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Prestwick History!

Sometime after the last ice age the first few human settlers made their way into Scotland. On the Ayrshire coast the first traces of these peoples are the shells and small stone tools they left behind, the earliest of which have been dated to around 6000 BC. Interesting Mesolithic sites can been found at nearby Heathfield and Monkton. An interesting find on Alloway Street was a Mesolithic polished stone axe head.

While this evidence tells of the ancient settlement of Prestwick, it is doubtful that the town has been continually and permanently inhabited from such times. Indeed the first clues into the origins of the permanent settlement at Prestwick come from around the 8th century AD.

The first clue is the name itself. Prestwick is derived from the old English preosta wik, meaning priests’ place The Northumbrian King Edbert conquered this area around 750 AD and is thought to have granted land to a number of churchmen. Thus, the priests’ place came into being. Putting two and two together it seems that Prestwick as a permanent settlement, even if it was only permanently settled by priests, can be dated to shortly after 750 AD. Still, we could make the assumption that the priests were there to evangelise the local population. If that was the case, it is likely there was a settlement which predated the priests’ arrival.

Over the following centuries Prestwick developed into an important town and was granted the status of ‘burgh.’ It is perhaps a mark of the town’s importance that it is the oldest recorded burgh in Scotland. While Walter Fitzlan’s charter of 1165 AD acknowledges Prestwick as a burgh, a later document suggests that this status had been granted years before. On the 19th of June 1600, James VI affirmed Prestwick’s status as Royal Burgh, adding that it had been a burgh for 617 years. If we can believe this document’s accuracy Prestwick has been a burgh since 983 AD; far longer than any of its competitors.