Prestongrange Museum is an industrial heritage museum at Prestongrange between Musselburgh and Prestonpans on the B1348 on the East Lothian coast, Scotland. For centuries Prestongrange was a place of intense industrial activity. A harbour, glass works, pottery, colliery and brickworks have all left their marks on the landscape. Cradled by woodland with views out over the Forth the site is now a haven for wildlife where visitors are free to roam and explore monumental relics of Scotland's industrial heritage. Discover giant machines such as the pit head winding gear and a Cornish beam engine, fantastic structures like the powerhouse and a vast brick kiln as well as coal wagons, a steam crane and much more besides. The site is free to visit all year round but it comes alive between between April and September when the Visitor Centre, exhibitions, café and other buildings are open. Take a guided tour with one of the knowledgeable members of staff and discover the history of the site – a story of monks, mining and industrial might spanning over 800 years. The museums also runs a programme of unique fun events for all ages. There is lots for kids to do at Prestongrange with activity sheets, outdoor games and toys and an indoor play area for smaller children. The name Prestongrange comes from the medieval village of Preston or "Priests' Town". A "Grange" was a farm belonging to a religious house. Please click on the following links for a self-guided audio tour.
By the early 1960s the strategy of the National Coal Board meant that all of East Lothian’s and most of Midlothian’s collieries were earmarked for closure. At the same time within the coalfield community there was an awareness that technology and culture was also changing and much that was of significance was in danger of being lost forever. Prestongrange had three key merits as a museum site. The estate features in the earliest written account of collieries in Scotland, often dated to 1180-1210. The existing colliery included the first deep shaft in Scotland, which Matthias Dunn of Newcastle sank in 1830 to the Great Seam at 420 feet (128 m). The colliery housed the last Cornish beam engine remaining in situ in Scotland. Artefacts were collected from around the coalfield and stored at Prestongrange. The interior of the beam engine house and the colliery power station became galleries. With the closure of Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange in 1981 the ambitions of the steering group expanded to include that site. After operating together from 1984 to 1992 Prestongrange was withdrawn from the National Mining Museum by East Lothian District Council and recast as Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum to encompass the area’s other once significant but vanished industries – salt boiling, chemical synthesis (particularly sulphuric acid), soap making, glass making, potteries, industrial ceramics and bricks.
The Brick & Pipe Works. The centre of the site at first glance gives little impression of a factory's presence here. However, looking down you should see the circular bases of the old beehive kilns. Kilns are giant ovens used for baking bricks and clay drainage pipes. Beehive kilns gained their name because of their distinctive shape. Up to twenty of them once stood here at the heart of the complex. When fired, the smoke belching from these kilns contained pollutants such as toxic flint dust. It meant potworkers were at constant risk of getting lung disease or lead poisoning. Clay from the mines and local clay pits was easily available although better quality China clays were later imported from Derbyshire. A succession of local landowners and leaseholding families ran Prestongrange's industries. Among them in the nineteenth century the Gordons and the Grant-Sutties. Each owner or Company invested in new ideas, buildings and equipment to try and exploit the area's full potential. For example, at the beginning of the last century the Summerlee Company replaced the kilns with new designs according to the demands for bricks or glazed pipes. It was under Summerlee that the brickworks had its greatest period of production.
Hoffman Kiln. Towering over the complex is the last of many chimneys from which poured smoke escaping from the brick kilns below. The low-lying building nearby is the sole surviving kiln on the site. It is called a Hoffman Continuous Kiln, originally a German design, but this kiln is a variant designed by Cleghorn and built in 1937. At their peak, these vast chambers baked thirty thousand bricks at one firing. There are twenty four open chambers here. The raw clay bricks would be placed in each. Once the kiln entrances and chamber divisions had been bricked up and sealed with clay paste, the firing would begin. During the firing, coal was added through vents in the roof. A firing lasted fifty hours or more. The brickworks was one of the most successful operations at Prestongrange and outlasted the pit by more than a decade. The works continued by importing clay and coal right up to the 1970s. If you choose to enter the kiln, please be wary of the uneven surfaces, low doorways and poor lighting.
A century ago, the scene you would have surveyed here would have been dirty, noisy, busy and crowded: an intensely industrial area with great brick chimneys, various sizes of beehive-shaped [brick] kilns, high walls and ominous grey factory buildings all coated by a frequent outpouring of choking, grey smoke. Today, looking north towards the brick-built nineteen fifties Bathhouse in front of the road, you might just glimpse the sea. The ancient harbour of Morrison's or Acheson's Haven lies just beyond at the other side of the present main road. Before the harbour there was a Draught, a place to safely draw up boats. Fishermen dredged oysters from offshore beds for centuries. The nearby harbour was recently filled in, but its story is central to their tale. By the middle of the seventeen hundreds, the Haven had become a busy trading port from which both salt and oysters were exported in ever increasing quantities. Ships took away local glassware, ceramics, chemicals, including vast amounts of Oil of Vitriol (or sulphuric acid), bricks, fireclay and of course, coal. In return, they brought in goods such as French brandy, raisins and Port wine from Portugal; silk, whalebone and Delft chinaware from Holland; Russian leather from Danzig in the Baltic and furs from Hudson's Bay in Canada. The fate of the Haven has been closely linked to the successes and failures of the industries at and around Prestongrange. Right up to the late 1920s, ships were calling in at Morrison's Haven to pick up loads of up to six hundred tons of coal or bricks, but after lying disused for many years, it was filled in and the site was landscaped.
