Battle of Prestonpans Trust want to brew medieval beer by growing crops on fields of famous Jacobite battle

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A former East Lothian MP is backing a bid to brew medieval beer by growing ancient crops on the fields of a famous battle.

The Battle of Prestonpans Trust has launched a bid to take over the lease of agricultural fields by offering £1 above the rent requested.

The trust lost out to sprouts when the fields were first offered for lease by East Lothian Council two years ago after it tendered a bid below the asking price.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This time around, the annual rent has doubled from £5,000 to £10,000 and the trust is ready to offer £10,001.

Pic - Greg Macvean - Battle of Prestonpans paradePic - Greg Macvean - Battle of Prestonpans parade
Pic - Greg Macvean - Battle of Prestonpans parade

And it has revealed ambitious plans to join up with a local farmer and former East Lothian MP John Home Robertson to grow bere crops on part of the fields to make beer at a local brewery. Bere is a medieval barley that is thought to have been introduced by the Vikings.

The council took ownership of four fields covering 45 acres of agricultural land when it bought the former Cockenzie Power Station site and surrounding land in 2018.

One of the fields is recognised by the battle trust as the burial site for soldiers from the historic Jacobite victory in 1745 and it has been keen to farm it for a number of years, recreating a traditional harvest from the 18th century.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When it lost out to a Brussels sprouts farmer two years ago, the trust hit out at the council for putting profit ahead of heritage in its decision.

Now the fields are up for lease again and the council is asking for a new crop to be introduced on three of them, with the fourth initially lying fallow.

The trust, which works to protect, promote and interpret the Battle of Prestonpans, said it had secured donor underwriting of the sum of £10,001.

A spokesperson said: “The trust’s commitment to agriculture stems from the use of the land in 1745 – the battle took place just after the harvest had been taken in.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Working in partnership with local experts, the trust’s tender includes a proposal to grow the spring barley that was cropped in 1745 and/or vining peas, alongside a bold initiative to include a modest crop of bere.

“It will be used for beer making at the microbrewery at the Prestoungrange Gothenburg.”

Mr Home Robertson, a trustee of the trust and retired farmer, has pioneered the reintroduction of bere in the Borders in recent years and will be closely involved with this initiative.

The trust said it would also be working in partnership with Jim Meikle, who farms from East Linton.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Spring barley would provide grain for livestock feed or malting for the distilling industry, whereas bere would be used in local brewing.

The traditional crops would provide an opportunity to engage with local schools and youth groups, as well as the chance to stimulate increased interest in agriculture as a career choice and foster knowledge of local food sourcing.

The trust’s application has been submitted to East Lothian Council, with the deadline for submissions February 19.

The Battle of Prestonpans was the first major battle of the last Jacobite Rising and took place in fields between Prestonpans, Tranent, Cockenzie and Port Seton.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at

Related topics: