Accessibility

Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Edinburgh, Leith, 1-4 Sandport Place

No Class (Event)

Site Name Edinburgh, Leith, 1-4 Sandport Place

Classification No Class (Event)

Alternative Name(s) Ronaldson's Wharf; Sandport Street

Canmore ID 51965

Site Number NT27NE 48

NGR NT 2692 7647

NGR Description Centred NT 2692 7647

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/51965

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NT27NE 48 2692 7647.

All deposits located were eighteenth century or later, and part of this site contained cellars.

N M M Holmes 1976; A T Simpson, S Stevenson and N Holmes 1981.

Trial excavation in advance of development was carried out in April/May 1991. The site lies at the heart of the known medieval settlement of North Leith, immediately adjacent to the Water of Leith. Five trenches were excavated to sample all areas of the site which measures c5,000 square metres in area.

Area A: NT 2699 7649 A trench running back from the edge of the Water of Leith showed considerable infilling had occurred behind the 19th century wharf wall. Beneath this was a well-preserved sequence of medieval deposits, including evidence for post-built structures along the edge of the medieval river bank. The structures were represented by associations of post holes and cut features, with each phase of construction separated from the previous by thin spreads of sand and earth. Pottery from the deposits and features was predominantly East Coast White Gritty Ware, and this applies to all excavated areas. A total of about 1500 sherds were recovered from the excavations.

Area B: NT 2696 7649 Considerable damage has been caused to the archaeological deposits in this area by modern services, but a sequence of midden deposits, and post holes were identified.

Area C: NT 2695 7648 A trench close to the projected line of the medieval riverbank contained deposits and structural evidence identical in character to those excavated in area A.

Area D: NT 2693 7650 Beneath modern demolition rubble, 1.5m of stratified medieval deposits were sampled. A complex sequence of deposits, pits, post holes and hearths/furnaces were excavated. It was clear from the limited area examined that the nature of use of the site had changed over time. The earliest phase was represented by thin spreads of domestic occupation debris and evidence for pits and post holes. This was followed by the use of the site for iron-working. Bowl hearths and furnaces were surrounded by accumulations of debris including slags and discarded iron objects such as nails and clench bolts. These were sealed bya series of midden deposits, containing predominantly oyster shells. Thes later deposits contained later medieval green glaze pottery.

Area E: NT 2690 7653 A small trench excavated by machine at the W edge of the site demonstrated a well-preserved sequence of medieval deposits, mostly midden, but with clear evidence for hearths/furnaces and associated debris visible in section. The nature of the deposits was identical to those identified in Area D to the E.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

M Collard 1992.

NT 2699 7649 A field evaluation was undertaken adjacent to the known 18th-century dry-dock (NT27NE 121) to the N of a previously investigated area (Collard 1992). Three trial trenches were excavated to the S of the dry-dock S wall to determine if the footings of the structure impinged on the site. Any earlier deposits in the northern and southern trenches were truncated by 19th/20th-century buildings. In the central trench, substantial medieval deposits were observed, and related to deposits recorded in 1992; no evidence was seen of any structure relating to the dry-dock impinging on the site.

Sponsor: Fairhurst Engineering.

D Reed 1999

NT 2693 7650 (centre) Extensive excavation was undertaken from March to October 1997 in advance of a proposed development. The site was located within the historic core of the medieval/post-medieval burgh of North Leith, situated between the NW bank of the Water of Leith and the medieval shoreline below the present-day alignment of Commercial Street. Two large areas (Areas F and G) were excavated either side of the medieval high street (Sandport Street). These revealed substantial archaeological structures and deposits dating from the 11th-20th century, previously identified by an archaeological evaluation (Collard 1992, 53_4).

Area F. Area F covered an area of approximately 640m2 to the W of Sandport Street. It revealed up to c 2m of stratified archaeological remains overlying sand dunes. Primary occupation pre-dated the establishment of the burgage plots in the early 12th century, possibly initiated by the foundation of the burgh of North Leith by David I in c 1128. The primary settlement comprised two similar rectangular timber structures (3.5 x 2.5m), constructed over the ridge of a large dune on the E side of the area. The remains of possible agricultural structures, enclosures and deposits indicate that this was a rural-based fishing settlement.

The next phase involved the establishment of burgage plots following an E-W alignment. The earliest property boundaries were initially constructed from substantial turf banks and ditches, later maintained by the erection of wooden fences. This formalised three specific functional areas within each plot: timber structures were erected along the street frontage; an activity area - including bread ovens, a well, hearths, fish/net drying racks, rubbish pits and midden spread; and cultivation activities towards the rear of the plots.

