Issue 167

Newsletter – Issue 167, March 2008

Society Activities

On Wednesday, 16th April, Tertia Barnett will be talking on ‘Getting involved with Scotland’s Rural Past’ and there will be the opportunity for those interested in getting involved with this project to get more information.
David Connolly will be talking to us on Tuesday, 13th May, on ‘New Frontiers – Romans in the Lothians’.
The November talk by Simon Stronach has had to be changed as he will be far away at the time. Instead his colleague, Liz Jones, will be talking on ‘Recent Excavations in the Cowgate, Edinburgh – the medieval town and its defences’.
Visit to Cramond Tower: Thursday, 1st May at 7 pm (from Val Dean)
The Jamieson family has very kindly agreed to host a visit to the early 15th century Cramond Tower. The derelict tower was restored by them in the late 1970’s and a modern extension added in 1992 (on the footprint of an earlier extension, excavated by the Society).

Cramond Post-excavation

The Society was delighted to receive a very generous donation from the Robert Kiln Trust which has enabled us to have the coin assemblage from the 1988-2001 excavations cleaned and conserved prior to their going to Nicholas Holmes for examination and report. Our most grateful thanks to the Trust.

Surveys in 2007 at Penicuik, Manuel and Ogilface

The reports for these three surveys, due to reach Historic Scotland before the end of March, were completed rather more quickly than expected. They were dispatched to Historic Scotland for approval on 18th February and by the end of that week a letter arrived saying they were ‘entirely acceptable’ and ‘thoroughly competent pieces of work. My congratulations to all involved’.

Fieldwalking at Carriden, 8th March 2008 (from Ian Hawkins)

EAFS again provided a good turn out of members to assist Geoff Bailey with fieldwalking the eastern part of Carriden Roman fort. On a very wet day which fortunately dried up in the late morning, a good quantity of Roman pottery was recovered including amphora, possible mortaria and several sherds of samian ware, including one decorated piece. We await Geoff’s report with interest.

Excavations at 76 Grahamsdyke Street, Laurieston, 13th – 15th March 2008

Excavations on the site of a house extension revealed clay and turf deposits from the collapsed rampart together with a narrow linear slot at right angles to the Wall line which was capped with turf. Several pieces of a small cooking pot were found adjacent. To the west of this slot there was evidence of in-situ turf work which may have been part of a possible expansion or watch tower rampart and a hearth containing some burnt bone.

Tree Clearance at Torwood Broch, 16th March 2008

Following on from last year’s efforts, clearance of most of the remaining trees and cutting of regrowth was completed, assisted greatly by the availability of a chainsaw operator. Geoff Bailey has commented ‘We had beautiful weather yesterday at the broch and cleared another substantial area of birch and the odd conifer. There has been very little regeneration from our work of the last two years and the site is looking far better. It is now possible to appreciate the contours of the outworks and the hilltop setting of the broch’.

The Barony of Ogilface

Time Team have shown interest in the historical research that John and Rosie Wells have done and in our two geophysical surveys to the west of Armadale. They have made their decisions on the sites to be excavated this year (which will go out in early 2009) and Ogilface is not included. It will however be considered for possible excavation in 2009 for transmitting in spring 2010.
Torpichen also lies within the Barony and there is action on two fronts to see whether we can, again in conjunction with John and Rosie Wells, survey over the humps and bumps that indicate the preceptory foundations.


Our excavation at Penicuik starts again on Sunday, 13th April, meeting at the entrance to the estate at 10.00am. No details of where we will be able to park near the site yet. Remember to have your tetanus jabs up to date.

Geophysical Surveys in 2008

Cousland Castle/Tower House and Nunnery
Our first geophysical search for the nunnery was on Saturday, 29th March. Further dates are still to be fixed but those of you on our email alert service will be informed as and when we know.
The magnetometry survey over the NE vicus area that lies to the E of Cramond House is programmed for early May and should be completed in one day although relaying out the grid squares will need to be done in advance. That part of the field nearest Cramond House is within the Scheduled Monument area but we have permission from Historic Scotland and also from the land agents of Cramond and Harthill Trust so all we have to do is give two weeks notice.
The vicus area is likely to include oven sites for cooking, kilns for pottery, brick and flue tile manufacture and possibly forges for metal working. The very limited magnetometry survey made in parallel with our resistance measurements early in 2004 did not include the periphery of the site so it is hoped that this magnetic survey will indicate some strong responses not found previously.
Luggate, Cousland Pottery and Old Pentland
David Connolly hopes to get permission for a small survey over the site of a 12th century chapel site reputedly beside the Old Pentland graveyard.
Cousland Pottery site will be available again after harvest in September.
Luggate will hopefully also become available for survey in the latter part of the year


