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Prestonpans Old Parish Church - - 637763.jpg
Prestonpans Old Parish Church
Prestonpans is located in East Lothian
 Prestonpans shown within East Lothian
Population 7,153 (2001)
OS grid reference NT401745
Civil parish Prestonpans
Council area East Lothian
Lieutenancy area East Lothian
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Prestonpans
Postcode district EH32
Dialling code 01875
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament East Lothian
Scottish Parliament East Lothian
List of places

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Prestonpans is a small town to the east of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the unitary council area of East Lothian. A census in 2001 recorded that the town had a population of 7,153, but many more have moved to the area since many new houses have been built. 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.[citation needed] 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.[1] 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.

On 31 October 2004 innocence was publicly declared of 81 Scottish women convicted of being witches and executed in the 16th and 17th centuries.[2]


Salt panning was a very important industry in the early history of Prestonpans. By the beginning of the fifteenth 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 thirteenth century was arguably the first instance of coal mining in Britain. The mining of coal in Prestonpans began in the year 1210, and continued for centuries.

Prestonpans at one time had sixteen breweries, none remain. 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 pounds (41,000 kg) 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 twentieth 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".

Notable residents

Modern Prestonpans

War Memorial statue by Birnie Rhind (1921)

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 EdinburghNorth 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.

The Prestonpans Murals Trail has become popular over the last few years[citation needed]. In 2006 it hosted the Global Murals Conference.

In 2006, Prestonpans and the neighbouring towns of Cockenzie, Port Seton and Longniddry were twinned with the town of Barga, Tuscany, Italy.[3]

In 2010, the Prestonpans Tapestry was completed and has been touring Scotland and England.

In October 2011, Prestonpans was awarded Fairtrade Town status.

See also


  1. Buildings of Scotland: Lothian, by Colin McWilliam
  2. Pardoned Witches
  3. Prestonpans: Battles of the '45

External links