The timber structures were replaced by clay-bonded, stone wall-footed timber structures towards the end of the 13th century. The construction of a substantial sea wall established the northern extent of the settlement during the 14th century. By the 15th century the structures and deposits revealed functional changes within the plots. Small industrial workshops were established within each plot, including a possible smithy, processing pits and the establishment of a potter's workshop within one of the frontage structures. The late medieval period saw the expansion of the settlement beyond the sea wall, with the timber structures gradually replaced by buildings with mortar-bonded stone walls. Three-quarters of a medieval stone font were discovered within a 15th-century rebuild of the pre-existing well.

During the post-medieval period continued redevelopment of the plots involved the gradual replacement of the late medieval buildings with more substantial tenement structures. This included the replacement of the workshops with further mortar-bonded structures. Of particular note was a 17th-century maltings within the southernmost plot. The remains of the N wall of the Bulker's Office, constructed following the realignment of Sandport Place (1788), were uncovered along the S side of the area. This structure, along with the surrounding tenements, was demolished in the early 1980s.

Area G. Area G covered an area of approximately 620m2 bounded to the W by Sandport Street and to the S by Sandport Place. Up to 3m of stratified archaeological remains survived, however the S and W sides of the area (c 180m2) were truncated by the construction of late 18th-century tenements along the frontages of Sandport Place and Street. Both primary and subsequent phases of archaeological structures and deposits within this area contrasted with those within Area F in that they were of an industrial nature from the beginning, relating to the resupplying and refitting of sea-going vessels.

The earliest archaeological deposits overlay a sand dune surface which sloped from a N-S ridge, approximately underlying Sandport Street, which sloped eastwards towards the river. The nature of these deposits, including water-derived gravels, indicate that this area was subjected to episodes of flooding causing the reworking of the 11th to 12th-century deposits with river deposits. Towards the end of the 12th century the effects of flooding were somehow reduced, allowing the deposition of stratified midden-rich material to occur. The material was primarily derived from coal-fired ironworking, centred on substantial deposits of iron slag.

By the 13th to 14th century, the earlier open-sided timber structures associated with the ironworking were replaced by a square timber structure with clay-bonded, stone wall footings. This building contained several phases of ovens and/or furnaces with intermittent periods of abandonment between phases. The area to the S of this building was characterised by the deposition of substantial midden-rich deposits, including a large oyster shell midden up to 0.5m deep. These deposits also contained substantial quantities of hammer-scale, indicating the nearby location of a smithy.

By the early post-medieval period an E-W Close was developed, running along the northern side of the area, which resulted in the infilling of the backland areas with structures constructed of mortar-bonded stone walls. These structures and associated midden-rich deposits reflected a change in use towards a more domestic function, with the workshops from the previous period absent. The area was levelled in the late 18th century for the construction of the Bridge Street tenements.

Sponsor: Miller Partnerships.

D Reed and J A Lawson 1999

Activities

Excavation (April 1991 - May 1991)

Trial excavation in advance of development was carried out in April/May 1991. The site lies at the heart of the known medieval settlement of North Leith, immediately adjacent to the Water of Leith. Five trenches were excavated to sample all areas of the site which measures c5,000 square metres in area.

Area A: NT 2699 7649 A trench running back from the edge of the Water of Leith showed considerable infilling had occurred behind the 19th century wharf wall. Beneath this was a well-preserved sequence of medieval deposits, including evidence for post-built structures along the edge of the medieval river bank. The structures were represented by associations of post holes and cut features, with each phase of construction separated from the previous by thin spreads of sand and earth. Pottery from the deposits and features was predominantly East Coast White Gritty Ware, and this applies to all excavated areas. A total of about 1500 sherds were recovered from the excavations.

Area B: NT 2696 7649 Considerable damage has been caused to the archaeological deposits in this area by modern services, but a sequence of midden deposits, and post holes were identified.

Area C: NT 2695 7648 A trench close to the projected line of the medieval riverbank contained deposits and structural evidence identical in character to those excavated in area A.

Area D: NT 2693 7650 Beneath modern demolition rubble, 1.5m of stratified medieval deposits were sampled. A complex sequence of deposits, pits, post holes and hearths/furnaces were excavated. It was clear from the limited area examined that the nature of use of the site had changed over time. The earliest phase was represented by thin spreads of domestic occupation debris and evidence for pits and post holes. This was followed by the use of the site for iron-working. Bowl hearths and furnaces were surrounded by accumulations of debris including slags and discarded iron objects such as nails and clench bolts. These were sealed bya series of midden deposits, containing predominantly oyster shells. Thes later deposits contained later medieval green glaze pottery.

Area E: NT 2690 7653 A small trench excavated by machine at the W edge of the site demonstrated a well-preserved sequence of medieval deposits, mostly midden, but with clear evidence for hearths/furnaces and associated debris visible in section. The nature of the deposits was identical to those identified in Area D to the E.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

M Collard 1992.

