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Dunbar, Victoria Harbour

Harbour (19th Century)

Site Name Dunbar, Victoria Harbour

Classification Harbour (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Dunbar Harbour

Canmore ID 71749

Site Number NT67NE 147

NGR NT 67957 79319

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. 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 147 6799 7932

Not to be confused with Dunbar, Old Harbour ('Cromwell's Harbour') at NT 6814 7922, for which see NT67NE 18.

For battery at NT 6811 7934 and wall at NT 678 793, see NT67NE 53 and NT67NE 164 respectively.

For bascule bridge (NT 68056 79289) between Old and Victoria Harbours, see NT67NE 424.

For 2003 watching brief (NT 6791 7926), see NT67NE 504.

For lifeboat house (on corner of Victoria Place, at NT 68976 79232), see NT67NE 524.

(Location cited as NT 680 793 and 681 792). Dunbar 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 inside the curved pier was for coal importation (1761). The newer part, Victoria Harbour (1842), is formed by a sea wall linking two rock outcrops together with a quay along thew shore parallel with the wall. This section has two entrances, one to the old harbour channel spanned by a hand-operated wrought-iron, 2-leaf bascule bridge, and the other (at the N end) is open. There is a 3-storey, 5-bay harled store (Spott's Granary) on the old short pier.

J R Hume 1976.

Well maintained working harbour.

Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 1996.

Architecture Notes


1899 Proposed store and office to be erected for Mr T Pordage.

Plans: Dunbar, Dean of Guild Drawings plan no. 105a


Publication Account (1985)

In the 18th century Dunbar ranked as Scotland's major herring port; as late as 1788 Leith and Dunbar between them headed Scotland's whaling ports. In earlier times, however, the harbour (dating at least from 1574) comprised but a simple pier on a muddy shore. It could hold only a few small ships, and little seems to have been done until CromweII spent £300 on pier works following his defeat of the Covenanters at Dunbar in 1650. The older part of the present harbour dates to c 1710; 2.4m of solid rock wereremoved, and a basin formed of a curved rubble pier and a shorter straight pier, with some of the stonework laid vertically for greater stability. Stone steps giving access to the boats survive on the inner wall. In 1761, inside the curved pier, a coal import quay was built. The Old Harbour also includes a stilling basin-an outer basin facing the harbour entrance, with a sloping end on which the waves break and weaken.

The new Victoria Harbour is altogether larger. Government assistance had been secured in 1844 as the town sought to expand its trade, a wall was built linking rocky outcrops to seaward, and a parallel quay constructed along the shore. This harbour had two entrances-that to the north is open; the other links to the old channel and is spanned by an interesting little hand-operated, wrought-iron bascule bridge, a kind of drawbridge balanced by a counterpoise as it is raised or lowered.

Around Dunbar's harbours are 18th and 19th century warehouses, granaries and maltings, most now interestingly converted to other uses. Many of them are 3 or 4 storeys high. There are good examples of 17th-18th century houses at the Shore, by the old harbour, and a fine inscribed stone pedestal dated 1856 bears a sculptured relief of a fisherman leaving his family. It once held a barometer.

A third harbour, and the smallest, based on the old channel, is Broadhaven. It is formed by a causeway to Lamer Island and the 16th century D-shaped

blockhouse-with its gun-ports, one of the most important survivals of early artillery fortification in Scotland and probably built by the Duke of Albany c.1522-36. Dunbar Castle, by contrast, originally a courtyard castle, was fined by order of Parliament in 1567; it was further damaged when the Victoria Harbour was built, but parts are still accessible-with care!

The lifeboat shed houses a small, seasonal 'lifeboat' museum; whilst in the town there is a fine 17th century steepled tolbooth or Town House in the middle of the High Street-blocked at its northern end by Robert Adam's Lauderdale House.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and Borders', (1985).

Publication Account (2006)

Victoria Harbour was constructed from granite in 1842 by building a sea wall that linked the two rocky outcrops with a quay along the shore. An entrance was later created to the Old Harbour and is spanned by a hand operated wrought-iron, two-leaf bascule bridge.

Information from ‘The Scottish Burgh Survey, Historic Dunbar: Archaeology and Development’, (2006).

Desk Based Assessment (1 March 2012 - 1 June 2012)

WA Coastal and Marine was commissioned by EnviroCentre Ltd to carry out an archaeological impact assessment for the Dunbar Harbour Regeneration Project (DHRP). The site is centred on the Victoria Harbour at Dunbar. The assessment has been prepared in support of an application for consent to undertake harbour and channel deepening, dredging and the construction of new sea defences. The assessment comprises an archaeological baseline study within an Archaeological Study Area (ASA) created around the footprint of the different elements of the project. The cultural heritage resource of the ASA can be summarised as follows: 40 cultural heritage assets, including: o Two scheduled ancient monuments; o 14 listed buildings; o 12 unlocated/poorly located marine casualties. The baseline study also outlines the potential for undiscovered ship wreck and aircraft wreck sites and material within the footprint of the development


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