Issue 164

Newsletter – Issue 164, July 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.

Manuel Nunnery by Linlithgow

The crop will be off the field to the N of the Nunnery by 4th August which is the start of Geoff Bailey’s investigations.
We will lay out the field in 20 by 20 metre squares for geophysical survey and Peter Morris has agreed to do the magnetometry survey first.  Magnetometry can be done more quickly than ground resistance measurements so Peter should complete his survey on that day.  We will work round him and probably take two more days.  Geoff is likely to put in exploratory trenches just outside the Scheduled Area and in line with the remaining gable wall.  Hopefully we should be able to tell him where other walls run or features appear. Unlike the Time Team schedule, the farmer has given Geoff two full weeks of access.

New email address

Please note that the EAFS email address is now (replace AT with @).

Ogilface Castle

The date for investigating the site nearer Blackridge has not yet been arranged but should fit in after the two weeks spent at Manuel.  This site is on the S side of East Craigs Hill and may be recorded by RCAHMS as ‘cultivation terraces’.  East Craigs Hill (and this site) have a large number of apparently glaciated boulders scattered randomly on the surface although some on the site make a clearly rectangular shape.

The 1737 map of East Lothian made by John Adair shows, rather diagrammatically, the houses of East and West Craigs adjacent to the hills of those names but also shows another house to the S of East Craigs but does not name it.  A house of 1737 would be expected to appear as rather more than a row of boulders so hopefully we will find whether a house did exist there.

Castlehill, Penicuik

We are now almost at the end of the digging season at Penicuik but have not yet been given the date when the pheasants will be released and our presence would cause disturbance.
We were pleased to welcome Geoff Bailey to the site on 8th July who, with his usual vigour, excavated in the revetment at the NE end of the site and in the bank and ditch of Trench 3.  He believes that some of the revetment stones are bedded on gravel, not natural sandy gravel subsoil – this would point to a ‘feature’ in the layout of the plantation.

The full depth of the ditch between the two banks at the SW end of the site is still a matter of debate.  An upper shallow infill of dark soil has accumulated in about the last 200 years as it was in this level that three glass bottle sherds of about that age have been found.  Geoff exposed an area of large cobble stones on the SW side of the inner bank; these may be the same context as some cobbles set in clay found last year that could have been placed to stabilise the face of the bank.

Sessions of level measurement and drawing are now nearing completion to record the site as it is – even though in many places we cannot say what it is.  Iron Age features could well have been modified (or obliterated) when banks or fences were erected to prevent animals entering Castlehill Plantation when the first young trees were planted.

Ground Resistance Survey adjacent to Castlehill

Five 20 by 20 metre squares were laid out in the field to the S of Castlehill on 17th June and the area was surveyed, under rather wet conditions, on 24th June.
A set of stereo photographs, held in RCAHMS, taken from an RAF sortie in 1955 shows a dark circle in the field with a line running NE from it.  The height from which the photos were taken gave a scale of 1:10000 making it difficult to identify small features or measure their size accurately.

The thought behind the survey was that, if Castlehill was used for processing hides and leather, did the Iron Age population live a suitable distance from the smell?
Despite the conditions, the ridge in the field showed quite high resistance readings and, with the eye of faith, there is a roughly circular low resistance cut into the ridge.  The interpretation of a line running NE from it is however problematical.  There are no plans to excavate but it is at least now recorded and will be written up as part of our obligations to Historic Scotland who provided grant aid.


The site to the E of Cousland Tower House was surveyed, as planned, on 2nd June using the ground resistance equipment.  Five 20 by 20 metre squares in a N-S line were surveyed and showed remarkably little except probable changes in geology.
The Tower House foundations are on solid limestone bedrock and the house doorway is over 0.5m above present field level.  David Connolly reckoned that there is a historical record of buildings to the E of the Tower.  Is it possible that all trace of the buildings disappeared because limestone was mined from the field leaving the Tower sitting on bedrock above the field as it is now?
In an unconnected piece of reading in John Wood’s ‘Parish of Cramond’ I came upon Sir James Macgill of Drylaw who was raised to the peerage on 19th April 1651 with the titles Viscount Oxford and Lord Macgill of Cousland.  I wonder whether he had any connection to the Tower House!

Cousland Pottery

No date yet for the resistive and magnetic survey to the E of Cousland where pottery kilns are expected in the field where fieldwalking has produced pottery wasters and kiln furniture. The crop should be harvested around September so the surveys should fit in after Manuel and Ogilface.


A session looking at eight different sets of stereo air photos did not result in identifying the crop mark that John Lawson wishes us to survey.  It seems that there are other photographic sorties on record and it must be on one of these.  Information is awaited on which sortie shows this particular crop mark.  A survey could be arranged for late autumn once this is identified.
During the course of looking at these photos a Geonex sortie of 24th July 1990 showed a lot of parch marks in Lauriston.  In particular there appeared to be a path parallel to Cramond Road South and a large semicircle off this towards the castle.  If these represent the layout of a large formal garden does this cast doubt on our earlier conclusions about the detection of the continuation of the Roman Road across Lauriston towards Davidson Mains?

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