Battlefield centre to mark Jacobite victory at Prestonpans

The living history display will tell the story of the events leading up to and after the conflict.

Battle of Prestonpans: Scene from Outlander and clothing.
Battle of Prestonpans: Scene from Outlander and clothing.

The story of the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Prestonpans is set to be celebrated with a new visitor centre in East Lothian.

The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust aims to open a living history display in a bid to tell the story of the events leading up to and after the conflict.

The display is set to include visiting exhibition spaces, a theatre, and learning opportunities for schools.

The centre will mark the first battle of the 1745 rising, which ended in a resounding success for the Jacobites and near destruction of the Government’s army in Scotland.

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The attraction, which could attract an estimated 100,000 visitors a year, will celebrate the cultural legacy of Prestonpans, which is immortalised in song, poetry and art, and aims to become a centre of excellence for Jacobite studies.

Those behind the project say it’s time for the battle to get the recognition it deserves after major investments at Bannockburn and Culloden battlefields.

Dr Arran Johnston, from The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust, believes it’s a story worth telling.

He said: “The Battle of Prestonpans in September 1745, was a momentous moment in the Jacboite rebellion.

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“This was his first chance to really prove himself he was a young and inexperienced commander with an in army and is by winning the victory here he created a huge sense of momentum behind the Jacobite cause.

“By doing so he gave himself and his men the confidence and means to march on to England two months later.

“So much of the Jacobite story is told from the end, and because we know the Jacobites are defeated we assume it was an inevitable defeat – that’s not what it felt like in September 1745.”

“We are getting more and more from all over the world wanting to find out more we able to offer tours, walk around the site, with them but you have to work quite hard to find that narrative and what we want to is create an experience they’ll remember.”

Dr Johnston promises the centre will be about more than just the battle itself and will explore the whole story of the Jacobites and their cause, and celebrate the cultural legacy of Prestonpans.

It’s another part of Scotland which has experienced the ‘Outlander effect’ – with the site experiencing a tourism boost after the historical TV drama featured the battle in one of its episodes.

Dr Johnston says he welcomes the visitors inspired by the series, but jokes that he also takes the opportunity to correct a few of the inaccuracies.

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The trust will begin fundraising by the end of the year with plans of opening the visitor centre in 2023.


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