Community Archaeology in Orkney: Building Recording Days in Kirkwall & Stromness

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

ORCA Archaeology, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scotland’s Urban Past team have organised five Building Recording Days in historic Kirkwall and Stromness.

These are community archaeology events to which everyone is invited – experience is not required as full training will be given – but we ask that you book a place as below.

The team have set dates in Kirkwall during May and June (book to attend these events by writing to studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk) and the Scotland’s Urban Past team are coming up again to run a one day workshop in Stromness (you will have to book to attend this event through the Scotland’s Urban Past Eventbrite page

Stromness

These days are designed to follow on from our training in March, and archive day in April, but feel free to come along if you missed these, we can easily get you up to speed. We’ve set up a regular survey afternoon, with the aim of conducting rapid recording and taking photos for properties in the Kirkwall conservation area.  

​The Scotland’s Urban Past team will run a workshop in Stromness on the 4th June, and will show us how to add the results of all our surveys onto the national record online. 

DateTimeWhereHow to Book
Wed 22/5/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Wed 29/5/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Mon 3/06/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Tues 4/06/1910.00-15.00StromnessEventbrite
Wed 12/06/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail

This project is supported by:

Community Archaeology in Orkney : Kirkwall in the Archives

The team from ORCA Archaeology & the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are holding a Historical Urban Archive Research Day at the Orkney Library Archive on Saturday 4th May 2019, 10am – 3pm.

Booking is essential as there are only limited places on this free training event. No experience is required…just an enthusiasm for the historic built environment!

This day is part of the Kirkwall Community Archaeological Building Recording project, which aims to undertake a rapid survey of the built heritage in Kirkwall. It is a follow on event from the Scotland’s Urban Past workshops, and provides a Kirkwall focus for research. 

Led by Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon, the day of research in the Orkney Archives will focus on a case study area (e.g. a street, or group of houses) in the conservation area (Laverock, Midtown and The Bough). This supports the three detailed building recording exercises undertaken in 2016-17 and will allow participants to use a wide range of sources and learn how to link them.

This event is designed to be a training workshop for members of the public and no previous experience is required. The workshop will set the group up for rapid building recording and additional archive research in Kirkwall town centre during May and June.

The workshop is funded by the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.

Contact studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or ring 01856 569225 to book your place.

Recording the Built Heritage of Kirkwall, Orkney

Building recording in Parliament Square, Kirkwall, Orkney

Training and supporting volunteers to record the built heritage of Kirkwall and adding the results to the national record online.

ORCA Archaeology have secured funding from Kirkwall THI for a short programme of archaeological building recording training, recording buildings, and historical urban archive research in Kirkwall town centre during 2019. This complements the results of the ‘Discovering Hidden Kirkwall’ Archaeology Programme undertaken by the UHI Archaeology Institute during 2016-2017, and focuses more explicitly upon built heritage.

The project will train volunteers in new skills, undertake recording in the town, leading to a better characterisation and understanding the Kirkwall conservation area. The results will be added to the national record online, for everyone to access. 

Initial training workshops: will be held 25 – 26 March 2019 (10:00-16:00) at Orkney College, Kirkwall, Orkney. 

Free training will be provided by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) from the Scotland’s Urban Past team. This will include sessions on ‘History Reconstructed’ which gives participants practical experience of researching buildings using a variety of sources (maps, aerial photos, architectural drawings, digital resources and documents). The team will examine three case studies with volunteers working on group tasks, ‘GIS training’ in open source mapping software, and  a ‘Kirkwall Snapshot Survey’ which will give practical experience of building and monument recording, photographic survey techniques and adding images and data to Canmore online. 

Activities to follow will include building recording in the town centre supported by the ORCA team in April and May, and urban archive research during April with Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon. 

Training is free of charge, lunch is provided, places are limited, booking essential.

Book now and get more info: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Archaeological Building Survey Opportunity, Kirkwall

Rear 10 Victoria Street 2

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be completing a further Archaeological Building Survey Workshop on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th May 2017 (10am – 3pm).

This continues on from the work completed at Parliament Square in April and the town centre excavations, surveys and gardens digs last year in the Kirkwall THI Archaeology Programme. The workshop will include basic training in building survey techniques, mapping, photography and a trip to the archives.

The work will commence in the court yard to the rear of Finns former shop (10-12 Victoria Street), opposite RBS bank. Access is through the gate to the right of Spence’s Newsagents. The day will include training in scale drawing, photography, written records and how to look at buildings archaeologically. The building itself contains large amounts of re-used medieval stone.

Further workshops will also be recording the Old Castle on Main Street the following weekend (26-27 May, with some laser scanning the day after on the 28th).

For further information on the project see our previous blog post.

If you would like to take part in these free archaeology workshops then please contact Dan Lee on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk


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…. studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Kirkwall Garden Dig Success

The Kirkwall Garden Dig held over the weekend was a great success. Over 300 people visited the BBC site and residents learned the basics about archaeological investigation.

