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Bo'ness, Dymock's Buildings

No Class (Event)

Site Name Bo'ness, Dymock's Buildings

Classification No Class (Event)

Alternative Name(s) 7-9 Scotland's Close

Canmore ID 141787

Site Number NS98SE 86

NGR NS 9981 8171

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Falkirk
  • Parish Bo'ness And Carriden
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Falkirk
  • Former County West Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NS98SE 86 9981 9171

NS 9982 8175 An initial archaeological survey was undertaken in February 1998. Dymock's Buildings occupies a rectangular area between Scotland's Close on the W and North Street on the E, while to the N a car park now occupies an area of reclaimed ground which was the old harbour basin prior to the coming of the railway. The SE limit is abutted by a 19th-century tenement building.

The recorded evidence suggests that the rectangular range and associated yard area was extended at the end of the 17th century to form a T-shaped, complex building, which had by the early decades of the 18th century been converted into an elaborate town house with extensive service structures. It is clear that the property reflected both the fortunes and commercial activities of the residents of Bo'ness, although at present exactly how the two roles evolved is not known.

The floruit of the property seems to have been during the earlier part of the 18th century, under the ownership of Robert Gregorie and Janet Osborne from 1714 to the 1760s. During this period the first floor was graced by the construction of a dining room with a buffet-niche and an associated panelled room, possibly a drawing room. Evidence such as the similarity of a fireplace which survives in the older part of the Scotland's Close Library building, to those in the panelled room, suggests perhaps that in the early 18th century the harbour area of Bo'ness, while being a mercantile centre, was an enclave of urban gentility, or those who aspired to it.

It seems likely that the fortunes of subsequent owners declined thereafter, since the formal apartments were little altered until the mid-20th century. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that a painted panel survived above the dining room fireplace until the mid-1950s.

The surviving structures are a complex fusion of architectural elements and many of the features identified will affect the future redevelopment of the property. It is likely that various fixtures and fittings, such as the doors exposed behind the plasterboard removed on the first floor, remain to be discovered.

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland

G Ewart 1998

NS 9982 8175 Following on from an initial season of work in 1998 (Ewart 1998), a keyhole excavation was completed of parts of the building; the trenches also served to allow the site engineers to assess sub-surface conditions prior to further engineering works being undertaken. The work was carried out in February 1999.

Dymock's Building is located in the historic centre of Bo'ness, occupying a rectangular area, fronting onto North Street on the E, with Scotland's Close on the W and a car park to the N. This occupies an area of reclaimed ground that used to be the old harbour basin before the coming of the railway. The south-eastern edge is abutted by a 19th-century tenement building.

Four trenches were excavated where areas of flooring had been lifted prior to the start of the project. The two separate programmes of archaeological recording and excavation have resulted in the following phasing of Dymock's Building:

Pre-Phase 1 Pre-mid-17th century

No structural evidence survived from this phase of activity. However, the recent excavations have brought to light evidence of activity pre-dating the earliest elements of the current building.

The identification during excavations of a deep deposit of apparently industrial waste, underlying the base of the E wall, and similar material exposed in a disturbance below the N gable, suggests the use of the site as a manufactory prior to the construction of the earliest part of the complex.

Phase 1 Early to late 17th century

The core structure for what became a complex combination of domestic and service elements by the mid-18th century appears to have been a rectangular range on at least two levels. At present the degree of alteration and sub-division of the property has made any detailed description of this primary element very difficult. It seems likely, however, that all subsequent uses of the plot, and indeed its extension some time c 1700 (Phase 2) were a response to the more specialised needs of the household, whether to create a separate sub-tenancy or to accommodate a wide variety of social, domestic and commercial requirements.

Phase 2 Late 17th to early 18th century

The property appears to have become a three-storey T-shaped building incorporating the Phase 1 range with the addition of a N jamb and a southward extension.

Phase 3 Early 18th to late 18th century

A probable lean-to two-storey structure was erected in the angle to the N of the jamb and the range, as well as the erection of the NE stair tower/annexe, and the raising of the roof level and attic floor. This seems likely to have taken place at the time the property was disponed to Robert Gregorie in 1714. In this document the N-S measurement of the property is given as 96 feet, which corresponds to the distance from the S gable to the N wall of the courtyard. In 1698 the N-S dimension is given as 80ft, and also in 1794. At present, this may be explained as an extension to the original plot during Phase 2, and its subsequent sub-division as a separate tenancy by 1794. A fine wood-panelled dining room, with buffet niche, was built during this phase.

Phase 4 Mid-19th century

The hip-roofed building at the SW angle of the range and jamb was inserted. It may be as late as 19th century in date, but is earlier than 1855 as it is shown on the 1st edition OS map.

Phase 5 Mid-19th century-1955

The building was under tenanted occupancy up to 1955, and various fittings and furnishings survive from this period.

Phase 6 Post-1955

This phase sees the total demolition of the N wall of the jamb, partial demolition of the rest of the jamb and of the NW wing. Most of the brick infilling of doors and windows should date to this time, along with the raising of the floors with concrete, insertion of the present stairs and all plasterboarding. The pantile roof and the secondary crowsteps were removed, as were the chimney stacks from the Phase 1 S gable chimney, and the internal flue at the junction of the range and the jamb. The cement asbestos roofing was put in place during this phase.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a painted panel (Phase 3) survived above the dining room fireplace until the mid-1950s. It is likely that various fixtures and fittings, such as the doors exposed behind the plasterboard removed on the first floor, remain to be discovered.

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland

J Triscott, P Sharman and A Dunn 1999

NS 9982 8175 During the extensive renovation of this multi-phase property (DES 1999, 44), all downtakings were closely monitored and recorded between November 2002 and September 2003. This confirmed the transition of this property from its largely 17th-century origins, 18th-century extension, and 19th-century conversion to increasingly industrial premises.

The rebuilding programme required excavation over most of the footprint, including the yard area to the N. The latter showed evidence suggesting a sequence from ranges or lean-to structures reflecting stables with storage above, to larger storage areas on two levels.

Excavation continued to the S and W of the main building interior. To the S, evidence was found of some form of industrial processing based on two large iron tanks set into the floor. These appeared to be settling or separation tanks, provisionally identified as part of whale oil processing during the 19th century. Elsewhere evidence was found of how the tanks were succeeded by accommodation, which also sealed a yard and lean-to structure of probable 17th-century date.

Excavation to the W of the main building interior showed how the entire structure was built over a massive dump of industrial ash waste. This in turn sealed the truncated remains of a massive and heavily burnt stone structure. This structure extended below the main house and associated buildings to the E and also out under the neighbouring street further to the W. The evidence so far suggests that the structure was a very large salt pan with a characteristic 'apsidal' gable. It was served by a series of flues set in its S, E and W walls, with a fire source across its interior concentrated towards its southern end. This structure is arguably of 16th-century date and was located at the very limits of the natural shoreline. The dumping of ash pre-dates the construction of Dymock's Building and is part of the creation of new building ground and harbour frontage for Bo'ness during the 17th century.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: NTS.

G Ewart 2003



This site falls within the Bo'ness Town Centre Area of Townscape Character (NS98SE 201), which was defined as part of the RCAHMS Urban Survey Programme 2013. Text relating to the historical development and topography, and present character of the Bo'ness Town Centre Area of Townscape Character can be viewed at site NS98SE 201.

Information from RCAHMS (LK), January 2014


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