Origins & History

Heritage & Museum

Clan Court & Household

University Press


Golfing Delights


Court Records

Picture Gallery

Manor of Milton Malsor
East Lodge Prestonpans
Laird of Glencairn

Shop Online

News & Email

Site News

Prestonpans and Vicinity

Cover Contents 1 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
28 30 32 33 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 64
66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 81 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 100 102
104 106 108 110 112 114 116 118 120 122 124 126 128 130 132 134 136 138 140 142
144 146 148 150 152 154 156 158 160 162 164 166 168 170 172 174 176 177 178 180
182 184 186 188 190 192 194 196 198 200 201 202 204 206 208 209 210 212 214 216
218 220 222 224 226 228 229 230 232 234 236 238 240 242 244 246 248 249 250 252
254 256 257 258 259 260 261                          

is low and sandy, with a bulwark of low reefs, much shattered and water-worn, along its margin. It commands a picturesque prospect of the Firth of Forth and the southern parts of Fife. The parish is traversed by the public roads coastways from Edinburgh to Aberlady, &c., and there is easy access to the Tranent and Prestonpans Station on the North British Railway.

The "Pocket Gazetteer of Scotland, " 1860, thus describes the old village: —" An ancient town on the shore of the Firth of Forth, Haddingtonshire, 9 miles east of Edinburgh, 2 1/2 miles from Musselburgh, and 13 from North Berwick. Its long, gloomy, and narrow street, with its mean hovels on every side, ill paved, ill lighted, having dirty puddles in all directions; notwithstanding, the place is celebrated for its ale, which is reckoned by some a good beverage. "
The " Imperial Gazetteer, " of a more recent date, does not improve matters: —"The town itself, " it says, "consists principally of a single street, about a mile in length, wriggling along the beach. A rill runs across the roadway, cutting off from the west end of the street an ugly suburb called Cuittle, or Cuthill. The houses of the town have a mean, blackened, worn-out appearance, scarcely any two of them stand in a line, and the whole are so allocated that the town might be described as zig-zag at both ends and crooked in the middle. "
On scanning these brief notices, one cannot help wondering if they had been written with a view to " jokularity, " for the grim humour pervading them is exquisite; but no word of comfort had the maligner to bestow upon the village, not even a gracious remark, in passing, for the villagers.
Oh, thou weary, weary, woeful village ! isn't it sorrowful to think that, after so many long, dark, and dreary centuries have passed over thy devoted head, during which thou hast suffered crosses and losses enough to drive any other hamlet to despair, yet because thou had'st forgotten to cleave thy jutting corners, pave thy uneven streets, and drive thy decaying dwelling-places out into the middle of the Forth, before these cool defamers entered thy time-hallowed precincts, thou must bear their reproach perhaps for ever; and yet, out of these very surroundings, which they have handled so scornfully, how many of thy sons have risen from low to great estate ! Perhaps the very windings of thy streets, and the ruggedness of thy buildings, were the means

of sending inspiration into their souls in their youth, which again was the means of forcing them into eminence in their maturity. Be this as it may, according to thine own records thy sons have never been ashamed to return and spend their later years in the place of their nativity. But many others besides thine own seem to have found pleasure in treading thy crooked streets, inhaling thy salubrious air, and residing in thy curious jutting dwelling-places—but of these anon.

A little to the west of Ayre's Wynd, on the north side of High Street, stands a stately old house, built in 1716, and recently known as Alexander's. It is still in possession of one of the family—Mr W. A. Meek—and is known as Aldhammer House. One reason for calling attention to this abode so early is not only because its name differs so slightly from that of the original hamlet, but because the earliest real intimation extant of the village is through salt making, and the manufacture of salt is being pursued on this property at the present day as vigorously as ever; though whether it has gone on at this particular spot throughout all these centuries we would not like to maintain.
"Newbattle Chartulary" intimates that the monks of that Abbey found a footing in the district in 1184. From the same source we learn that they began to manufacture salt in the hamlet of Althamer in 1189, and this is the earliest intimation extant of the village now known as Prestonpans.
Althamer! the name sounds decidedly of Dutch extraction, but how it originated, so far as historical records are concerned, no information can be had. As a rule, however, whenever history fails tradition steps in.
Tradition tells that about the end of the 11th century there flourished a man named Althamer; that he was one of those famous, or infamous, sea rovers, better known as pirates, who had been wont for many years to keep the adjacent isles and the German Ocean astir. This continued till one day, being caught in a hurricane, he was swept round Gullane Point, right into the Firth of Forth, when his fragile bark was dashed to atoms among these very peaceable looking boulders lying loosely along the shore here.
Tradition continues: —That these shipwrecked mariners,
Back to top