Any development within the heart of Edinburgh is likely to require the involvement of an archaeologist and the construction of a new sports hall by George Heriot’s School was no different. The desk-based assessment showed the site to sit just within the city boundary, known as the Flodden Wall, constructed post 1513. With the proximity of the 16th century Flodden Wall effectively defining the southern and eastern limits of the construction site the potential for associated surviving archaeology was considered high, particularly as numerous structures were shown on Gordon of Rothiemay’s view of 1647. However the site had also seen several phases of rebuilding with a series of increasingly large industrial structures documented in 19th and 20th century maps.
Excavations quickly confirmed that the northern lower part of the site had been heavily terraced into the natural clay, leaving no surviving archaeological remains. However the ground surface within the southern half of the site survived to considerably higher level - up to 2m in some areas. It was here that archaeological remains were revealed - the last remnants of a deep basement to the east and degraded fragments of structures to the west, both areas relating to the successive industrial structures built over the site. A brick-vaulted tunnel was also exposed in the south-west part of the site area, this running for a short distance into a wide and deep well/mine shaft. This was uncovered and recorded in advance of new capping to the well shaft. It seems clear subsequent construction removed any traces of earlier medieval archaeology.
We worked closely with the developer and the appointed contractor, both before and during the development, in order to ensure the archaeology was swiftly recorded and removed. In discussion with Edinburgh City Council and Treasure Trove Scotland, the artefacts recovered from the site were returned to George Heriot’s School for possible future display.