The Roads that led past Prestoungrange p05-12

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T H E R O A D S T H AT L E D B Y P R E S T O U N G R A N G E

MAN IN THE PREHISTORIC ENVIRONMENT
Early man’s arrival in the landscape of this part of Scotland
around about 7,000 B.C.11 was probably by sea, and he is likely
to have been met by the view of the dominant Tranent ridge,
which at that time was likely to have been covered in oak and
hazel woods.12 Much of the lower lying land would have been
swamp and marsh and probably very dangerous to cross.
Prehistoric man’s need for food, clothing and shelter meant
he had to hunt and gather for life’s essentials. Ridgeways, such
as the Tranent ridge, afforded dry, safe routes where the wider
countryside could be seen, and were free of places where
enemies might hide. Such prehistoric ridgeway routes as the
Icknield Way in South East Anglia were ‘made and maintained’
by usage – perhaps following existing animal tracks.13 These
routes were not fixed carriageways. Instead “the traveller
would pick, within the whole width of the ridge, the best,
firmest, hardest and driest way.”14
Alternatively, man’s ingenuity was utilised to the full in
making tracks and routeways across the swamps and moors,
such as ‘The Sweet Track’ in the Somerset Levels.15 The Sweet
Track was a remarkable piece of engineering and planning in
which wood, especially managed and harvested for this
purpose, was split and laid to form a platform with supporting
posts, and this afforded a safe passage across hazardous
swamps.
The evidence for such structures and routes in Scotland, let
alone our part of East Lothian, is sparse it has to be said.
However, it seems likely that there would have been many
routes from prehistoric times, particularly over high and
naturally well drained land, such as at Tranent ridge. Evidence
of prehistoric trade and communication can be seen in the
archaeological finds, particularly where petrological evidence
is found i.e. the study of where a particular kind of stone that
is known to outcrop in only a few places in Great Britain is
found out of its natural area. An example of this is the stone
axe found in Tranent dating from the Neolithic age and
thought to have originated in the prehistoric ‘stone-axe
factory’ at Langdale Pikes in Cumbria.16 Conversely, deposits
of shells and other coastal artefacts inland from Prestonpans
may well indicate that these relics have been brought as a
special commodity. It is most likely, however, that sea and
water routes were the most important means of travelling long
distances in prehistoric times rather than land routes.17
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Early man’s way of life changed as his knowledge and
mastery of the environment grew. From the hunter and the
gatherer nomadic life, he developed over time a system of
agriculture and learned to grow food on the land. The earliest
known record of the people of this region names them the
Votadini, ascribed to them by the Greek geographer Ptolemy.18
These people spoke a language akin to modern day Welsh.
The territory of the Votadini (Guotodin in Welsh19) spanned
from Clackmannan at the head of the Forth to the river Weir
or Tyne in England,20 and included Traprain Law where
extensive settlement remains have been excavated.

