On Saturday 24th March Hadas members packed the Star Room in the John Gray Centre to hear a fascinating talk on Shopfronts by Dr Lindsay Lennie who gave us the benefit of her deep knowledge gained through completing a doctorate on shopfronts and a fellowship with Historic Environment Scotland. She was able to put Haddington in a national context quoting examples from Doune, Perth, Hawick, Edinburgh, Kelso, Dunkeld, Blairgowrie and Aberlour.
We learned that there is a lot more to the front of a shop than we had originally thought. Lindsay took us through the development of the shop from the early luckenbooths which replaced market stalls via Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and later 20th Century shops to the present day. The development of manufacturing techniques to produce larger panes of glass and eventually plate glass was closely linked to the evolution of shop design. Cast iron from Scottish foundries such as Macfarlane could support plate glass and strengthen large display windows.
The various architectural features of a Victorian shopfront were explained including cornice, fascia, console bracket, fanlight, pilaster, plinth, lobby, and stallriser. There was a discussion on signage with good and bad examples and the talk ended with local examples from Haddington. The former shoe shop Barries, now Greigs the Baker, used to have a ‘golden boot’ drawing the attention of the potential purchaser. It was confirmed that the boot in question is now in a local museum. Main’s the Saddler retains the horse advertising the range of services offered to the riding community. Joe Forte Sports recently refurbished their premises and included a sign hanging outside. Dr Lennie pointed out that signs have a justifiable purpose in the marketing process but that too many signs would lead to clutter and detract from the street scene. Advertisements are controlled through planning law and it falls to the Planning Authority to get the balance right.
This discussion seemed timely as proposals are being prepared for Haddington Town Centre.
Dr Lennie then led a group on a walkabout through the High Street, Market Street and Lodge Street. Many examples of interesting architectural details were pointed out, most of which were previously unknown to the group who passed them every day. The tour finished with a look at the former Buttercup Dairy (of which there were 250 in Scotland) with its preserved tiles, mosaic lobby floor and original door and then the former Haddington Cooperative Society buildings in Lodge Street.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning and we will all be looking at traditional shopfronts with a new insight from now on.