Lasswade stands on the steep sides of the valley of the River North Esk, six miles south east of the centre of Edinburgh and less than a mile from the city's bypass. The name seems to come from the Old English leas gewaed, meaning "the ford by the meadow".
The origin of the name suggests that there was a settlement of some sort here when the Northumbrians ruled over this part of the Lothians in the 700s. By the time it entered the documentary record in 1150 it was known as Leswade. It later appeared on William Roy's map of about 1750 as "Laswaid". The fixing of the spelling of the name as Lasswade seems to have accompanied the establishment of a post office here in 1796.
A church was built on the hill above the west bank of the river in the early 1200s. Its tower stood until 1866 and all that now remains are a series of burial aisles. The medieval church was replaced by a new building in 1791, possibly based on designs produced by Robert Adam. This didn't save it from demolition in 1956.
The power of the River North Esk was used to drive a paper mill which opened in 1750 and the valley of the river quickly became home to a series of industries ranging from flour milling to carpet making. Meanwhile, the picturesque qualities of the valley were also becoming appreciated, villas and larger houses began to appear in Lasswade itself and in neighbouring Broomiknowe.
Barony House was built in 1791 as a thatched enlargement of an existing cottage. By the time it was rented by Sir Walter Scott in the years either side of 1800 it was known as Lasswade Cottage. Grander residences included Pittendreich House, built in 1857, while in 1791 an existing castle to the north was replaced by a mansion still known as Melville Castle. The castle has since become a hotel and much of its estate has been turned into a golf course.
Lasswade lost its mills during the 1900s, and by 1950 had lost much of its population to new housing built in neighbouring Bonnyrigg, with which it had formally merged in 1929. Most of the mills beside the river have long gone: the only one still standing on our last visit stood as a boarded up ex-bar and restaurant. Despite this, Lasswade has a strikingly attractive centre and the local economy has been transformed by its proximity to Edinburgh. The short length of the High Street to the west of the bridge over the river is home to the Laird and Dog Inn, while running along the west bank of the river is School Green. Here you find some interesting buildings before the road climbs steeply up the hill past the old school to the churchyard.
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