The upper image shows the eastern fringe of Boydfield Gardens which includes the area around the Market Cross, formerly the civic centre of the Burgh. The gardens have an installation designed by pupils of Prestwick Academy and this is a central feature of this view. Beyond, but not easily discerned, is the Mercat Cross, set close to the Bank of Scotland at the junction with Station Road. The distant sandstone building is the Post Office, a classical design built in 1927.
Much of the life of old Prestwick revolved around the 'Mercat Cross'.
The original site of the 'Mercat Cross', in front of what used to be the Freemen's Hall and is now a local authority office, was the centre of the oldest part of the town. It is one of the few remaining Mercat Crosses in the South-West, and of these it is one of the best preserved. It consists of a square shaft, chamfered with moulded cornice and ball finial which rests on a square base with steps.
The original date of building is unknown but the first mention of it in the Burgh Records occurs in 1473, when a certain Will Jurdaine was charged with the 'disturbillans of the town, and breking of the Corse'. This was an act of sacrilege, for in Pre-Reformation days the Market Cross was almost certainly a place for prayer.
As Prestwick was the trading burgh of the bailery of Kyle-Stewart, it's 'mercat cross' was the centre to which all inhabitants of the bailery had to bring their merchandise, pay their customs and check their weights and measures. Here also were the proclamations made and the floggings carried out.
In 1600 the Royal Charter of the Burgh was renewed by King James VI and the instrument of Seisin in connection with the Charter was read beside the Cross.
The Charter was written in Latin but in 1794 an excellent translation of it was made by Robert Miller, then Burgh Clerk. In modern times, documents were in custody of the Town
The 1600 Charter gave authority to the Freemen to elect Magistrates, engage in mercantile pursuits and trades, admit artificers, build a Court House and Market Cross, hold a weekly market and a Yearly Fair on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th).
In 1779, as can be seen from the inscription on it, the Cross was re-built, but no mention of this appears in the Records of the Burgh.
Towards the end of 1963 the Cross was removed and carefully re-built on the traffic island opposite the Post Office.
It is, however, no longer resting on the higher base of its previous site and so does not afford such a convenient seat for those who seek to emulate past worthies who left their imprint on the stone.
A Little Scottish World— Hewat Market Crosses of Scotland—
Records of the Burgh of Prestwick in the Sheriffdom of Ayr 1470-1782., all collated and published by students of Ayr Academy in 1966. (Historical Guide to Ayr, Prestwick and District.)
When approaching The Mercat Cross from he station, the entrance to the public park, originally known as the Well Green, lies to the South. Here, a lamp-post on a granite base, with a bronze portrait medallion by Robert. Bryden. This dates from 1904 and was a gift to the town from Matthew Smith (1832-1908), a member of the Town Council. He was one of a number of wealthy merchants and professional men from Kilmarnock who moved to Prestwick during its rapid expansion around 1900.
(Based on material published in Historic Prestwick and its surroundings, AANHS, 2003)