Prestonpans, 567-572.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   PRESTONPANS, a small parish in the north-west extremity of Haddingtonshire; bounded on the west by Ravenshaugh-burn, which divides it from Edinburghshire; on the north by the frith of Forth; and, on other sides, by Tranent. It forms a stripe of 2½ miles in length from south-west to north-east, by a breadth of from 6 to 10 furlongs; and comprehends an area of about 760 acres. The surface swells into two or three small knolls in the vicinity of the village of Preston; but everywhere else it is level, or falls off with a very gentle declination toward the sea. The beach is a broken and imperforated pavement of rock, exhibiting marks of invasion by the sea, and denudation of earthy strata. The soil of the parish is loam; part heavy, on a clay bottom; part light, on a sandy or gravelly bottom; and is cultivated in the improved and model style for which Haddingtonshire is famed. Coal was wrought here as early perhaps as in any district in Scotland, and continues still to be plentifully mined. The shale and sandstone of the coal measures are singularly abundant in vegetable fossils. The villages of the parish are PRESTONPANS, PRESTON, DOLPHINSTON, MORISON’S HAVEN, and MEADOW MILL: which see. The principal seats are Preston-Grange, the property of Sir George Grant Suttie, Bart.; and Drummore, the property of William Aitchison, Esq. Among eminent men who have been connected with the parish may be mentioned, the Rev. John Davidson, one of Scotland’s worthies, and long the minister of the parish, some notices of whom occur in McCrie’s Life of Melville, and in numerous older historical works; Alexander Hume, the grammarian, who was for 10 years the parochial schoolmaster, and some notices of whom also occur in McCrie’s Life of Melville; the Hon. James Erskine of Grange, brother to the Earl of Marr, and Lord-justice-clerk in the reign of Queen Anne, who, in 1734, resigned his judgeship that he might oppose Sir Robert Walpole in parliament; Hew Dalrymple, who, under the title of Lord Drummore, acted a distinguished and popular part as a member of the college-of-justice; and William Grant of Preston-Grange who, as Lord Advocate, in 1746, performed with general approbation the difficult task of conducting the prosecutions against the defeated Jacobites, and who afterwards was a senator of the college-of-justice, and one of the Lords commissioners of Justiciary. The parish is traversed across the rising grounds of the south-west wing, through the hamlet of Dolphinston, by the Edinburgh and London mailroad; and along the coast through Prestonpans, by the Edinburgh and North Berwick road by way of Aberlady. Population, in 1801, 1,964; in 1831, 2,322. Houses 341. Assessed property, in 1815, £5,695. 

   The only event of note in the history of the parish is the battle of Preston, fought in 1745. While, on the 16th of September, 1745, the heralds were proclaiming King James at the market-cross of Edinburgh, Sir John Cope was landing his troops at Dunbar. The landing was finished on Wednesday, the 17th of September; but the disembarkation of the artillery and stores was not completed till the 18th; but desirous of engaging the Highland army before the arrival of their expected reinforcements, Cope left Dunbar on the 19th, in the direction of Edinburgh, and halted on a field to the west of the town of Haddington, and 16 miles east from Edinburgh, on the evening of that day. Resuming his march on the morning of the 20th, along the high road to Preston, he halted his army, and formed his troops in order of battle, with his front to the west, on reaching the plain betwixt Seaton and Preston. His right extended towards the sea in the direction of Port-Seaton and his left towards the village of Preston. These dispositions had scarcely been taken when the whole of the Highland army appeared descending the heights in the direction of Tranent. On approaching Tranent, the Highlanders were received by the King’s troops with a vehement shout of defiance, which the Highlanders answered in a similar strain. About two o’clock in the afternoon the Highland army halted on an eminence called Birsley-Brae, about half-a-mile to the west of Tranent, and formed in order of battle about a mile from the royal forces. In the expectation that the Highlanders were advancing by the usual route through Musselburgh, Cope had taken up the position we have described, with his front to the west; but as soon as he observed the Highlanders on the heights upon his left, he changed his front to the south. This change of position, while it secured Cope better from attack, was not so well-calculated for safety as the first position was in the event of a defeat. On his right was the east wall of a park belonging to Erskine of Grange, which extended a considerable way from north to south, and still farther to the right was the village of Preston. The village of Seaton was on his left, and the village of Cockenzie and the sea in his rear. Almost immediately in front was a deep ditch filled with water, and a strong and thick hedge. Farther removed from the front, and between the two armies was a morass, the ends of which had been drained, and were intersected by numerous cuts. And on the more firm ground at the ends were several small enclosures, with hedges, dry stone-walls, and willow trees. As the Highlanders were in excellent spirits, and eager to close immediately with the enemy, Charles felt very desirous to comply with their wishes; but he soon ascertained that the passage across the morass would be extremely dangerous, if not altogether impracticable. 

