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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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is a small matter. " A very funny conclusion indeed to arrive at.
Hitherto we find no reference to the price of that commodity, but in 1798 "the price of salt, " says the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, has advanced here from l0d. to 2s. per peck. The additional duty is about 8|d. per peck, so that the vendor draws a considerable profit from the tax—much more, surely, than he can with reason or justice claim. "
Had this tax been put on in 1779 it would have caused little surprise, for the sailer, like the collier, previous to that date was a serf, subject to be sold with the salt work to the highest bidder. It was in 1779 that the salter also got his freedom, when he was at liberty to roam at will, and work when and where he pleased. At this particular period the price of coal was raised; the price of salt might have been raised too for the very same reason; but the masters of both industries were equally alike mistaken in their suppositions. They feared their men would desert them altogether, or work considerably less than they did in bondage, but the outcome was a very much larger output of both commodities. Between 1787 and 1792 the output of salt at Prestonpans and neighbourhood had increased to about 84, 000 bushels per annum.
The Salt Duty was repealed in 1826. And about this period there was a great increase in the number of salt works in the village. But the work seems to have been overdone, for during the early part of the same century many of the new beginners collapsed. Those, however, who held steadily on their way continued not only to increase the trade in the district, but to increase the fame which Prestonpans early gained and has ever retained as a salt producing locality.
At the present time there are only two salt pans going in the village, but these, owing to their size and capability, are equal to at least four of the old times. Mr William Alexander Meek is sole proprietor.
Some years ago we wrote the following account for the Evening Dispatch, which, with apologies to the editor, we reproduce: —
" A few years after the salter had obtained his freedom, and before the century which beheld his liberation from serfdom had drawn to a close, another new venture in saltmaking was engaged in at Cockenzie. The promoters in this case were a company of Englishmen, and the system they proceeded on differed greatly from anything that had hitherto been attempted in East Lothian. This new erection was entitled the " threefold pan, " from the fact of there being, instead of one large entire pan, a combination of three pans, built in such a manner that they could act separately, the three standing on platforms of different altitudes. No. 1 was of copper construction, No. 2 of iron, No. 3 of the same material, but of much lighter plate. There was no rock salt used in those days, only pure sea water. No. 1 pan being filled with sea water, it was allowed to boil down to about a half, which was run off into pan No. 2. Here again it was, by the same method, reduced to a half, and emptied into No. 3, where it was allowed wholly to evaporate. At this stage only a thin white coating of salt, scarcely discernible, would remain on the plates forming the bottom of No. 3 pan. Meantime a second boiling of sea water was running a course of the pans. At the end of this time from a half to three-quarters of an inch of salt would be formed. A third boiling followed, and, when evaporation had ceased, from an inch and a half to a couple of inches in depth of salt would be found. This new enter- prise, however, proved no more successful than that of Dr Schwediaur at the beginning of the century (of which more hereafter), and in a very few years it was given up.
Prior to the year 1810 the pans in use for the manufacture of salt were about fourteen feet in length. They were built on pillars, and called " sole pans, " from the fact of their being fired from the ground. A pavement of large flags was laid beneath them. On this the wood and coal were piled wherewith the pans were heated. The earliest method of supplying the pans with water was, as may readily be surmised, the bucket-in-hand system. This, while fraught with not a little danger, was a most laborious process. One of the men—it went by turn—would divest himself of his clothing, almost to nudity, and, with a bucket in his hand, would proceed to sea, as far as he could with safety to himself, because the farther from the shore the stronger the water, consequently the better it was for the purpose of salt making. Thence he would return with his bucket full to the shore, where another awaited ready to receive and forward it to the pan.
The bucket-in-hand system was at an early period supplanted by the bucket-and-wand. A circular dyke, low enough to let the tide, when full, lap over it, was built around some hollow place among the rocks. To the dyke was attached a long hickory (wand) stick, but fixed so that it could act with lever power, and with a bucket attached to one end of it. On the tide receding, the hollow place inside the dyke remained
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