The project was a collaborative community archaeology programme in which Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative, The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Scotland’s Urban Past worked together to bring an archaeological extravaganza to Kirkwall. The Kirkwall Garden Dig project is part of The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme ‘Discover Hidden Kirkwall’. This community archaeology initiative has already uncovered parts of the medieval shoreline of the town in a previous excavation held in May 2016.

The project included BBC Radio Orkney together with 4 other residents of Kirkwall town centre who invited archaeologists to dig small exploratory test pits in their gardens. The public saw archaeology in action in the BBC Radio Orkney garden by visiting in person or linking through to a live stream on their Facebook page. Updates were also broadcast on BBC radio throughout the fieldwork.

The excavations were accompanied by workshops in which members of the public tried archaeological techniques such as sieving, finds washing, digging and surveying. Scotland’s Urban Past team also helped budding ‘Urban Detectives’ record their built environment, focusing on the areas around each of the trenches, contributing to the national record.

13988134_10153224152992168_3702958415747996842_o

An astonishing number of finds were unearthed, ranging from prehistoric flint to artefacts from the last few hundred years. Finds included large numbers of animal bones, including a huge pig’s jaw bone discovered in the BBC Radio Orkney garden – probably dating back to when the area was part of the Flesh Market in the 17th and 18th centuries. Remains relating to the former Kirkwall Castle were not reached, however sherds of medieval pottery were recovered. Test pits along the west side of the street relieved deep sequences of layers and evidence for the old shoreline. Other finds included a bone chess piece, a decorated clay pipe bowl and a rather intriguing loom or fishing weight. These finds will be be further analysed, adding to the evolving story of ‘Hidden Kirkwall’.

To become an ‘Urban Detective’ and help record some of your local heritage visit http://scotlandsurbanpast.org.uk/

Many thanks to BBC Radio Orkney for their help and local residents for taking part.


The Kirkwall Garden Dig is supported by:

Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016

Get Involved in the Kirkwall Garden Dig. 4th-8th August 2016 in Kirkwall Town Centre.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Scotland’s Urban Past to bring together an archaeological extravanganza to Kirkwall Town Centre.

  • 6 garden digs in Kirkwall Town Centre
  • Visit one of the digs in the BBC Radio Orkney Garden
  • Take part in community archaeology workshops in the town centre and learn excavation and building archaeology skills
  • Become an’Urban Detective’ and contribute to the nationwide archaeological record with the Scotlands’s Urban Past team
  • All welcome, free event, accompanied children also welcome to take part

The Kirkwall Garden Dig project is part of The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme ‘Discover Hidden Kirkwall’. This community archaeology initiative has already uncovered parts of the medieval shoreline of the town in a previous excavation held in May 2016.

Garden Dig 2016 Post456

The Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016 will increase our knowledge of the rich heritage present in the town by helping local residents dig five test trenches in their garden and get hands on with history in data gathering workshops for local volunteers.

Local archaeology volunteers will be trained to investigate and record Kirkwall’s history as ‘Urban Detectives’ by Scotland’s Urban Past – a nationwide community engagement project from Historic Environment Scotland and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The sheme invites local people to contribute to Canmore, the national record of architecture, archaeology and industry and one one Scotland’s national collections.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, says, ” The Archaeology Institute are thrilled to be teaming up with the Scotland’s Urban Past team to bring an extravaganza of archaeology to Kirkwall. It’s great to offer training in both archaeological excavation and building survey and we hope that Kirkwall residents will get involved.”

Chiara Ronchini, Project Manager Scotland’s Urban Past, adds,”During the Kirkwall Garden Dig, we’ll be running free training sessions to members of the public to give them the skills to record the history on thier doorstep. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the built environment of Kirkwall through observation and interpretation of its buildings. We encourage volunteers to join our team and become Urban Detectives, investigating and recording Kirkwall’s unique heritage.

Participants will learn how to recognise and identify architectural features and to record them for posterity and submit their findings for inclusion in Canmore.

While most of the garden digs themselves will be on private land and inaccessible to the public, Kirkwall’s residents and visitors are invited to see an archaeology dig in action at the BBC Radio Orkney Garden. This excavation will be open to the public from 9.30am to 5.00pm on the 4th August to 8th August 2016. Drop-in training sessions for ‘Urban Detective’ volunteers will run from 10.00am to 12.00pm on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August.

The research questions which the Garden Dig hopes to address include the following:

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre (between Broad Street and Junction Road)?
  2. Is there any evidence for the former occupation, land-use and activities within the historic core of Kirkwall?
  3. What is the nature, date and potential of any such archaeological evidence?
  4. What is the nature of the material used in the process of land reclamation along the shoreline in the Post-medieval Period?
  5. What is the character and history of the built heritage surrounding each test pit site?

To find out more or volunteer to become an ‘Urban Detective’ email daniel.lee@uhi.ac.uk or ring 01856 569225.