   While his lieutenant-general was, in consequence of this information, planning a different mode of attack, the Prince himself was moving with a great part of his army towards Dolphinston on Cope’s right. Halting opposite Preston-tower he seemed to threaten that flank of the English general, who, thereupon, returned to his original position with his front to Preston, and his right towards the sea. Lord George Murray, considering that the only practicable mode of attacking Cope was by advancing from the east, now led-off part of the army through the village of Tranent, and sent notice to the Prince to follow him with the remainder as quickly as possible. After the Highland army had halted on the fields to the east of Tranent, a council of war was held, at which Lord George Murray proposed to attack the enemy at break of day. Charles was highly pleased with the proposal of the lieutenant-general, which also received the unanimous approbation of the council. A few piquets were placed around the bivouack, and the Highlanders, having wrapped themselves up in their plaids, lay down upon the ground to repose for the night. Charles, taking a sheaf of pease for a pillow, stretched himself upon the stubble, surrounded by his principal officers. When Cope observed Charles returning towards Tranent, he resumed his former position with his front to the south, having thus, in the course of a few hours, been obliged, by the unrestrained evolutions of the Highlanders, to shift his ground no less than four times. He now began to perceive that his situation was not so favourable as he had imagined, and that while the insurgents could move about at discretion, select their ground, and choose their time and mode of attack, he was cramped in his own movements and could act only on the defensive. To secure his army from surprise during the night, Cope placed advanced piquets of horse and foot along the side of the morass, extending nearly as far east as the village of Seaton. He, at the same time, sent his baggage and military chest down to Cockenzie; and as the night – that of Friday the 20th of September – was very cold, Cope ordered fires to be kindled along the front of his line, to keep his men warm. 

