The History of Leith

November 18, 2004

Historic fort to become car park

REMAINS of a 16th century fortress unearthed at a building site are set to be reburied under the car park of a new block of flats.

The 30-metre wall, discovered in Leith, is believed to be the remains of the Ramsay fort, the first in Scotland designed for a battle involving cannon.

Archaeologists say the wall is of “national significance” and solves confusion over the exact whereabouts of the fortress.

But they have no plans to turn the historic site into a tourist attraction. And they revealed the remains are to be reburied under the car park of 33 new flats.

Builders for Bryant Homes unearthed the wall while clearing the former warehouse site at Tower Street, in Leith.

They immediately called in archaeologists who uncovered a section of wall two metres wide and 1.5 metres high.

They also unearthed seven iron cannonballs, which they say provides near proof the wall is part of the Ramsay fort.

Mary of Guise, the widow of James V of Scotland, ordered the fort to be built sometime between 1548 and 1559.

She summoned an Italian architect who designed what was believed to be Scotland’s first star fort, so-called because it was shaped like a star.

French soldiers attempted to defend the fortress during the 1560 siege of Leith when the Earl of Somerset led an English attack on the area. The English won the battle and ordered the fort to be demolished.

John Lawson, archaeologist City of Edinburgh Council’s archaeologist, said: “The fortress is particularly significant because we believe it is the first star fort in Scotland.

“It is our hope that one day we will be able to put the cannonballs discovered on public display, but the actual wall will be covered over as part of the car park development.”

Yesterday Iain Gaul, design director of Bryant Homes, said while the company did intend to proceed with its car park plans, it was working with Historic Scotland and the council to ensure the site’s significance was permanently recorded.

JOHN INNES
Thursday, 5th December 2002
The Scotsman

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