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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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These great manufacturers, for they were great in their day, commenced business as a firm about 1750, and their works extended almost from Ayre's Wynd on the west, to and including a considerable portion of the present soap works on the east, and for years gave employment to some forty or fifty men and boys. The whiteware made here, among other items, included cups and saucers, plates, bowls, bottles, greybeards, etc.; and while this was in full swing, they opened in addition, along where Camperdown Villas now stand, a very extensive brick, tile, can and drain-pipe manufactory, and carried on their very extensive businesses up to the beginning of the 19th century. But the stramash came at length. Thomson had become security for Laidlaw, who owned salt and sulphur works towards the west end of the village, for the sum of £2000. Laidlaw came down with a crash, and Thomson was compelled to pay up; but though he was quite hale and healthy, the transaction so preyed upon his mind that he took to bed and never got up again.
Watson succeeded to these great and flourishing businesses, but they shortly after began to decay and were ultimately given up some years previous to the middle of last century.
Rombach and Cubie's potteries closed about the end of the eighteenth century.
Another of these old salt works, situated towards the east end of the village, which had increased to a great extent about the middle of the eighteenth century, gradually began to drop off towards the end of the century making the more common articles of commerce, and set up over its entrance the much more imposing sign "Chemical Works: " This got rapidly into a very extensive business. The goods manufactured here included sulphate of soda, sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic acids, and at one time these works in the height of their prosperity gave employment to upwards of half a hundred men. The first quarter of last century beheld the closing of the gates as a chemical manufactory.
During the early part of last century, while Napoleon was threatening a visit to our shores and everybody were bent on
defending their homes and hearths, the sailors and fishermen here also formed themselves into a volunteer company. There was a little compulsion in it, because the " pressgang" were abroad, and all who did not volunteer with goodwill had to go against their will, but all who joined the volunteer " pykemen " or " coastguardmen " were supplied with a government certificate insuring them against being " pressed. " There are several of these certificates still in the village; our gallant "pykemen, " however, never happened to have a brush with the French.

" The quantity of soap used in a country is a guage of its wealth and civilisation. "—BARON VON LIEBIG.
Situate in High Street and extending south to Kirk Street are the soap works of Messrs. James Mellis and Company, founded shortly after the stirring times of the '45, and so now making their acquaintance with a third century. Their story tells like a romance.
So much has soap become one of " the common things of life " that we fail to appreciate what a boon it is. The ancients, feeling the need of something more even than "pure snow water, " tried "anointing with oil" and " washing with nitre and much sope, " which was probably some alkaline earth; and, strange to say, it is a union of these ingredients that goes to make the soap of to-day. Pliny writing early in the first century tells us that the best article then known was made from the suet of goats and beechwood ashes; and, crude though this product must have been, there was no great improvement in the materials or manufacture till the seventeenth century. Various reasons are given for the slow progress made in this country. Monopolies were granted to favourites, however incompetent, — to " His Majesty's daily servitor, " for instance, —and no wonder we read that there was much complaint of the quality and the price. In these advanced times we are more free from state monopolies, and we fail to understand legislation that would tax a man for letting light into his house or for washing grime from his body or clothing. But it was only in 1853 that an excise duty, equal to the value of the article itself, was taken off soap ! The removal of this hampering restriction gave a great impetus to the trade, and new materials and unfettered methods came quickly into use. This liberty the late Mr James Mellis was not slow to put to advantage, and the results of his _ great practical knowledge and his matured plans are still seen in the
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