Geovhysical Investigations in Corstorphine

1. Summary

An area ground resistance survey was carried out to the south of the parish church on a roughly semicircular area of ground that is now grassed and includes a war memorial but which, until 1929, was built up. A hrther survey was made within St. Margaret's Park on the east side of which lies the Dower House (otherwise known as Gibson Lodge). High resistance on the area south east of the church could be associated with the site of the Beadle's House and of the smithy; adjacent to the smithy is a low resistance that seems to align with the passage into the smith's yard. It appears that the high resistance on the south and west sides of the printout represent only the rear of the houses in this area, the fronts having been lost due to road widening. It is possible that a pump, marked on the 1895 25 inch 0,s.map, was mounted over a well and that the capping of the well appears as a small high resistance on the south side of the first square surveyed (GI). About 13m. from the western border of the survey four high resistance points, on a N-S line, lie approximately where buttresses on the rear of a building, are shown on a 1754 plan (Ref. 8.6).


The survey in St. Margaret's Park was limited on the S. side by the bowling green and tennis court and adjacent to Corstorphine High St. by tarmac paths and drives. In the . four squares surveyed to the S of the Dower House a high resistance aligns with a path shown on the 1895 O.S. map with low resistance to the W where a large glasshouse stood at the time when the park was a market garden. Three surveyed squares to the W of the Dower House show a possible boundary wall that crosses one survey square and a fbrther high resistance, 12m. from the House, probably indicates foundations and demolition debris of a building shown on the 19"' c. map.
2. Introduction

The first record of a chapel at Corstorphine was during the reign of David I (10841153); the named owner being Norman the Sheriff of Berwick. Cowper (Ref. 8.1) records that it later became part of the church of St. Cuthbert and both were bestowed on the Abbey of Holyrood by King David in 1128. The chapel became the parish church possibly at this date. Adam Forrester purchased the Corstorphine estate in 1376 and built a chantry chapel "contigua" to the parish church; Cowper suggests around 1400 whereas Selway (Ref.8.2) states the chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was built in 1380. The parish church continued as such until the reformation when the Forrester chapel became the parish church and the old parish church, after falling into disrepair was demolished in 1646. The chantry chapel was completed and enlarged by Adam Forrester's son, Sir John Forrester, in 1429 and became the Collegiate church. It was the wish of Adam that three chaplains would serve in the church and the charter for these was confirmed by James I to Sir John sometime about 1429. Margaret Forrester (Adam's widow)

bequeathed two more chaplains and two "singing boys" to the church, however it is only recorded by Cowper that Sir John "provided three acres of ground for houses for chaplains and pasture for three horses and three cows". It appears that the three areas allocated were :1. To the south of the church and church-yard, now a grassed area bounded on the south side by the curve of Kirk Loan. 2. In St. Margaret's Park adjacent to Orchardfield Avenue with the probability that the Dower House is the much altered residence of the prebendary. 3. In the area now occupied by Corstorphine House Avenue. In the area to the south of the church the straight, approximately east-west, burial ground wall, which still exists in part, defines the north side of a roughly semi-circular grassed area of about 0.5 acres shown built up in the 1895 25 inch 0,s.map of Illus.7.1.In which direction the remainder of the prebendary acre lay is not known. A hospital, later referred to as "Alms House", was built on this ground to the S. of the church some time prior to 1538; it appears to have been on the opposite side of the road to the present Public Hall. AAer the reformation the Kirk Session and Heritors were responsible for its administration but by 1679 it was "considered ruinous". The site was sold in 1810, on a 99 year lease, to John Cowie, a victual dealer, who built a house on the alms house foundations. This area was only cleared of buildings in 1929 and the site shape differs between that in Illus.7.1 and the cleared area shown on the 1932 25 inch O.S. map. This indicates that, in road widening, much of Kirk Style Cottages, that faced west down the High Street, and Irish Corner that faced roughly south down Saughton Road, are now under pavement or road. St. Margaret's Park was donated in 1915 by the Hon. Douglas Brown to Corstorphine Parish Council and thence in 1920 to the City of Edinburgh, it thus appears as a park in the 1932 O.S. map, much in the layout that exists today. Some time prior to its acquisition by Douglas Brown it had been worked by the Thomson family as a market garden, nursery with glass houses and earlier as an orchard. The Dower House was owned in 1765 by an Edinburgh lawyer named Samuel Mitchelson who made extensive alterations and additions building stables, coach houses, a barn and a gardeners house. The area now built over by Corstorphine House Avenue is not amenable to survey so that resistive readings were taken only on the grassed area to the south of the church and on accessible parts of St. Margaret's Park. The tarmac car park to the S of the Dower House and the driveway round its W side cover areas that might have been built upon by Samuel Mitchelson. The 1895 O.S. map, Illus. 7.1, shows buildings abutting the Dower House on the E. side and another to the S, these now lie under Orchardfield Avenue and may also have been part of the Mitchelson extensions. The survey was conducted at the request of the City of Edinburgh Archaeological Officer to record what remained of wall footings and to attempt to relate these to buildings shown on the 1895 0 . S . or earlier maps. High resistances that do not appear to relate to buildings on any available map could then be seen as being those of an earlier era. The area ground resistance measuring equipment records to a depth not exceeding 0.75m.and thus any levelling that has added this depth of made-up soil to a site would render the original archaeological remains invisible to the survey. Readings are taken in 20 by 20 metre squares with dummy readings inserted where boundaries are


