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Old Pentland Churchyard

September 2009

Carried out on behalf of Damhead Community Council




EH41 4QA

T : 01620 861643 E : INFO@BAJR.ORG

Table of Contents






5.1 Fieldwork 7
5.2 The Trenches 7
5.3 Artefacts 8



Figure 1: Location plan.

Figure 2: Site Plan with trench locations.

Figure 3: Geophysics Results.

Figure 4: Trench Plans

Figure 5: Interpretation of excavation and Geophysical plot, with reconstruction.

Appendix 1: Context List

Appendix 2: Photo List
Appendix 3: Artefact List
Appendix 4: Trench List
Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian

North Sea



100 km
0 1km

Old Pentland Church

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Figure 1: Location Plan

Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian

February 2009

Trench 2
Trench 1


September 2009 WATCH

Geophysics HOUSE

0 20m

Figure 2: Site Plan

Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian


1.1 An archaeological investigation consisting of geophysics and a two small

evaluation trenches was undertaken at the request of the Pentland
Conservation Group and with the kind permission of the Gibsone Trust, at
Old Pentland Churchyard, Damhead, Midlothian. The site is located
within the graveyard set back from the road that passes through Damhead
The work consisted of two days of Geophysics and follow-up excavation
over the area of a strong signal that seemed to represent a wall or
foundations. The purpose was to locate any trace of the church which
would once have stood in the graveyard but has since been demolished at
some point in the late 18th or early 19th century. The work was purely
exploratory and would provide information for any further investigations.
Special care was taken to ensure that human remains would not be

1.2 The work was undertaken on the 8th August and 12th September, and was
restricted to non intrusive geophysical survey across the graveyard and two
targeted test trenches directly over features that were interpreted as solid
stone features. Special care was taken to avoid known graves and also to
keep within the areas of probable walling / foundations to ensure the
potential that human remains were disturbed was at a minimum.

1.3 The work enabled the further interpretation of the site, and will allow any
future work to confidently excavate the church footprint with a clear plan
of the structure and the type and depth of deposits found. Excavation was
restricted to examining the upper levels of archaeological deposits, and
once uncovered and identified, no further intrusive work was carried out.

1.4 Further work suggested is that the geophysical feature showing to the
south of the now identified church structure is investigated with a single
test trench. Extending the evaluation trench across the ‘known’ church to
confirm the width and the exact shape of the apse, and to investigate traces
of floor level (perhaps as a mortar line on the internal wall-face) without
excavating beyond this level. Due to the nature of the area it is imperative
that no burials are disturbed – therefore care must be taken to follow wall-
lines where there is no possibility of burial.


2.1 Site location

The site is located to the north of Pentland Road NT 26240 66331 (Fig. 1)
and slightly to the northeast of Pentland Midlothian. The
topographic location is on a small knoll that drops sraply to the north, east
and west. To a surrounding landscape of farmland.

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Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian

February 2009 Resistivity plot

Document: Old_Pentland_2View2
Grid Width: 80 (20m)
Grid Height: 160 (40m)
Orig Sample Size: 1.00 x 1.00m
New Sample Size: 0.25 x 0.25m

Resistivity Plot by the

Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society

Structure investigated by trenching

Possible secondary structure

September 2009 Resistivity plot

0 20m

Figure 3: Geophysics Results

Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian

2.2 Site History

Old Pentland Cemetery is a cemetery in Old Pentland, near Loanhead in

Midlothian, Scotland. A category B listed building, the cemetery dates
back to the early 17th century.

The cemetery contains the remains of members of the Covenanter

movement and may also have been scene to tending of wounded
covenanters after the Battle of Rullion Green in 1666. The Gibsone burial
vault was built in 1839 to designs by the architect Thomas Hamilton, and
there is an 18th-century watch house, used to guard against body
snatchers. Within this structure are, (if you look through the window) two
stones believed to be from the 13th /14th century. Originally discovered by
Thomas Arnold buried underneath the turf in 1856 they were later
rediscovered recycled as cope stones in the perimeter wall to the left of the
watch house. One other stone has been removed to Rosslyn Chapel for
safe keeping and can be seen in the vault there – The King of Terrors

The burial ground surrounds the site of Pentland parish church, which was
established in the 13th century, and this burial ground was still in use in
1907, although the parish had been joined with Lasswade in the 17th
century. Pentland chapel is noted as a free parsonage in Bagimond; it was
erected into a parish church before 1275, and the parish was united with
Lasswade in 1647.

