Scottish Battlefields Trust to meet developers in bid to mark local history by linking Bonnie Prince with project, writes Alison Campsie
The Scottish Battlefields Trust wants the Blindwells development near Tranent to be called Charlestoun after the decisive Jacobite victory at the Battle of Prestonpans on 21 September, 1745.
The Jacobite army marched over the land now to be developed, with the clash fought on neighbouring ground.
Scotland’s first statue of the Prince, who led the final armed attempt to return the Stuart dynasty to the British throne, should also be placed in the town, the trust said.
Further ambitious proposals for a heritage centre to link the new town of around 1,600 initial houses, businesses and a school to the area’s history are now taking shape.
Development company Hargreaves has indicated it is open to naming some parts of the new town after the battle. Dr Arran Johnston, director of the Scottish Battlefields Trust, said the group is due to meet with Hargreaves this week to discuss its ambitions for ‘Charlestoun’.
Dr Johnston said: “The trust already refers to Blindwells as Charlestoun. Blindwells is not a particularly nice name and we feel that Charlestoun would give the development a sense of place.
“We are looking at how the narrative of the history can be built into the development.”
The development at Blindwells has taken shape over the past 20 years with the land latterly the site of an opencast coal mine.
On 21 September, 1745, around 5am, the Jacobite army marched three abreast over then barren ground in what is known as the Riggonhead Defile to just west of Seton Collegiate, where the first British troops were encountered.
Within around 10 or 15 minutes from the first shot being fired, the entire Government army, led by Sir John Cope, had been routed with Jacobites earning an easy but hugely important win over the inexperienced British soldiers.
Recently, two controversial developments proposed at Culloden, scene of the last battle of the 1745 rising has highlighted the difficulties in protecting historic battlefields from new building projects.
Dr Johnston said the trust did not object to the housing at Blindwells, which sits within the boundary of the Scottish Battlefields Inventory, given its later industrial use and the need for housing in East Lothian.
He said: “It’s not the same landscape as it was and we understand the massive house pressures in East Lothian.
“We don’t believe that battlefields and economic benefits are mutually exclusive. It’s about looking at how we can get the battlefield to work for the community.”
Construction on the first homes at Blindwells is due to start by the end of the year with two other parcels of land to offer another 7,500 to 9,000 homes over time.
Iain Slater, the head of property development at Hargreaves, said he was open to ideas from the Scottish Battlefields Trust.
He said: “Anything on the history of the area that can help to give a sense of place to a development like Blindwells is welcome. We are due to start building within six to nine months so now is the time to get it right.
“There will be connotations and references to the battle, whether that be in street names or monuments, but we are not the only stakeholder, so various parties are involved in the discussion.
“We have identified a building in a business area that could potentially be used as a heritage centre.
“It has a viewing platform which looks right out over the battlefield.
“This is the trust’s vision but we feel it is a good vision and we will support them as we can.”
It has already been proposed to name areas of the new town as Prince’s Loch and Prince’s Park after references found on an old map. The origin of the names is not clear.