In a very interesting talk Helen Robertson made the case for the presence of a mediaeval royal residence by the Tyne, near St Mary’s Church. She was intrigued by some documents relating to work she had begun on Haddington House, the contents of which which led her to delve more deeply into the mediaeval period.
Helen’s research concerned an area known as the Kingis Yard (King’s Yard, King’s Yaird, Kingis Yaird) mentioned in charters and other legal documents relating to 12th century Haddington. The King’s Yard was in the area now occupied by the Pleasance and the north side of St Mary’s graveyard, bounded by Lady Kitty’s Garden and Ball Alley on the east and the King’s Wall (along the edge of modern day Sidegate), on the west. Nearby to the north was a Franciscan Friary. The evidence suggests the presence of a royal residence on the site, perhaps a manor house rather than a palace, close to the original parish church. The latter is thought to have been positioned approximately on the site of St Mary’s chancel. The relationship to David I, but in particular to his daughter-in-law Ada (de Warenne), was explored as far as documentation would allow.
Some examples of documents were used to illustrate the talk. Often extremely difficult to read with the modern eye, Helen was fortunate to have the help of experts with the ability to read the handwriting and to translate from the original Latin. The historical importance of modern Haddington, with the mediaeval town layout still largely intact, was discussed. The route from the east end of High Street to the parish church via Church Street, the Sands and Lady Kitty’s Garden remains much the same as it was in the 12th century. When we walk that route today we walk almost exactly in the footsteps of our ancestors who have used the way from town to church for at least 900 years.