Issue 163

Newsletter – Issue 163, May 2007

Society Activities

Nothing until the summer is over. We start again on Wednesday, 17th October, with Jonathan Wordsworth on Working with farmers to protect Scotland’s Heritage.


Outing to Lamb’s House
Eight members went to Lamb’s House. Some consider that this house may have been the finest house in Leith in the 16th and 17th centuries – it is now owned by the National Trust and has been converted to office accommodation (not very prettily). From the outside it promises a lot with a turnpike stair, tall chimneys, crow-stepped gables and lots of interesting ‘bits’. Internally however everything has been covered up (destroyed?) by the conversion to offices. There are hints of what may lie behind the plasterboard/hardboard etc (massive fireplaces, ogee-arched sinks on the stair with the waste outlet at the bottom) but until they rip out these offices (and I believe there may be plans to do so, subject to finance), the inside of Lamb’s House is disappointing. This may be an ugly duckling about to become a swan, but for the present enjoy the exterior!
Castlehill, Penicuik
The dig has continued on a regular Sunday basis since our first session of the year on 4th March. Considerable progress has been made on recording the ‘revetment’ stones that curve round the NE end of the promontory – for the record these must become Trench 7. This year’s digging has taken place in trenches 1, 3 and 5.
Trench 1 was partially back-filled last year in the area declared ‘natural’ by our friends in BGS but between this and the hearth area a complicated clay context has been found that could possibly have been a clay floor but has been much disturbed by rabbit burrows, fallen trees and tree roots. Trench 3 was extended last year to section the inner bank along the line of the resistive linear array measurement. In addition to a putative post hole a large sandstone slab was found in the base of the ditch. This slab aligned well with a rise in resistance in the linear array readings that were taken when we first started work on the site. On extending the trench along the line of the ditch no continuation of the paving has been found. A single find from the bottom of the ditch is a glass sherd that has been identified as being from a bottle base dated by Robin as not earlier than late 18th century. This raises the question ‘Did it fall into the ditch from a higher level over winter or was the ditch a late constructed form of ha-ha to keep animals out of Castlehill Plantation?’ The investigation continues.

The magnetometry survey made in March shows a significant circle at the north end of the field and this aligns well with a less clear high resistance circle on the area resistance survey. Don Matthews scaled both prints to the same size and printed them out on transparent film (this simplifies looking for features that are coincident). John Lawson, the City Archaeology Officer, has looked at the printouts and suggests that, after a further survey over cropmarks to the north, an excavation could be arranged next year on both sites.

Manuel Nunnery

Geoff Bailey has supplied a plan of the site to the north of the small gable end that is still standing (and scheduled). The field is under crop that will probably be harvested in August. The area indicated as being of interest extends to about twenty of our standard 20 by 20 metre squares so at least three days work is envisaged.

Ogilface Castle

An area ground resistance survey was made over 2000 sq. m. at the castle site at Woodend, Armadale on 21st April. Some large dressed stone slabs protrude through the grass of the field and appear to be in situ whereas others are down the slope towards a burn that flows on the north side of the promontory on which the castle stands. The steepness of the slope suggests that the burn has eroded the castle and this seems to be confirmed by the ground resistance printout that shows high resistance disappearing over the edge. A return to the site, with Dr Peter Morris to carry out a magnetometry survey, took place on 19th May in atrocious weather with high winds and heavy showers. However 1600 sq. m. was surveyed and the initial printout of the magnetometry confirms the basic shape of the castle that appeared on the resistance printout. The proposed resistance survey on the site nearer to Blackridge was abandoned (another date has yet to be arranged). Our thanks go to Peter for continuing in such conditions.


A resistance and magnetometry survey will be made on this site to the east of the tower house on Saturday, 2nd June. This should show the buildings that are believed to be part of the tower house complex. The site is only about 20m. wide in the E-W direction so a straight row of 4 or 5 squares should cover it. The other site in Cousland, the pottery, is currently under cultivation so a survey date will be fixed after the harvest.

Maiden Castle

We continued the resistance survey at Maiden Castle on 14th April. A further two grids were surveyed over the visible earthworks. A possible small rectangular high resistance anomaly was revealed on the outer bank which might require further investigation. This completes the survey phase. Thanks to John Sharp for arranging access and to the Esk Valley Trust for permission to survey.

Excavations at 4 Camelon Road, Falkirk 16th-18th May

A very good turnout of our members assisted Geoff Bailey on a back garden excavation on the line of the Antonine Wall. Two trenches were dug in remarkably quick time and the outer (north) edge of the ditch was located at a slightly different alignment to that on the OS plans. The upcast mound was also excavated. No Roman material was found, only some green-glaze sherds, clay pipes and one coin of George III dated 1804. Possible evidence for deposition of material cleaned out from the ditch on the area between the ditch and the upcast mound was noted.

Fieldwalking at Carriden Roman Fort 2007

(from Geoff Bailey who sends his thanks for the help received from EAFS members) A fieldwalking exercise was undertaken on the site of the Roman fort at Carriden on Thursday, 8th March 2007. It was organised by Falkirk Museum with a group of enthusiastic volunteers and the weather was fine. The material has now been washed, marked and catalogued. The field occupying the eastern third of the fort was ploughed at the end of February but it was the beginning of March before the museum archaeologist was made aware of this. In the meantime it was evident from footprints and reports that the area had been extensively searched by illegal metal detecting. A wide strip of unploughed land lay around the margins of the field so that the first 10 metre strip was unavailable for fieldwalking. Nonetheless, the overall number of finds was actually greater than in the similar exercise carried out in 2005.

  2005 2007
samian 9 23
mortaria 8 11
amphorae 46 67
beaker 1
coarseware 12 15

(The samian sherds from 2007 were rather small!) These quantities are small by comparison with material recovered from Mumrills during fieldwalking, but normal for this site.

Practically all the finds are from within the area of the fort. There is a marked concentration of Roman pottery from the SE corner of the fort. Medieval pottery is also biased towards the south side of the field adjacent to the old high street (now occupied by the farm road to Stacks). All the Roman material is second century in date. Coarseware is under represented – this is presumably due to the difficulty in spotting grey and black material in ploughed soil. The earliest medieval pottery is the white and pink gritty wares of the 12th-13th centuries, typical of coastal settlements.

The material collected adds to that from previous years which, when combined, will provide a better representation of the varied wares used at the site. The catalogue of samian and mortaria, particularly from the dated horizon of the Antonine wall, will provide useful comparative material for Roman Britain.

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