Blindwells ‘New’ Community intends to take account of the Battle of Prestonpans
Draft Consultation Paper from East Lothian Council recognises the need to ‘protect’ the Battle heritage that will be affected at Blindwells
Since its establishment in April 2006 the Trust has sought to ensure that the Riggonhead Defile through which the Highlanders walked on the night of September 20th/ 21st was remembered and interpreted when the new community develops at Blindwells.
The Council’s own County Master Plan was ‘lobbied’ as were Scottish Coal, the landowners. And most recently, on January 21st 2010 the Petitions Committee of East Lothnian Council was again ‘lobbied’.
Accordingly it is gratifying to see in the Draft Consultation Paper on Blindwells [page15] that its ‘heritage route’ is acknowledged and will be protected as follows:
Cultural Heritage & Archaeology
7.134 The site lies in a landscape that has seen change in terms of land use, settlement, war and industrial activity. The Archaeology Service has prepared a Heritage Interpretation Brief LINKED HERE DIRECTLY for the site. It sets out the measures to be provided by the applicant that will help allow the new community to derive a sense of place and history and that will provide a historical context for the new settlement.
Archaeological and historical deposits
7.135 While the main focus for the Battle of Prestonpans lies to the immediate north of this site, it was used for troop deployment and manovering, particularly by the Jacobite army. As such it is a key part of the landscape of the battle. While a significant amount of quarrying has taken place at the site, given its extent and proximity to the core of the battle site, to aid the formation of any mitigation strategy, an archaeological desk based assessment shall be undertaken. The assessment will seek to identify the land uses prior to the commencement of quarrying, the extent of the excavation and any undisturbed areas that may contain archaeological remains; it should also seek to put the development site into its wider landscape context.
7.136 A development that would harm a site of archaeological interest will not be permitted. The only exception to this is where archaeological advice concludes that the significance of remains is not sufficient to justify their physical preservation in situ when weighed against other material considerations, including benefits of development. In these circumstances the developer must provide for the excavation, recording and analysis of archaeological remains in advance of the commencement of development and publication of the results. Where feasible to accommodate and preserve archaeological features this should be done, and public access to them is encouraged.
Archaeological display and interpretation
7.137 The applicant must make provision for interpretation facilities displaying information about the history of the site and any historical deposits identified, plus its relationship with the wider landscape and its history, including the Battle of Prestonpans.
7.138 This will include provision of a heritage trail through the settlement together with an accompanying leaflet. It will follow an identified route which will be provided with interpretation boards describing and illustrating relationships in the landscape and its use. The route shall pass by the building within which the indoor interpretation and display space will be provided. Details of the Council’s requirements in this respect are provided in a Development Brief from the Council’s Library Service and Archaeology Service.
Trust has no great expectations of battle archaeological finds
After the extensive open-cast mining activities at Blindwells in recent decades which involved the demolition of Riggonhead Farm, and the ancient Defile along which the Prince was able to move without detection, the Trust does not expect any substantial battlefield archaeological evidence to be still present. However, the Trust does wish to ensure that the significance and interpretation of the route taken, and illustration of the scene that took place, are integral to the ‘new’ Blindwells community.
Such remembrance and interpretation is not just in the national interest as the significance of the Battle of Prestonpans is further exemplified in the years ahead. The Trustees firmly believe that such interepretation will give the ‘new’ community itself that deeper sense of place which sociological research has demonstrated again and again is so vital in such circumstances [see Clause 7.134 above].
Tangentially, through its work on the Prestonpans Tapestry, the Trust has come into contact with Dr Carola Hicks, art historian at Cambridge and author of the definitive book on the Bayeux Tapestry. She is a niece of Arthur Lowe the farm’s last proprietor, and spent memorable vacations at Riggonhead Farm.
The Trustees ‘Wish List’
The Trustees have noted the details set down in clauses 7.134 – 7.138 above with great pleasure.
However, there are additional and specific issues the Trustees will continue to address: [i] that statues both of the Prince and of the Highlanders-three-abreast making their way to Victory that night be commissioned;[ii] that Riggonhead Farm and the Defile itself are both included in the overall lines of development; and [iii] that the new street names themselves reflect the Highland clans and their leaders who were present as has so deliberately and effectively been done before across Prestonpans.
All these issues are being followed through in the coming months with Tom Shearer on behalf of the Council as the Trust’s designated ‘contact point. Clearly it’s “so far, so good”.