The following extract is from Fasti ecclesiae Scoticanae:

[In 1583 the Synod of Lothian remitted to the General Assembly that means be
taken for establishing a minister here. The parish was united to Lasswade in
1647, there not being sufficient competence for a minister.]

1570 JOHN BROWN, reader.-[Reg. of Min.]

1574 WILLIAM BARBOUR, having also in charge Penicuik and Mount-Lothian.

He removed to Penicuik in 1576. He held the prebend of Lochstarik, named Bwit-
sextus; vacant by his death before 25th May 1584.-[Req. Assig., Wodrow

1576 JOHN BROWN, reader.

1586 JOHN BARBOUR, probably brother of William B. above mentioned; reader

at Mount-Lothian 1576-80; then here 1586. He was pres. to the vicarage of
Temple 2nd Jan. 1577, and to Newton; coll. 8th Aug. 1587. Being" convict of riot
in the kirk, and sclander," two of the brethren were, 22nd Aug, 1616, "appointit
to see his desk removit, by the authority of Gilbert Hay of Monktoun, bailie
of the bounds," who on 29th "reportit, that they had acquaintit the
aforesaid, quha promisit that in all tyme coming they sould be cummerless "
[of John Barbour].-[Reg. Assig., Wodrow Miscell.; New Stat. Acc,, i.]

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Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian



projected wall line cut



Trench 1

l lin

Trench 2

0 1m


Figure 4: Trench Plans

Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian

The Covenanters

Helen Alexander was born in sight of Old Pentland Graveyard in the mid-
17th century into a Covenanting family. She grew up into what historians
describe as the ‘Killing Times ‘the period following the re-establishment
of Episcopacy by Charles 11, when Covenanters who refused to attend
Episcopalian parish churches were ruthlessly punished.

After the death of her first husband Helen was married to James Currie, by
James Renwick, who was the last martyr to the the Cause. He was
executed for his Covenanting beliefs at the age of 26 , Helen’s life was
spent in the dangerous struggle to achieve freedom of worship. She was
imprisoned by Sir Alexander Gibsone but he may have privately shared
her convictions and secured her freedom despite her intransigence which
would have cost her her life.

The Conventicles were guarded by armed men led by Richard Cameron,

They became known as the Cameronians, a regiment of the British Army
for three cent..

They were the only regiment of the British army who attended church
parade bearing arms, a tradition dating back to when they guarded the
Covenanters worshiping at Conventicles. These were clandestine religious
services held in secret locations often on remote hillsides and perhaps
even in this graveyard.

The Battle of Rullion Green took place on the 28th November 1666
between around 900 Covenanters under the command of Colonel James
Wallace and 3000 Royal Troops under Lieutenant General Tam Dalziel of
the Binns.

Pursued by Dalziel, the Covenanters marched via Swanston and the line of
the Biggar Road to Rullion Green beyond Flotterson.

Confused ,untrained and exhausted, the Covenanters were defeated on the

field and fled in panic. Most of the Covenanting army were killed. There is
a monument to the dead on the site of the battle but it is believed that many
were buried in Old Pentland graveyard though it is more likely this relates
to the graves of and the association with Helen Currie (though her
headstone now resides in the Huntly House Museum in Edinburgh

A study of maps of the area, including William Roy (1755), John Laurie
(1763) and the 1850-52 ORDNANCE SURVEY - Six-inch 1st edition
maps of Scotland – though none of these show a church clearly at this
location, and the 1852 OS 1st Edition shows that the church is no longer
present by this time. Only Adairs map of 1680 shows a church at this site
marked Pentland.

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Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian


3.1 To confirm the presence of a structure within the burial ground that could be
identified as a church or chapel

3.2 To provide dating evidence for construction of the structure.


4.1 A process of resistivity Grid Width: 80 (20m) Grid Height: 160 (40m)
Orig Sample Size: 1.00 x 1.00m and a further examination at 0.25 x 0.25m
was carried out by Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society (fig 2, 3 & 5)

4.2 Small 2x1m evaluation trenches were carefully located directly over the wall
feature and within the interior where no graves would be disturbed, all work
was carried out by hand and the excavation stopped on the buried
groundsurface in order to ensure to burials would be disturbed.

4.3 Plans were drawn of the trenches after cleaning, and photographs taken with
a digital SLR at 9Megapixel resolution.

4.4 Finds have been labelled appropriately and the assemblage will be reported
to the Treasure Trove Unit on competition of the investigation.


5.1 Fieldwork

The work was undertaken overtwo days on the 8th August and 12th
September 2009 in bright sunshine and good conditions. The turf topsoil
was regular across the site ranging from 80mm to 90mm in depth and a
buried groundsurface was located at c. 90-120mm beneath the surface.

