Dunbar, Old Harbour, Spott's Granary

Gear Store, Granary (18th Century), Nethouse (18th Century), Port Authority Office (21st Century)

Site Name Dunbar, Old Harbour, Spott's Granary

Classification Gear Store, Granary (18th Century), Nethouse (18th Century), Port Authority Office (21st Century)

Alternative Name(s) Spott's Girnel; Macarthurs Stores; Mcarthur's Store; Dunbar Harbour Trust Office; Victoria Street

Canmore ID 215480

Site Number NT67NE 286

NGR NT 68116 79243

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Dunbar
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT67NE 286 68116 79243

For adjacent Old Harbour ('Cromwell's Harbour') at NT 6814 7922, see

This building stands on the wharf that forms the W side of the Old Harbour, N of the debouchment of Victoria Street. It is of red-sandstone rubble, now harled, and is three storeys in height. The roof has been renewed. Aligned from NE to SW, it measures 70 feet by 42 feet over walls 2 feet 8 inches thick, but its N corner has been sloped away to avoid the edge of a former recess in the wharf, now built up flush. The original arrangement of the openings on the SE front was probably a central door, now broken out to a larger size with two windows on either side of it and symmetrical fenestration on the two upper floors. The first-floor openings are the largest. The NW face is generally similar, but at the wall-head there are four red-sandstone corbels, apparently intended to support a beam from which tackles could be hung to swing goods into the opening below. At the SW end, two doors are set close together and open onto a loading platform which measures 27 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 6 inches and is reached by a flight of steps . These doors, one of which has cat flaps reflect the longitudinal division of the interior by a central wall 2 feet 8 inches thick along the main axis. This dividing wall shows traces of small narrow openings on the ground floor, now built up, which may not be orginal; an opening has been broken through it in line with the SE entrance evidently in the re-arrangement of the interior to serve as a fishermens' stores. Only a single room, on the ground floor, was accessible for internal examination; the disposition of the posts and bearing plates that support the first floor, some of which have been removed to make more room, point to heavy loading.

This part of the wharfage is believed to have been formed in 1785, and as the rock-cutting entailed inn the levelling of its surface respects the NE end and the N corner of the building, this must have already been standing at the time. The name 'Spott's Granary' is on record in 1819.

A Graham 1966, visited 8 August 1965.

(Location cited as NT 680 793 and NT 681 792). Dunbar Harbour. The harbour is in two parts. The older section (c. 1710-30) consists of a basin formed by a curved rubble pier and a shorter straight pier. Some of the masonry is vertically set. A low wharf within the curved pier was for coal importation (1761).

The newer part - the Victoria Harbour (1842) - is formed by a sea wall linking two rock outcrops, together with a quay along the shore parallel with the wall. This section has two entrances, one to the old harbour channel, spanned by a hand-operated, wrought-iron, two-leaf bascule bridge; the other, at the N end, is open.

There is as 3-storey, 5-bay, harled store (Spott's Granary) on the old short pier.

J R Hume 1976.

NT 6811 7924 An analytical assessment of this important harbour building (originally known as Spott's Store or Granary)

was undertaken during May 2007 and revealed that the southern side of the building incorporated an earlier structure, perhaps of the 17th century, at ground floor level. A major remodelling occurred in the 18th century (possibly the earlier 18th century); the structure was doubled in width and raised to three stories. Common joist floor structures supporting

the central spine wall were made further secure by a system of vertical propping. Many of the props are circular-section mast or spar pieces, or other ships' framing elements; the latter are of oak and retain moulded and jointing details.

The structure saw repeated subsequent remodelling relating to frequent change of use. At one point ventilation slits were inserted throughout the lower story; in the rear rooms these were blocked and overlain with studs embedded in a plaster lining onto which were attached lining boards. A pan-tiled double-pile gabled roof structure was replaced in the mid- to late 19th century by a single slated double-pitched structure with hipped ends. The building is still in use as fishermen's stores and creel-making workshops.

We carried out some assessment of the evidence for the evolution of the pier head surrounding the building.

Archive deposited with East Lothian Council SMR, RCAHMS.

Funder: Dunbar Harbour Trust.

T Addyman 2007.

McArthur's Store or Spott's Girnell was first noted in 1658, and stands on a spur of rock within the E (Cromwellian) harbour at Dunbar. It is one of the oldest continuously used harbour buildings in Scotland. Archaeological assessement has revealed that the S side of the existing building incorporated an earlier structure at ground level, this being evidently the 17th century predecessor to the present building. Excavation on the N side of the building has revealed a further structure running paralle, whose central entrance led directly to rock-cut steps leading to the rocky inlet that was originally used as the harbour.

There was a major remodelling of the building around 1738, when it was doubled in width and raised to three stories with a double-gabled pan-tiled roof. Around 1800, the building was strengthened by the fitting of vertical props (ships' timbers in re-use) which remain visible. These probably derive from a Scots merchant vessel of 18th century date, and are a rare survival.

The building subsequently saw repeated remodelling relating to frequent changes of use . Ventilation slits were inserted through the ground floore, but were subsequently blocked and overlain with plaster and timber lining boards in the N half of the building. The pantiled roof was replaced in the mid-late 19th century by a single, slated, double-pitched structure with hipped ends. The slates were themselves replaced by asbestos cement sheeting in the 20th century, when the building saw use as a gear store.

Restoration was carried out by Dunbar Harbout Trust as part of the Dunbar Townscape Heritage Initiative, and to create fishermen's stores, an office and a meeting room. Interpretative material has been provided.

The design team was led by LDN Architects, and the construction works were carried out by Hunter Clark.

(Acknowledgement made to providers of grant aid).

Source: G McNeill (Dunbar Harbour Trust) in Forth Sight (newsletter of the Forth Estuary Forum), no. 19 (summer 2009), 5.

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