The Community

— #6 Hawthornvale

Overview The Community Newhaven’s Two Railways Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

Living in The Vale

The Vale’, as it is fondly known to its residents, was very much a community within a community.  In times past, the housewife — or her bairns — did not have to go far for her messages.   Such trips would have been undertaken almost daily for this was before fridges were commonplace.

Leith Provident Co-operative Society (“the Store”) was a general grocery on the corner of Anchorfield and Hawthornvale. At No 1 Hawthornvale was the Leith Provident bakery shop where the young lads loaded their barrows with crates of milk for early morning delivery in the local area. No 3, now a house, was originally a small greengrocer/grocers shop under various ownerships although it became a bookies in the 70s until it was converted to a house.

No. 11 Hawthornvale has an interesting past. It was once the Co-op butchers the third of three Leith Provident shops in the vicinity: a store, a baker’s and a butcher’s, a format that was reflected at the other end of Newhaven’s Main Street as well in other areas throughout Leith. It was listed by 1915 as a garage, the tenant being Robert Steel. In 1920, Mr Frank Gibson became the tenant, and it was then classed as a “motor car house”. Although the property does go back quite a distance, it would appear that the width of the frontage wouldn’t give much space to fit in a vehicle given that they were usually quite large at that time.

5_6019 The row of shops at the "bottom of the Vale" provided most of what the housewife needed on a daily basis. (Photo courtesy of The Liston Legacy)

Next is the fine red sandstone building, Nos 13 and 15. Built by the Leith Burgh Council for the Leith Police, No. 13 provided houses for six policemen and their families and, perhaps ironically on the top floor, three flats for firemen and families. The police station occupied the ground floor complete with its own cells and the fire station with its single tender was next to that. It ceased being an operational police station in the early thirties when police boxes, such as at Newhaven Harbour, were introduced in Edinburgh although the tenement was still used as police housing up until the early sixties.

The firestation with its single tender was housed in the lower flat-topped building adjacent.  Although sporting a meta roller-shutter door in this picture from 1976, the original doors were of wood.

Nos 13 and 15 Hawthornvale was used built by the Leith Burgh Council to house policemen and firemen stationed locally. Courtesy of

In 1940 the police station was listed as a Warden’s Post for the local air raid wardens, one of whom was a Mr Thomas Juner who lived in 20 Hawthornvale.   One of his duties was to act as key holder for the air raid shelters and various other premises which are shown in the pages of his notebook below. Mr Juner also ran a garage business at Goldenacre under the name T C Juner which is still trading today.

Mr T C Juner outside his Goldenacre garage. Courtesy of Mr Juner’s granddaughter, Catherine Doyle nee Taylor.

Opposite is an area of waste ground described as a yard and workshop which was where, in 1940, Thomas “Tam” McGuire had his shoe repair business.   Built by himself, the shop was really an upmarket wooden shed which was gradually increased in size by adding two more wooden buildings to the rear. Not only was he an expert shoe repairer and leather worker, but he was also an accomplished engineer and model maker which was probably the reason for increasing the size of the building, to house and run his model steam railway.   He was also a motorcycle enthusiast, regularly attending scrambling events near West Linton and Carlops.

Although the building had a power supply there was no running water. This was supplied by the butcher at No 11, by filling a couple of demijohns when required in exchange for sharpening the butcher’s knives. Heating and hot water was from two wood burning stoves in the rear buildings. The other building on this waste ground was number six, the joiner shop and yard of William Calder Scott.

2_4100: Coronation Day 1953 in Hawthornvale was a clear display of the community coming together Courtesy of Liz Munro

At No 16, there was the first of three small shops which were built into the tenements, known to locals as the “bottom of the ‘Vale”, the junction at Jessfield Terrace being the dividing line between top and bottom. They had a small frontage with a window, and door for public access. Next door in the tenement No 18, on the ground floor was the flat which was the family accommodation and the access to the shop which was down a small flight of wooden steps. This small general store was open until the early sixties, when it was converted to increase the accommodation of its adjoining flat.

A little further up the street is what would have been the shop at No 34.   The layout was the same as described at the previous shop. The shop and flat changed hands on a number of occasions and was finally taken over by the Taylor family who ran it successfully until the early sixties when it finally closed due to the ill health of Mr Taylor. It was the longest running of the three similar shops until it was finally converted into living accommodation. The final shop of the three was at No 44.

The Taylor Family had one of the small general stores on Hawthornvale at No 34. Mrs Taylor is standing outside in this picture. Courtesy of daughter, Catherine Doyle nee Taylor.