The various datasets from the investigation are presented in the appendix
section; Context list (Appendix 1 ) Photographic list (Appendix 2), Finds
register (Appendix 3), Trench Register (Appendix 4)

5.2 The Trenches (Fig. 2 & 4)

5.2.1 Trench 1 contained a spread of rubble [1002] that reconciled itself into a
borad (c. 90cm wide) bank of loose stones that contained mortar and other
building material that suggested demolition debris. This lay directly onto a
ground surface [1005] which was taken to be the level of the graveyard prior
to demolition of the church. This overlay the well dressed masonry of a wall
[1004] running east west which curved slightly to the south as it extends to
the east. A chamfered plinth was recognised that may extend down, however
this was not investigated further in order to minimise disturbance. The are to
the east had been disturbed by a robber trench [1007] that showed evidence
that the masonry wall had been removed at this point and had been backfilled

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Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian

with loose rubble core material and mortar [1006]. No further excavation
was carried out, other than to extend the trench to the southwest to confirm
the wall line.

5.2.2 Trench 2 was located within the ‘apse’ of the structure, and immediately
after the removal of topsoil [2001], the stony surface [2002] was located at a
depth of c. 120mm. This overlay a large rubble layer, which initial probing
showed to extend to a depth in excess of 1.5metres. It was felt unwise to
continue, given the uncertainty of this deposit, whether it was infill or natural
material. Roofing material was recovered from [2002] which suggests that
this was directly above what must once have been the slab floor, and
therefore rubble [2003] could be construed as natural.

5.3 Artefacts

5.3.1 Although few artefacts were recovered, the material does point conclusively
to a mediaeval foundation, with Scottish redware greenglaze founding both
trenches, and most importantly within the probable demolition debris 1002
and 2003. the date range is 12th-15th century, however, on completion of the
final stage of works, the assemblage will be examined by George Haggarty,
and the material will be available for study within the Scottish Redware
Project after allocation. The stone roofing material is of a micaeous schist
and the perforated pieces clearly indicate the roof construction for the
church, adding to the picture of the missing structure. Bottleglass was
recovered as well as a clay pipe stem, however, this does seem to indicate
use of the area after the church has long gone, ands the area is used for other

One of 5 perforated stone roofing tiles –from contexts 1002 and 2003

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Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian


The programme of evaluation has shown that in the areas of investigation

there are the clear remains of the church of old Pentland, and give some idea
as the extant of the structure and preservation. There is still a question
regarding the width and nature of the apse end and whether there is another
earlier structure on the site to the south. It is clear we have uncovered an
important clue to Midlothian’s early mediaeval past and it’s associations with
religious institutions and knights. The graveyard contains a fascinating story
and it is possible to complete the understanding of this site and place the
Arnold stones into a physical context as well as provide a detailed plan of the
surviving remains in order to inform any further works.

It is not suggested that a full excavation is carried out given the nature of the
site and the potential problems with later graves, however, this targeted
careful examination of the structure of the church, will allow a fuller
interpretation of the monument without disturbing the in-situ deposits.

Greenglaze Redware – from context 1002 – poss 15th century date

Based on the currently located architectural fragments, geophysical plan

layout and the general form of this church type it is possible to create a
tentative reconstruction of the church shown in Figure 5. This is based on a
small chapel with apse end which would have been built by a knight in the
12th century and then evolved into a parish church before demolition in the
late 18th or early 19th century. The potential for study cannot be
underestimated, with a number of similar structures available for study
within the region.

Our thanks extend to the Gibsone family for their kind permission to
investigate the architecture of this lost church.

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Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian

0 10m

Tr 1


possible wall lines

Figure 5: Interpretation of excavation and Geophysical plot, with reconstruction

Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian

Appendix 1 Context Register

Context List
Context Description
1001 Topsoil
1002 Mix of sub angular stone fragments.
1003 Sandstone rubble forming linear bank
1004 Dressed and Chamfered masonry wall with mortar and rubble core
1005 Mid brown silty clay with some mortar inclusions (buried ground surface)
1006 Small to medium angular masonry in dark brown silty matrix, backfill of [1007]
1007 Linear cut from extant wall [1004] stretching to east, as a robber cut. Vertical sides, not

2001 Topsoil
2002 Sub angular sandstone fragments with roofing material
2003 Rounded and sub angular boulders large to medium size (uncertain whether this is natural.

