Sir Basil Spence, the world famous Scottish architect and designer of Coventry Cathedral, is the man behind the really stunning fishermen’s cottages on Victoria Street and at Victoria Harbour.
In the 1930s Dunbar Town Council decided to regenerate the town’s Victoria harbour front for the fishing industry by providing housing to accommodate fishermen and their families and to attract newcomers to the area. Spence was involved in two phases of this regeneration. In 1934, Kininmonth and Spence was commissioned to provide a small development of terraced houses. Basil Spence and Partners was commissioned to build a further 20 houses on Victoria Street (1949-52, extended 1955-6) irregularly distributed over four separate sites, all grouped amongst existing properties. It was intended that the extension would provide a further 19 houses on another nearby site, however only the first of these blocks, containing nine dwellings, was built. The last houses in the second phase were completed in August 1952, the same year that the extension was commissioned, although this was not completed until 1956. The second phase of housing was awarded a Saltire Society Award for good design in 1951.
The buildings are a combination of two and three storey blocks, mostly arranged around courtyards designed as a place for fishermen to hang their nets. The stone-clad lower storeys contain either single-level flats or storage space for fishing tackle, while the harled or rubble-faced upper storeys are generally maisonettes, accessed from a railed veranda and external stairs. Walls were finished with colour wash, and bright colours were also used on the doors, windows and ironwork. Pitched roofs covered with red pantiles, slates in the later development, complete the schemes, integrating the blocks with the surrounding architecture. The red sandstone used in the cladding of the lower storeys was also from the local area, some of it having been reclaimed from the old harbour wall.