Salt panning was a very important industry in the early history of Prestonpans. By the beginning of the fifteenth century there were 10 salt works belonging to the town capable of producing between 800 and 900 bushels of salt per week. However, Prestonpans was not a one-industry town, and many other industries flourished in Prestonpans and contributed towards the town’s growth. The discovery and mining of coal by the Newbattle monks in the early thirteenth century was arguably the first instance of coal mining in Britain. The mining of coal in Prestonpans began in the year 1210, and continued for centuries.
Prestonpans at one point, had sixteen breweries, all of which have closed. The oldest brewery in Prestonpans belonged to the Fowler family and was built in 1720. The Fowlers obtained it in 1756 and it was in production until the 1960s. The building was demolished in 1989 to build flats. There was a soap works in the town which at one time had an output of 90,000 pounds (41,000 kg) per annum, and also several potteries and brickworks.
The town was served, for several hundred years, by the harbour at nearby Prestongrange, known as Morrison’s Haven or “Acheson’s Haven”. Fishing boats sailed from the harbour and herring was the most important catch. The harvesting of oysters was a lucrative industry up to the early twentieth century.