Fake Mercat Cross
Location: Dunbar Town House
Every Royal Burgh like Dunbar had a mercat cross. An attempt to recreate a market cross was made at the turn of the 20th century in absence of the original. Two disparate pieces of stonework discovered in gardens to the rear of the High Street were cemented together and placed to the right of the Town Clock near Silver Street. The base is thought to have been that of the castle cross minus the crucifix lopped off at the time of the Reformation. The upper part, adorned by three grotesque medieval faces is thought to have been a skewput from the Collegiate Church demolished in 1819 to make way for the modern Parish Kirk.
A similar version of the skewput survives at St Bees, Cumbria. (St Bee is considered a corruption of St Beya or Bey, patron saint of Dunbar who came to Scotland from County Down, Ireland in the eighth century. So what happened to the original market cross? As recorded in the Burgh council minutes of 20 August 1736, the council agreed that the market cross ‘be removid [removed] as being a sort of common nuisance’. It was agreed later that the slaughterhouse to the rear of the Town House should be relocated and the building was used as a meal or grain market and ‘the present meale market be converted into a market for butter, cheese, fowles [chickens] and eggs commonly sold at the [Market] Cross.’ Thus the market cross became surplus to the town’s needs. The Burgh council subsequently agreed to remove the ‘nuisance’ which probably stood at the West Port entrance. As recorded in the minutes of 24 December 1744:
‘The Magistrates and Council considered the well at the East March
to be built so deep as necessary with Square stones and that the stones
of the [mercat] cross be used for that purpose…’ So the stones were used to line the well which was probably at Kirkhill as identified on John Wood’s Plan of Dunbar, 1830 and opposite the side entrance to the Parish Church graveyard.
A few doors along you will find the Sweetie Bank, a converted RBS bank made into an ice cream parlour and sweetie shop. Not only is this a cavern of sweet delights you will also notice a train in the sky, along the tops of the sweetie laden shelves a train runs all day without interruption, unlike scotrail.