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Edinburgh, 144 Cowgate

Nursery School (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, 144 Cowgate

Classification Nursery School (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Borthwick's Close; Cowgate Nursery School

Canmore ID 120903

Site Number NT27SE 1709

NGR NT 2585 7349

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


Archaeological Evaluation (10 October 2002 - 28 January 2003)

An archaeological evaluation involving the excavation of five trenches was carried out on the site of the former Cowgate Nursery School, Edinburgh. The evaluation demonstrated that significant archaeological deposits survived beneath the proposed development site. The earliest were characterised as medieval midden deposits and were identified in all trenches at a minimum of 1 m below present ground surface. It is clear from a previous borehole survey that these deposits are up to three metres thick in the east of the site. Stone walls, surfaces and culverts were constructed on top of these midden deposits at a minimum depth of only 0.35m below the surface left following demolition of the former nursery. These were likely to have related to buildings constructed on either side of narrow closes, and depicted on maps from the 16th century on. An assemblage of mainly post-medieval artefacts were recovered from the site, although some earlier medieval material was also present.

Information from Headland Archaeology Ltd.

Excavation (March 2004 - December 2004)

An archaeological excavation followed by a watching brief was carried out at 144-166 Cowgate, Edinburgh prior to the construction of sheltered housing on the site. the site is located on the north side of Cowgate and extends from the east side of Fishmarket Close to the current premises of the Siglo nightclub to the east.

The main result of the excavation was the discovery of a clay bonded stone building at the west end of the site believed to be one of the first buildings of medieval date in this part of the Cowgate. Map evidence and pottery retrieved from the building suggests a 14th-15th century date for this building.

The south side of the building was at one stage demolished to make room for a wall that ran parellel with the present line of Cowgate. The wall was 0.8m wide and over 30 m long in total with no other transverse walls abutting or keyed into it suggesting that it was a boundary wall. A section across the full depth of the wall exposed during the watching brief suggested that the wall was built on the north side of a ditch running parallel with the wall.

A second wall was uncovered during the watching brief on the same alignment east of the first wall. This wall was 1.8m wide and at least 8.5m long. Its dimensions, location and alignment strongly suggests that this is a defensive wall most probably the King's Wall commissioned in 1427.

Both walls predate the main development at the Cowgate frontage, which indicates a 15th, or an early 16th century date at the latest. If the walls were part of the King's wall, they would have become obsolete by the construction of the Flodden Wall in 1513. By this time the two walls would have been partly robbed out and probably used in the construction of the early buildings along the Cowgate frontage.

Information from Headland Archaeology Ltd


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