| superiority over any other " order" that might
follow, and that they had been accustomed to gather tithes
from the monks of Newbattle there is every indication from
the following extract from the "Newbattle Chartulary,
" 16th July 1316: —
" By Mediation. —The Diocesan Abbot Gervase settled an
old dispute between his Convent and the Canons of Holyrood
touching the church and church lands of Bathcot and his tithes
of the land of Salt Preston. In lieu of the 65 merks 20 pence
of rent due by the canons and tenants of the Abbey of Salt
Rocks, in the Carse of Valentia. This exchange gave rise four
years later (1320) to an arrangement of the salt tithes of
Preston with the perpetual Vicar of Tranent, also concluded
by Gervase. "
The perpetual vicar of Tranent at this period was Andrew,
hence we find, "in 1330, the monks of Newbattle made
an agreement with Andrew, the perpetual vicar of Tranent,
about the tithes of the village and the land which was called
the Cottarie of Preston. " This looks as if the Abbey
of Holyrood had continued to hold a superiority over the Abbey
of Newbattle in all these lands.
It need not for a moment be supposed that these rival Abbeys
would fraternise with each other. As sure as the canons of
Holyrood had a church at Tranent, so sure would the monks
of Newbattle have a church at Preston; and that they remained
on the footing as adjusted by Gervase up till Reformation
times may be taken for granted.
That there was a church at Preston, and that it was burned
by Lord Hertford the same day he destroyed the Tower, is an
historical fact; but even that gives no clue as to where it
had been located; and the fact of both villages, during the
early centuries, bearing the name of " Preston, "
makes the matter all the more difficult to determine. The
lower village no doubt was called " Salt Preston, "
but this did not continue long, for even in 1606, when it
was finally disjoined from Tranent, it was entitled by Act
of Parliament —not even the parish of Prestonpans, or Salt
Preston, but— the " Parish of Preston. "
Our earliest impressions were that the original church of
Preston, because of the name, would surely be located in the
upper village, and in the vicinity of the Preston Tower—but
the evidence is not all on one side.
Tradition holds that a small church or chapel at one time
stood inside the West Churchyard in lower Preston; and what
more natural, or more beautiful, than that the House of God
and the habitation of the beloved dead should be adjacent
to each other? What lends a certain credibility to this view,
is the fact that several properties lying contiguous to the
old burial-ground are described in their feu-charters as "
bounded by the church or chapel yard, " but this is all
we have to show that a church ever stood there.
We are more inclined than ever to the supposition that the
original church of Preston, as erected by the monkish order
at the Grange, was situated in upper Preston; because, not
only did all their agricultural labours lie in that direction,
but through it, during the early centuries, was the main highway
of traffic; in it were several great men early located; in
it we hear of fairs and markets being established, even a
market-cross being erected, when the lower village is being
passed by almost without notice; and we find that when Davidson
the first minister was appointed (1595), it was not to Salt
Prestoun, but to " South Prestoun, including ye Pannis
east and west. " This of itself almost convinces us that
the original church had been located at Preston.
There may have been a chapel in the West Churchyard, but see
how Davidson was used. In his diary he laments that when one
of his parishioners died he had nowhere to lay him. On applying
for liberty to bury in the West Churchyard, he was refused
by the Commendator at Newbattle because it was a " private
burial-ground. " He had to go to Inveresk, and ultimately
got liberty to bury his parishioner there, but only on condition
that he would never ask such an obligation again. If ever
there was a chapel in the West Churchyard, it must have been
as private as the burial-ground, and not the church that was
burned in 1544. It would not have been so readily forgotten
had it been there, because Prestonpans at this period was
beginning to flourish.
Davidson and his people set about getting a burial-place of
their own, when the present ground at the church, which was
then " Pinkerton's garden, " was obtained and turned
into a place of sepulture. The West Churchyard would not be
thrown open for public use till 1609, when the house of Newbattle
disposed of the estate of Prestongrange to Morison.
From 1544 the people of Preston and Salt Preston had no church,
and thus it remained for fully half-a-century. Being in 1544
still one parish, the people obtained the right to attend
Tranent church, but this was unsatisfactory to all.