| In 1770, Lord Grange seems to have got tired, not only
of his beautifully and artistically laid out garden, but of
the entire estate of Preston as well, for in that year he
sold the whole property, part of it going to Watson's Hospital
Trust, and the remainder to his factor, Dr William Ramsay,
who was then factor also to Lord Elcho and his grace the Duke
In 1780 the estate of Preston—less Watson's portion—was acquired,
and Preston House occupied, by Dr James Schaw.
The house, though in ruins now, was a two-storied building,
constructed in the old Scotch baronial style. The whole building,
from east to west, measures 142 feet. The main or front door
is closed up, but quite a number of the finely rounded steps
leading up to it are intact. There are a pair of beautiful
circular pillars, one on each side of the door, with very
fine fluted stonework behind them. Schaw's, or some other
coat of arms, is said to be emblazoned over the door, but
heavy rods of ivy hold the mastery here, and whose they are
remains a mystery.
From the main door passages run east and west the whole length
of the building, and there is a continuous passage from wing
to wing in the lower flat of the building. A few of the lower
windows are or have been iron-stanchioned, while several of
the upper windows have been treated in a similar manner.
The old kitchen is situated on the ground floor in the west
wing, and a curious little place it is. It has four diminutive
windows, two to the front and two to the back. The ceiling
is low but strongly arched with stone. The floor has been
laid with pavement, and that business has been meant with
the fire is evident from the fact that the fireplace covers
a space of nine feet, while a couple of iron hooks still retain
a place in the ceiling, capable each of bearing aloft the
dead weight of either boar or bullock. There is a fine room,
18by 15, over this, but the ivy is creeping in everywhere.
At the extreme east end of the building is a very spacious
and lightsome room. It contains a very small fireplace, four
very large windows, and a monster of a door at the east end,
fully three and a half feet wide by eleven feet in height.
This is known as Dr Schaw's Library. A very large recess in
the wall shows where his bookshelves had been, but not a single
volume of old forgotten lore is to be found there now.
Along the back or south of the house runs what is called the
avenue. It is simply a continuation of what had evidently
been a direct route eastward through the village of Preston
in days that are no more. Opposite what remains of the south
side of the ruins there remained until recently a large stone-paved
court. It was bounded by the parapet wall still overlooking
the garden southwards. Along this parapet wall still runs
the original wood railing, with its great iron spikes which
formerly went to embellish it. This wood railing was set up
when the house was constructed, and it has now become so frail
that but for the fruit trees Mr Wright planted against it
many years ago it would hold its place no longer.
Almost in a line with the old house runs a very high and time-worn
wall. That this wall had been built many years antecedent
to Preston House is evident, and from the door and window
marks shown therein it is also evident that Preston village
extended very much farther east at one time than many people
now imagine; and it was only, we doubt not, when Preston House
was built that this main highway through Preston village was
Dr James Schaw enjoyed his new possessions for a very short
time. He acquired the estate of Preston in 1780 and died in
1784. After his decease it was found he had bequeathed Preston
House, in the first place, " to be fitted up for the
maintenance and education of boys of poor but respectable
parents. " The age of admission from four to seven years;
they might be retained till they were fourteen years of
age; and preference was to be given to names in the order
set down: — Schaw, M'Neill, Cunningham, and Stewart.
When boys left the institution they were to be bound as apprentices
to some sort of trade, or be disposed of otherwise according
to the discretion of the trustees, and for the benefit of
the youngsters. There were nineteen trustees, including the
parish ministers of Tranent and Prestonpans, appointed to
superintend the institution, and it was to be conducted by
a governor and a matron.
It was found that Dr Schaw had also bequeathed the whole of
the lands and barony of Preston, together with the proceeds
of other property, for the support of the establishment. His
daughter's portion was also to revert to the funds of the
Hospital in the event of her dying childless, which was the
case, Mrs Sawers, his daughter, dying at Bath without issue.
Schaw's Hospital—Preston Old House—was first opened as an
institution in the year 1789. At the opening, and for a considerable
time after, its inmates numbered fifteen; but the building
was afterwards suited to accommodate twenty-four.