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Edinburgh, 20 Calton Road

Human Remains (Post Medieval), Infectious Diseases Hospital (19th Century), Poor House (18th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, 20 Calton Road

Classification Human Remains (Post Medieval), Infectious Diseases Hospital (19th Century), Poor House (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Canongate Poorhouse; Old Tolbooth Wynd

Canmore ID 160786

Site Number NT27SE 4333

NGR NT 26386 73905

NGR Description Centred on NT 26386 73905

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

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 4333 centred on 2638 7391

NT 264 739 (centre) The excavation of trial pits monitoring environmental contamination within a property on the S side of Calton Road uncovered a human skeleton. The discovery prompted an investigation during January 1997. The skeleton was identified as the remains of a woman aged 22-23 buried in a coffin. Map research showed that the skeleton was most likely interred during the use of the site as part of the graveyard around the Canongate Kirk between 1688 and 1775.

An archaeological field evaluation was subsequently carried out in June 1997 to determine the extent of the burial ground and identify any related structures. Four trial trenches were excavated, two on either side of Calton Road. No further human burials were encountered.

Two parallel N-S aligned walls, constructed from mortar-bonded angular igneous rocks, were discovered within one of the trenches on the S side of the road. These were identified as part of the 18th-century Canongate Poor House later converted to an epidemic hospital. The foundations of both walls cut through a series of organic and midden-rich soils, probably dating to the medieval period. The soils, which were 0.5m deep, contained a distinct episode of cultivation in the form of four parallel furrows. The furrows were infilled with a red-brown clay. Over these deposits was a further deposit of dark humic and midden-rich loam. This upper deposit contained no artefacts post-dating the mid-18th century and may have been graveyard soil.

The two trenches located within the open ground on the N side of Calton Road identified the remains of substantial

stone-built foundations, cellars and drains. These can be linked with the upstanding walls which survive as boundary walls to the site. These structures were constructed after c 1750.

Sponsor: B G plc (Property Division).

D Reed 1999


Watching Brief (9 May 2008 - 14 May 2008)

NT 264 739 A watching brief 9–14 May 2008 monitored the removal of a modern concrete floor and support pillars in the proposed PA1 (C) development, at the corner of Tolbooth Wynd and Calton Road. The work was carried out due to the previous discovery of human skeletal remains relating to the 17th-century use of the Canongate Church graveyard and deep post-medieval soil deposits. Sections of a stone wall relating to the poorhouse that occupied the site during the 18th and 19th centuries were revealed but these were left in situ. No other significant archaeological features or artefacts were encountered.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Mountgrange (Caltongate) Ltd

Donald Wilson (AOC Archaeology Group), 2008

OASIS -ID: aocarcha1-45010

Note (23 November 2010)

The Canongate Poorhouse is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Edinburghshire 1853, 2) but is labelled as an 'Epidemic Hospital' by the time of the publication of the OS large scale town plan (Edinburgh 1881, 30).

Information from RCAHMS (LMcC) 23 November 2010

Excavation (August 2013 - October 2013)

NT 2638 7390 An excavation, consisting of hand dug test pits followed by machine excavation was carried out, August – October 2013, on a brownfield site at the corner of Old Tolbooth Wynd and Calton Road prior to residential development.

The work confirmed that the site had been occupied from at least the 16th century, when cartographic evidence first records activity. A poorhouse, which was built on the site in 1761, was excavated and found to contain at least two phases of construction. The poorhouse was converted for use as an epidemic hospital in the early 1870s.

The poorhouse was known to have been built over the N edge of the Canongate Cemetery, which was associated with the 17th-century Canongate Kirk to the S of the development area. The remains of six human bodies were recorded in this area. Both the cemetery and the poorhouse were built over midden material dating from the early medieval period.

Evidence for earlier agriculture activity was provided by possible rig and furrow or vegetable lines, together with the fragmentary remains of the original burgage boundaries. A midden bank and a stone wall identified over the natural subsoil suggest that the site was originally divided into three plots. The artefactual material recovered indicated that material had been dumped on the site from at least the 13th century.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Places for People

Rob Engl, AOC Archaeology Group, 2013

(Source: DES)


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