   In point of numbers, the army of Cope was rather inferior to that of Charles; but many of the Highlanders were badly armed, and some of them were without arms. The royal forces amounted altogether to about 2,300 men; but the number in the field was diminished to 2,100 by the separation of the baggage-guard which was sent to Cockenzie. The order of battle finally formed by Cope along the north side of the morass was as follows:- He drew up his foot in one line, in the centre of which were eight companies of Lascelles’s regiment, and two of Guise’s. On the right were five companies of Lee’s regiment, and on the left the regiment of Murray, with a number of recruits for different regiments at home and abroad. Two squadrons of Gardiner’s dragoons formed the right wing, and a similar number of Hamilton’s composed the left. The remaining squadron of each regiment was placed in the rear of its companions as a reserve. On the left of the army, near the waggon-road from Tranent to Cockenzie, were placed the artillery, consisting of six or seven pieces of cannon and four cohorns under the orders of Lieutenant-colonel Whiteford, and guarded by a company of Lee’s regiment, commanded by Captain Cochrane. Besides the regular troops there were some volunteers, consisting principally of small parties of the neighbouring tenantry, headed by their respective landlords. Some Seceders, actuated by religious zeal, had also placed themselves under the royal standard. Pursuant to the orders he had received, Lord Nairne left the position he had occupied during the night at the appointed hour, and rejoined the main body about three o’clock in the morning. Instead of continuing the order of march of the preceding night, it had been determined by the council of war to reverse it. The charge of this movement was intrusted to Colonel Ker. The Duke of Perth, who was to command the right wing, was at the head of the inverted column. He was attended by Hepburn of Keith, and by Robert Anderson, son of Anderson of Whitburgh, who, from his intimate knowledge of the morass, was sent forward to lead the way. A little in advance of the van, was a select party of 60 men doubly armed, under the command of Macdonald of Glenalladale, major of the regiment of Clanranald, whose appointed duty it was to seize the enemy’s baggage. The army proceeded in an easterly direction till near the farm of Ringan-head, when, turning to the left, they marched in a northerly direction through a small valley which intersects the farm. During the march the utmost silence was observed, not even a whisper being heard; and lest the trampling of horses might discover their advance, the few that were in the army were left behind. The ford or path across the morass was so narrow that the column – which marched three men abreast – had scarcely sufficient standing room; and the ground along it was so soft that many of the men were almost at every step up to the knees in mud. The path in question – which was about 200 paces to the west of the stone-bridge afterwards built across Seaton mill-dam – led to a small wooden-bridge thrown over the large ditch which ran through the morass from east to west. This bridge, and the continuation of the path on the north of it, were a little to the east of Cope’s left. From ignorance of the existence of this bridge, – from oversight, or from a supposition that the marsh was not passable in that quarter, – Cope had placed no guards in that direction, and the consequence was, that the Highland army, whose march across could here have been effectually stopped by a handful of men, passed the bridge and cleared the marsh without interruption. The Prince’s army was divided into two columns or lines, with an interval between them. After the first line had got out of the marsh, Lord George Murray sent the Chevalier Johnstone to hasten the march of the second, which was conducted by the Prince in person. At the remote end of the marsh there was a deep ditch, three or four feet broad, over which the men had to leap. In jumping across this ditch, Charles fell upon his knees on the other side, and was immediately raised by the Chevalier Johnstone, who says, that Charles looked as if he considered the accident a bad omen. As the column cleared the marsh, it continued its course towards the sea; but after the whole army had passed, it was ascertained that the Duke of Perth had inadvertently – not being able, from the darkness, to see the whole line – advanced too far with the front, and that a considerable gap had, in consequence, been left in the centre. The Duke being informed of this error, halted his men till joined by the rear. Hitherto the darkness had concealed the march of the Highlanders; but the morning was now about to dawn, and at the time the order to halt was given, some of Cope’s piquets stationed on his left, for the first time heard the tramp of the Highlanders. The Highlanders heard distinctly these advanced guards repeatedly call out, “Who is there?” No answer having been returned, the piquets gave the alarm, and the cry of “Cannons, cannons! Get ready the cannons, cannoniers!” resounded on Cope’s left wing. Charles instantly gave directions for attacking Cope before he should have time to change his position by opposing his front to that of the Highland army. It was not in compliance with any rule in military science that the order of march of the Highland army had been reversed; but in accordance with an established punctilio among the clans, which, for upwards of seven centuries had assigned the right wing, regarded as the post of honour, to the Macdonalds. As arranged at the council-of-war on the preceding evening, the army was drawn up in two lines. The first consisted of the regiments of Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengary, and Glencoe, under their respective chiefs. These regiments formed the right wing, which was commanded by the Duke of Perth. The Duke of Perth’s men and the Macgregors composed the centre; while the left wing, commanded by Lord George Murray, was formed of the Camerons under Lochiel, their chief, and the Stewarts of Appin commanded by Stewart of Ardshiel. The second line, which was to serve as a reserve, consisted of the Athole-men, the Robertsons of Strowan, and the Maclauchlans. This body was placed under the command of Lord Nairne. As soon as Cope received intelligence of the advance of the Highlanders, he gave orders to change his front to the east. Some confusion took place in carrying these orders into execution, from the advanced guards belonging to the foot not being able to find out the regiments to which they belonged, and who, in consequence, stationed themselves on the right of Lee’s five companies, and thereby prevented the two squadrons of Gardiner’s dragoons, which had been posted on the right of the line, from forming properly. For want of room, the squadron under Colonel Gardiner drew up behind that commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Whitney. In all other respects the disposition of each regiment was the same; but the artillery, which before the change had been on the left, and close to that wing, was now on the right somewhat farther from the line, and in front of Whitney’s squadron. 

