Newsletter – Issue 148, June 2004
Visit to Corstorphine Church
Several of us visited Corstorphine Church where we were given a warm welcome and an extremely interesting guided tour around the building.
A church was built on the site in 1128 but was replaced by another in 1429 and later given collegiate status. Over the years it became extremely dilapidated until it was extensively restored in the early 20th century. This was done in a sensitive manner true to the original design so that the church retains the aura of a medieval building.
A western entrance porch joins a larger vestibule, which in turn opens onto the crossing under the tower. On either side is a transept, the south containing an early medieval baptismal font. Then there is the nave with a northern aisle supported by pillars and arches. To the east there is the chancel that used to contain the high altar. North of this is a three storey building that used to be used by the prebend. The main external feature is a tower supporting an octagonal tower.
Proposed Trip to Haddington
We shall be visiting Haddington on Saturday, 19th June. This is a lovely market town full of interesting historical sites. We shall be starting our visit at Haddington Church, the largest medieval parish church in Lothian. Arrangements have been made for a volunteer to take us round.
On leaving the church we shall pass Haddington house, the home of the Duke of Lauderdale, a scourge of the Covenanters during the reign of Charles II. We then go across a 15th century bridge, which still has the hook used on felons given a suspended sentence. This will take us to St Martin’s Church, originally part of a convent. It has no roof but is otherwise in excellent condition.
The town was originally renowned for its many churches and religious communities but most have disappeared without trace. It is ironic that this centre of Catholicism should have been the home of the young John Knox, although no one has found the actual house.
Excavation at Penicuik
Regular Sunday digs are now taking place at Castlehill on the estate of Sir Robert Clerk at Penicuik. I would like to have said ‘on a motte and bailey site’ but despite a 17 by 3 metre trench on the top of the hill and investigation of stone revetting round the north eastern end we have no finds to confirm the date of the site.
The line of the stone revetment that starts from the north side of the hill is lower down the slope than that which curves from the south side northwards. We have not progressed far enough to confirm fully that they contour round at different levels. It would be an achievement if we could show that the upper one encircled the motte and the lower one included the bailey. The erosion of the sides of the promontory, which still slopes down to the burn at an angle of nearly 40º, is such that I suspect a lot has been lost, and old maps and the Ainslie plan would appear to confirm this.
Within the trench we have found an area paved with sandstone slabs and edged, at one side, with a stone curb. On extending the trench to find the southern edge of the paving it stopped abruptly and appears to have been robbed out.
The dig will continue until the end of July when, once again, the shooting season will take precedence.
Shorewatch Members ‘shorewalked’ at Blackness on 7th and 25th May. While not getting stuck in quicksand, they identified the position and structure on many fish traps. The next walk is planned for 6th July.
Dig at Dalmeny
The dig at Cobble Cottage field on the Dalmeny estate in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh Archaeological Department is likely to take place in August but precise timing depends on when the current cereal crop is harvested. Test pits will be dug in areas where our fieldwalking of five (!!) years ago produced most lithics. There is a possibility that a Mesolithic site to match that found in our Cramond dig exists on the west side of the River Almond.