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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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superiority over any other " order" that might follow, and that they had been accustomed to gather tithes from the monks of Newbattle there is every indication from the following extract from the "Newbattle Chartulary, " 16th July 1316: —
" By Mediation. —The Diocesan Abbot Gervase settled an old dispute between his Convent and the Canons of Holyrood touching the church and church lands of Bathcot and his tithes of the land of Salt Preston. In lieu of the 65 merks 20 pence of rent due by the canons and tenants of the Abbey of Salt Rocks, in the Carse of Valentia. This exchange gave rise four years later (1320) to an arrangement of the salt tithes of Preston with the perpetual Vicar of Tranent, also concluded by Gervase. "
The perpetual vicar of Tranent at this period was Andrew, hence we find, "in 1330, the monks of Newbattle made an agreement with Andrew, the perpetual vicar of Tranent, about the tithes of the village and the land which was called the Cottarie of Preston. " This looks as if the Abbey of Holyrood had continued to hold a superiority over the Abbey of Newbattle in all these lands.
It need not for a moment be supposed that these rival Abbeys would fraternise with each other. As sure as the canons of Holyrood had a church at Tranent, so sure would the monks of Newbattle have a church at Preston; and that they remained on the footing as adjusted by Gervase up till Reformation times may be taken for granted.
That there was a church at Preston, and that it was burned by Lord Hertford the same day he destroyed the Tower, is an historical fact; but even that gives no clue as to where it had been located; and the fact of both villages, during the early centuries, bearing the name of " Preston, " makes the matter all the more difficult to determine. The lower village no doubt was called " Salt Preston, " but this did not continue long, for even in 1606, when it was finally disjoined from Tranent, it was entitled by Act of Parliament —not even the parish of Prestonpans, or Salt Preston, but— the " Parish of Preston. "
Our earliest impressions were that the original church of Preston, because of the name, would surely be located in the upper village, and in the vicinity of the Preston Tower—but the evidence is not all on one side.
Tradition holds that a small church or chapel at one time stood inside the West Churchyard in lower Preston; and what
more natural, or more beautiful, than that the House of God and the habitation of the beloved dead should be adjacent to each other? What lends a certain credibility to this view, is the fact that several properties lying contiguous to the old burial-ground are described in their feu-charters as " bounded by the church or chapel yard, " but this is all we have to show that a church ever stood there.
We are more inclined than ever to the supposition that the original church of Preston, as erected by the monkish order at the Grange, was situated in upper Preston; because, not only did all their agricultural labours lie in that direction, but through it, during the early centuries, was the main highway of traffic; in it were several great men early located; in it we hear of fairs and markets being established, even a market-cross being erected, when the lower village is being passed by almost without notice; and we find that when Davidson the first minister was appointed (1595), it was not to Salt Prestoun, but to " South Prestoun, including ye Pannis east and west. " This of itself almost convinces us that the original church had been located at Preston.
There may have been a chapel in the West Churchyard, but see how Davidson was used. In his diary he laments that when one of his parishioners died he had nowhere to lay him. On applying for liberty to bury in the West Churchyard, he was refused by the Commendator at Newbattle because it was a " private burial-ground. " He had to go to Inveresk, and ultimately got liberty to bury his parishioner there, but only on condition that he would never ask such an obligation again. If ever there was a chapel in the West Churchyard, it must have been as private as the burial-ground, and not the church that was burned in 1544. It would not have been so readily forgotten had it been there, because Prestonpans at this period was beginning to flourish.
Davidson and his people set about getting a burial-place of their own, when the present ground at the church, which was then " Pinkerton's garden, " was obtained and turned into a place of sepulture. The West Churchyard would not be thrown open for public use till 1609, when the house of Newbattle disposed of the estate of Prestongrange to Morison.
From 1544 the people of Preston and Salt Preston had no church, and thus it remained for fully half-a-century. Being in 1544 still one parish, the people obtained the right to attend Tranent church, but this was unsatisfactory to all.
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