Appendix 2 Photo Register (Digital)

Photo Record List

Site Direction
Photo ID Description Date
Code from
DSCF4264 OP_09 Record shot of Trench 1 – pre-excavation N 12/09/2009
DSCF4265 OP_09 Record shot of Trench 1 – deturfing N 12/09/2009
DSCF4266 OP_09 Trench 1 – showing 1002 E 12/09/2009
DSCF4267 OP_09 Record shot of Trench 2 – after topsoil strip E 12/09/2009
DSCF4268 OP_09 Trench 1 – showing rubble 1002 exposed E 12/09/2009
DSCF4269 OP_09 Trench 2 – showing rubble spread 2002 E 12/09/2009
DSCF4270 OP_09 Trench 1 – rubble 1002 removed onto ground E 12/09/2009
surface 1005 and first sign of wall 1003 to left
DSCF4271 OP_09 Trench 1 – Wall 1003 prior to extension to S 12/09/2009
southwest – note robber fill 1007 in cut 1004
to right. Displaced plinth stone is visible with
DSCF4272 OP_09 Trench 1 – Wall 1003 showing curve to east Vertical 12/09/2009
DSCF4273 OP_09 Trench 1 – Wall 1003 showing curve to east Vertical 12/09/2009
DSCF4274 OP_09 Trench 1 – Wall 1003 showing curve to east Vertical 12/09/2009
DSCF4275 OP_09 Team Photo – EAFS and CHC - 12/09/2009
DSCF4276 OP_09 Team photo – EAFS and CHC - 12/09/2009

Appendix 3 Artefact List

Artefact Record List

Trench Context Description
1 1002 1 clay pipe stem frag
1 1006 1 Green glaze body sherd ( redware)
1 1006 1 stone roofing material - perforated

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Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian

Artefact Record List

Trench Context Description
2 2002 3 fragments worked masonry

2 2002 3 oyster shells

2 2002 2 stone roofing material - perforated

2 2002 6 fragments of roofing material

2 2002 2 glass shards (bottle)

2 2003 1 shard glass (bottle)

2 2003 2 Green glaze body sherd (one redware)

Appendix 4 Trench List

Trench List
Trench Description
1 North - South Orientation (2m x 1m with 2m x 1m extension to southwest corner) Final depth:
2 East - West Orientation (2m x 1m) Final depth: .3m

Aitchison, C (1892) Lasswade and Loanhead in the olden time,

Arnold, T (1880) 'Note on two sculptured sepulchral slabs in Old Pentland


Cowan, I B (1967) The parishes of medieval Scotland, Edinburgh. Held at RCAHMS:


Reid, A (1907) 'The churchyard memorials of Lasswade and Pentland', Proceedings of

the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: 81–99.

Scott, H et al (eds.) (1915-61) Fasti ecclesiae Scoticanae: the succession of ministers

in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, Edinburgh. Held at

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Old Pentland Churchyard, Midlothian
Old Pentland Church, Damhead, Midlothian




PARISH: Lasswade


NAME OF ORGANISATION: (Connolly Heritage Consultancy) Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society.

TYPE(S) OF PROJECT: Geophysics and Test Trenches

NMRS NO(S): NT26NE 14.00

SITE/MONUMENT TYPE(S): 12th Century – 18th century – Burial Ground and Church

SIGNIFICANT FINDS: Foundations of apse end, with chamfered course

NGR (2 letters, 8 or 10 figures) NT 26240 66331

START DATE (this season) 12th September 2009

END DATE (this season) 12th September 2009

PREVIOUS WORK (incl. DES ref.)

MAIN (NARRATIVE) Following a geophysical survey of an area within the Burial ground directly to the east
DESCRIPTION: of the Gibsone Mausoleum the distinct features of buried walls were observed. Using
(May include information from other targeted trenches (2x 2m by 1m in size) the results were investigated, and proved
fields) fruitful in showing extant foundations and the chamfered course level. 14th-16th
century green glaze pottery was recovered, and evidence for wall robbing, which may
have taken place in the 18th century, based on later finds. No human remains were
uncovered. Within the church, no trace of a floor was uncovered, but rubble was
extensive and this may yet be investigated further. During geophysics to the south
should a distinct outline of a possible second structure – which may represent an earlier
structure. Further work will investigate this structure and expose the apse end of the
church to confirm the curved wall.

PROPOSED FUTURE WORK: Trial trenches over second possible structure and confirmation of interior floor level of
original church


SPONSOR OR FUNDING BODY: Connolly Heritage Consultancy

ADDRESS OF MAIN Connolly Heritage Consultancy

CONTRIBUTOR: Traprain House
Luggate Burn
East Lothian
EH41 4QA

ARCHIVE LOCATION RCAHMS , Connolly Heritage Consultancy


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