trying to trace the grave of my wife’s Great Grandmother Hannah Sleep (nee Berg).

    Her Date of Death was 25th May 1907 and at the time she was married to George Theophilus Sleep a Gardener and her death certificates states she died at Castle Moffat Garvald at age 32. She had a hard life having already had 5 Children and died giving birth to the 6th.

    East Lothian Council have no record of her burial in Garvald or the 8 surrounding cemeteries and we wonder if she has been buried privately in the area, as family all maintain she is buried at Garvald.

    We visited Castle Moffat and spoke to a long term resident of the cottages with no success. We also checked Santa Maria Graves with no success and have searched Garvald Church yard as far as we are able. Any help would be appreciated as we have managed to trace 99% of the family and Hannah is the only missing part of the puzzle.
    Bob Wilson

  8. Anita

    Hello there.
    I am wondering if anyone has heard of ‘Garlefoot’ or ‘Garrelfoot’ (Garrel Foot) in your area?
    I am researching a Douglas of Garlefoot, as written in a 1747 MS.
    While I have managed to find a place on Blaeu’s maps called Garrelfoot, it is near Biggar. I am looking for a ‘Garlefoot’ in the Linton Parish area. Nevertheless, Blaeu has the name written as ‘Garrelfoot’, but the OS survey name is ‘Garvald House’. So I am wondering if there is a connection linguistically at least?
    Another source (the Records of the Parliament of Scotland to 1707) mentions a William Douglas, younger of Garrelfoot, in the ‘Shire of Peebles’.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards,

    1. Michael Boyle-Ronaldson

      Judging by all the references I think your Garlefoot is not this ‘Garvald’. Yours might be linked to Garvald West Linton, Peeblesshire, whereas this Garvald website is for the village in East Lothian.

  9. James Macdonald

    I am an author, Jim Burnside, currently drafting a work of historical fiction, THE LONGEST NIGHT. Some of the characters and action derive from a family, the Macdonalds who lived in the village from the 1880’s through into the early part of the last century. Angus, father of two girls and six boys was a farm grieve, I believe for Lord Balfour. His two eldest sons, John and Angus became farmers, respectively in Killin and Haddington. The other lads all worked on the railways. One became an architect. My great grandmother’s family, the McSweens owned a meat packing business somewhere in Haddington. I understand that there were three breweries in the area, as well as three wealthy landowners – the Hays and Whittinghames as well as Arthur Balfour. Does anyone know if there were public houses other than the Garvald Inn?

    1. Admin Post author

      Irene Anderson mentioned that there were 4 inns at one time in Garvald. A link to her book is further up this page (see page 37).

  10. Robert F Wilson

    Hope you can help. We had a walk round your lovely church last week as we are trying to trace the burial place of Hannah Sleep, wife of George Theopilious Sleep, who was a Gardener at Castle Moffat at the time of his wife’s death on 27 May 1907. Any help or contacts you can provide would be appreciated.

    Robert F Wilson

  11. Ian Dempster

    Am I correct in thinking Irene Anderson has passed away? We met her and bought her book on Garvald some years ago. I can trace my ancestors in Garvald to at least 1752, but nothing before that. I wondered if anyone had taken up Irene’s ‘mantle’ or whether you have been contacted by any others of the Dempster family. Many thanks.

    Ian Dempster (France)

    1. Admin Post author

      Yes, she has passed away. Irene’s book was edited and updated with recent history in 2017, making a digital copy to be kept for posterity and archived with East Lothian Council. There is a link to it further up this page.

  12. Norman Conquer

    I’m looking for informaton re. Conquer family who lived in Garvald and Morham between about 1750-1850. The name appears in Haddington and Saltoun also before, during and after these dates.
    Norman Conquer

  13. Kathleen Henderson

    My daughter and I came to Gifford last year searching for our ancestor who according to my father was from Gifford. We couldn’t find any Hendersons in the church graveyard and left disappointed. But now thanks to electricscotland and scotlandspeople.gov.uk, we think we have found him, a Thomas Henderson whose birth was registered in Garvald/Morham parish, on May 29, 1827.
    We are searching for any Hendersons who might still live in the area. If you are a Henderson decendant, please do get in touch. Thanks for your help, and we are delighted to bring this information to light after searching for it for over ten years.

    1. Debra Mishler

      The Thomas Henderson, (born 8 May 1827, baptized 29 May 1827) about which you write, is my great grandmother’s 1st cousin 1x removed. Thomas’ brother Robert (1778-1855) is the family through which I am related. Robert’s son, Robert (1816-1891) was the Henderson that ended up in Indiana, USA. If you receive any response to your query, I would be very interested in potential connections!

