A BATTLE trust has taken over a mothballed town hall, with plans to create a museum, exhibition space and activity centre for its local community.

The Battle of Prestonpans Trust has taken on a five-year lease of Prestonpans Town Hall, which was built by public subscription 126 years ago.

The trust, a registered charity promoting the Battle of Prestonpans and its heritage, plans to refurbish the hall, which has been closed during the pandemic.

It will also use the building to support its work towards a permanent living history centre which is due to open at the new settlement of Blindwells in the county in 2027.

The trust has been seeking a permanent home for the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry and Scottish Diaspora Tapestry for a number of years and aims to site them in the new centre.

In the meantime, it is expected that parts of the tapestries, which have drawn crowds all over the world while on tour, will be put on display in the town hall.

Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, joint chair of the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust, said: “Our programme of activity and restoration at the town hall will leave the legacy of an improved space and strengthened community engagement.

 “The town hall will become a hub for our ongoing activity, creating exciting new volunteering and skills-building opportunities.

“We look forward to welcoming school groups, hosting talks, workshops and events.

“Whilst the trust’s focus is the famous battle of 1745, we also plan to interpret the history of the town hall itself, and are committed to working with other heritage groups to ensure the facility serves as a valuable link to the wider historical story of Prestonpans.

“We look forward to the community council being able to meet again in the refurbished hall, just as the town’s council did until 1975. All this will provide increased momentum as we work towards our living history centre at Blindwells.”

 Sharon Saunders, head of communities, East Lothian Council, welcomed the new agreement with the trust.

She said: “We are keen to build on the role the town hall has played over many years, by giving the community the opportunity to take on an enhanced role in its running, which has the potential to maximise its use for the benefit of folk in the area.

“This is a great example of partnership working and empowering local communities.

“It’s an exciting time for the community and we wish the heritage trust every success in taking these plans forward.”

The town hall will be manned by volunteers and managed by the trust’s sessional staff.

The main hall will be used for an exhibition about the people and places connected to the battle, and for sections of the tapestries.

A model of the battlefield will be refurbished for display and a dedicated children’s ‘camp’ will allow youngsters to try on replica 18th-century clothing and explore specially created resources.

A community corner will provide space for small temporary displays and the promotion of other heritage projects or activities in the area. The stage area will be retained and enhanced for talks and performances.

The former ante-chamber will be transformed into a meeting room, which will also operate as an education room for school groups and workshop events.