THE COMING OF THE ROMANS
No history of roads should fail to mention the Roman period
of occupation in North Britain. We must take a jump through
time to the years 78–82 AD when the Romans brought new
skill and experience to road construction in Britain. Each road
that the Romans built was precisely planned and took the
most direct route to its destination; not always straight and
sometimes following the natural highways of some of the
prehistoric and later routes. The main purpose of the Roman
road building in Scotland was to facilitate their military
campaign to extend the bounds of the Roman Empire. This
was pursued by General Julius Agricola through the building
of military roads such as Dere Street (built circa 80 AD), which
ran from Corbridge, across the line of what was to become
Hadrian’s Wall (built 120 AD), to Rochester, to Newstead
(Trimontium), and beyond to Lauder, Pathhead, Ford, to
Dalkeith and the Elginhaugh Fort, and, it is believed,
continued to Cramond (later to be part of a chain of forts
across the isthmus that separates the Firths of Clyde and
Forth, known as the Antonine Wall, circa AD 143).21
The connection with our part of East Lothian becomes
stronger when the Roman Fort is examined at Inveresk, where
St Michael’s church was later to be built. This Fort belongs to
the later Antonine period (AD 142–163) of the Roman
occupation.22 A road link is suggested leading from Dere
Street to Inveresk by the account of the ‘Expedecion of His
Grace of Somerset) by his Chronicler Patten23 in the lead up to
the Battle of Pinkie:
Fro this hil of Fanxside Bray descended my Lorde’s grace,
my Lorde Lieutenant and another along before their cape
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(Camp,) within less than two flights shottes, into a lane
or street of a thirty feet brode, the fenced on either side
with a wall of turf, an elle of height; which way did lead
straight northwards, and nie to a church called St.
Mighaels, of Undreske.
That the road ‘did lead straight northwards’ towards St
Michael’s church is highly suggestive that this was indeed a
Roman road and approaching from Falside suggests a line
similar to that taken by the current road leading past Carberry
to Pathhead and joining the known alignment of Dere Street.
‘Strete’ is the forerunner of our word ‘street’ and its original
meaning referred to a paved road the type of which was
constructed by the Romans.
It has also been put forward that the Fort of Inveresk was
linked to the other Roman roads coming from the west via
Biggar and the Pentland Hills. One may speculate as to what
line this connecting road may have taken. If we are to look at
the Ordnance Survey Dalkeith map of 1853 one can make out
a straight line leading from the Old Cow Bridge over the
South Esk at Dalkeith through the policies of Dalkeith Palace,
towards Smeaton Dairy where there appears to be a
rectangular land formation suggestive of a fort. This is also
shown on Roy’s map of 1755. This plus the fact that in the
vicinity there is a farm called Castlesteads, and that there has
been an archaeological dig uncovering paved areas, is very
suggestive that there may well be remains of Roman roadbuilding activity. This is at the moment without further supporting evidence, and is surely worthy of further investigation.
The Roman road continued from the Fort at Inveresk
beyond to the Roman Harbour at Fisherrow and along the
coast, behind what is now Portobello, to what was to become
the Edinburgh village of Restalrig along the Fishwives
Causeway.24 As Anderson25 has stated, there is no direct
evidence of Roman presence at Prestonpans; although, recent
finds of chards from a Roman amphora (a jug-like storage
vessel) at Prestonpans again raises this idea as a possibility.26
There is a strong link between the Romans and salt making
of course. The Romans had their Via Salaria as we have our
Salters Road (leading from Prestonpans to Dalkeith, of which
more later). The importance of salt to the well being of all
living things cannot be underestimated.27 As well as providing
essential minerals to the body, salt was also used to preserve
food. The Romans, as an advanced and refined society, knew
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this well and they had even coined several words in this
respect. The word ‘soldier’ comes to us from ‘Saldare’28
meaning to give salt; and ‘salary’ has its meaning from the
same origin, as the Roman soldiers were paid in salt.
The Celtic word for salt was Halen,29 and evidence of the use
of this word in lowland Scotland may possibly be seen in the
settlement of Halltree, (also known as Kirkcoltoun when it was
the property of the Monks of Newbattle30), to the east of Heriot
and near to the current line of the A7. This meaning, if correct,
would suggest that this was a Salt Settlement and may have been
an important centre of salt trading, during the resurgence of the
Celtic peoples after the decline of the Roman Empire. That there
must have been a localised centre for trade would seem highly
probable as the position of the settlement is at the crux of three
main valleys (Wedale of the Gala Water, the valley of the Armet
Water, and the Heriot Water valley); and these valleys today
form main lines of communication into the Borders. This point
of time in the history of Scotland is known as the Dark Ages.