Scotland’s Rural Past (SRP) is a five-year, nationwide project, which will support local communities across Scotland to investigate deserted rural settlements dating from the medieval and post-medieval periods. The project, which was launched in October 2006, is hosted by the RCAHMS, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Through the work of the Historic Rural Settlement Trust these organisations have recognised the need to improve our understanding of these rural sites and encourage their conservation by involving local people.
As part of this project a small group of volunteers in the Edinburgh area have got together to locate and record a number of ruined farmsteads in the Pentland hills. The work is still in its early stages but we have also set up our own small website to collate historical information, survey results and photographs and hopefully this will eventually migrate to the main SRP page. We have already started recording ruined buildings at Threipmuir and Craigentarrie, near Harlaw Reservoir and Kirkton Cottage near Glencorse. Threipmuir is a long segmented cottage with two outbuildings and a detached semi-circular platform that was probably associated with a threshing machine. Although the Threipmuir name occurs frequently in early records the farmhouse itself doesn’t seem to appear on maps until comparatively late so it may be a fairly modern (perhaps late 18th or early 19th century) construction. Craigentarrie however has written records dating back to 1618 and is shown on several early maps including one from 1773 depicting two or three widely scattered buildings. Today there is only a single long cottage showing at least 4 phases of construction with a small brick outhouse. Both farms are now run from Wester Kinleith Farm and the landowner Dalmeny Estates and the farmer Alexander Fleming have been very generous, kindly allowing us access whenever we needed.
Kirkton Cottage is a small ruined structure, part of Kirkton Farm, overlooking Glencorse Reservoir. Map and census records suggest that it was not constructed until about 1852/3 but it continued in use until the 1930s when the owners used to serve tea and refreshments to hill walkers. Unfortunately although I have been able to locate a photograph of Threipmuir while it was still occupied I have been unable to find one for Kirkton Cottage. So if anyone has a collection of old photographs or postcards of the Pentlands I’d be delighted to know of any with houses.
Survey work at all these sites have been accomplished despite some appalling weather conditions – and a debt of gratitude is due to everyone who has braved the elements! However new sites are coming up all the time and there are several that will need to be surveyed, recorded and researched in some form in the coming months – hopefully in better weather! A few are listed below.
Acrehead (near Wester Bavelaw) – there are early records for this site but it disappears from the maps by 1828 probably around the time that Bavelaw Estate extended its parkland enclosures. This suggests the remains are of an early type of farmhouse perhaps turf-walled with stone footings that have survived in excellent condition because the field has only been used for pasture.
Back Spital. This is a rather remote site (probably a shepherd’s cottage) near North Esk Reservoir. However the Spital name reflects monastic use of the area and since the Pentlands offer extensive and productive grazing for both sheep and cattle it is very likely that there was a monastic Grange somewhere nearby. Early maps depict two Spital names (Back and Fore) and also two Friarton names one of which has now been located on the ground with the remains of more stone footings for a three chambered house. Other place names such as Damhead that appear on early maps but have vanished from more recent ones have yet to be located on the ground while sites such as the one at Logie Burn, with foundations of a cottage and an enclosure although clearly depicted as a ruin on the 1st ed OS maps had already lost any record of what it might once have been called.
An area of low mounds west of Wester Bavelaw near the remains of lime kilns is probably the site of another lost and now nameless farmstead.
The Pentland Rangers Service has also offered us space for a small exhibition in September so there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who would like to get involved.


13th April, Sunday – Penicuik dig restarts.
16th April, Wednesday – Society lecture – Tertia Barnett, Getting involved with Scotland’s Rural Past.
25th-27th April, Friday-Sunday – The Rhind Lectures – Professor Ole Crumlin-Pederson ‘Archaeology and the Sea in Scandinavia and Britain’.
25th-27th April, Friday-Saturday – Scottish Castle two day conference organised by the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, at Main Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh College of Arts. Details from AHSS National Office on 0131 557 0019 or
13th May, Tuesday – Society lecture – David Connolly, New Frontiers – Romans in the Lothians
30th May – 1st June, Friday-Sunday – Archaeological Research in Progress Caithness conference. Details from Archaeology Scotland on 0131 668 4189 or
31st May, Saturday – TAFAC one day conference on ‘First Contact: Rome and Northern Britain. Details from Mark A Hall on 01738 632488 or
31st May – 4th June, Saturday-Wednesday – Maritime Societies of the Viking and Medieval World conference. Details at – for those wanting a holiday in Kirkwall.
19th-21st September, Friday-Sunday – Scotland in later Prehistoric Europe conference to be held in Edinburgh. Details from Society of Antiquaries at Chambers Street or at


Many thanks to all those who replied to my query regarding the origin of the word ‘flyer’- it looks as though it comes from the US who used the words fly-sheet, fly-bill and handbill to describe a small sheet which was broadcast by hand or thrown from a horse or coach.
In case anyone hasn’t noticed the Council for Scottish Archaeology is relaunching itself under the trading name of Archaeology Scotland – new name and a brand new image.
Brian Tait,
31st March 2008
(Views and opinions expressed in this Newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society, its Committee and Members, or the Editor).