About Us

The Lamp of Lothian Trust - a brief history

The Lamp of Lothian Collegiate Trust was founded by the late Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton in 1967 with ecumenical aims to bring together "a whole community" by restoring some derelict buildings at the south end of Haddington and making them available for community use. Allied to this, there were exhibitions with artists including Sir Robin Philipson and, for close to 40 years, the Lamp ran a summer season of very high quality concerts with musicians including Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Dame Cleo Laine.

The Lamp was initially involved in the restoration of Haddington House (as its own office and as a Collegiate Centre for affiliated Clubs) and a group of buildings at Poldrate (originally to house a youth group which became the Bridge Centre, and the Visual Arts Workshop which evolved into the Poldrate Arts & Crafts Centre). Both of these have more recently become charities in their own right, but still rely on the Lamp for accommodation. The Lamp (via the Duchess) was also the major fundraiser for the substantial rebuilding (with others) of St Mary's Church and restored The Jane Welsh Carlyle House in Lodge Street as a museum.

The restoration and conversion of the Mill, cottages and Granary continued on and off for the first 25 years of the Trust's existence with perpetual financial challenges, involving much fundraising, principally by the Duchess with her extensive contacts. The last major conversion was of the Granary in 1992.

The Lamp's 25th Anniversary (1992) was celebrated with a visit by HM The Queen Mother, a Concert at St Mary's and a Ball at Lennoxlove. With the help of Argyll Foods (Safeways, chaired by Sir Alistair Grant) a fund was set up to help underwrite the annual concert programme.

In the mid 1990's, the Lamp office was moved from Haddington House to the Mault House. Haddington House itself was then let to East Lothian Council, making it the Trust's principal revenue-producing asset, as it remains today.

During this time, the Bridge Centre expanded significantly as the main Community Centre for Haddington and there was particular demand to house the Motorcycle and Music Projects which were starting to undertake valuable work with vulnerable youths. To meet this, the Lamp made a number of Lottery applications, finally being successful in 1999.

In 2000, a new Hall was built (cost c. £450,000) with additional space for the motorcycle and music projects. This also greatly increased the Bridge Centre's ability to house groups doing ballet, yoga, tai chi etc. The Hall was named in memory of Sir Alistair Grant, who was born at Poldrate, and had been the Lamp's second Chairman from 1997 until his untimely death in 2001.

Garth Morrison (later Sir Garth), who had been a Trustee since 1981 and whose family had owned the Poldrate buildings, then became Chairman.

The plan in the early years of the new millennium was to rationalise and upgrade the Lamp's buildings, many of which had been originally converted on a shoestring. Jane Welsh Carlyle House, in particular, required unjustifiable expenditure and, in 2005, it was sold and the proceeds were reinvested partly in the Poldrate and partly in an endowment fund.

The Granary was substantially improved and then, in 2007, the Lamp's 40th Anniversary was celebrated with a visit by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. This occasion brought the Lamp to the attention of many more locally and a concerted drive raised £290,000 enabling the Bridge Centre to be completely refurbished and upgraded within a year of the Royal Visit.

Although Duchess Elizabeth was able to be there for The Queen, she sadly died in 2008 and, the whole complex was re-named in her honour.

The Lamp's buildings are now used by around 1,000 people every week. The Bridge Centre, the main community centre for Haddington, caters for all ages from mother & toddler to University of The Third Age. It currently hosts around 50 groups including keep-fit, ballet, yoga, Warhammer games, youth café & Film Friday, after-school club, playgroup, kickboxing and Kung Fu. It also runs Motorcycle and Music Projects doing very valuable work engaging young people who might otherwise be difficult to reach.

Poldrate Arts & Crafts Centre hosts classes in 18 disciplines including painting, sculpture, pottery, basket-weaving and embroidery. The Lamp buildings also house the Poldrate Quilters and Haddington Camera Club.

The other main area of activity for the Lamp is The Lammermuir Festival. The Lamp has a long history of showcasing great musicians and its concert series was revitalised in 2010 as The Lammermuir Festival with 10 days of Beautiful Music in Beautiful Places. The Festival, which has broken off from the Lamp, now flies with our blessing as its own charity.

Following Sir Garth's untimely death in May 2013 Patrick Gammell became Chairman till 2019, when after 25 years on the Board he retired. The Lamp has much to thank Patrick. He handed over Chairmanship to Roy Martin who very suddenly and sadly died some 6 months after his appointment.

During 2020 Haddington House has been refurbished and let as offices to individual local businesses.

Although the Lamp has some limited revenue support from East Lothian Council, like all charities we are constantly striving to raise money and are dependent upon grants and the generosity of benefactors. We run a "Friends of the Lamp" scheme which has become an enjoyable way of engaging with the community through an annual Drinks Party as well as being a valuable source of regular revenue, helping us to provide much-need facilities.

Elsewhere on this site, please find details of the wide range of activities which take place within the Lamp's buildings; this year's concert programme; the latest on our restoration projects; the groups who use our facilities; and how to contact the Trust.

With many thanks

Jenny Harper
Chairman, Lamp of Lothian Trust