      1. christian henderson

        Hi Debra ,

        I’m your connection !!!! That’s my family! My Great Grandfather was William Henderson son of Robert, William moved to ND and Homesteaded.

        1. Seth Holden


          This my family as well. William is my great, great grandfather. I grew up 2 miles from my great grandfather Lawrence’s farm, (William’s son) in Erie, ND. I currently live in North Dakota. Please get in touch.

    2. christian henderson

      Hi Kathleen,
      Along with Debra’s reply we would also be related , When Robert came to America he brought his son William who is my Great Grandfather , I believe Robert and Thomas were brothers. Please do get in touch. Would love to chat.

  14. Hope Haggart Stein

    Just had a visit home to Garvald and it was a great day, the church was looking great, had a lovely lunch at the pub. I wasn’t allowed in the pub by my mother in 1963 it just wasn’t the thing! Meal was beautiful. Sorry that all the old people (born there) are all gone. I wonder where? I have a few photos of the Garvald burn in 1955 and a photo of Africa our house in 1963 I’ll try and send them to you. Thank you all for keeping us up to date with Garvald. Regards, Hope, nz.

      1. Suzanne Gray

        Hi Hazel, I think we may be related. I would
        Love you get in touch with you – not sure how to do that though! Could you reply to this message and then I could send you my email?

      2. Ann Ennis Craine

        I was born at Whitelaws, Garvald in 1939. Lived with my Auntie Belle, Miss Woolley, who ran the boarding house, Mrs Ennis (my mum), my sister Margaret and my dad who was in the war, and my granny. Evelyn, Carolyn, Hope and Tony Haggart lived next door. There was a boy also but I don’t remember his name. They also lived at Africa at one point. Mrs Miller lived next door to them. The Post Office was at the bottom of the village – Mr Telfer?? Anne Raitt, Mr Cochrane, Mr Ormiston?

        Miss MacDonald lived across the street from Whitelaws. The Crowles,and the Steel brothers. Lots of holiday people. Norma King, The Raitts, Anne, Margot and Jimmie. My cousin, John Webster, was the blacksmith. My friend, Mabel Riddell lived at the top of the village. Her dad ran around on his bike with rabbits for sale. Garvald was a busy little village in the 40’s and though I now live in the Black Hills of South Dakota it is always in my thoughts.

        1. Hope Stein

          Hello I’m Hope Haggart that used to live in Garvald now NZ these were the days no care in the world but oh how I wish I was there back hame

        2. Brian Kirk

          Hi Ann
          You could be interested in my response to your letter. I have lived in Australia since 1963 and married Carolyn Haggart in 1961. She had two sisters Hope and Evelyn, 3 brothers Malcolm, Billy and Lynn. Malcolm, passed away, Billie was unfortunatly killed on a motorbike and Caroline was injured as she was riding pillion at the time. I do not think there was a Tony. It was probably Billy you thought. My wife Caroline passed away in 1986 with a brain tumour. Evelyn passed away about 4 years ago and Hope, who lived in Auckland NZ, I have lost touch with. Regards Brian kirk.

      3. brian Kirk

        Hi Hazel,
        I think your brother stayed with me and my my wife, Caroline ( Nee Haggart) in Christchurch NZ 1961. I think he was 3rd engineer on a cargo ship which had docked at Lyttleton New Zealand in 1961. He was about 17 or 18. He jumped his ship in New Zealand and married a new Zealand girl. He stayed with us for a few days. We sent his uniform back to Garvald later on. Hope is my sister -in-law.

    1. Robert Renwick

      My sister Sandra Renwick was born in the house Africa but that was many years ago.We left the village in 1965/66

    2. Brian Kirk

      Hello Hope,
      Brian here, your brother in law. Surfing about and came across you today June 6th 2024. It is 8 years since you posted your message and I hope it still finds you well. I am 93 and still hanging in but don’t know for how long. I have not seen Lynn since Evelyn and Lynn’s wife invited us over the Hastings for a barbecue years ago. Glenn lives with me and my daughter Lynn is married and only lives a few miles away. I live at the same address. It’s many years since Jim passed away and I’ve often wondered how you were, as I did not have your address or phone number. Give me a ring or drop a email. All our Love Brian, Glenn and Lynn.

  15. Melissa Meek

    Have really enjoyed looking at your website, and hope to visit you before too long. My ancestor George Dods was born in Garvald in 1786 (and died in Bristol in 1874). I believe that his parents George and Mary are buried in Garvald Kirk.
    Best wishes,

  16. Ian Christie

    I am seeking information on Christie family history. Five brothers John, Richard, Alexander, Peter and William emigrated to the state of Victoria, Australia in the 1850s. Several settled in the Byaduk locality where I still live. Any info or contacts would be greatly appreciated.