The Winding Engine. If you look up the slope at the grassy bank you will see some of the mine's old railway wagons. These would carry coal out onto the main east coast line. A different type of wagon was used take coal down to the harbour where they would be side-cowped or tipped on its side into the hold of the collier boats. Next to these is the silent presence of a large steel Drum on a brick foundation. This is the remains of a steam Winding Engine typically used at East Lothian collieries. The Drum carried a cable that passed over a Headgear and into the shaft. Its cables lowered and raised cages of men and lifted coal from the blackest depths of the earth. A little way further down the hill from here, at the other side of the car park you can see a head gear still stands. In front of the Winding engine is the ghostly presence of the miners cage (or lift) standing amid the foundations of the shaft house. It sits directly above the shaft. Notice its two tiers. Holding up to twenty miners it was a kind of double-decker bus. Although this one is modern, for ninety years open cages like this ran from the surface to the Pit bottom - eight hundred feet below.
Cornish Beam Engine. This building with its great beam and rod reaching down into the ground houses some remarkable machinery. In 1874, the Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company bought a second-hand steam-powered Cornish Beam Engine to tackle the problem of flooding. This machine had already worked at four different mines at the other end of Britain. It was dismantled then shipped north. It would play crucial role at Prestongrange. It was manufactured by J. E. Mare & Co of Plymouth to the design of engineers Hocking & Loam and used in three different mines in Cornwall before being purchased by the Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company in 1874 and shipped north. It was bought from a Cornish Mine site by Harvey and Company of Hayle, who sold it on to Prestongrange complete with a new beam of their own manufacture. Installation was no mean feat: the main engine weighed thirty tons. The engine house was built first and used to hoist the engine into place. If you move around to the rear of the building you might spot the archway which was one of the final pieces constructed after the great beam and carriage truss were winched into place. Although not noticeable from the outside, the front wall is nearly seven feet thick in order to withstand the stresses of the working machine. The engine eventually stopped running in 1954, just eight years before the colliery closed for good. Its job was taken over by electric pumps. The Prestongrange Cornish Beam Engine is unique in Scotland.
The Power House.The Power House was built around the same time as the investments made by new owners, Summerlee Coal and Iron Company. At that time, the generators would have been driven by steam boilers on site. Eventually it supplied all of the sites electricity needs including outdoor and interior lighting. Today, the Power House hosts temporary exhibitions. There may be some displays on during your visit. A large labour force was needed for Summerlees' operations at Prestongrange. Early on Summerlee brought in workers from the West of Scotland. Many were Irish. At several times in the early years of the Twentieth Century the workforce was over a thousand. They were employed between the mines and the brickworks. The new workers were housed close by at Cuthill at the edge of Prestonpans. Their names, such as Tracy, Clark, Gunn and McAuley are still in evidence in today's community. Local customs and traditions such as the miners' Gala Days grew along with the population, bringing colour and life to the community.
The Glass Works and Pottery site. Walking along the path towards the car park it may be difficult to imagine that a glass factory existed here more than three hundred years ago. Almost nothing remains above ground to show that glass making took place. At the end of the seventeenth century William Morison set up a commercial glassworks here. He was ambitious and initially successful in producing high quality glassware such as spectacle lenses and window glass as well as bottles for the local breweries. German craftsmen were brought in specially to produce more delicate items. Its fine domestic glassware was intended to grace the dining rooms of the Edinburgh salons. As far as they know, no examples of any Morrison glass have been identified. William Morrison successfully lobbied the Scots Parliament to grant him a monopoly over the industry and particularly his nearest rivals in Leith. Interestingly, William Morrison, was himself a Member of Parliament. However, despite this help, the glassworks was often in trouble. By the mid-eighteenth century the site was a pottery, producing a range of domestic ceramics. A gable-end behind the cottages at the East end of the site gives a clue as to one of the earlier pottery buildings. Perhaps there, the skilled potters would have made hand-thrown and moulded domestic wares. Certainly broken pieces of eighteenth and ninteenth century pottery still lie scattered on the ground round about. Much of the site is covered by 1980s tree-planting, but it is currently being investigated as part of their Community Archaeology Project.
In addition to the above there is a fine Visitor Centre with an exhibition, and the remains of the railway system with rolling stock. The Museum is also the gateway to the annual Three Harbours Festival, jointly organised by the communities of Prestonpans, Prestongrange, Cockenzie, Port Seton and other nearby areas such as West Pans and Drum Mhor. The Museum grounds are also used for local events, guided tours, theatrical performances, and during the annual re-enactments of the Battle of Prestonpans. The best way to explore Prestongrange is by taking a guided tour with one of our knowledgeable, friendly members of staff. Join us to discover the history and stories of the site that will paint a picture of monks, mining and industrial might that spans more than 800 years. Guided tours are booked and begin at the Visitor Centre and are dependent upon the Visitor Centre opening hours. The self guided audio tour may be accessed on your phone by dailing 0870 005 3161 and then pressing 0 through 9 to choose the relevant section. The site is wheelchair accessible. There are public toilet facilities. The Pithead Canteen is located in the Visitor Centre, which once served as the canteen for the industrial workers at Prestongrange. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Prestongrange Museum, Morrisons Haven, Prestonpans EH32 9RX
Transport: Wallyford (National Rail) then 20 minutes OR Edinburgh Waverley (National Rail) then bus (X26). Bus Routes : 26, X26 (Lothian Buses) and 128 (Eve Coaches) stop close by
Opening Times Visitors Centre, Cafe : 1st April to 30th September, Daily 11:30 to 16:30; Museum site is always open for self guided tours.
Tickets : Free; Guided Tours £2.70 per person
Tel : 0131 653 2904