Excavation (March 1997 - October 1997)

NT 2693 7650 (centre) Extensive excavation was undertaken from March to October 1997 in advance of a proposed development. The site was located within the historic core of the medieval/post-medieval burgh of North Leith, situated between the NW bank of the Water of Leith and the medieval shoreline below the present-day alignment of Commercial Street. Two large areas (Areas F and G) were excavated either side of the medieval high street (Sandport Street). These revealed substantial archaeological structures and deposits dating from the 11th-20th century, previously identified by an archaeological evaluation (Collard 1992, 53_4).

Area F. Area F covered an area of approximately 640m2 to the W of Sandport Street. It revealed up to c 2m of stratified archaeological remains overlying sand dunes. Primary occupation pre-dated the establishment of the burgage plots in the early 12th century, possibly initiated by the foundation of the burgh of North Leith by David I in c 1128. The primary settlement comprised two similar rectangular timber structures (3.5 x 2.5m), constructed over the ridge of a large dune on the E side of the area. The remains of possible agricultural structures, enclosures and deposits indicate that this was a rural-based fishing settlement.

The next phase involved the establishment of burgage plots following an E-W alignment. The earliest property boundaries were initially constructed from substantial turf banks and ditches, later maintained by the erection of wooden fences. This formalised three specific functional areas within each plot: timber structures were erected along the street frontage; an activity area - including bread ovens, a well, hearths, fish/net drying racks, rubbish pits and midden spread; and cultivation activities towards the rear of the plots.

The timber structures were replaced by clay-bonded, stone wall-footed timber structures towards the end of the 13th century. The construction of a substantial sea wall established the northern extent of the settlement during the 14th century. By the 15th century the structures and deposits revealed functional changes within the plots. Small industrial workshops were established within each plot, including a possible smithy, processing pits and the establishment of a potter's workshop within one of the frontage structures. The late medieval period saw the expansion of the settlement beyond the sea wall, with the timber structures gradually replaced by buildings with mortar-bonded stone walls. Three-quarters of a medieval stone font were discovered within a 15th-century rebuild of the pre-existing well.

During the post-medieval period continued redevelopment of the plots involved the gradual replacement of the late medieval buildings with more substantial tenement structures. This included the replacement of the workshops with further mortar-bonded structures. Of particular note was a 17th-century maltings within the southernmost plot. The remains of the N wall of the Bulker's Office, constructed following the realignment of Sandport Place (1788), were uncovered along the S side of the area. This structure, along with the surrounding tenements, was demolished in the early 1980s.

Area G. Area G covered an area of approximately 620m2 bounded to the W by Sandport Street and to the S by Sandport Place. Up to 3m of stratified archaeological remains survived, however the S and W sides of the area (c 180m2) were truncated by the construction of late 18th-century tenements along the frontages of Sandport Place and Street. Both primary and subsequent phases of archaeological structures and deposits within this area contrasted with those within Area F in that they were of an industrial nature from the beginning, relating to the resupplying and refitting of sea-going vessels.

The earliest archaeological deposits overlay a sand dune surface which sloped from a N-S ridge, approximately underlying Sandport Street, which sloped eastwards towards the river. The nature of these deposits, including water-derived gravels, indicate that this area was subjected to episodes of flooding causing the reworking of the 11th to 12th-century deposits with river deposits. Towards the end of the 12th century the effects of flooding were somehow reduced, allowing the deposition of stratified midden-rich material to occur. The material was primarily derived from coal-fired ironworking, centred on substantial deposits of iron slag.

By the 13th to 14th century, the earlier open-sided timber structures associated with the ironworking were replaced by a square timber structure with clay-bonded, stone wall footings. This building contained several phases of ovens and/or furnaces with intermittent periods of abandonment between phases. The area to the S of this building was characterised by the deposition of substantial midden-rich deposits, including a large oyster shell midden up to 0.5m deep. These deposits also contained substantial quantities of hammer-scale, indicating the nearby location of a smithy.

By the early post-medieval period an E-W Close was developed, running along the northern side of the area, which resulted in the infilling of the backland areas with structures constructed of mortar-bonded stone walls. These structures and associated midden-rich deposits reflected a change in use towards a more domestic function, with the workshops from the previous period absent. The area was levelled in the late 18th century for the construction of the Bridge Street tenements.

Sponsor: Miller Partnerships.

D Reed and J A Lawson 1999

Excavation (1999)

NT 2699 7649 A field evaluation was undertaken adjacent to the known 18th-century dry-dock (NT27NE 121) to the N of a previously investigated area (Collard 1992). Three trial trenches were excavated to the S of the dry-dock S wall to determine if the footings of the structure impinged on the site. Any earlier deposits in the northern and southern trenches were truncated by 19th/20th-century buildings. In the central trench, substantial medieval deposits were observed, and related to deposits recorded in 1992; no evidence was seen of any structure relating to the dry-dock impinging on the site.

Sponsor: Fairhurst Engineering.

D Reed 1999

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions


Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions