Harburn Village Hall - History

Harburn Harburn is a rural community located on the southern edge of West Lothian , lying between the Pentland Hills and Livingston new town. To the north-west, two miles distant, is the village of West Calder , which in Harburn, is simply known as “the village” and with which Harburn shares a Community Council. Harburn is a community scattered over an area of 49 square kilometres and comprises some 150 houses with an estimated population of 350 people.

Map to show Boundaries of Greater Harburn.

The heart of Harburn (originally Hartburn – stag burn) is the road where at one time were the school, the railway station and the village hall. Now of these only the village hall remains, the school and the station having been closed in the 1960s. Harburn has been a settlement since bronze age times. Inscribed neolithic stones have been found within the last five years lying hitherto undetected in the Pentland Hills to the south. Castle Greg is the site of a Roman Fort and in the Harburn estate may be found Cromwell’s stone.

Within Harburn are two sites of special scientific interest, one with a 4000 year old raised peat hag, and two areas of community woodland managed by the Woodland Trust and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Historically Harburn, at an altitude of between 750 and 1000 feet, has been an area of both agriculture and industry. Local farms, once part of the great estates of Torphichen and Morton, have been mostly small and mixed and in recent years their number has reduced as holdings merge and as an older generation of farmers retires. Now there are a small number of larger farms and a growing number of smaller holdings, often with stables, including commercial livery.

The Harburn estate is a significant national producer of Christmas trees as well as a venue for private social events, shooting and business gatherings. In the nineteenth century Harburn also boasted lime-pits, and coal and oil-shale mines, the area being located on the periphery of the central Scottish oil field, first exploited and developed by James “Paraffin” Young, whose country house, Limefield, lies just outside Harburn. The remote location of Camilty was the base of a thriving gunpowder mill of the Nobel company until serious explosions in the 1920s and recession hastened its closure in 1931.

Today Harburn is predominantly a rural community located in part in the Countryside Belt around Livingston. Increasingly the population finds work outwith the area although there are a significant number of self-employed people who work from home in a wide range of occupations. There is no industry apart from enterprises related to rural activities such as livery stables, chicken farms, agricultural contracting and landscaping and the Dog Rehoming Trust. West Lothian ’s first “lowland crofting” scheme is located in Harburn. The village hall is Harburn’s only facility, apart from the local golf club, which does allow residents to become non-golfing members and use it as a pub. Otherwise Harburn must look to West Calder – and beyond – for all other services and facilities.

The village hall – a sectional timber building – was bought second hand from the British army and erected on its present site in 1923 as the Reading and Recreation Room, although from the very first minute of a meeting held in the new building on 31 October that year it has always been known as “the hall”. Originally it was a men only institution but soon a ladies club was formed and by 1932 women had joined the men on the committee. From its inception the Hall was a focal point of social activity for Harburn: dances, whist drives, bowling league, women’s rural institute, lectures, church services, wartime home guard meetings. It has also been regularly used over the years for private functions: weddings, christenings, birthdays and retiral parties. Until 1998 the Hall operated under an informal constitution written in pencil in the minute book under 11 December 1922 and amended over the years through custom and practice. In 1998 the Hall committee adopted a new constitution as an unincorporated association and was recognised as a Scottish charity (SC028394). For a pdf of the HALL CONSTITUTION, please click HERE

The constitution provides for an elected Hall Committee of six persons plus nominated representatives from the WRI, the Residents Association and the Harburn Players. The Annual General Meeting of the Harburn Hall Association takes place each year on the same evening as the Residents’ Association AGM. Harburn Village Hall The building underwent a major renovation during 2004 when a new extension was built to the rear to include a modern kitchen, toilets and a storage-cum-back stage area. At the same time the original building which is essentially the same as it was when erected in 1923 was re-roofed and re-clad with insulation. During 2006 a new insulated oak floor was laid. These improvements were funded from grants received from the Scottish executive, West Lothian Council, the Big Lottery Awards for All, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland , the Robertson Trust and the Scottish Community Foundation. In addition the local community contributed and raised more than £25,000. By Spring 2007 an environmental upgrade had taken place around the Hall creating a garden with picnic table, new hedging and a landscaped area to the front with park-bench for weary pedestrians. The Hall has great character and is affectionately remembered by all who have attended events there over the years. Click here to see Bella Kirk's poems on Harburn Hall.

The Hall in action

The Hall is crucial to the continuing idea of community in Harburn. Without it, there simply would be nowhere to meet and hold events. The Hall is the single most important feature, which has enabled Harburn to retain a sense of community despite the huge changes which have overtaken the area in the past fifty years: the closure of all mines, the closure of the school and the station, the development of a new town no more than two fields away in one direction, the changes in agriculture. As one former resident put it: “Harburn is not so much a place, it is a state of mind”. But a mind needs a body and that is the Hall. During the course of the year a number of regular community events take place in Harburn, all making use of the facilities of the Hall. A list can be found by going to the News page. Over the years there have been many other one-off community events including the silver jubilee celebrations in 1977, the Millennium bonfire and party, history nights, games nights, poetry evenings and in 1993 a 70th birthday party for the Hall.

And the Future? Some ten years ago the Residents' Association held an Open Meeting to begin the process of drawing up the community's own Vision for its Future. A large turn-out participated in the preparation of a statement about the kind of place we wish Harburn to be in, say, 20 years time.

During 2013, West Calder and Harburn Community Council compiled its own Community Futures Action Plan which sets out a strategy for the development of the area over the next five years.  The work was funded by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, West Lothian Council and West Lothian Development Trust.  The West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust has been established as a charitable company to take a lead in implementing the community priorities set out in the Action Plan – for further information or to become a member, contact wcandhcdt@yahoo.co.uk