IT HAS always been known as the site of one of the most famous battles in Scottish history – until now.
Experts have discovered that the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans actually took place in fields 500 metres further east.
Glasgow University’s Dr Tony Pollard, one of the world’s foremost battlefield archaeologists, was asked to explore the area by the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust two years ago and has today revealed his findings.
Having unearthed piles of pistol balls, grape shot and musket balls some distance from the originally-recorded battle site, it now appears previous records have always been incorrect.
He said: “We were not finding very much at the site or the materials you’d expect to discover. So, we were thinking, ‘Have we missed the stuff or has it been taken away?’
“But when the metal detectors went further east, we knew we had it.”
He added: “Although this was a very well-documented battle with lots of eye-witness accounts, it was also very brutal and over quite quickly.
“It now seems that in the excitement some of the witnesses got it wrong.”
More than 5,000 men were involved in the fight – government soldiers against the Jacobites – in what proved to be the highlight of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s campaign, allowing him to move on to conquer Edinburgh.
Archeologists, including local volunteers with metal detectors, found the well-preserved battle evidence in the fields of Seton East Farm, owned by farmer Alistair Roberston.
He said: “It is exciting to think it was across our fields that the famous Highland charge took place and here that the main part of the battle was fought.”
Dr Pollard and his team believe other lesser fighting took place on the land originally thought to be the main battle site, but not the historic charge.
There are now plans to display the findings in a visitor centre, which could be built in the area which already includes a memorial cairn to those who died.
Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, chairman of the Battle Trust, said: “This battle was one of the most important in Scottish history and has the potential to draw many thousands of visitors to this part of East Lothian.
“We want to safeguard it for the nation and provide interpretation to inform and educate. Now we have a definite idea of where the battle actually took place we can be confident that we will be telling the story as it actually was.”