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Battle Trust PETITIONS Scotland's Parliament .....

Asking Scotland's Parliament for Support for the Living History Centre

The Trustees have submitted their Petition [PE1387] to Parliament seeking Government Support of £5m towards a total cost of £7m to create a Living History Centre [including the new Tapestry Pavilion] at the Heritage Museum site at Morrison's Haven.


SPICe also offered Petitions Committee members the following Briefing alongside the Trust's Petition.

SPICe Briefing for Petitions Committee : PETITION 1387 [HERE]

[The Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust] Calls on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to provide financial support for the creation of a permanent interpretation and education centre close to the site of the Battle of Prestonpans.


The Battle of Prestonpans, which took place on 21 September 1745, provided the Jacobites under Charles Edward Stuart and Lord George Murray with their most significant victory of the "Forty Five" Rising. In a short battle, the Jacobites routed the inexperienced government forces under Lt General Sir John Cope [capturing most and] forcing the [remainder] to retreat to Berwick. This victory was pivotal in that it helped energise the Jacobite Rising and led to the Treaty of Fontainebleau which formalised a military alliance between the Jacobites and France.

The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust [the Battle Trust] was established in 2006 on the initiative of the Prestonpans Community Council and the Prestoungrange Arts Festival. The remit of the Battle Trust includes the following: “… to ensure more proper 'conservation, interpretation and presentation' of the battle of Prestonpans.”

The Trust, along with the Prestoungrange Arts Festival, commissioned the creation of a 104 panel tapestry commemorating events around the battle. The Prestonpans Tapestry was completed in 2010 after two years work and has travelled around Scotland, including a visit to the Scottish Parliament in December last year.

The Battle Trust has articulated a "Dream" which includes safeguarding the battle site and associated monuments by ensuring they are protected from encroaching development, and the creation of a permanent and accessible resource centre to provide an interpretation of the Battle of Prestonpans and to act as a self financing tourist destination for the benefit of the local and national economy, with the aim of attracting at least 150,000* visitors annually. The resource centre would also provide a permanent home for the Prestonpans Tapestry.

The Trust has plans to build this centre on the site of the Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum. The projected cost of the project is £7 million which, the Trust say, is:
“… based on designs by Pollock Hammond Architects for the conversion of the existing Bath House at the Museum into a state-of-the-art battle interpretation centre and the creation of a purpose built Tapestry Pavilion”.

East Lothian Council has agreed to donate** the Bath House building and land for the Tapestry Pavilion on the museum site and will raise the necessary funds for the restoration of the remaining museum structures. The Battle Trust is committed to raising £2 million towards the project and is seeking the balance of £5 million from the Scottish Government.

Scottish Government Action

Scottish Ministers, through Historic Scotland, are currently consulting on the creation of an inventory of nationally important battlefields in Scotland (see Scottish Historic Environment Policy (SHEP) 2009). The consultation period runs from 13 December 2010 until 11 February 2011. The Battle of Prestonpans is included as a candidate site in the consultation documents. The accompanying documents also include a paper describing the battle in detail, its historic and cultural significance and the current state of the historic battlefield and associated monuments.

The Inventory of Historic Battlefields will be delivered in two stages, the first by March 2011 and the second by March 2012.

Section 11 of the Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which will be considered by the Parliament at stage 3 on 20 January, seeks to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 to require the Scottish Ministers to compile and maintain (in such form as they think fit) an inventory of such battlefields as appear to them to be of national importance.

The Battle Trust in their annual report (2009) say that Michael Russell MSP, then Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, met with the Trustees in Spring 2009 to discuss the Campaign's progress and that he was sufficiently impressed to pledge the Government's support for the project.

Scottish Parliament Action

In November 2006, John Home Robertson MSP for East Lothian asked the then Scottish Executive:
"… whether it will co-operate with the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust to seek to safeguard the site of the battlefield and to promote awareness of its local and national significance."

In response, Patricia Ferguson MSP, then Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, said: "The Executive is taking steps to promote awareness of battlefields in Scotland, and recognises Prestonpans as a site of national significance. We are committed to working in partnership with the voluntary sector, and are happy to talk to the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust; indeed a meeting between the Trust and Executive officials took place recently".

Motion S2M-05566 was lodged by John Home Robertson MSP on 8 February 2007. The motion was as follows:
“That the Parliament acknowledges the historic significance of battlefield sites from Scotland's violent past and notes the success of the National Trust for Scotland in interpreting the site of the final defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden Moor; recognises the powerful case for protection and appropriate management of hitherto neglected battlefield sites throughout Scotland; pays tribute to the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust for its proposals to preserve, enhance and interpret the site of the Jacobite victory of 21 September 1745 and welcomes the active support of the wider local community for this initiative, and hopes that the battlefield site at Prestonpans will be protected and made accessible for the benefit of local people and visitors”.

The motion was not debated in the Parliament.

Denis Oag
Principal Researcher
14 January 2011

*Ed. SPICe incorrectly wrote 250,000 not 150,000 - the latter is the estimate from RGA's Visitor Studies [2010].

**Ed. The word 'donate' is 'legally' incorrect and East Lothian Council has asked the Battle Trust to correct any wrong impression conveyed thereby. The Trust of course apologises and has written to the Petitions Committee and suggested the paragraph be amended to read:

'East Lothian Council has agreed to make available part of the BathHouse building and adjacent land on the museum site for the Tapestry Pavilion and will seek to raise the necessary funds for the restoration of the remaining museum structures. The Council will continue to work
with the Trust and to support its plans for the battle and tapestry centre'.

Published Date: January 17th 2011

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