Newsletter – Issue 149, July 2004
Visit to Haddington
A small band of masochists visited Haddington on 16th June, but our gloom was lifted by the warm welcome we received at St Mary’s Church, the largest church in Scotland. Though built in the Early Medieval Period it suffered a lot from the attentions of the English, but, after extensive reconstruction in the 16th century, it emerged like a phoenix out of the fire. Unfortunately events leading up to the Reformation left it a ruin until the dedication and energy of the people of Haddington restored it again in the last century. Even its fibreglass ribbed vaulting looks superb.
We then set off (in the rain) across the medieval Nungate Bridge with its iron hook to St Martin’s Church, the only remaining part of a medieval convent. Apart from the fact that it had no roof it is still in pretty good condition. Lastly we went to Haddington House. This attractive 17th century building, with a period garden around it, was the base of the Maitlands who played an important part in Scottish politics in the reign of Charles II. We tried to find where John Knox lived as a wee boy but no one we talked to knew where it was – and it was still raining…
Proposed Trip to Dreva Hill Fort on Saturday, 28th August
There will be a visit to this hill fort on Saturday, 28th August. Access is via a well-maintained stile, and then a short rocky walk on level ground. It has inner and outer ramparts of stone and the entrance has an interesting layout. To the south there is a chevaux de frise. An even more remarkable feature is that there are settlements to the north and the west containing round houses, round and rectangular enclosures and carefully laid pathways.
If anyone has enough energy after this we can go to the fort at Tinnis near Drumelzier. This is unusual in that a medieval castle was built on top of an Iron Age fort until someone who didn’t like the owner blew it up, leaving the Iron Age fort undamaged.
Excavation at Penicuik
Our second six month spell of investigation has now come to an end with the pheasant season due to start soon. Work has concentrated on excavation within the trench opened last year and on the stone revetting that curves round the NE end of the promontory overlooking Cornton.
The NE of the trench, which should underlie the ‘castle’ shown on the Ainslie plan of 1796, is composed of almost pure sand and has been confirmed by Mike Browne of British Geological Survey as natural and probably water-laid. This would have been under, or in the rear of, a glacier moving in the direction of Musselburgh some 14000 years ago!
A paved area was found in the SW end of the trench but, like other areas excavated, it produced no finds. The NE end of the trench has now been backfilled over the natural sands, conveniently removing a spoil heap on the south side where we could well excavate next year.
The revetting consists of a mass of stones on the N side of the promontory with a line of smaller stones curving up and round to the south but then increasing in size again and ending in a paved area on the south side of the trench. Robin has completed the E.D.M. topographical survey and this, when drawn, could make more sense of the layout.
The lack of finds means we still cannot date the site; the original idea of an early medieval motte and bailey is still possible but Iron Age or earlier – who knows? All will be revealed – maybe – restarting 6th February 2005.
Ground Resistance Survey in Dalmeny Village, 18-19 September
This survey is the EAFS contribution to Scottish Archaeology Month and will be published through the Council for Scottish Archaeology. These events attract a wide public interest and we need not only members to conduct the survey but also people to explain what is going on to the visitors, show printouts of previous surveys and answer questions. All members who would like to lend a hand please give me a ring.
The survey is being done in cooperation with John Lawson, the City of Edinburgh Archaeological Officer, who will be doing a topographical survey.
Historic Scotland are interested in, and are sponsoring us for, this survey, which should hopefully give some indications of the layout of the medieval village by detecting wall footings. Medieval pottery was found in an excavation last year at Wester Dalmeny Steading just to the west and the church with its Norman origins lies just to the east so there is every hope of finding something of interest.