Issue 162

Newsletter – Issue 162, March 2007

Society Activities

The April lecture (Wednesday, 18th) is Dr Jill Turnbull on Glassmaking in Edinburgh and the Lothians while on Tuesday, 15th May we have member Ian Paterson on The Demise of Knossos – a stratigraphical problem.


1)Outing to Lamb’s House
Our next outing is to Lamb’s House in Leith. It is at the corner of Shore and Bernard Street, the latter being a continuation of Commercial Street (check your Edinburgh Street map if in doubt). We will meet there at 3.30pm on Wednesday, 25th April.
Lamb’s House is a large, impressive 16th century building whose earliest known owner was a merchant named Andrew Lamb. The most important event linked to the house is that Mary, Queen of Scots, had a wee rest there after her journey from France in 1561. It is not recorded whether Mrs Lamb asked her whether she had had her tea.
It was reconstructed in the 17th century and is very attractive with steeply pitched roofs, crowstepped gables, white harling and a corbelled stair tower. As usual for this period the design shows strong Dutch influence. This is also reflected in the interior layout where the family lived downstairs and the merchandise was stored on the first floor.
In recent years it was used as an Old People’s Day Centre but it is now occupied by Friends of the Earth who have kindly offered to show us round – in view of this a good turnout would be appreciated.
2)Trinity House
10 members of the Society paid a visit to Trinity House, Leith on 20th March. It was set up in the 14th century as an incorporation of ship owners and master mariners as a charity for impoverished or disabled seamen and an important part of the service was a hospice. The original building (site unknown) was destroyed during the ‘rough wooing’ in 1544. A new building was constructed on the present site shortly after but all that remains of it are vaulted cellars under the present building which was built in 1816 with an interesting classical facade. An attractive feature inside is an intricate plaster ceiling in the dining room. The walls are covered by oil paintings of mariners and ships but the one that stands out is that of Admiral Duncan, victor of the Battle of Camperdown. There are also fine ship models, covering a long period from sail to steam, examples of equipment used in navigation such as telescopes and sextants and many other sailing memorabilia. This was a very well spent afternoon and our thanks go to the enthusiastic, pleasant and well-informed guide. So enthusiastic that she may join us for the visit to Lamb’s House.

Castlehill, Penicuik

The dig has recommenced and will continue through the summer. Sir Robert Clerk has given permission for a further geophysical survey to be made in the field to the south of Castlehill for us to see whether we can find any anomalies that align with crop marks that appear on two separate RAF photographic surveys. We appear to have found a working site on the hill but no domestic debris – was the residential area on this sheltered south side?

Magnetometry at Lauriston

The initial work in the Farl O’Cakes field, which is reputed to be the site of the burial ground for the Roman fort at Cramond, was a ground resistance survey. It was written up as one of our Geophysics Papers in March 2006. The highs and lows in the printout were difficult to interpret and one of the conclusions was that a magnetometry survey over the same area should be conducted. An offer to perform the survey by a geophysicist, who owns a Bartington Fluxgate Gradiometer, was too good to miss. On 8th March we set out the corner flags of the 24 20 by 20 metre squares and Peter set up his equipment and took all the readings. We took five day sessions while the magnetometry survey took about 2½ hours!
Large areas of Scotland are well known for presenting very ‘noisy’ magnetic pictures due to a lot of glaciated igneous boulders incorporated in the soil – these boulders all give significant positive magnetic responses. The Farl O’Cakes field appears to be a good example of this phenomenon. We now have the task of attempting to interpret the magnetometry in conjunction with the ground resistance printout to see where we have coincident responses and whether they form any pattern. The initial comment from Peter is that some of the magnetic responses to the east of the field could represent rig and furrow from earlier cultivation.

Torwood Broch

On Saturday, 17th March, 5 EAFS members assisted Geoff Bailey in the removal of a significant number of tree saplings of various sizes which had invaded the structure and external defences of Torwood Broch. Geoff had obtained permission from Historic Scotland for the tree clearance work and we were also assisted for a time by members of the Woodland Trust. After much heavy duty sawing, axing etc – cutting down and then cutting up – as Geoff put it ‘a large amount of firewood became available in the Torwood area’. The clearance of the tree cover revealed the broch and its defences in a much better light (ouch!). Toward the end of the day the weather deteriorated and it became quite wet so an earlier than usual finish to a Geoff Bailey event completed a good day for all concerned.

Geophysical Surveys

We have been approached to make two ground resistance surveys in the coming months, both in the West Lothian area.
Firstly, Geoff Bailey wishes to explore an area around the Manuel Nunnery which stands beside the River Avon about a mile upstream from Linlithgow Bridge. He points out that the ford beside the nunnery was originally the lowest crossing point of the Avon and thus that the nunnery probably also had hospice facilities where travellers could stay. Records exist of Edward I being in Stirling between 2nd and 8th October 1301 and travelling to Linlithgow via Manuel – he was in Linlithgow from 23rd October 1301 to 31 January 1302. Accommodation must have been of a high standard and large enough to house his retinue. The cloister is recorded as being swept away in a flood of the Avon and only a small area adjacent to the still standing gable end wall is a Scheduled Area. Historical research suggests significant building on the north side which is undisturbed, unscheduled and worth surveying.
Secondly, a request has been received from the History of Armadale Association who are interested in Ogilface Castle which is listed by NMRS as NS96NW1 and lies near to Woodend Farm to the northwest of Armadale. A 1773 map appears to show a castle further to the west near to Blackridge and the question arises ‘Was this an earlier castle of the same name?’ We will see whether we can find footings of dimensions that indicate walls of a thickness compatible with there having been a castle on the site.
Confirmation has been received from Historic Scotland that they are prepared to grant aid these two projects together with the geophysical survey to be made alongside Castlehill. We are pleased to record our thanks to Dr Noel Fojut of Historic Scotland for this continued support of our geophysical projects.


Sundays till further notice. Penicuik dig. 13th-15th April.   Scottish Society for Northern Studies, Annual Study Conference, University of Aberdeen. Details from
Wednesday, 18th April. Society lecture – Dr Jill Turnbull on Glassmaking in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Wednesday, 25th April.   Outing to Lamb’s House (see above).
27th-29th April. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, The Rhind Lectures, ‘Living in an Age of Stone’ (Neolithic Peoples and Their Worlds), Professor Gabriel Cooney of University College, Dublin. Friday, 27th 6.00pm, Saturday 28th, 11.00am, 2.00pm and 3.30pm. Sunday, 29th, 2.00pm and 3.30pm. Details from
Saturday, 5th May.  Council for Scottish Archaeology, Scottish Archaeological Fair, Strathpeffer Pavilion. Details on
Tuesday, 15th May. Society lecture – Ian Paterson on the Demise of Knossos – a stratigraphical problem.
17th-20th May. Council for Scottish Archaeology, Summer School, Sutherland (Bettyhill). See
Saturday, 26th May. Archaeological Research in Progress, 9.30am – 5.30pm, National Museum of Scotland Lecture Theatre. Details at
15th-16th September. The Friends of the Whithorn Trust, weekend event to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the founding of the Trust (in place of the annual Whithorn Lecture). Details from Friends of the Whithorn Trust, c/o Headland Archaeology, 13 Jane Street, Edinburgh EH6 5HE – 0131467 7705.

(Views and opinions expressed in this Newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society, its Committee and Members, or the Editor).