Prestonpans shown within East Lothian
|OS grid reference|
|Council area||East Lothian|
|Lieutenancy area||East Lothian|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||East Lothian|
|Scottish Parliament||East Lothian|
Prestonpans is a small town to the east of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the unitary council area of East Lothian. It had a population of 7,153, but many more have moved to the area since many new houses have been built. (East Lothian Council Census, 2001). It is the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans, and has a history dating back to the 11th century. The town boasts some impressive examples of historical architecture, such as the Preston Tower and the doocot and the local Mercat Cross, which is the only one of its kind in Scotland which remains in its original form and location. The town is also credited for achieving the title of "Scotland's Mural Town" with many wall murals reflecting the town's colourful past.
According to certain stories Prestonpans was originally founded in the 11th century by a traveller named Althamer, who became shipwrecked on the local beach/coastal area. Finding it impossible to get home, the survivors of the wreck decided to remain where they were and founded a settlement named Althamer in honour of their leader. Whether this story is true or not is a matter of opinion, however when the monks of Newbattle and Holyrood arrived in the district in 1184 there was already a settlement named 'Aldhammer' on the site of what is now Prestonpans. The monks gave the settlement their own name, Prieststown or Prieston. Because of the salt manufacturing carried out by the monks using pans on the sea shore, the town's name would later develop into Salt Prieststown and Salt Preston, and finally Prestonpans.
One of the first post-Reformation churches was built in Prestonpans, in 1596, for and at the expense of the new minister, Reverend John Davidson. The church was greatly remodelled in 1774. Ten years after the original building of the new church, Prestonpans became a Parish in its own right, having previously formed part of the Parish of Tranent.
Salt panning was a very important industry in the early history of Prestonpans. By the beginning of the 15th century there were ten salt works belonging to the town capable of producing between 800 and 900 bushels of salt per week. However, Prestonpans was not a one industry town, and many other industries flourished in Prestonpans and contributed towards the town's growth. The discovery and mining of coal by the Newbattle monks in the early 13th century was arguably the first instance of coal mining in Britain. The mining of coal in Prestonpans began in the year 1210, and would continue for centuries.
Prestonpans at one time had sixteen breweries but as times have developed, none of those original breweries exist any longer. The oldest brewery in Prestonpans belonged to the Fowler family and was built in 1720. The Fowlers obtained it in 1756 and it was in production until the 1960s. The building was demolished in 1989 to make way for flats. There was a soap works in the town which at one time had an output of 90,000 lb per annum, and also several potteries and brickworks.
The town was served, for several hundred years, by the harbour at nearby Prestongrange, known as "Morison's Haven". Fishing boats sailed from the harbour and herring was the most important catch. The harvesting of oysters was a lucrative industry up to the early 20th century.
Battle of Prestonpans
The Battle of Prestonpans (also known as the Battle of Gladsmuir) was the first significant conflict in the second Jacobite Rising. The battle took place on 21 September 1745. The Jacobite army loyal to James Francis Edward Stuart and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart defeated the army loyal to the Hanoverian George II led by Sir John Cope. The victory was a huge morale boost for the Jacobites, and a heavily mythologised version of the story entered art and legend. A memorial to the Battle of Prestonpans in the form of a modest stonemason-built cairn sits close to the battle site. An earlier (and tellingly, much larger and more impressive) monument to Colonel James Gardiner, a Hanoverian who was mortally wounded on the field of battle, was also erected in 1853 near Bankton House where the Colonel lived. It was sculpted by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. Each year on the anniversary of the battle, a Battlefield Walk is organised by local historians, and in September 2008 the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Trust organised a symposium on local battlefields. A memorial in the parish church commemorates "John Stuart of Phisgul...barbarously murdered by four Highlanders near the end of the Battle".
The war memorial stands near the town centre but is slightly obscured by the flanking buildings. It is a fine sculpture of a "Jock" (Scottish soldier) in bonnet and great coat by William Birnie Rhind, 1921.
Adjacent to the war memorial is a bronze plaque dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War.
There is now no salt or mining industry in the area. The town has developed considerably over the last few years. New housing has been built on greenbelt and there is potential for more affordable housing in the town. There remains a thriving community spirit. A two-week festival in early summer links Prestonpans with neighbouring Cockenzie and Port Seton, called The Three Harbours Festival.
The town has an infant school, two primary schools and the comprehensive Preston Lodge High School. Prestonpans railway station is on the Edinburgh – North Berwick line. The local non-league football team Preston Athletic F.C. plays its home games at the Pennypit Park in the town, as does the local rugby team Preston Lodge RFC.
Prestonpans also has the popular and famous Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, the sixth-oldest golf club in the world (and is still home to The Old Club Cup, the world's oldest golfing trophy still being played for) and the town's cricket team Preston Village Cricket Club.
In 2010, the Prestonpans Tapestry was completed and has been touring Scotland and England.
In October 2011, Prestonpans was awarded Fairtrade Town status.
- Barony of Preston and Prestonpans
- Category:People from Prestonpans
- John Muir Way
- List of places in East Lothian
- Prestongrange Parish Church
- Preston Tower
- Edinburgh Evening News, 12 August 2006, article by Jim Gilchrist "Designs on their wall"
- The Herald, 1 June 2007, "Local festival illuminates Scotland's 'riviera' " by Sarah Unwin Jones
- The Scots Magazine, illustrated article on Prestonpans Murals trail
- Leaflet "Happy Walks in Prestonpans"
- Prestonpans Historical Society page showing photo of Press cutting about Murals Trail
- Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum – A local museum offering tours
- Preston Lodge High School – The secondary school for the area
- Global Murals Conference Prestoungrange 2006
- Article, The Herald, 29 April 2008, Historic Scotland trying to protect Scotland's battlefields
- "Historic battlefields in Scotland threatened by lack of legal protection". The Times, 29 April 2008.