Dunbar the A1 Resort

Part 3 The Wealth of St Clair Cunningham

There were a number of other important developments some by the council and some by others before the second war. The wealthy St Clair Cunningham, b 1857, a businessman from Leith who married Elizabeth Usher made huge investment in the area. Cunningham was a member of many golf clubs. In 1896 he came to Hedderwick Hill. He re-established horse racing at Hedderwick. In May 1896 Cunningham bought Bielside estate which included most of West Barns. He gave West Barns the village hall in 1901. He was a keen golfer and c1890 he laid out a golf course at Hedderwick. Initially it was a 9 hole course but was soon developed to 18. He invited East Linton Golf club to use it which they did for 36 years.

In March 1905 he bought the lands of Winterfield. There was a proposal to feu Winterfield for villas but only one was completed. St Margaret’s was built for Margaret Keith by her sons. It was owned by the Keith family until 1946. It was sold to Mrs Tait and then, by her to Mrs Beveridge who sold it to Dunbar Town Council in 1970. It and was set up as a sports and social Club. In 1977 it was leased by the new District Council to Winterfield Golf Course as a club house. Cunningham also had a major shareholding in the old Assembly Rooms in Dunbar. He died in April 1906. The Hedderwick Golf Course continued until 1937. Alan Cunningham presented the bowling club to West Barns in 1913. The alternative plan for Winterfield was to create a golf course and so The Winterfield Golf Course Company Ltd was formed in 1933, with Alan Cunningham as chairman. The golf course opened in March 1935. It had a club house close to the tennis courts, which were in Winterfield Park which was set up in 1920.

There were two putting greens in Dunbar one of them in Winterfield Park. Dunbar Bowling Club was established in 1856. The council acquired the Lauderdale walled garden and created Lauderdale park and established a bowling green and other amusements.

Provision was made for other forms of amusement. A cinema was started in the Dreadnought in 1916 and then in the Corn Exchange. In 1923 the Empire opened in the High Street and then the Caledonian Cinema Playhouse opened in 1937. Both were closed by 1984. The Winterfield Pavilion was opened in 1925 and had Pierrot shows in the summer season. Plays were performed in the Corn Exchange. There was a Billiard Hall. There was a curling pond from 1899 till 1938. Countess park was established in 1938. There was a gun club at West Barns from 1902-1931.

Belhaven Hill School was founded in 1923, which raised the profile of Dunbar and brought parents to the hotels on occasion. The Burgh Council had also formed a Joint Publicity Committee with the Traders. The joint publicity Committee made a film, the A1 Resort in which some local people played the parts of visitors coming to Dunbar. There is a later film called Brrr! Both are in the Dunbar Local History Society’s Archive in the Town House. The Joint Publicity Committee formally wound up its affairs in 1987 and handed over its assets to
the Community Council, less a payment of £100 to the church restoration fund.

After 1947 there were two caravan sites at Winterfield and Kirk Park. Both have now gone but there is a more recent one at Belhaven. Various other events were held, Sandcastle competitions, Golf week, Veteran Vehicle rallies Bicycle races, marching bands, Dunbar Civic Week and Lifeboat Day. These last two have survived.

There was a feeling that the decline of the resort was a direct result of the loss of Burgh Status but there were other important factors. Cheap holidays had become a fact of life and though Dunbar is called Sunny Dunny the sun in Benidorm seemed more certain and warmer. In 1973 the idea of Torness Power Station was proposed and consent was granted in 1975. Construction was begun in 1978. In the construction period it had a huge workforce of c7000 from 1980-88. This led to huge demand for accommodation in Dunbar on an all year basis and so accommodation which had been available to tourists was no longer available. This and the demolition of the swimming pool in 1985 sounded the death knell of Dunbar as the A1 Resort.

Stephen Bunyan
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