   There was now no longer any impediment to prevent the armies from coming into collision; and if Cope had had the choice, he could not have selected ground more favourable for the operations of cavalry than that which lay between the two armies. It was a level cultivated field of considerable extent without bush or tree, and had just been cleared of its crop of grain. But unfortunately for the English general, the celerity with which the Highlanders commenced the attack prevented him from availing himself of this local advantage. The beams of the rising sun were just beginning to illuminate the horizon; but the mist which still hovered over the corn-fields prevented the two armies from seeing each other. Every thing being in readiness for advancing, the Highlanders took off their bonnets, and, placing themselves in an attitude of devotion, with upraised eyes uttered a short prayer. As the Highlanders had advanced considerably beyond the main ditch, Lord George Murray was apprehensive that Cope might turn the left flank, and to guard against such a contingency, he desired Lochiel, who was on the extreme left, to order his men in advancing to incline to the left. Lord George then ordered the left wing to advance, and sent an aid-de-camp to the Duke of Perth to request him to put the right in motion. The Highlanders moved with such rapidity that their ranks broke; to recover which, they halted once or twice before closing with the enemy. When Cope, at day-break, observed the first line of the Highland army formed in order of battle, at the distance of 200 paces from his position, he mistook it for bushes; but before it had advanced half-way, the rays of the rising sun bursting through the retiring mist showed the armies to each other. 

“Day opened in the orient sky 

With wintry aspect, dull and drear; 

On every leaf, while glitteringly 

The rimy hoar-frost did appear. 

The ocean was unseen, though near; 

And hazy shadows seem’d to draw, 

ln azure, with their mimic floods, 

A line above the Seaton woods, 

And round North Berwick Law.” 

The army of Cope at this time made a formidable appearance; and some of Charles’s officers were heard afterwards to declare, that when they first saw it, and compared the gallant appearance of the horse and foot, with their well-polished arms glittering in the sunbeams, with their own line broken into irregular clusters; they expected that the Highland army would be instantly defeated, and swept from the field. 

