29 April 2022
A new museum is set to open on 30 April at Prestonpans Town Hall following a refurbishment of the Victorian building by The Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust.
The exhibition, which is free to visit (with donations welcomed), focuses on the Battle of Prestonpans, a critical Jacobite conflict in 1745 which left a historical and cultural legacy that is still felt today. A programme of supporting exhibitions will address a variety of themes as well as local history topics. The exhibition texts will be available in both English and Gaelic.
Battle of Prestonpans Jacobite Museum
The Battle of Prestonpans Jacobite Museum is based at the town hall building on the High Street, which has been renovated to reflect more of its original Victorian features. The centerpiece will be an eight-foot diorama of the battlefield as it looked back in 1745, setting the fighting amongst landmarks which can still be seen today. The museum will also display sections of the famous 105 metre Prestonpans Tapestry, which will be changed every 5 months to advance the story.
QUICK LINK: GET 2 ISSUES OF HISTORY SCOTLAND FOR JUST £2!
Historical artefacts on display at the museum will include:
- musket-balls recovered from the battlefield
- contemporary engravings and newspaper reports
- original letters written by local resident Colonel James Gardiner, who was mortally wounded in the battle. A piece of the thorn-tree under which he met his fate will also be displayed.
The museum will welcome visitors of all ages, with children able to explore a camp area with tents and a mock campfire, allowing youngsters an insight into the lives of the soldiers who took part in the battle. Special sessions have been designed for school classes too, and groups are invited to book private visits to the museum. A programme of events and activities will run throughout the year, starting with a chance to meet Jacobite and Redcoat re-enactors during the opening weekend.
The museum also has plans to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a special exhibition from 4 June featuring panels from the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. That tapestry depicts scenes of Scotland’s connections with 35 countries and communities, and this themed display selects panels with royal connections. The town hall originally opened in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
October will see the royal exhibition replaced with a show exploring the Viking sagas told in a set of embroidered panels stitched by volunteers in Iceland, and the legend of the founding of Prestonpans by a Viking raider.
The Battle of Prestonpans Jacobite Museum will be open to the public at weekends, with groups and school visits welcomed by appointment during the week. Entry is free, although its operation will be entirely supported by visitor donations.
Prestonpans Town Hall was placed in the care of The Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust in 2021. The Trust, a registered charity promoting the Battle of Prestonpans and its associated heritage for the benefit of both local and visiting audiences and the communities surrounding the battlefield, took over the lease of the hall in spring 2021 on a five-year basis. The hall, which opened in 1897 and has been an important part of community life in Prestonpans, was no longer in regular use prior to the recent COVID restrictions and had been mothballed. The Trust has spent almost a year refurbishing the facilities.
The Trust’s plans for its five-year lease are intended not only to interpret the significant story of the battle, but also to support footfall on Prestonpans High Street. Visits to the museum can also be combined with the battlefield tours, either with an expert guide or through the Trust’s free mobile app.
2027 and beyond….
The new museum at Prestonpans Town Hall is an important stepping stone towards the development of a permanent visitor attraction for the battle capable of housing the full Prestonpans Tapestry. The Trust has, with the support of East Lothian Council, entered into an agreement with Hargreaves to develop an international quality living history centre and museum on the edge of the battlefield at Blindwells, which is scheduled to open in 2027.
To find out more about The Trust or to register your interest as a volunteer, visit the website.
Battle of Prestonpans Jacobite Museum, Prestonpans, East Lothian.
Images courtesy and copyright Chris Watts Photography
Love Scotland's history? Join the History Scotland newsletter for fortnightly history, archaeology and heritage news and reads.