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Standing Building Recording

Date 2012

Event ID 993250

Category Recording

Type Standing Building Recording


NT 21726 59208 A programme of archaeological monitoring, recording and excavation has been ongoing in 2012 as part of a long term project to stabilise and conserve Penicuik House. The measured survey of the interior elevations of the principal reception rooms, in the central block of the house was completed at the end of 2011. This work, which examined the entrance hall and the Ossian Salon at the S end of the house, provided a greater understanding of the build up of wall linings and integrated decoration. The elaborate set of three arch-headed, plastered niches positioned centrally on the E and W walls were of particular interest. The curve of the niches was formed by bedding broken pantile into a thick layer of course lime mortar. Several layers of successively finer plaster were then applied to form a very smooth finish. A double line of timber dooks visible on all four elevations indicated where the cornice would have been in the ground floor room. Along the E wall the width of the skirting was visible as a red band along the masonry.

Although contemporary illustrations of the Ossian Salon survive, the survey added new details, including an opening to the right of the fireplace at the E end of the room. The walls are covered with timber dook holes which would have supported timber batons for the lath and plaster. The lines of dooks indicate the height of the cornice and possibly a dado. The complete timber facings on the S-facing windows survive with traces of white or cream paint. Each of the three S-facing windows had undergone alterations, and evidence in the masonry suggests that they had been raised.

Excavations within the house continue to uncover surviving flagged floors, together with evidence of how the heating system in the house operated. The extensive vaulted cellars to the S of the house were investigated and recorded for the first time this season. They are accessed from a gated doorway below the entrance ramp, and extend for a total of 23m to the S, where a second entrance opens onto a terraced walk. Each of the rooms without a window had a light shaft from the grassed area above, which would presumably have had a grill covering. They are now topped with slates and turf has grown over them. The main part of the cellar is divided into seven rooms. Two further small rooms can only be entered from outside, on either side of the main cellar entrance. Each of these rooms is lit by a large barred window.

The ongoing process of clearing the rubble at the E end of the main house has made it possible to begin examination of what would have been the external E wall of the house before the addition of the wings designed by David Bryce. The wall has been significantly altered and the N end reduced in width to accommodate an additional staircase.

Clearing and excavations in the E Bryce wing of the house revealed a floor structure that parallels the one recorded in the W Bryce wing, but differs from the floor structure in the original part of the building. The extensive areas of thin flagstones that survive in the E wing are supported on a network of crudely built dwarf walls interspaced with cavities, whilst the slabs in the older part of the house had been placed directly upon brown sand.

Comparatively little of significance was recovered during rubble clearance in the E part of the house. A collection of iron and other metal fixtures and fittings was recovered, and accumulations of melted lead provided further evidence of the fire that destroyed the building.

In addition to the building recording a geophysical survey was carried out by members of EAFS. Cartographic evidence suggested that Newbiggin House, which was demolished to allow the construction of Penicuik House, was located largely beneath the footprint of the upstanding building, with a small part extending on to the lawn. EAFS expressed an interest in carrying out a geophysical survey in order to determine if any remains were detectable buried beneath the lawns. The results of this survey are presented below.

Archive: Project ongoing

Funder: Penicuik House Preservation Trust

Jenni Morrison, Addyman Archaeology


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