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Preston Tower

Preston Tower is a four storey L-shaped tower house located on the edge of Prestonpans. It was set on fire three times before the Hamilton family abandoned it for nearby Hamilton House in the mid-17th Century.

The tower was constructed in the 1450s by the Hamilton family. They had gained the lands around Prestonpans from the Home family after helping King James II in his struggle against the Black Douglases.

Tower Construction

Preston Tower's main defence was its 2 metre thick walls. There was also a wooden chamber above the entrance that acted like a machicolation allowing the defenders to drop rocks, boiling oil or hot sand onto the attackers below.

In 1544 during King Henry VIII's "Rough Wooing" the Earl of Hereford attacked the tower. He smoked out the garrison by setting a fire by the doorway and having his men shoot at anyone trying to put out the flames.

The Hamiltons rebuilt their tower and in 1626 extended it. Sir John Hamilton added two storeys to the top of the tower. The top two stories are in a lighter stone and a clearly different architectural style. The top of the tower has gargoyles and fine mouldings around the windows.

At around the same time Sir John was constructing the nearby Hamilton House.

Hamilton Downfall

The Hamiltons of Preston were a prosperous and powerful family. Sir Thomas Hamilton fought at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and at the Battle of Worcester. In retaliation Cromwell's men attacked Preston Tower and burned it, along with his documents chest – his record of his family's most important papers.

The Hamiltons were restored to their property and the tower in 1660. However the tower was set alight a third time shortly after in 1663. This time the tower was not rebuilt and the barmkin wall and stone from the tower was used for outbuildings at Hamilton House.

After Thomas's death his son William was rewarded with a baronetcy to become the 1st Baron Preston.

Thomas's younger son Robert Hamilton, the second baronet of Preston, was a Covenanter. He helped draw up the "Rutherglen Declaration" and participated, somewhat ineffectually, at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. He was outlawed and fled to the Continent.

After William's death, Robert never claimed the baronetcy and the title and privileges lapsed.

In 1816 the baronetcy and tower were reclaimed by Sir William Hamilton, Professor of Logic at Edinburgh University.

Today Preston Tower is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The building is cared for by East Lothian Council. The tower sits in a small park with a herb garden.

Status: Monument
Owner: East Lothian Council / National Trust for Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)1620 827 827

Preston Tower showing the newer lighter stone a the top of the tower
Preston Tower with the later additions clearly visible

The eastern facade of the tower
East facade of Preston Tower

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