   The Highlanders continued to advance in profound silence. As the right wing marched straight forward without attending to the oblique movement of the Camerons to the left, a gap took place in the centre of the line. An attempt was made to fill it up with the second line, which was about fifty paces behind the first, but before this could be accomplished, the left wing, being the first to move, had advanced beyond the right of the line, and was now engaged with the enemy. By inclining to the left, the Camerons gained half the ground originally between them and the main ditch; but this movement brought them up directly opposite to Cope’s cannon. On approaching the cannon the Highlanders fired a few shots at the artillery guard, which alarmed an old gunner who had charge of the cannon, and his assistants, to such a degree that they fled, carrying the powder-flasks along with them. To check the advance of the Highlanders, Colonel Whiteford fired off five of the field-pieces with his own hand; but though their left seemed to recoil, they instantly resumed the rapid pace they had set out with. The artillery guard next fired a volley with as little effect. Observing the squadron of dragoons under Lieutenant-colonel Whitney advancing to charge them, the Camerons set up a loud shout, rushed past the cannon, and, after discharged a few shots at the dragoons, which killed several men, and wounded the lieutenant-colonel, flew upon them sword in hand. When assailed, the squadron was reeling to and fro from the fire; and the Highlanders following an order they had received, to strike at the noses of the horses without minding the riders, completed the disorder. In a moment the dragoons wheeled about, rode over the artillery guard, and fled followed by the guard. The Highlanders continuing to push forward without stopping to take prisoners, Colonel Gardiner was ordered to advance with his squadron, and charge the enemy. He accordingly went forward, encouraging his men to stand firm; but this squadron, before it had advanced many paces, experienced a similar reception with its companion, and followed the example which the other had just set. After the flight of the dragoons, the Highlanders advanced upon the infantry, who opened a fire from right to left, which went down the line as far as Murray’s regiment. They received this volley with a loud huzza, and throwing away their muskets, drew their swords and rushed upon the foot before they had time to reload their pieces. Confounded by the flight of the dragoons, and the furious onset of the Highlanders, the astonished infantry threw down their arms and took to their heels. Hamilton’s dragoons, who were stationed on Cope’s left, displayed even greater pusillanimity than their companions; for no sooner did they observe the squadrons on the right give way, than they turned their backs and fled without firing a single shot or drawing a sword. Murray’s regiment being thus left alone on the field, fired upon the Macdonalds who were advancing, and also fled. Thus, within a very few minutes after the action had commenced, the whole army of Cope was put to flight. With the exception of their fire, not the slightest resistance was made by horse or foot, and not a single bayonet was stained with blood. Such were the impetuosity and rapidity with which the first line of the Highlanders broke through Cope’s ranks, that they left numbers of his men in their rear, who attempted to rally behind them; but on seeing the second line coming up, they endeavoured to make their escape. Though the second line was not more than 50 paces behind the first, and was always running as fast as it could to over-take the first line, and near enough never to lose sight of it, yet such was the rapidity with which the battle was gained, that, according to the Chevalier Johnstone, who stood by the side of the Prince in the second line, he could see no other enemy on the field of battle than those who were lying on the ground killed and wounded. Unfortunately for the royal infantry, the walls of the enclosures about the village of Preston, which, from the position they took up on the preceding evening, formed their great security on their right, now that these park-walls were in their rear, operated as a barrier to their flight. Having disencumbered themselves of their arms to facilitate their escape, they had deprived themselves of their only means of defence, and driven as they were upon the walls of the enclosures, they would have all perished under the swords of the Highlanders, had not Charles and his officers strenuously exerted themselves to preserve the lives of their discomfited foes. The impetuosity of the attack, however, and the sudden flight of the royal army, allowed little leisure for the exercise of humanity; and before the carnage ceased several hundreds had fallen under the claymores of the Highlanders, and the ruthless scythes of the Macgregors. Armed with these deadly weapons, which were sharpened and fixed to poles from seven to eight feet long, to supply the place of other arms, this party mowed down the affrighted enemy, cut off the legs of the horses, and severed, it is said, the bodies of their riders in twain. Of the infantry of the royal army, about 170 only escaped. From a report made by their own sergeants and corporals, by order of Lord George Murray, between 1,600 and 1,700 prisoners, foot and cavalry, fell into the hands of the Highlanders, including about 70 officers. In this number were comprehended the baggage-guard stationed at Cockenzie, which amounted to 300 men, who, on learning the fate of the main body and the loss of their cannon, surrendered to the Camerons. The cannon and all the baggage of the royal army, together with the military chest, containing £4,000, fell into the hands of the victors. The greater part of the dragoons escaped by the two roads at the extremities of the park-wall, one of which passed by Colonel Gardiner’s house in the rear of their right, and the other on their left, to the north of Preston-house. In retiring towards these outlets, the dragoons, at the entreaties of their officers, halted once or twice, and faced about to meet the enemy; but as soon as the Highlanders came up and fired at them, they wheeled about and fled. Cope, who was by no means deficient in personal courage, assisted by the Earls of Home and Loudon, collected about 450 of the panic-struck dragoons on the west side of the village of Preston, and attempted to lead them back to the charge; but no entreaties could induce these cowards to advance, and the whistling of a few bullets discharged by some Highlanders near the village, so alarmed them that they instantly scampered off in a southerly direction, screening their heads behind their horses’ necks to avoid the bullets of the Highlanders. The general had no alternative but to gallop off with his men. He reached Coldstream, a town about 40 miles from the field of battle, that night; and entered Berwick next day.

   Among six of Cope’s officers who were killed was Colonel Gardiner, a veteran soldier who had served under the Duke of Marlborough, and whose character combined a strong religious feeling with the most undaunted courage. He had been decidedly opposed to the defensive system of Cope on the preceding evening, and had counselled the general not to lose a moment in attacking the Highlanders; but his advice was disregarded. Anticipating the fate which awaited him, he spent the greater part of the night in devotion, and resolved at all hazards to perform his duty. He was wounded at the first onset at the head of his dragoons; but disdaining to follow them in their retreat, he joined a small body of foot, which attempted to rally near the wall of his own garden, and while fighting at their head was cut down by the murderous Lochaber axe of a Macgregor, within a few yards of his own house. He was carried to the manse of Tranent in almost a lifeless state, where he expired within a few hours, and was interred in the north-west corner of the church of Tranent.1 Captain Brymer of Lee’s regiment, who appears to have participated in Gardiner’s opinion as to attacking the Highlanders, met a similar fate. Having been at the battle of Sheriffmuir, he was satisfied of the capbility of the Highlanders to contend with regular troops, and dreaded the result of an encounter if assailed by the Highlanders. When encamped at Haddington his brother-officers were in high spirits, and making light of the enemy; but Brymer viewed matters in a very different light. While reading one night in his tent he was accosted by Mr. Congalton of Congalton, his brother-in-law, who, observing him look pensive and grave, when all the other officers appeared so cheerful, inquired the reason. Brymer answered that the Highlanders were not to be despised, and that he was afraid his brother-officers would soon find that they had mistaken the character of the Highlanders, who would, to a certainty, attack the royal army, with a boldness which those only who had witnessed their prowess could have any idea of. These gloomy forebodings were not the result of an innate cowardice – for this officer was, as he showed, a brave man – but from a well-founded conviction that Cope’s men could not stand the onset of such a body of Highlanders as Charles had assembled. Brymer was killed, with his face to the enemy, disdaining to turn his back when that part of the line where he was stationed was broke in upon by the Highlanders. The loss on the side of the Highlanders was trifling. Four officers, and between 30 and 40 privates, were killed; and 5 or 6 officers, and between 70 and 80 privates, wounded. After the termination of the fight, the field of battle presented an appalling spectacle, rarely exhibited in the most bloody conflicts. As almost all the slain were cut down by the broadsword and the scythe, the ground was strewed with legs, arms, hands, noses, and mutilated bodies, while, from the deep gashes inflicted by these dreadful weapons, the field was literally soaked with gore. 

