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Edinburgh, Blackfriars' Dominican Monastery

Friary (Medieval), Grave Slab (Medieval)

Site Name Edinburgh, Blackfriars' Dominican Monastery

Classification Friary (Medieval), Grave Slab (Medieval)

Canmore ID 52514

Site Number NT27SE 51

NGR NT 2611 7348

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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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 51 2615 7348.

(Name: NT 2615 7348) Site of (NAT) Friary (NR) (Dominican - Founded AD. 1230)

OS 25"map, (1968)

The Blackfriars' (Dominican) Friary occupied a large area lying between the Cowgate and Drummond Street, W of the Pleasance and E of the end of Infirmary Street. The ground was given by Alexander II in 1230. The buildings were partly destroyed in 1528 and 1544, but were later repaired, to be finally destroyed by Reformers in 1559. The lands and possessions of this house were given to the magistrates and Town Council of Edinburgh in 1566-7.

RCAHMS 1951; D E Easson 1957.

No trace remains of this friary. Its site is now built up.

Visited by OS (J L D) 26 December 1953.

Architecture Notes


4 pages of text giving history and details of site of Blackfriars Monastery -filed under "THE HIGH SCHOOL OF EDINBURGH, THE ORIGINAL SCHOOLS AND THE SCHOOL OF 1578"


Trial Trench (1977)

Trial excavation by hand in 1977 on the site of a recently demolished building in the area once occupied by the friary cleared modern debris and located a large deposit of mortared rubble. At a depth of 1.7m the excavation had to be abandoned as the rubble was loosely packed and dangerous.

N M M Holmes 1977; A S Simpson, S Stevenson, N Holmes 1981.

Publication Account (1981)

A colony of Blackfriars, or Dominicans, dated from c. 1230. They were established by Alexander II who granted to them the place in which the king's manor house was situated (Cowan, 1976, 116). The friary was partly burned by the English and was wholly sacked and destroyed by the Reformers in 1559. In 1560, stones from the friary were being used for public works (Grant, 1882, ii, 285), and in March, 1566/7 the crown granted to the burgh the Blackfriars lands and possessions (Cowan, 1976, 116).

Information from ‘Historic Edinburgh, Canongate and Leith: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).

Trial Trench (2 February 2010 - 3 March 2010)

NT 26175 73470: Headland Archaeology was commissioned by the University of Edinburgh to undertake a programme of archaeological works in advance of a planning application to the City of Edinburgh Council on the proposed development of a Climate Change Centre at the Old High School, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh. These works consisted of a rapid desk based assessment, excavation of an archaeological test trench, monitoring the excavation of geo-technical test pits and a historic building assessment. The site lies within the presumed location of a Dominican Friary constructed in 1260 and historic maps consulted during the desk based assessment showed that the proposed development area had been in an area of gardens until the 19th Century when the Royal Medical Society's Hall had been constructed. This had been demolished by 1876. The evaluation uncovered the remains of a crude wall, likely to have been a garden wall, which had been truncated by the construction cut for the Hall. The wall was set into a shallow garden soil that had also been heavily truncated. No archaeological remains associated with the friary were encountered.

Information from Ross Murray and Allison Borden (Headland Archaeology Ltd) April 2010.

OASIS ID: headland1-76200

Excavation (27 June 2012 - 10 May 2013)

Headland Archaeology Ltd was commissioned by The University of Edinburgh to undertake a programme of archaeological works to meet the

conditions on a planning application, placed by the City of Edinburgh Council on the development of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation at the Old High School, Infi rmary Street, Edinburgh. The area of the Old High School was of interest as an earlier building, the 16th century Royal High School, was demolished to make way for its construction. It was also the speculated location of a Dominican Friary founded in 1260 and demolished during the Reformation in 1559.

Since 2010 Headland Archaeology Ltd has been involved in the redevelopment of the Old High School with a scope of the work has including a watching brief, historic building recording and excavation. The watching brief revealed limited evidence of buildings to the rear of the Old High School and a number of culverts to the front of the building. The excavation was located near the entrance of the building and contained the remains of the 16th century Royal High School, as well as part of the Dominican Friary and associated graveyard. In total 95 burials were excavated including one burial which had an elaborately carved grave slab.

Information from Edward Bailey (Headland Archaeology) May 2014. OASIS ID: headland1-141328


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