Issue 166

Newsletter – Issue 166, January 2008

Society Activities

2008 got off to a good start with a very interesting and thought-provoking talk by Strat Halliday entitled Pictish Stones in the Landscape. In February we have Ian Suddaby on The Skye Project while our March talk will be by Dr Theo Skinner on The Tay Logboat – as always 7.30pm at 23a Fettes Row.

EAFS Visit to AOC Excavation in Kirkliston – 10/17 December 2007

EAFS members visited the AOC Archaeology Group excavation on the former Kirkliston Distillery/Scotmalt site. Most of the buildings had been demolished, leaving only two maltings which were to be incorporated in the new housing development.
In 1795 the Lambsmiln Distillery started operations here, later changing its name to Kirkliston Distillery. By the 1880s the Distillery was producing some 700,000 gallons of grain and malt whisky each year, grain being brought in to a railway siding. The distillery operated a steam locomotive, No 843. A description of the distillery while in operation can be found at The distillery ceased spirit production and closed in 1920, and was later taken over by Scotmalt to produce malt extract for the food industry and for home brew beer kits. It may latterly have been used for storage by the nearby Drambuie site.
The area under excavation revealed a complex sequence of brick-built chimney and storage tank bases overlying a series of stone built culverts, three pillar bases and an overshot mill wheel pit. A small area of cobbling may indicate an earlier road alignment The complex water supply system, fed by two reservoirs, consisted of the mill leat, a by-pass culvert and other deeper culverts which were not fully revealed at the time of our visit. It was also noted that a small hill to the SW of the site was thought to be a motte.
This was a very interesting visit and a change from our usual diet of prehistoric, Roman and medieval. Our thanks to Murray Cook for arranging the visits and to Erlend Hindmarch for guiding us round the site.

Castlehill, Penicuik and Manuel Nunnery

Both the ground resistance survey conducted in the field to the south of Castlehill and the magnetometry plus ground resistance surveys that were made in conjunction with Geoff Bailey’s dig at Manuel Nunnery received grant support from Historic Scotland. The reports on these two surveys are now complete except for illustrations and will become numbers 17 and 18 in our geophysical series.


Penicuik is due to restart sometime in February – weather permitting. After an initial meeting on site to plan our 2008 campaign it will be all systems go to try and find out what we have actually got – some dateable finds would be nice.


The proposal to conduct a further geophysical survey and dig over a cropmark to the north of the Farl O Cakes field at Lauriston was on hold as there was a doubt concerning which aerial photograph showed this cropmark. This was resolved when it was realised that the cropmark was present on two oblique photographs but not on any of the vertical stereo pairs. Priority has now changed as John Lawson is planning to conduct a dig on the Roman fort at Cramond this summer that is likely to involve the Society. The dig at Farl O Cakes and the survey and dig to the north are again on hold until the Roman fort site investigation is resolved.

Cramond NE Roman Vicus

We have now received Scheduled Monument permission from Historic Scotland to conduct a magnetometry survey over the same field to the east of Cramond House that we ground resistance surveyed in 2004. The total area that we covered was 9200 sq m but not all of this was in the scheduled area. We already have access permission from the land agents who are responsible to Cramond and Harthill Trust, the owners of the ground. Some fine weather is needed as magnetometry in the rain is not a good idea.

Cousland Pottery

The geophysical survey over the possible pottery site to the west of Cousland started on 24th November. The ploughed section of the field on the west side of the A6124 was laid out in 20 by 20m squares. These were used by Cousland Historical Society and YAC as the basis of their field walking and were fully magnetically surveyed by Dr Peter Morris, while we managed to resistance survey the first six squares at the southern end. The magnetic survey shows large anomalies at the northern end of the field suggesting kilns. Our printout of resistance at the southern end has rather less in the way of features. The field walkers collected a mass of varied pottery, kiln furniture and calcined brick. This was all taken to Cousland village hall, washed by their Society and examined by George Haggerty. A very encouraging start to the investigation. We must return as soon as the weather is reasonable to complete the resistance survey.

Cousland Castle and Nunnery

The results of the surveys on either side of the castle/tower house were disappointing as it appears that ground levels had been lowered, removing most of the archaeology. David Connolly is keen that we should return to survey the field to the south of the castle which has now produced clues that it could be the nunnery site.

Ogilface Castle

The report on our surveys made last year at the castle and at ‘Ogilface in ruins’ on Stand Hill some 2km to the west is nearing completion and must be in to Historic Scotland soon (as a condition of the grant aid we received for the work). The report will be number 19 in our geophysical series.
John and Rosie Wells, of the History of Armadale Association, have provided a lot of support and their aerial photographs, taken from their large ‘wing’ kite, have been instrumental in helping interpretation of the geophysics. Low angle lighting makes the humps and bumps of these two intriguing sites stand out amazingly.
The completion of the report will see the end of the first phase of this investigation into a Barony created when David I gave the area to the de Bosco family in 1124. There appears to be a great deal more that could, and should, be done before a possible wind farm development takes place nearby.

Lochrin Basin Archaeology Project

In the coming months AOC Archaeology Group will be undertaking the excavation of Lochrin Basin in the Tollcross area of Edinburgh. The basin was one of the three Edinburgh ports on the Union Canal. This excavation will be open to the public for its duration. An on-site exhibition and guided tours will be available and there will also be the opportunity for some hands-on experience including finds processing and excavation. The Society has been asked to help but details of our actual involvement have not yet been decided.

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

Alan Calder – Honorary Chairman
Ian Hawkins – Honorary Vice-Chairman
Brian Tait – Honorary Secretary
Hugh Dinwoodie – Honorary Treasurer
Anne Brockington – Assistant Treasurer
Graeme Collie
Val Dean
Don Matthews
Ian Paterson
Jill Strobridge