“Alas! that British might should wield 

Destruction o’er a British plain. 

That hands, ordain’d to bear the shield, 

Should bring the poison’d lance, to drain 

The life-blood from a brother’s vein, 

And steep paternal fields in gore! – 

Yet, Preston, such thy fray began; 

Thy marsh-collected waters ran 

Empurpled to the share.” 

   Prestonpans is in the presbytery of Haddington, and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Patron, Sir G. G. Suttie, Bart. Stipend £287 18s.; glebe £25 4s. Unappropriated teinds £104 10s. The parish-church was built in 1774. Sittings 750. According to a census taken by the elders, in 1835, the population was then 2,467; of whom 2,276 were churchmen, 153 were dissenters, and 38 were nondescripts. A district, with about 50 or 60 inhabitants, is included in the quoad sacra parish of Cockenzie. There is in the parish a small Wesleyan Methodist place of worship; and there are Sabbath schools, attended by about 280 children. There are five schools; one parochial and four private; one of the latter conducted by a female. Parochial schoolmaster’s salary £34 4s. 4½d., with £50 fees. Education is at a low ebb. – The original but very ancient name of the parish was Aldhammer; this early gave way to Prieststoun, which was gradually abbreviated into Preston: and that, after the erection of salt-works, and some changes in the parochial tenure, was, in its turn, superseded by successively Salt-Preston and Prestonpans. The ancient church was situated at Preston, and was a vicarage of the monks of Holyrood; and, in 1544, it was burned, in common with the town and castle of Preston, by the Earl of Hertford, and not afterwards repaired. The inhabitants of the two baronies, the east and the west, or Preston and Preston-Grange, into which the parish was distributed, seem to have tacitly attached themselves to Tranent; but were quite unduly provided for, and could obtain access, in but limited numbers, to the interior of the church. Mr. John Davidson, the confessor, at length built, at his own expense, a church and a manse in the village of Prestonpans, to which a glebe, garden, and stipends were attached, by George Hamilton of Preston; and the same worthy minister founded there a school for the teaching of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, and endowed it with all his property, free, moveable, and heritable. In consideration of what was thus done, the General Assembly, in 1595, declared Prestonpans to be a parish quoad sacra, and the parliament of Perth, in 1606, “erected the said newly built kirk into a parish-kirk, which was to be called the parish-kirk of Preston.” 

