The Old Port
The Siege of Haddington
In 1548-49, during the Siege of Haddington, the longest in British history, Aberlady played a key role in the defence of the Scottish realm by preventing re-supply of the English garrison by ship.
After the spectacular defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, the English strategy was to maintain permanent fortifications north of the border rather than maintain a large army in the field. The largest of these fortifications was at Haddington. its importance stemmed from it being situated on a strategic route to the Scottish capital which could be supported from the sea.
Aberlady too had been fortified, at Luffness, by General De Thermes, commander of the Scots’ French allies. Remains of the huge earthworks thrown up by the French may still be seen. There is reference to a second fort or encampment being constructed. This was situated nearer the village, one mile west of Luffness, most likely at Kilspindie Castle or Point.
The English garrison at Haddington enclosed the town within a geometrically shaped fortress of the latest Italian design; a relatively low construction with many triangular bastions covering each other and making cannon attack largely ineffective. An external ditch encircled the earthworks.
Cannon shot from the exchanges with the English fleet at Aberlady have been uncovered from the Bay and lead bullets discovered during excavation work at the harbour quay. Two tried and convicted pirates were reportedly ordered to attack the English fleet in the Bay. Apparently, they done their duty, albeit under duress, but were hanged at Leith afterwards anyway.
Plague and starvation ended the English resistance and the longest town siege in British history. The boats of Aberlady were used to help take the French soldiers at Luffness home.
Detail of tenon and mortar joints employed in the construction of the large oak timber frames of the harbour quay.
Although the oak tree used here in the construction of the harbour quay showed over 130 tree rings, it was not possible to match them to any known databases and thus firmly date it.