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Archaeological Background

Prestongrange is an open air colliery museum located between Musselburgh and Prestonpans. Standing remains of the 19th century colliery predominate the site but also visually disguise the fact that the site has had a lengthy and highly significant social and economic past.

Historical documents and cartographic sources identified that the area was being used for coal exploitation and salt panning as far back as the 12th and 13th century and that the land was leased to the monks of Newbattle. A harbour at Morrison’s Haven was established by the 16th century by Newbattle Abbey and prior to the harbour accounts suggest that there would have been some stores and workshops at the coast. The harbour was subject to continual repair and improvement until it was abandoned in the early 20th century and partly filled in with ash waste and other debris.

One tidal mill was located at the harbour and a stone fort was built close by, which was later pulled down by Cromwell in 1650 on his march to Leith. There are also map references to there being underground vaults in the immediate vicinity of this fort.

By the 17th century Prestongrange was home to an industrial glass making facility, the first of its kind in Scotland. In the early part of the 17th century fine glassware was being produced by itinerant Venetian glass workers and by the later part of the same century, mirror glass and plate glass were being produced. By the 18th century a pottery was founded on exactly the same site as the glassworks and, together with other important east coast potteries of the period, was producing various pottery wares that were being exported across Europe and further afield

The coal industry of the estate of Prestongrange was revitalised by the sinking of Scotland’s first deep (70 fathom; c140 metre) shaft close to the site of the pottery in 1829. By the 1870s the colliery expanded, with a second shaft in 1872-4 and a third (air) shaft around 1914-18, however, coal production ceased in 1961 and, finally, brick production ceased around 1975.