NEXT year plans are underway to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Bruce Charter, which gave Haddington residents confirmed rights as burgesses of the town.

In fact, Haddington had been a burgh for almost 200 years before the charter was signed by Robert the Bruce, but the document is the oldest held in East Lothian Council archives.

The original charter, which would have been granted two centuries earlier by King David I, his great-great-great-great grandfather, has been lost or destroyed, making the Bruce declaration the most relevant as it confirms the town’s right to hold a market, collect customs and so on.

The charter is written in Latin on vellum and the seal of Robert the Bruce is attached to the bottom.

The charter and the seal have both been conserved by specialist conservators at the National Records of Scotland.

Though only a portion of the original seal remains, you can make out the seated figure of Robert dressed in robes sitting on his throne.

The charter protects local business, forbidding anyone from buying wool or skins or trading in merchandise which was not bought from local ‘burgesses’.

It also states: “All those conveying timber or merchandise to supply our said Burgh of Haddington, from whatever wood or whatever barony they may be, shall have our firm peace and protection.

“Anyone daring to poind goods or to annoy them unjustly on our highway in going to the said town of Haddington or in returning shall incur our heavy displeasure.”

It has been witnessed by notable nobles from Robert the Bruce’s court including Bernard, Abbot of Arbroath, his chancellor; Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray and Lord of Man, King Robert’s nephew; and Robert of Keith, his Marischal of Scotland, and states it was signed at Scone Palace on December 6 in the thirteenth year of his reign. King Robert sat on the Scottish throne from 1306, when he was 32, until his death in 1329.

Haddington 700 will mark the town’s 700th year of trading under the Bruce Charter, with a wide range of activities planned for the coming year.

Highlights under discussion are a medieval fair next September, but organisers have ambitious plans to hold events from January right through to December and they hope to unite local traders behind the celebration of the charter which was designed to protect their ancestors’ rights. To get involved with next year’s celebrations, email