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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 714356

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


NT27SE 205 2574 7329

The site adjacent to the Royal Scottish Museum at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge (centred NT 2574 7329) was investigated in advance of development. Part of the 16th-century Flodden Wall (NT27SE 14) was found incorporated into the walls of later tenements, and remains of timber structures of 15th/16th-century date were also located, but no proper ground plan could be formulated because of disturbance by post-medieval building operations.

C J Tabraham 1973; L E Webster and J Cherry 1974; A T Simpson, S Stevenson and N Holmes 1981.

Site assessment reflected six main archaeological phases:

1. The natural hill at the W end of Chambers Street was terraced on its N and W sides and the area defined by a ditch or embankment. The latter was infilled, recut and abandoned prior to the late 16th/early 17th century industrial use of the site.

2. Major industrial activity terminating during the 17th century interpreted due to good dating evidence and extensive documentation as part of the brewery set up by the 'Fellowship and Society of Ale and Beer Brewers of the Burgh of Edinburgh'. Structural evidence consisted of an extensive walled yard with a large stone-lined cistern in one corner.

3. The terrace occupied during phase 2 was truncated by tenement building in the 18th century along the E side of Candlemaker Row.

4. George IV Bridge was built and the street frontage regularised away from the traditional, natural route down to the Grassmarket via Candlemaker Row.

5. The demolition of all structures between Chambers Street, Lindsay Place and Bristo Port in 1973.

6. The area was landscaped and made into a park in 1976.

The site assessment took place in April 1991 and has been followed up by a more extensive survey, still under way at the time of writing.

Sponsor RMS.

G Ewart 1991.

Large scale excavation was carried out on the site, following on from the earlier site assessment. In addition to evidence of 17th century brewing, the excavations have brought to light other early evidence of settlement and land use in the area. This included evidence of the gardens shown on the Gordon of Rothiemay bird's eye view, which in turn overlay an earlier pattern of land use. This was primarily agricultural, with the site divided into strips of land, the boundary between the two of which was marked by rows of rubbish pits. The plots of land themselves were bounded on two sides by a ditch which may represent the burgh boundary of earlier date than the Flodden Wall. It is dated by the presence of White Gritty Ware pottery in its fill, which is no later than 14th century in date.

Sponsor: National Museum of Scotland

G Ewart 1992.

A final, brief phase of archaeological excavation was completed on the extreme southern edge of the proposed museum site, where temporary offices had been located. In the light of this most recent investigation, primarily on elements of 18th and 19th-century tenement development, the overall sequence of occupation on this extensive urban site can be summarised as follows:

1. Creation of cultivation terraces in the 13th-15th century.

2. Excavation of a deep quarry pit.

3. Levelling of the site during the 17th century.

4. Construction of elements of the Society of Brewers complex in the mid-late 17th century.

5. Construction of domestic dwellings by 1765.

6. Development of tenements in 19th and 20th century.

7. Demolition of tenements in 1973.

8. Landscaping by PSA in 1975.

Sponsor: National Museum of Scotland

G Ewart 1993.

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