Harken Burn Castlehill Survey First season interim r e ~ o r t

Contents 1. Introduction

3. Results
4. Conclusions

5. Acknowledgements 6. Figures 6.1 Section of Ainslie estate plan 6.2 Layout of area surveyed squares, linear array lines and trench 1 position 6.3 Grey scale resistive plot of area survey 6.4 Linear array printouts

Harken Burn Castlehill Survey First season interim r e ~ o r t 1. Introduction

The "castle" of castlehill stands on sharply rising ground to the southwest of the cottages at Cornton on the Penicuik estate at NGR NT 20837 58753. On its northern side the ground slopes steeply down to the Cornton (or Harken) Burn and on the southern side less steeply to a field adjacent to the river North Esk. The promontory geologically is based on two parallel ridges of limestone covered in glacial sands and gravels. The ridges are faulted at the point where they overlook Cornton. The ground slopes more gently away to the southwest but at a position some 80 metres from the castle a significant ditch has been cut across the promontory with a marked bank on either side. The castle is shown in Castlehill Plantation on the Ainslie plan of the estate made in 1796 and is referred to in the first Statistical Account as "an encampment at the side of the Harkenburn within the woods of Penicuik". A section of the Ainslie plan is shown in Fig. 6.1. If the promontory can be seen as a "ness" beside the Harken Burn there is a possible connection to a meeting held at St. Katherines chapel in the Pentland Hills in 1280. At this "inquest" twenty-nine participants are named but the document, held in the Public Record OEce at Kew and recorded by J. Bain in his "Calendar of documents relating to Scotland", is in parts in poor condition and not all names are readable. Surnames do however relate participants to Balerno, Bonaly, Harlaw, Braidwood, Coates, Walston, Listonshiels, Buteland and Newton but it is a matter of conjecture whether Thomas de Hardkneys mqy be associated with the "ness" beside the Harken Burn. If Castlehill was his residence the meeting date would suggest that the site could be that of a motte and bailey. 2. Method The decision was made to make a topographic and ground resistance survey of as much of the area of the promontory as was possible. The area is still a plantation of mature, mainly deciduous, trees with many old trees fallen and limiting easy access. The fallen trees and areas where the ground dropped away sharply at the edges of the promontory restricted the ground resistance survey. When the area survey had been completed two linear array resistance surveys were made to explore features to a greater depth than that shown in the area survey. On the basis of the information from the two surveys it was decided to open two trenches, one alongside each of the array lines. Due to the limited time for digging only the first of these was opened. 3. Results The area resistance survey involved taking readings in each square metre in a series of 20 by 20 metre squares except where sloping ground prevented the completion of a square. A total of 4560 readings were taken; the layout of these is shown in Fig. 6.2 and the grey-scale resistance plot in Fig. 6.3. The lines along which the linear array measuremeqts were made are also shown in Fig.6.2 with the start ends marked 0.0.

The first of the linear array lines was laid out to extend from the estimated centre of the castle 38 metres to the southwest on a line that could have been the approach road. The second was laid out to cross the ditch and banks on either side of it in the hope of showing what was incorporated within the banks. Due t o the uneven ground E.D.M. measurements were made at metre intervals along the lines of the arrays so that the printouts could be corrected topographically. The printouts are shown in Fig. 6.4.The 15 by 3 metre trench was excavated alongside the first of the linear array lines at the castle epd. It had been noted that there were some apparently cut stones lying on the slope of the hill overlooking Cornton. A very limited excavation was made and what appears to be a revetment of stones contours round the end of the promontory for about 10 metres but could extend further. 4. Conclusions The area resistance survey shows an indistinct high resistance circle with a lower resistance centre in the position that Ainslie places the castle and it is to intersect this that the 15 by 3 metre trench was opened. Immediately beneath turf and shallow topsoil the subsoil is an apparently undisturbed sandy gravel. To the western end of the trench there are a considerable number of stones that do not extend the full width of the trench; it is possible that these have been brought to the surface in the root ball of a fallen tree. A sonde at the eastern end of the trench to a depth of 0.5metres has however not encountered stone and further investigation is required. The area resistance survey across the banks either side of the ditch shows high resistance which is confirmed by the linear array measurement. The high resistances that show in the linear array plot are underlain by lower resistance indicating that the high resistance is not due to bedrock. It remains to be seen whether this high resistance is man-made or whether it is a ridge of glaciated gravel. Between the castle and the ditch a number of features appear in the area resistance survey that require future investigation in particular the double curved line on the south side of the third complete square. The stone revetment, that contours round on the slope below the plateau area on which the castle stood, is not continuous but has only partially been investigated. Some stones have been dressed but others are slabs or boulders but their regularity of placing suggests a man made structure. It is possible that this stone revetment could have been at the base of a palisade and that, in the gaps between the sections of revetment, post holes might be found. 5. Acknowledaements Permission has been given by Sir Robert Clerk to continue excavation and hrther survey after the end of January 2004. We wish to record our thanks to him for this permission and his cooperation in the project. We would also record our thanks t o Dr Bruce Hobbs of the University of Edinburgh Department of Geology and Geophysics for his cooperation in taking the linear array measurements and supplying printouts.


A grant from the research h n d s of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was received to assist in administration, equipment and travel costs; we record our gratitude for this grant. In the absence of this financial support the project would have been unlikely to have proceeded with over 100 member-days worked between 8 February and the end of July when the dig had to terminate until the site will again be available at the beginning of February 2004.

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