   PRESTONPANS, a large village and a burgh-of-barony, lies along the shore of the frith on the Edinburgh and North Berwick road, 2½ miles east of Musselburgh, 8 east of Edinburgh, 9¾ west of Haddington, and 14 south-west of North Berwick. Saltpans are supposed to have been erected on its site, and to have occasioned it to become a seat of population, so early as the 12th century. The monks of Newbattle, who pushed out their trading enterprises in all directions from their property of Preston-Grange, appear to have adopted and cherished Prestonpans as the scene of their salt-making operations; and they probably secured it a rude but abounding prosperity so long as it was under their influence. Even for generations after the Reformation it continued to thrive, and to be a flourishing seat of various sorts of the hardier orders of manufacture. Its present character and appearance are such as might indicate that Romish monks, sinking away into degeneracy, had continued, to a large degree, to direct its destiny. It is considerably more like a Spanish or an Irish village than a Scottish one, being chiefly a straggling single street, drawn out to about a mile in length, – narrow, ill-paved, filthy, and broken in its roadway, and utterly irregular, generally dull and somewhat antiquated, and often mean and almost hut-like in its houses, – the bulky amorphous mass of a salt-pan or some kindred work squatting among the other tenements at intervals, and producing a tout-ensemble peculiarly rude and rueful. A rill runs across the roadway, and cuts off from the west end of the continuous street an ugly suburb called Cuittle or Cuthill. Not a building, either public or private, of any intrinsic interest, exists. Even the parish-church pleases only by its associations, and has a thing doing service as a steeple, which is too much in keeping with the prevailing architecture of the village. The salt-pans were formerly ten in number; but they have been nearly all abandoned. They at one time produced between 800 and 900 bushels of salt per week; and, along with those of Cockenzie, yielded government a revenue of £17,000 or £18,000 per annum. A race of females known as salt-wives and second in notoriety only to the fish-wives of Fisher-row and Newhaven, used to carry the salt in ‘creels’ to Edinburgh, and dispose of it in the city and its suburbs; but they were robbed of their occupation by the reduction of the duty. One set of salt-pans are still at work, and possess repute for the excellence of their produce. A manufactory of sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic acid, and of sulphate of soda, or Glauber’s salts, once employed upwards of 50 men, but is now extinct. Extensive potteries, which were commenced about the middle of last century, and long employed about 40 men and upwards of 30 boys, dwindled down a few years ago to a small manufactory of brown and white ware, of five kilns, which, in 1840, was shut up. Two brick and tile works, which employed about ten men, and long sent forth a steady produce over the country, are now represented by one small manufactory of drain-tiles, and figure in reminiscence chiefly on account of having coated nearly the whole village with roofing-tiles, and contributed lastingly to its dinginess. A brewery – which has long been famous for the good quality of its ales – continues to enjoy its repute. A soap-manufactory, of recent establishment, seems to be prosperous. A chief employment and traffic are the fishing and exportation of oysters. Those which lie off the village, particularly such as are nearest the shore, have long been in high esteem among oyster-eaters, and are well-known under the name of Pan-door or Pandore oysters, – a name whimsically given them from the oyster-bed lying off the doors of the salt-pans. So far back as 70 years ago, and till the end of the century, the fishery employed 10 boats, each of which dredged from 400 to 6,000 in a day; and it sent the produce not only to Scottish markets, but to Newcastle, Hull, and London. Even yet, though the bed has probably been much over-dredged, large boats which can carry each from 25,000 to 30,000 oysters maintain a constant traffic with Shields, Newcastle, and Hartlepool. The fishermen may, in all seasons of the year, be heard over the waters singing their dredging-song long before dawn; and were they temperate and prudent in the proportion of their industry and resources, they might be one of the most comparatively opulent communities of operatives in Scotland. The commerce of the town, through its port of Morison’s haven, a little west of Cuthill, was great in the days of its manufacturing prosperity and the extensive working of the neighbouring collieries; but it has grievously declined. The harbour was once a custom-house port, whose range included all creeks and landing-places between the mouth of the Figgate-burn at Portobello, and the mouth of the Tyne near Dunbar; and it had the right of levying customs and the various sorts of dues to the same extent as those exigible at Leith. The charter of erection into a burgh-of-barony was given, in 1617, in favour of Sir John Hamilton of Preston; but it had reference, not strictly to the village of Prestonpans, but to the whole of the east or Preston barony of the parish; and it is visible in probably no other result than the officership of two baron bailies. Population, in 1838, conjecturally stated at 2,000. 

1  The church has been rebuilt; and the grave of Colonel Gardiner is now without the walls of the edifice. An American tourist – who, with an enthusiasm unknown to Scotsmen, recently made a pilgrimage to the grave of Gardiner – exclaims: “Most true it is, that no monument, not even a stone, marks the ground where sleeps this extraordinary man, – a man whom Caledonia may well be proud to have enrolled among her best and bravest sons!” 

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