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Preston & Tranent Towers - How did they figure in the '45?

Yahoo Flickr Raises some Questions: Anyone got Answers?

The suggestion is made that Tranent Tower [not to be confused with the late 19th century pub of the same name, or indeed with the doocot that stands just northwest beneath Tranent Churchyard where the Camerons took canon fire from the redcoats on the afternoon of September 20th ....] that Tranent Tower might have been used by The Prince as a lookout point on September 20th. Indeed it might since it would have had a commanding view across the marshes and fields to the Forth, unless the Earl of Hertford 1547 [later Duke of Somerset] or Cromwell [1650] had messed it up so much as to render it useless in '45.

What Flickr has to say - HERE:

"Tranent Tower was visited by Nigel Tranter in the 1960s and still had a roof on then, although he stated that it was close to falling in.

It duly did! Tranter goes on to say "Modern Tranent is not so rich in traditional architecture and charm generally that it can afford to lose this pleasing little relic of a past age. Its size would make its restoration of moderate cost." Maybe the 'Belters' were unimpressed with his thoughts about their town because it would seem that nobody took much notice of his opinion for the better part of 50 years, however that may be all about to change. Word has it that the building has recently sold at auction (they were looking for a sum of £45,000 for it), so hopefully things are looking up again!

click to enlarge both images


"Not much of the tower’s history appears to be known. Though now surrounded by the town, it would seem to have been built as a country laird’s house on a small scale. It was probably built in the 16th century by the Seton family, and then about the beginning of the 17th century the property was acquired by the family of Wallange or Vallance, who retained in until late last century (late 1800s). It is said to have been the only property within the Barony on Tranent which held its feu charter directly of the crown, the ‘rental mail’ being traditionally a snowball in midsummer and a rose in midwinter annually, the feu collector to proceed to the top of the tower to receive this. How the snowball was produced we are not told – though it is just possible that one of the many underground coal workings might have served as an ice-box to store a suitable consignment of snow. [Ed: The ancient Baronial title was recently offered for sale by the executors of the late Baron David Garrison for a sum in excess of £50,000.]

"The early stages of the Battle of Prestonpans occurred not far from here. The Jacobite army, arriving from Edinburgh, kept mostly to the brow of the hill here, from which they were able to look down at the Hanovarian army, who had marched here from Dunbar and had taken up a very strong position on the coastal plain below. There was a brief exchange of musketry in the late afternoon around the church, after which the two sides separated to contemplate what to do next. The Jacobites spent the night up here and Tranent Tower was probably used by them, but by the morning they were gone, led off through the morning mist by a local man, who knew a path that circumnavigated the bogs that protected the front of the Hanovarian position, and allowed them to reach a position from where they made their startlingly successful surprise attack."

"Preston Tower is one of four fortified laird's houses that stand quite close together within the town of Prestonpans - a most unusual situation. It would seem that they were not 'townhouses' as such, like 'Argyll's Lodgings' in the town of Stirling for example, but the seats of country lairds. The common thread that perhaps explains their proximity would seem to be the Hamilton family, who were so influential and prosperous right across the central belt of Scotland in the early 17th century. The others are Hamilton House, Northfield House and Harlawhill."



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[Editor] We do know from Carlyle's Autobiography that Preston Tower was used by spectators on the 21st September and possibly by the redcoats the day previous for observing the Highlanders. The ruin it now is has been carefully preserved along with the Laburnam arched gardens.

Published Date: February 4th 2009


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