THE DARK AGES
The country we now call Scotland was inhabited by a number
of different peoples and was fought over by each of their tribes
at this time. It is in this period that Christianity gained prominence in Scotland most notably through Columba in 565 AD;31
then others such as St. Patrick and St. Ninian. Another, holy
man at this time who had East Lothian connections was St.
Mungo, or St. Kentigern, who was later to become the late
sixth century Bishop of Glasgow.
Mungo’s mother was Theneu who was expelled from the
settlement on Traprain Law for being pregnant out of wedlock;
according to the 12th century account of Jocelyn the Monk of
Furness,32 who states that Theneu was cast out into the Firth
of Forth in a simple boat, which drifted by the Isle of May
where the people of Belgae and Gallia (the people of the Low
Countries and France) fished.
The Firth of Forth was thus at this time frequented by
people from Continental Europe and again an important trade
would have been in salt.33 It is likely that before long the
potential of Prestonpans to be a centre of salt production,
through evaporating sea water, would have been realised.34
With the incursion of the Anglic peoples from Friesia35 (part
of the low countries to the north of Germany), who themselves
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had mastered the technology of salt production,36 and the
establishment of the settlement Aldhammer (Old Village) in
the mid seventh century at what was to become Prestonpans,
it is quite likely that salt making grew as an industry. However,
not much is known about roads in Scotland at this time,
although we can infer that there would have been some
organised means of transport parallel with that in Ireland.37
The name of the hamlet of Cuthill has claim to being perhaps
one of the oldest surviving settlement names in Prestonpans, as it
possibly derives from the Gaelic Comhdhail, meaning: assembly;
conference; or tryst; not necessarily indicating a court of law.38
Further investigations may point to early forms of this name,
but it is conceivable that it may date to the Gaelic period of
Kenneth McAlpin, King of the Scots and the Picts, and his
ninth century invasions of Lothian – at that time an Anglic
territory.39

SALTER’S ROAD FROM NEWBATTLE ABBEY
It was King David I (1125), Earl of Huntington, who was a
major influence in establishing monasteries in Scotland such as
those in the Scottish Borders at Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh, and
Melrose (where an earlier seventh century monastery had
previously existed). King David’s reign encouraged the immigration of Norman settlers from England such as Robert De
Quinci. He also established Newbattle Abbey (Newbottil or new
building) of which Melrose Abbey was the parent house, or Eld
bottil (old building). As mentioned earlier, Newbattle Abbey
plays a pivotal role in the history of Prestonpans and particularly
in our study of roads. The Monks of Newbattle were very
industrious and salt-making played a key part in their affairs.
Looking at a modern day Ordnance Survey Map of East
Lothian one would see several other references to ‘Salters Road.’
When the OS Surveyor was gathering information on the
county to enable him to include place names on the first edition
map of 1849, he would have talked to local landowners and
proprietors and recorded this information in his Object Name
Books. Some of this evidence has to be treated with a degree of
caution, and perhaps some entries are based on local folklore.40
However, much of this pertaining to our subject can be backed
up by reference to other material such as old charters.
The reference to Salters Road is made for the name given to
the road running between Prestonpans and Newbattle Abbey.
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In addition to the Salter’s Road near Newbattle, there is a
Salters Road north of the village of Fala Dam in Midlothian,
which crosses Salters Burn over the Salters Ford or the Salters
Bridge; and also Salter Sykes outside Penicuik. There is also
the Salters Ford which crosses the Loch Burn by Toxside,
Midlothian; as well as the Salters Ford at Darnick by Melrose.
Of our first reference to Salters Road, the OS Surveyor tells
us that this was:
A small piece of bye road frequented by smugglers
conveying salt from Preston Salt Pans. It leads off the line
of road from Dalkeith to Lauder near Newmills Toll Bar
joining the public road from Dalkeith to Cousland.41
The position of Newmills Toll Bar (outside of Woodburn)
places the Salters Road directly on course for Newbattle Abbey
at Ordnance Survey grid reference NT 337 670.
The earliest map showing fragments of the Salters Road is
the first edition Ordnance Survey map of Dalkeith in 1853,
and it runs along the line of road, as described, heading for
Newbattle, (which is still called Salter’s Road today in the
community of Woodburn), and then heads for the 15th
century ‘Maiden Bridge.’ Salter’s Road is then shown running
south eastwards to the north of Queen Margaret’s Burn and
then to the north of Easthouses at NT 344 660; it then is
shown as heading east at the field edge at approximately NT
363 660 to the south of Fuffet Wood.

