East is East, and West is West

and the wrong one I have chose …

[name that tune *]

Certainly in Victorian Newport you may well have chosen the wrong direction – particularly if you were looking for a property in East Newport. Take, for example, Messrs Hutton and Boase (who owned houses within 50 yards of each other in Marytown, albeit 20 years apart).

The legal descriptions of their properties have Tay Street to the north and Union Street to the south, Hutton has Robert Street to the west and Boase has other Marytown properties east and west.

In fact, ALL the Marytown properties refer to Tay Street on the north with Union Street, King Street and Queen Street to the south.

The field behind or above Marytown (Backfield Park – where Woodbine Terrace and Maryfield were built) was referred to as ‘the land south of Marytown’. There are also references to houses and shops on the north side of the High Street.

But look at the map.

Tay Street, Union Street, King Street, Queen Street and the High Street run almost north to south. In other words, Tay Street is WEST of Marytown, and the ‘north’ side of the High Street is actually the west side.


Well, the extreme case is given by the plots of land on the corner of Queen Street, James Street and King Street. The field was divided into four plots, described as the NE, SE, SW and NW lots. But on the ground, the NE plot is actually the NW one, the SE is in fact the NE one, the SW one is really the SE one and the NW plot is the SW one. (I wonder if people bought the one they were expecting to buy?)

The reason for all this geographic muddle appears to be – nobody used a compass but assumed that the river was to the north of Newport. Which is true for most of Newport, but not for the part from the foot of the High Street to the foot of James Street – where the coast turns from running west to east, to running south to north, before turning again back to running west to east. As anyone who lives here will tell you, the magnificent sunsets show that these houses look west.

So when you are stuck with directions which don’t appear to be quite right, use the rule ‘if you face the shoreline you are looking north’.

Into the sunset
photo by Alexander Robertson c.1896

Looking north into the sunset.

Sasine Abridgements – 1826.03119, 1866.00933 (for Marytown lot 6, Hutton)
Sasine Abridgements – 1826.03335, 1840.04731 (for Marytown lot 7, Boase)
Town Council Minutes 1906-07 – plans for David Young to build shops on north side of the High Street

* Buttons and Bows, 1947, lyrics – Ray Evans, music – Jay Livingston, Academy Award winner for Best Original Song in ‘The Paleface’ starring Bob Hope & Jane Russell.

Set Your Boundaries

In the process of creating Newport as a Burgh in 1887 there was an argument about the boundaries which it should have.

Those in favour of creating the burgh wanted to use the existing boundary of the Newport Water Supply District, created in 1879 (in black), running from the coast at Northfield Farm, to Forgan School, to Woodhaven Pier.

But Mr Berry, the proprietor of Tayfield and on whose land Newport was built, had other ideas. He wanted a much smaller area to be included in the burgh. As far as we can tell, he wanted to constrain the town more or less within the area it covered at that time, and leave his home farm and grounds outside the burgh (in red) *.

The burgh-creators had to go to the Sheriff Court to resolve the matter. After visiting Newport, Sheriff Mackay set the boundary of the new burgh (in blue). In doing so, he gave the commissioners almost all the area they had asked for but the litigation had cost the new ratepayers £100.

If Mr Berry’s proposal had been accepted, there would have been no Craighead, Norwood, Linden Avenue, Waterstone Crook, Castle Bank, Netherlea or Woodhaven.

The litigation proved expensive for Mr Berry – since the Commissioners were now able to levy a burgh rate on Tayfield House and buildings he would have to pay his share of the ratepayers’ bill for the court case as well as paying his own legal costs.

Dundee Courier, 17 September 1878
Dundee Advertiser, 23 May 1887; 18 July 1887
All newspapers available at British Newspaper Archive

* I have tentatively drawn the limits of Mr Berry’s area using the existing boundaries of his estate and the following limited description taken from the press: ‘ Mr Berry’s requested area was much more circumscribed: in the East, Taygrove was excluded, the railway line was excluded and a large piece of ground in the centre of the village was excluded, including the tennis courts, Tayfield mansion house and home farm of Tayfield; while in West Newport a small portion of railway was taken in, but only a very narrow strip of land to the south of the Kirk Road and the line was carried so closely down at the West end of the village that one or two houses already built were excluded. ‘ [Dundee Advertiser, 23 May 1887]