Survey to the S of the church was completed in August 2004 and the surveys in St. Margaret's Park were made in October and December 2004. The positions of the surveyed squares S. of the church and in St. Margaret's Park have been superimposed on a section of the 1895 0.S. with the scale changed to 1: 1,000; these are shown in Illus. 7.2. The grid square numbers are those held in the data store. The squares were surveyed in by recording distances and alignments mainly based on the Dower House, the line of Corstorphine High Street and the tree lined path extending W. from the Dower House, which appears unchanged since the making of the 1932 25 inch O.S. map. The age of the tree avenue appears compatible with it having been planted at about the time that the Hon. Douglas Brown created the park after it ceased to be the market garden operated by the Thomson family.
4. Results

The printout of the ground resistance survey for the area S, of the church is shown in Illus. 7.3. This printout shows high resistance areas that are comparable with the buildings shown in the 1895 O.S. map, Illus. 7.1. The Beadle's House, in the extreme N.E. corner, and adjacent to it the smithy are clear and a low resistance to the N of the smithy must be the smith's yard with an entrance, indicated on the map, beside the smithy. There are no indications, in the resistance printout, of most of the boundaries of the area shown on the 1895 map possibly due to the 1.Om. spacing of the readings exceeding the thckness of the boundary walls or fences. Southwest from the smithy the site was completely built up until 1929 and the foundations and demolition debris from these "Irish Corner" houses must represent the high resistance found on this side of the site. Due to the widening of Kirk Loan and the creation of a pavement the high resistance probably represents only the rear of these houses. The houses demolished on the W side of the site, Kirk Style Cottages, are not clearly detected probably due to a combination of road widening and the curve of the front of the houses taking them to W of the small non-surveyed strip. The curving high resistance line, about 4m. from the W edge of square G1, could be the collapsed rear wall of these cottages with the low resistance on the edge of the square being the floor inside the cottages. The pump, shown in Illus. 7.1, which presumably was the water supply for the Kirk Style Cottages, may have been surrounded by paving or have been mounted over a capped well. The diffuse high resistance in the centre of the S. side of G l aligns with its position. The larger high resistance area, on the border of Gl and 2, does not align with any building shown in Illus. 7.1 but lies near the line of the N-S wall at the rear of the Kirk Style Cottages. The diffuse high resistance in the NE corner of Gl and the two high resistance spots, on a N-S line, together with a spot on the same alignment in G5, do not relate to Illus.7.1 but could be the buttresses on the rear of a building shown in Ref 8.6. A small building shown in Illus, 7.1, standing to the rear of the smithy does not appear but an area of high resistance on the S side of G3 may represent the wall at the rear of the smithy. Two other small high resistances are not explicable in terms of buildings on the 1895 0.S. It is not known what demolition or modification of buildings took place between the making of the 1895 map, Illus. 7.1, and the final demolition of all buildings and the putting down to grass of the site in 1929. Three 20 by 20m, squares were surveyed to the W of the Dower House, in St. Margaret's Park, and the ground resistance printout of these is shown in Illus. 7.4. The most easterly of these squares was limited by the tarmac drive to 18m. in an E-W

