Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum

Pit Head Baths. The Visitor Centre, close to the Bath House, was formerly the colliery canteen. The Bath House itself is now used for storage of steam engines.


21 December 2011

Morrison’s Haven, Prestonpans, East Lothian

NT 37108 73647; 55.95170°N, 3.00871°W


Prestongrange is located in East Lothian, between the towns of Musselburgh and Prestonpans. The earliest documented extraction of coal there was in 1194 when the Cistercian monks from Newbattle Abbey exploited this natural resource. The nearby port at Morrison’s Haven was also established around this time to transport the coal. The harbour was built in the 16th century and was in use until the 20th — it was filled in and landscaped in the 1960s.

In nearby Prestonpans, coal from Prestongrange was used to boil sea water in large pans to produce salt. By the beginning of the 15th century there were 10 salt works there. This activity later developed into a more sophisticated chemical industry, producing, for example, sulphuric acid. This was one of several industries that sprung up in the area on account of the ready availability of fuel, leading to Prestongrange becoming an integrated industrial complex. There was a glassworks there in the 17th century and a pottery in the 18th. Coal mining was industrialised in the 19th century, with Prestongrange Colliery being established in 1820. The site was also home to a large brickworks, which produced bricks, tiles and drainage pipes. Scotland’s first deep shaft (140 m) was sunk here in 1829. A second-hand Cornish beam engine, which had previously served in four different mines in Cornwall, was purchased and installed in 1874 to drain the mine, which allowed deeper working to be carried out.

Industrial activity peaked at the start of the 20th century when over 1000 workers were employed between the brickworks and the coal mine. The colliery closed in 1962 followed by the brickworks in 1975.

After the colliery shut down clearance of the site started, but a halt was later called to this when plans for creating an open-air museum were adopted. Many of the site’s structures were, however, lost in the process. In 1984 the Scottish Mining Museum opened at Prestongrange. The site remained part of this museum, which was based at Lady Victoria Colliery in Newtongrange, which had closed in 1981, until 1992, when East Lothian Council Museum Service took over its operation. It was rebranded as Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum on account of the other industries which had also shared the site.

Prestongrange (; Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum (Wikipedia)

Shaft headgear. This A-frame headgear has been relocated from its original position to a spot close to the main road past the site.

Footprint of a beehive kiln, with the Pit Head Baths in the background. At one time there were up to 20 beehive kilns on the site, all now gone. These were used for firing clay products such as bricks and pipes.

Wicket, Hoffman Kiln. This Hoffman Continuous Kiln, which was built in 1937, has 24 chambers, arranged in two rows of 12. Each chamber has a wicket, or entrance way, which would be sealed up once the chamber had been loaded with unfired bricks. Each chamber could be loaded with up to 11,000 bricks.

Chimney, Hoffman Kiln. This free-standing chimney was built in 1910 and stands 33.5 metres tall. It is linked to the kiln via underground flues.

Hoffman Kiln. This very efficient kiln design allowed for a continuous production cycle in which the firing process moved from one chamber to the next in succession. Once a chamber had been stocked with bricks and its wicket sealed up, hot air from the previous chamber would be channelled in, raising the temperature to above the flashpoint of coal, which would then combust spontaneously when introduced through feed holes in the roof. Once the chamber had been allowed to cool, by which time the heat would have advanced by several chambers, the baked bricks were removed.

Sirocco ventilation fan

Winding Drum

Winding Drum

Winding Engine

Winding Engine, with the Hoffman Kiln chimney in the background. The drum of this steam-driven pit-head winding machine carried a cable which would then pass over a headgear and then down into the shaft to transport miners in open cages and to raise coal from the pit 240 metres below.

Wagon coupling hook


Cornish Beam Engine. The Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company installed the second-hand beam engine in 1874 to pump water from the mine. The front wall of the Pumping House was built 7 ft thick in order to support the main pivot bearing of the huge cast-iron beam. The pump rod alone weighs over 100 tons. The beam engine continued in operation until 1954, when it was superseded by electric pumps. It is Scotland’s only beam engine remaining at its site of operation.

Pumping House

No 130 Whitakers Patent Steam Crane Navvy

No 130 Whitakers Patent Steam Crane Navvy

No 130 Whitakers Patent Steam Crane Navvy

No 130 Whitakers Patent Steam Crane Navvy

Power House. This mid-19th-century building formerly housed steam-driven generators to supply the colliery with electricity. It is now used as an exhibition hall.

Boiler. Now lying outside the Power House.

Wagon buffers



Railway siding. The site's main transport connection was provided by a rail link to the main east coast line.

Y points, with crossing vee (middle), check rails (sides) and the switch blades in the distance.

11 thoughts on “Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum

  1. Looks like an interesting and diverse site, in what looks like an ‘original’ condition, but it’s hard to tell in black and white. Reminds me of the failed industrial heritage site at Dunaskin near Ayr, which has some similar features, but is sadly derelict (unless you like exploring such places).


  2. Another brilliant documentary set. Obviously, the header shot is a masterpiece. You also manage to squeeze every ounce of atmosphere and texture out of what could easily be hackneyed and cliche ridden subjects…superb work. I’m wondering if that crane came from Pennyvenie, picking up on Andy’s comment. I too mourn the loss of Dunaskin.


  3. Pingback: Prestongrange Beam Engine « GeoTopoi

  4. Pingback: Vision in Grey | GeoTopoi

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