The first stage of restoration work at historic Preston Tower is underway.

A number of improvements are planned at the late Medieval towerhouse in Prestonpans - which was originally constructed in the 15th century and then repaired and extended upwards in the 17th century – and nearby doocot.

Restoration is focused on improving access and encouraging more people to visit in future while contributing to local regeneration. 

Due to evidence of protected species at the site, the project will be delivered in two phases.

The first phase will see the restoration of the doocot and the installation of new architectural lighting and the installation of new interpretation/information including boards are all planned, developed in collaboration with the local community.

Archaeological investigations have commenced with the careful lifting of turf, which will be reinstated when finished.

The project, which is expected to cost up to £900,000, is being supported by the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Fund and progressed by East Lothian Council in collaboration with building owners the National Trust for Scotland and with the support of the Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership, and the National Lottery-funded Great Place Project. 

A project manager from building surveyors Doig and Smith is leading the project team, supported by project consultant Groves Raines Architects.

Much-loved local landmark

Councillor Jim Goodfellow, Cabinet Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, East Lothian Council:

“I’m absolutely delighted that the initial work on this project to enhance this much-loved local landmark has commenced. It was identified as a local priority to maximise the potential of the site and benefit the community.

“There has been, for some considerable time, a need to carry out repairs to the tower and nearby doocot, as well as to make improvements to park walls around the tower.

“The priority is to enable safe access inside parts of the buildings, whilst also improving the interpretation and understanding of the buildings to help shine a light on their local and national significance. It is also hoped that the site can be linked with others in the area as part of a wider heritage network.

“Due to the likely presence of protected species and their habitats, the work has been programmed in such a way that they are not disturbed, with two distinct phases.

“I’d like to thank the project team and local community for their hard work in making this happen.”

Exciting time

DJ Johnston-Smith, of Prestonpans Community Council, said:

"After a lot of hard work and persistence over many years by Prestonpans Community Council members, East Lothian Council officers and external contractors, the Community Council is delighted to see this week archaeologists breaking ground adjacent to Preston Tower and historic building specialists getting to work repairing and restoring its associated doo'cot. This is an exciting time for the town as we move one step closer to the long-held local aspiration of restoring public access to both buildings. 

"In the coming days we look forward to establishing a long-term working partnership with the site's owners, the National Trust for Scotland, and the site's guardians for the last half a century, East Lothian Council. We hope to develop a new and sustainable guardianship agreement that will eventually open both buildings, interpret and contextualise their history and archaeology and ultimately protect and safeguard this historic, unique and beloved site in the heart of Prestonpans for generations to come." 

Rejuvenation and enjoyment

Bryan Dickson, Head of Buildings Conservation (Policy), National Trust for Scotland, said:

"The National Trust for Scotland has been working in partnership with the Local Authority to address our joint concerns on the condition of the doocot, and we are pleased to see that progress is being made on this phase of the project.  Preston Tower is a much-loved local landmark and we looking forward to enabling the local community to play their part in its rejuvenation and enjoyment."

The Preston Tower project is one of three planned heritage led projects in Prestonpans the others being major investment at Prestongrange museum to build a new engine shed and the re-landscaping of War Memorial square. Read more about these projects here.

Published: Monday, 5th July 2021