  17. allie stewart

    Anyone have any information on the Hay family of Garvald? I have a John Hay marrying Agnes Neison in about 1734. He was born in 1709 and his father was William Hay. I have reached a dead end and need help here. I think William was married to a Beatrix Hauden or similar name.

    1. Loraine

      Patrick/Peter Skirving b. 1769 Leith South, married Margaret Hay on 06/06/1790 at Garvald. They had a son William Skirving b. 01/12/1793 Haddington.

      1. Loraine Ducker

        I must correct the record. Patrick/Peter Skirving was born 1755. He married Margaret Hay June 6, 1790 in Garvald. Margaret was born 1769. They are my many times great grandparents.

  18. rodney jeffery

    My G_G Grandfather was born at Chesters, Morham Mains, Garvald on 1 May 1788 to parents James Jeffery and Margaret Downie. Any info on the Jeffery or Downie families of Garvald-Haddington area would be much appreciated. Rod Jeffery Bunbury, Western Australia

  19. Harry Glover

    Does anyone have any details of the history and residents of Tanderlane Farm (or House?) in the 1900s?
    My wife and I are researching family history, and we are trying to trace the life of a lady called Andrina Isaacs (or Andrina Pitcairn) who we believe was Housekeeper there from about 1930-ish, but we don’t know for how long.
    She probably had two young childen with her, David (b. 1920) and Ruth (b. 1922).
    Any leads anyone can offer will be very much appreciated.
    Harry Glover
    Farnham, Surrey

    1. Charles Runcie

      The Waddells lived at Tanderlane for many years in the 60’s-90’s. You might try Jean Waddell for clues.

  20. Norma

    I just discovered that my Great Great Grandfather was born in the village so it was interesting to find this site and learn a little bit about the village.

  21. Ronnay Wilson

    I came upon this website today by chance and was delighted to read that Hope Haggart had made contact. She had a brother, Lynn Haggart, that was pals with us in the late 40’s/early 50’s. The Haggarts stayed in the Cottage “Africa” just over the bridge on the way to Stoneypath Tower. I was not brought up in Garvald but spent much of my childhood between Garvald and Snawden Farm where we lived at that time. My Grandparents/Chrissie Murray lived in Loan Cottage, Garvald from the 30’s. Aunts and Uncles, the Saundersons, Samuals and Robsons, were all part of Village Life. The Village Policeman in the 50’s was killed in his garden by bee stings. Mrs Bolton ran the village shop and at a later date the Catloughs ran the Post Office opposite the swing park. The P.O.W. Nissan Hut was still on the village green and Brother Oliver from Nunraw, who had taken a vow of silence, would always give us “Boys” a lift back to the Village if he found us miles away. It was life at its best.
    My Mother always told me I was brought to Garvald on 24th February 1944 being the latest addition to the Murray/Wilson Family.
    from Ronnay Wilson

    1. Jo

      My granny was Nancy Murray before she got married and she grew up in Garvald together with her 9 brothers and sisters. She was born in 1915 and passed away a few years ago. When she was still alive she and my grandpa took us to Garvald several times so that we could see the village where she grew up. She was very fond of Garvald too.

    2. Graham Barnes

      Hi Ronnay … You may remember that a few months ago we had a long chat about your memories of the Garvald when we met in main street near the pub. I mentioned to one or two others that you had very interesting stories. I told them that we discussed your coming back one day to do a walk around the village to point out where all these things happened and to describe how the various locations had changed. I’ve certainly not forgotten your kind offer and last weekend it came into my mind again when my next-door neighbour, of his own accord, said he would like to know more of the recent history of the village. If you’re still up for a Garvald walk-about let me know. Best wishes … Graham

  22. Hope Haggart (Stein )

    Hi, can anyone find out if there is any reference to New Zealand in the graves behind the Kirk, the ones that have walls round them. I’m hoping that my memory is true and I might be able to connect people here in NZ to the great wee village of Garvald. regards, Hope

  23. Hope Haggart (Stein )

    Great to hear that Garvald is once again on the map. I’m a Garvald bairn so I get a bit homesick for my hame and the childhood that we had in the village. Keep up the great work in keeping the village active as it used to be. Regards Hope Stein, Auckland N.Z

  24. Hope Haggart (Stein )

    Great to see and hear what is still going on in the great wee village of Garvald. Even in my days it was very active. I am always hoping that life could just be a wee bit like how it was.

    1. admin

      If anyone has photos of the village taken in the past, please contact us as we would like to add them to the site in a gallery of Garvald in the past and present.


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