Archaeology Kirkwall THI

Geophysics and Building Survey for Kirkwall THI Archaeology Programme 2017

chris-thi-kirkwall-geophysics-low-resArchaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have commenced the second phase of the Kirkwall  Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme for 2017.

This consists of additional phases of geophysical survey in private gardens, following on from those in 2016 which located a medieval pier, and upcoming Archaeological Building Recording at key sites in the town.

An initial geophysical survey was begun yesterday in beautiful sunshine within garden areas of properties in Central Kirkwall. This phase involves the use of non-intrusive techniques which allows below ground structural remains and archaeological deposits relating to the development of the town to be assessed and visualised without the need for excavation. More details on the results soon.

Archaeological Building Survey:

Archaeological Building Recording is being used to target sites with accessible and significant built heritage in the Kirkwall conservation area. Basic recording will be undertaken such as compiling a written description, scale drawings and a photographic record. Local participants are welcome and will be trained in basic techniques.

Site 1: Parliament Square

The site consists of the remains of a substantial ruinous and roofless building with ornate sandstone door and window surrounds, a substantial fireplace arch and other visible architectural features.

Structrual remains of early building at Parliament Square
Structural remains of early building at Parliament Square

Site 2: Court to rear of 10 Victoria Street 

A two storey dwelling house (now vacant but roofed) forming the eastern side of the courtyard has large blocks of high-status red sandstone built into the lower wall fabric. This is particularly apparent where large quoin stones surround a ground level door. It is possible that the lower part of the building has medieval origins, or more likely constructed in the post-medieval period reusing medieval masonry from the Bishops Palace or other ecclesiastical buildings in the area

Sunstantial red and yellow sandstone blocks in Victoria Street doorway
Substantial red and yellow sandstone blocks in Victoria Street doorway

Site 3: 38 Main Street – Old Castle

The remains of the ‘Old Castle’ are visible to the east of and adjoining 38 Main Street. These comprise the remains of a substantial post-medieval building now consisting of a single ruinous elevation and structural features evident in the east facing elevation of 38 Main Street. The Old Castle was demolished and stone used in the construction of Manse Park in the mid 20th century. The surviving remains have degenerated in the last decade and have recently been stabilised with repointing and capping. The building at the corner of Junction Road is also the ‘Uppie Goal’ in the Kirkwall Ba game.

Remains of the 'Old Castle' on Main Street
Remains of the ‘Old Castle’ on Main Street

The Building Recording aims to complete an enhanced building survey over two days at each site. This survey will include training local volunteers and will run throughout March, April and May.

The survey involves:

  • Measured survey of visible and accessible external elevations
  • Scaled ground plan of courtyard/building
  • External photographic survey
  • External photogrammetry
  • External context recording
  • Basic written description

Laser scanning of the whole block, including all external elevations on Main Street, the property gardens and Junction Road is also proposed.

Local volunteers and trainees welcome. If you wish to take part in this community archaeology project then please contact Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist through our e-mail address….