To find out more about Scotland’s Urban Past visit: http://scotlandsurbanpast.org.uk


 

The Kirkwall Garden Dig is supported by:

Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016

THI Dig 17-5-16 015

If you live in Kirkwall Town Centre (Victoria Street, Albert Street, Bridge Street) then you could be part of an exciting archaeology project being held on 5th, 6th and 7th August 2016.

We need 5 households to dig a test pit in their garden in Kirkwall town centre in August.

Following the success of the geophysics and excavation in the museum and RBS Bank garden during which pupils from Kirkwall Grammar School discovered the remains of the medieval shoreline, we want to find out the story behind other areas in the town centre.

We are looking for 5 town centre house gardens in the Victora Street, Albert Street and Bridge Street area in which your household, with help from archaeologists, can dig a small 1m by 1m archeology test pit. The soil will be sieved for finds and all soil and turf will be put back as found afterwards.

If you live in Kirkwall Town Centre then now is your chance to get involved in an exciting archaeological dig. Who knows what we will find?

Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016 info sheet V1 210616-page-001


To get involved ring 01856 569225 or e-mail studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Day 2 & 3 Kirkwall Dig.

 

Discovering Hidden Kirkwall.

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme. Excavation in the RBS Garden.

Day 1 in the classroom. Day 2 & 3 in the rain.

On Monday 16th May, Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist)and Sean Page (Marketing Officer) spent a preparation day at Kirkwall Grammar School involving pupils from S3 history and geography classes in a decision making project. We wanted to include them in the archaeological process as a whole so we devised a learning exercise in which we created a decision making lesson that asked the question…..Where shall we put the trench?

To answer the question we asked the pupils to decide and back up their decision with reasons. We provided them with maps from 1827, 1882, aerial photographs, 19th century photographs of the area and geophysics results. They then collectively had to decide where the trench was going to be located on the following day.

RBS Geophys
Geophysics of the RBS garden. Pupils had to decide where to dig.

The preparation day itself also placed the whole project into context and tied it into the work that the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative was undertaking in the town. We asked what is an archaeologist (involving various pictures of various people doing various things), what is archaeology and how is it different to history, what do archaeologist do, how do you become an archaeologist and touched on the transferable skills that an archaeologist develops. In effect we looked at how to develop a career in archaeology; something which was attractive to many pupils.

The preparation day was followed by two days in the field. It rained on the first day and drizzled on the second so they fully appreciated the benefit of correct clothing! Pupils undertook three activities throughout the whole day. These activities included surveying using a Leica TCR 1205+R400 Total Station Theodolite (TST) ,mapping, historical town survey and of course taking part in the excavation, sieving and finds washing in the RBS garden. It was a real hands on archaeological experience !

The objectives of the archaeology project were to try and answer these questions:

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre of Kirkwall (between Broad Street and Junction Road)
  2. Is there any evidence for the former layout of the museum gardens ?
  3. Do remains of the range of buildings depicted on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map survive below ground level. What is the character and depth of these remains where they do survive?

It is still a little early in the project to answer all of these questions, but we can say that the pupils found a feature which looks at this stage like a wall. Could it be part of the old shoreline wall? A garden feature ? A roadway? Well at this stage it is very hard to tell, but at the end of day 3 the team had excavated three courses of stone…so it looks like a wall. Finds included a sharpening stone, possible 17th Century ceramics, a stem and base from an 18th century wine glass, animal bones and a few pieces of flint (maybe washed down from the site of the Broch behind the site ??.

The excavation will be open another three days so we should be able to answer some of our questions more fully. However today (Thursday 19th May) we will be welcoming pupils from Glaitness Primary School….so who knows what we will find !

First dig in Kirkwall since 1978 starts today

Discovering Hidden Kirkwall.

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme.

Excavation in RBS Garden

Archaeologists from The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team will be commencing the excavation today; the first research – led excavations in the town since 1978. The site in the RBS Bank gardens will open from 9:30am to 4:30pm each day from Monday 16th May until Saturday 20th May and visitors are welcome to visit and talk to the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team.

As part of the community programme we will be training volunteers and involving the local schools in the dig itself, mapping in the Museum Gardens and historical mapping in the town itself – piecing together the story of Kirkwall.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week KGS pupils are involved in three studies:

  1. Excavation, sieving and finds washing in the RBS gardens.
  2. Geophysics, surveying and mapping in the Museum Gardens
  3. Historical mapping in the town itself

These archaeological investigations will build on the geophysics survey completed two weeks ago and will help us discover answers to the questions

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre of Kirkwall (between Broad Street and Junction Road)
  2. Is there any evidence for the former layout of the museum gardens ?
  3. Do remains of the range of buildings depicted on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map in the southern part of the museum gardens survive below ground level. What is the character and depth of these remains where they do survive?

Pupils from Glaitness School will also be on site on Thursday 19th May from 10.30 until 12.30pm to help us in the dig.