Figure 2: Maiden Bridge, in the
grounds of Newbattle Abbey,
dating from the late 15th century
© A Ralton, 2004
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The name Salters Road is not given to the road through
Wallyford (later to become the A6094) on this map until the
second edition in 1893. The most direct line from Dalkeith to
Prestonpans would have followed this general line of a route
through, or near Inveresk where the Abbots’ dwellings were,
and on to Wallyford (one must ignore the ‘Duke’s Dykes’
enclosing off the Dalkeith Palace grounds and picture this
scene in medieval times).
It is also possible that the route from Prestonpans to
Newbattle would have gone via Cousland gaining access to
the Fa’side ridge and down the coast to Prestonpans. In
support of this, there have been aerial photos taken which do
indeed suggest a line of ancient routeway between two woods
on either side of it at nearby Chalkieside.42 This would indeed
line up with Newbattle Abbey if one was to follow the ‘lay of
the land’ and the occurrences of the Monks’ properties –
Whitehill and Cowden.
Looking at the charter evidence of the Newbattle Abbey, as
interpreted by Innes,43 one can find numerous references to
their travels and industry. The Newbattle Monks’ properties
and lands were extensive. They owned most of the Moorfoot
Hills (from Moorthwaite meaning Moorland clearing44), parts
of Leith, Haddingtonshire, Peeblesshire and Clydesdale.45 In
this latter area their property became known as the Monklands
and this was also an important centre of coal mining in
Scotland. The Monks of Newbattle constructed a road to the

Figure 3: Woodlands near Chalkieside demarcate the possible
line of Salter’s Road © A Ralton, 2004.
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T H E R O A D S T H AT L E D B Y P R E S T O U N G R A N G E
Monklands, and this was to become the main line of
communication between Edinburgh and Clydesdale, taking
the line of road through the Melville lands of Retrevyn
(unknown, but probably meaning earthwork fort from the
Gaelic or Welsh rath,46 and possibly relating to the ancient
fort or settlement by Mavisbank on the River North Esk by
Lasswade), by Strabroc (Broxburn), and Bathcat (Bathgate).47
The Monks were also engaged in lead mining in the Leadhills
of Lanarkshire, and no doubt lead was a useful commodity in
making salt pans. Both of these enterprises required serious
road building at which the monks were adept. Road building
was seen as an act of Christian charity and devotion.48
There would indeed be a strong need to retain open communication between all these properties. In 1189 Alexander II
granted travellers the right to cross over land with cattle and
to pasture them on common land ‘saving corn and meadow’.49
However, the Monks, in order to stay on good terms with
landowners, often paid landowners on a yearly basis with a gift
of a Newbattle Cart filled with timber or building materials.50
The industry of the Newbattle Monks and the potential for
raising tax was no doubt recognised by James V who granted
the Monks permission to build a harbour formerly known as
Gilbertis-draucht.51 James V’s subsequent Acts of Parliament
of 1555 commanding all highways, especially those from
burghs to sea ports, to be kept open52 would no doubt have
helped give fresh impetus to the Monks to keep the Salters
Road open through Wallyford to Newbattle at this time.
However, it would not have just been salt which was transported on the Salters Road. The Monks’ coal workings at
Newbattle would have been carted to their seaport for export,
and rather than return empty, the famous ‘Newbattle Cart’53
would return with salt, shellfish and other imports from the
Continent.54

THE NEWBATTLE MONKS AND THE EARLY
CHURCH OF PRESTON
According to Lord Wemyss when writing his appendix to the
First Statistical Account of Prestonpans, direct connection of
the Newbattle Monks with Prestonpans can be seen in the
name Olivestob: meaning Holy Stop, or the place where the
Host stopped,55 and this place was meant to mark a stop on
the procession of the Newbattle Monks from Preston. Olivestob
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