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Edinburgh, Castlehill, Duke Of Gordon's House

Town House (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, Castlehill, Duke Of Gordon's House

Classification Town House (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Argyle House

Canmore ID 111762

Site Number NT27SE 636

NGR NT 2540 7348

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian


Watching Brief (27 January 2012 - 16 March 2012)

NT 2551 7353 (centred on) A watching brief was maintained 27 January – 16 March 2012 on work associated with the replacement of a main gas pipe in Edinburgh’s Old Town. The work consisted of the excavation of a series of trenches along Johnston Terrace, the S side of the Castle Rock and the Lawnmarket at the top of the High Street.

A range of deposits and features were recorded, with the clearest distinction existing between the deposits on Johnston Terrace and the High Street or Upper Bow. The survival of archaeological remains was significantly better along Johnston Terrace than the High Street. The construction of this surprisingly broad road in 1827, curving up the S side of the Castle Rock, involved a significant amount of landscaping. All the trenches were dug on the S (downslope) side of the road and all contained similar deep deposits of material, presumably part of the 19th-century landscaping. As the trenches moved up Johnston Terrace progressively more deposits rich in mortar and sandstone fragments were seen. These are interpreted as debris from the buildings demolished to make way for Johnston Terrace.

To the E of the line of Castle Wynd the trenches produced deposits thought to predate the building of Johnston Terrace. These were often buried at a significant depth below the modern road surface, up to 1.65m. Many of these trenches produced evidence for good quality soils, up to 1.5m deep, often brown in colour and frequently very rich in charcoal. These have been interpreted as probable midden-enhanced, cultivated soils, reflecting backland activity. While some may represent vegetable plots others may be more formal gardens, especially to the W, where they should lie in the Duke of Gordon’s property (NT27SE 636).

Five of the trenches on Johnston Terrace produced evidence of structural remains, although these were difficult to interpret. One trench produced evidence for a wall and a drain, both dug down through the midden-enhanced soils. Its position could correspond to the back (W) wall of the Duke of Gordon’s property, on the line of Castle Wynd. The drain aligns well with the close at the end of Columba’s Church (NT27SE 735). The most dramatic feature recorded was a partly filled cellar. This was a thin structure orientated SW–NE, reflecting the alignment of houses fronting onto Upper Bow. Evidence for further building on its SE side was noted, with some features suggesting a further structure(s) continuing along this line. The 1.2m of rubble that overlay this feature was probably derived from the demolition of the buildings.

Immediately to the NE, in the area of Upper Bow, probable natural soils were recorded only 0.65m below the current road surface. This would seem to indicate that the cellar found nearby and the structural evidence noted to the NW must have been dug into the subsoil. Further down Johnston Terrace deposits have been well sealed by the construction of the road. While the buildings have been torn down, below ground deposits are probably well preserved. Although (as noted above) this may only relate to a narrow strip along the S side of the Street. A small area of cobbling at the top of Upper Bow probably represents the road surface prior to the construction of Johnston Terrace. Little archaeology survived in the area of the High Street that was probably lowered by up to 1m in the late 18th or early 19th century. A deep cut was identified which may relate to the earliest foundations of the Weigh House (NT27SE 3).

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Scotland Gas Networks

Gordon Ewart, Kirkdale Archaeology

David Murray,


Watching Brief (25 October 2013 - 14 March 2014)

NT 2541 7348 A watching brief was undertaken, 25 October 2013 – 14 March 2014, during ground-breaking work associated with the replacement of a low pressure gas main at Castlehill. No finds or features of archaeological significance were recorded.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: City of Edinburgh Council Archaeology Service

Information from Nicholas Johnstone (AOC Archaeology Group)

(Source: DES)


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