Please note: due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak the Centre is currently closed, but our website is still open for business.

Prestongrange; A Powerhouse of Industry Museum Objects

Prestongrange Museum Visitor Centre explores the industries of Prestongrange. A selection of highlight objects are included here. Explore the exhibition display boards here and enjoy the audio guide from the comfort of home by listening here.  Read more about the Museum here.

Prestongrange Wagon
Prestongrange Brickworkers Wagon

This heavy wagon was used at Prestongrange brickworks. Its weight suggests it was used periodically for moving large pieces of equipment rather than day to day transporting on the site. A solidly constructed three wheeled wagon with a deck of thick timbers bolted to iron strips and the underframe, which comprises wrought iron supports. The matching pair of large cast iron wheels each has five spokes; the smaller wheel pivots and is missing a tow-bar, once mounted in a bracket above the wheel.

Prestongrange Stamp

This wooden hand stamp was used to press letters into objects made at Prestongrange Brickworks before they were fired. It is difficult to date an object such as this, which may have lain unused in the works for many years. However, many ‘specials’ were made by hand using wood moulds right up to the closure of the works in the mid nineteen seventies.

Prestongrange Trap

This is a drainage trap made at Prestongrange Brick and Tile Works. It is designed to catch water from a vertical drainpipe, perhaps on a house, and carry off the water to a sewer. In use, the opening is at ground level with a metal grille fitted; the rest is buried. Prestongrange Brick and Tile Works produced all manner of industrial and domestic fireclay products. Many specialised pieces formed part of the stock-in-trade in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, partly moulded and partly finished by hand.

Prestongrange Mould

Hand crafted firebricks and tiles were made at Prestongrange using wood moulds like this one. Moulds were made for each different specification; this would produce a trapezoidal tile. The wood is stained grey with clay residues.

Prestongrange Brick

This brick was made at Prestongrange during the tenure of the Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company or its successor the Prestongrange Coal and Firebrick Company. The two short lived companies operated the works between 1872 and 1893.

Prestongrange Brick

This handmade fireclay brick was made at Prestongrange during the tenure of the Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company or its successor the Prestongrange Coal and Firebrick Company and was found on the foreshore at Morisons Haven, all edges have been eroded.

Prestongrange Brick

After Nationalisation of the mining industry in 1947 the Prestongrange Brickworks was operated by the National Coal Board. The brickworks eventually absorbed the bulk of the colliery’s output – even a proportion of the waste was suitable for making bricks. This brick is made from colliery waste – shale, shaley coal and fireclay ground together; it was stained red in the firing process through poor control of the waste gases generated while the bricks were firing. The lettering in the frog identifies the maker NCB P-GRANGE. The National Coal Board took over Britain’s collieries on Vesting Day, 1 January 1947. It also inherited responsibility for some brickworks, which were often integral parts of collieries. It continued to operate the former until they were transferred to the Scottish Brick Corporation in 1969.

Prestongrange Brick

This is a non-standard Prestongrange brick known as ‘specials’. Many were produced for specific purposes or to a customer’s specification. Unless the requirement was very large, all specials were individually crafted by hand, moulding the clay in a bench top former. The manufacturer of this large (over-sized) brick is identified with text reading PRESTONGRANGE in the lower level of a double rectangular recess or frog on the displayed face. Under the red staining, which occurred sometime post-production, the ground colour is pale yellow with characteristic metallic inclusions.
It is difficult to date and place the source of many bricks although a good ‘frog’ [recess] helps. The material – fireclay – and mark on this brick inform us that it was made at Prestongrange in East Lothian between 1872 and around 1893. At this time the works was owned by consortia remembered locally as ‘the English Company’.

Prestongrange Shanker’s Helmet

This coal miner’s safety helmet has a large trailing flange made of leather, which provided protection to the neck and shoulders. It was worn by a ‘shanker’, a worker whose job it was to maintain a pit shaft. In conjunction with a toughened leather coat it provided some protection against falling debris. The crown has a leather strip and lamp fixture stitched over the top. Miner’s safety equipment became increasingly sophisticated in the later nineteenth century, a process aided by legislation. Much had to be purchased by individual miners: sophisticated headgear like this was expensive and worn only if necessary.