Five Centuries of Harbour Development

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  • In 1452 the harbour of Skinfast Haven originated as a breakwater for Bishop Kennedy’s Palace. It is locally thought that Dutch dykers – both men and women – helped to build the breakwater or pier in that year.

  • By 1579 Skinfast Haven was described as a ‘new sea port, previously little used and in need of repair’. However, John Beaton, the Laird of Kilrenny, agreed to improve the harbour by renovating the piers in order to improve the landing facilities. In return he collected tithes (fees) from all the fishermen’s catches.

  • By 1623 the harbour was reported as ‘decayit’ and as a result an improvement grant was obtained two years later. However, the improved harbour was destroyed by a great storm in 1655.

  • Reports in 1681 stated Kilrenny and Cellardyke were suffering from poverty and decay of trade but in 1703 it was described more positively with the harbour ‘pretty deep and covered with Hewen Head of Stone’. Years later Roy’s map of 1747 distinctly marks the pier.

  • In 1813, after many fatal disasters around the harbour entrance, the Magistrates and Town Council petitioned the Convention of Royal Burghs of Scotland to improve the harbour. The petition stated that the harbour was ‘used daily by other fishermen in the Firth of Forth – from Newhaven, Fisherrow and Prestonpans’. Improvements however were delayed.

  • In 1825 a further petition was submitted – signed by 132 fishermen, 13 fish-curers as well as the magistrates and town councillors. The improvements followed in 1829. The west cross pier was moved further west and the south breakwater extended beyond the harbour entrance and the west pier.

  • In 1833, £1200 was given by the Scottish Board of Trustees for the improvement of the Fisheries, with £500 raised by the town. This was used to build new quays, rather than the improvement of the harbour itself. The pier was extended beyond the harbour entrance.

  • In 1854 the west pier was moved again to it’s present location. Following the great 1898 storm, the old harbour mouth, locally called the cut-mooth, was reduced to the present size. Over the next
    decades, 200 fishing boats were based at Cellardyke Harbour.

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