PRESTONPANS Town Hall will mark its 125th anniversary this weekend with a very Victorian flavour.

A series of events and activities will commemorate the building’s history, including a recreation of the opening ceremony based on records of speeches taken from The Haddingtonshire Courier in 1897.

Volunteers will be kitted out in full Victorian regalia to bring a piece of the past to the modern day, and help visitors get a taste of what the town hall was like 125 years ago.

An actor will portray the influential politician Richard Haldane, then MP for Haddingtonshire, who formally opened Prestonpans’ new town hall.

The speeches, delivered in top hats and tailcoats, will provide an insight into how the hall came to be built and what late Victorian politicians expected the future of the community to look like.

Following the conclusion of the ceremony, visitors will be able to meet costumed characters around the hall and find out more about life in the 1890s.

East Lothian Courier: Prestonpans Town Hall. Photo: Chris Watt

Prestonpans Town Hall. Picture: Chris Watt Photography

There will be a special themed craft for children, and a chance to enjoy some traditional refreshments.

During the ceremony, a new painting by Janet McCrorie will be unveiled.

The artwork brings together images from the town hall’s history, including a visit by the Bay City Rollers.

Arran Johnston, curator of the Battle of Prestonpans Jacobite Museum, which is located in the town hall, was delighted to host the event and celebrate a part of Prestonpans’ heritage and history.

He said: “We want to do justice to a building that has been a big part of the community.

“It’s a fitting coincidence of the anniversary and we want to keep coming up with reasons to make people come back in and visit.”

Jacobite exhibits

Prior to the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust taking on the lease of Prestonpans Town Hall, which for more than a century had been used as a community hub, the building was mothballed and offered for sale as a now redundant asset by East Lothian Council.

The museum opened in April and now houses a range of Jacobite-era exhibits, including a miniature scale model of the battlefield, as well as sections of the Prestonpans Tapestry.

Open every Saturday and Sunday, the museum helps to keep the legacy of the battle alive, and also gives residents the chance to learn the history of their town.

An ever-changing temporary exhibit will be on display in the Jubilee Room, which currently houses sections of the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry connecting Scottish communities around the globe.

Mr Johnston described the changing exhibits as “all important to the local story” of the town, giving the museum the chance to create a completely new visitor experience with every visit. He added: “There is always something different from the last time you came in.”

A Viking exhibit will be next up for the museum in October, with Mr Johnston hoping to bring in fully clad Norse warriors to help tell the story of the town’s connection to the Vikings.


The 125th celebration of the town hall is held this Saturday and Sunday, 11am-4pm, with entry free but donations welcomed.

The re-enactment of the 1897 ceremony will take place on Saturday, from 11am to noon.

The Battle of Prestonpans on September 21, 1745 was the first major battle of the last Jacobite Rising

The Jacobite army loyal to King James Francis Edward Stuart, and led by his son Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), achieved a dramatic victory over the Redcoat army loyal to the Hanoverian King George II, which was led by Sir John Cope. The battle took place in fields between Prestonpans, Tranent, Cockenzie and Port Seton.

Despite the Jacobites’ ultimate defeat the following year, the battle left an important cultural legacy.