The picturesque village of Lasswade was so named according to legend because at one time, before there was a bridge, a sturdy local girl would struggle across the river carrying travellers on her back – hence ‘Jenny lass, wade!‘ Rather less romantically, the name is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon laes or leswe, a common, and weyde, a meadow. Thankfully a road bridge was built in the 18th century and more recently, a footbridge, the Jubilee Bridge, in 2002. In 1867 a branch line from the Edinburgh to Peebles railway was opened to serve the paper mills in Polton with a long tunnel between Broomieknowe and Lasswade stations and a beautiful six arch viaduct, designed by Thomas Bouch, across the valley at Lasswade.
Watch the Video (extract from ‘The North Esk River, From Source to Sea’)
In 1797, Sir Walter Scott set up home in Barony Cottage, Lasswade and while there played host to a number of literary figures, notably William and Dorothy Wordsworth who walked along the river valley from Roslin to visit them. It was during one of these visits that Dorothy noted, “I never passed through a more delicious dell than the Glen of Rosslyn though the water of the stream is dingy and muddy.”
Industries were established in Lasswade to take advantage of water power – the early corn mills being converted to paper mills and when the brewery closed, St Anne’s Carpet Factory took its place. Some years later, the Duke of Buccleuch complained about the pollution from the carpet making process in the river flowing through his estate in Dalkeith and Lord Melville was persuaded not to renew the lease of the land. New premises were found further upstream in Roslin Glen and the manufacture of the world famous tapestry carpets continued. Nowadays, thanks to determined local controls, the water runs clear and teeming aquatic life flourishes once again in the river. The chimney belonging to St. Leonard’s Paper Mill, at 272 feet, towered above the valley and could be seen for miles around.
A new parish church was built on the hilltop in 1793 but sadly had to be demolished in 1956 due to the scourge of many churches, dry rot. The remains of the mediaeval church it was to replace can still be seen in the churchyard, the beautifully curved gates of which lead to the Drummond Aisle where Drummond of Hawthornden was interred. The runic cross by the former manse was erected to the memory of Dr Richard Smith, the local doctor for many years and to his son, Richard Baird Smith who was a hero of the Indian Mutiny, an uprising fired by the growing dissatisfaction with British rule. Early in 1857, Richard Baird Smith helped to save many lives and later that year, despite being injured and sick, he was instrumental in relieving the siege of Delhi which had lasted for three months – but not without huge loss of life.
Please see also the Eskbank page (link below) of this website for information on the Dalkeith to Lasswade section of the Esk Way.
The Esk Valley Trust have produced leaflets showing walking routes between Lasswade to Polton and Loanhead, and also Dalkeith to Lasswade.
Midlothian Council has have produced a series of leaflets of maps and information on Walks in Midlothian.