Newsletter – Issue 157, March 2006
Visit to Mavisbank House
We have made arrangements for a visit to Mavisbank House at 2.30pm on Wednesday, 26th April. Designed for Sir John Clerk by William Adam and built between 1723 and 1727, it was the first Palladian house to be erected in Scotland. In 1973 the interior was destroyed by fire. Such was the historic and architectural importance of the house that the Mavisbank Trust was set up to implement its restoration.
We shall be meeting at the side of the A768 Loanhead to Lasswade road next to Loanhead Farm at the west end of Loanhead. Since the Mavisbank Trust have gone to considerable trouble to organise the visit, I should be grateful if as many folk as possible could turn up.
Two more lectures before the Summer break. Wednesday, 19th April – Jim Wilson on British History – the Genetic Picture. Tuesday, 16th May – Mhairi Hastie on Soil Samples.
To date only two visits have been made to the site due to poor weather. The blue tarpaulins covering the trenches were intact and there has been no disturbance to the contexts although a large number of autumn leaves had to be cleared before work proper restarted. The plan is to excavate in four areas but this is going to depend on the amount of labour available – it is hoped to have a weekday dig as well as the Sunday one.
Trench 1 contains what appears to be a hearth but it has not produced any dateable finds. About 4m from the SW end of the trench there is a marked change in the ground slope that may represent the edge of a habitation area – it seems worthwhile extending the trench to see what underlies this step.
Trench 2 has produced two Late Iron Age stone tools and has two paved areas (possibly a hearth and a threshold). This apparent habitation may extend to the NE towards the end of the promontory. To explore this, a new trench (5) has been started on the NE side of Trench 2.
Trench 3 was started last season as a section across the inner bank at the SW end of the site at a point where two parallel low resistance lines, that run the length of the promontory from the ‘castle’, lead to a low resistance area of the bank which may represent an exit from the fort. A lot of work is required as the section will ultimately be 1.5m high.
Trench 6 will be to the N of Trench 1 in an area that showed a significant high resistance in our survey. This must be checked out but, at the moment, it is not top of the priority list.
Some time ago EAFS received an email from the Esk Valley Trust, which has purchased Ewan Wood near Loanhead on the north bank of the River Esk. The wood is on a peninsula bordered by a loop in the North Esk. An interesting feature is that at the north end there are two large ramparts on either side of a ditch. There is little information on these but it is likely that they form part of an Iron Age promontory fort.
Given the amount of work still required at Penicuik we are unlikely to take on further work on geophysics or excavation in the near future. An initial problem however is that the ramparts and ditch are buried under a dense layer of vegetation. Removal of this would make it much easier to make plans for the future.
In 1997 and 1999 we field walked over forty 20 by 20m squares in the field to the west of the Ferryman’s Cottage. The finds varied from comparatively recent pottery, the result of 19th and 20th century midden spreads, to a section of shale bracelet, an odd bit of amphora and lithics. The lithics were recognised as similar to our finds from the Cramond dig in trenches F and G and thus of Mesolithic date.