direction and the SE corner is fbrther reduced by the curve of the drive round the W side of the House. A footpath crosses diagonally from NE to SW and resulted in a total of 29 dummy readings being inserted in the metre squares where the tarmac surface prevented the insertion of the probes. Two high resistance features, with a possible third, align with structures shown in Illus. 7.1. The line that runs approximately N-S, through square G21, aligns with a property boundary shown in both the 1845 plan and in Illus.7.1.The high resistance on the S side of square G 22, that covers about 16 sq, m, aligns with, but is rather different in shape from, a building shown in Illus. 7.1. A building that faces on to Corstorphine High Street has a wall that curves from its rear side towards the S; this could have been detected as a diffuse area of high resistance on the N edge of square G20. Two high resistance areas, one in the NW corner of square G20 and the other in the middle of the E side of G22, cannot be related to map features. A low resistance rectangular area, open to the S, in G22 also does not relate to any map feature. The survey to the S. of the Dower House appears only to have recorded features shown in Illus. 7.1. The exception being some isolated, roughly circular, high resistances 1.0to 2.0m. in diameter. The resistance printout of the four 20 by 20 m. surveyed squares, which indicate these features, is shown in Illus. 7.5. Three of these high resistances are located in G16, three in G17 and two, with a possible third, in G19. Pits, into which stones cleared from the market garden, were dumped is a possible explanation of their random placing. The main N-S high resistance, that runs along the junctions of GI6 and 17 and continues along GI8 and 19, aligns with the patldtrack shown in Illus.7.1. This track is still visible as a raised section in the park. To the W. of this line, in G18, three lines of low resistance run E-W and appear to represent the three bays of a large glasshouse. To the E. of the track, opposite the glasshouse, an open rectangular area, shown in Illus.7.1,aligns with a vague low resistance outline in G19. The fact that no other features appear in the printout suggests that no other solidly built structures were present in this area. 5. Conclusions The high resistance areas that appear on the printout of the survey on the S side of the church are largely explicable as the foundations of buildings that were demolished in 1929. It is not known how many of these were built over the foundations of previous buildings although the 1754 plan, Ref 8.6, does show a rather different layout of houses on "Irish Corner" facing S down Saughton Road. What existed facing W down Corstorphine High Street, prior to the Kirk Style Cottages, is difficult to estimate due to the scale of the 1754 plan. A rectangular area, apparently measuring some 22.0m E-W and having a 33.0m frontage facing W down the High Street, may consist of a building on the W side with an open space to the rear. This however does not explain why the rear wall appears to have a row of buttresses that give rise to the high resistance spots shown in Illus. 7.3. This site could possibly be the hospital, the building of which predates 1538, that was "considered ruinous" in 1679 by the Kirk Session but was not redeveloped until 1810. The site surveyed, as has been stated previously, represents only half of the area originally allocated to each of the prebendary priests. As the original Dower House was, before extension fairly certainly, the residence of one priest, it is to be expected that similar buildings would have been provided for the other two. Had survey been made over the site of a prebendary manse the high resistance foundations should have been obvious. The area

of ground granted to the priest on the S side of the church was larger than that surveyed and his manse could lie beneath the present church hall. It is recorded that a house built by Provost Alexander Scott, who was in ofice between 1529 and 1544, was demolished in 1885 to build the church hall. The interpretation of the areas of high and low resistance that occur in the three 20 by 20m. squares (G20,21 and 22), surveyed to the W of the Dower House pose some difficulty. The most marked high resistance that runs N-S across the survey aligns well with a property boundary shown in Illus. 7.1. As the width of this anomaly varies from about 2 to 3m. and shows a gap, where no gap appears in the wall, it is questionable whether the wall was rebuilt or modified. This could have happened between 1895, the date of the OS map, and the time of the wall's presumed demolition when the park was landscaped about 1915 on the order of the Hon. Douglas Brown. The high resistance on the S side of square G22 aligns well with a building shown in Illus. 7.1 but again, does not conform well in shape to what is shown on the map. Two features in square G22 would have been very close to the NW corner of the Dower House. A high resistance on the W edge is about 5m. from this corner and a clear rectangular low resistance area, measuring some 5m. E-W by 7m. N-S lies 1Om. from this same corner. These two anomalies, with a number of smaller low resistance areas on the N and W side of square G22, do not relate to features shown in Illus. 7.1. The difise high resistance, in the middle of the N side of square G20, could represent demolition debris from the oddly curving wall that joins on to the side of a house that faces on to the High Street but a hrther high resistance in the NW corner of this square does not fit with any feature shown on the map. The four squares surveyed to the SW of the Dower House, G16,17,18 and 19 do not appear to contain much in the way of archaeological features. The most obvious high resistance feature aligns with the track shown on Illus. 7.1. Two comments are however worth making on this feature. Firstly, the high resistance recorded extends to the N edge of the area surveyed whereas the track shown on the map terminates at the front of the glass house; secondly the track is shown as running to the S boundary of the market garden but does not apparently lead to any other buildings. The recorded extension of this line to the N and its length of over 100m. to the south suggests that it might originally have been a route fiom the village to the castle. The diffuse low resistance areas can be seen as cultivation beds either inside or outside the glass house. It is however possible that, to the E of the glass house, some of this low resistance may be robbed out foundations of the two buildings shown in Illus.7.1. It should be noted that the resistance ranges in the three printouts differ, the black to white scales being chosen to give best gradation for interpretation. None of the resistance values are particularly high suggesting that, although demolition debris is present, there are likely to be very few, if any, remaining undisturbed foundations.