The History of Leith

March 30, 2008

Report of the Geo-Physical Survey of the Churchyard of South Leith Churchyard

The aim was to establish;

1) That South Leith Parish Church had a Choir area and Transepts as according the Pentworth Map and written documentary evidence. Also to confirm that the length of the Church was 225 feet from East to West. and-
2) To discover the foundations of the King James VI Hospital, Session House and Grammar School

The survey was carried out by the dept of Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh.

The scan above starts from the rear of the Church (East) (Small square) and moving towards the south of the Church to the Churchyard Wall (Kirkgate) at the bottom
The top section of the scan shows straight line structures which must be man made. In the larger section the blue lines indicate foundations of walls. On the South wall a blue line can be seen running parallel with the edge this is the footing of the Tomb wall removed by the Council after 1920. This blue line turns sharply left at the bottom and what can be seen is a high resistance feature due to a mixture of elements.
1) Tomb walls removed by the Council again after 1920
2) The Session house
3) Grammar School
4) King James VI Hospital
Measuring from left to right the footings for the King James VI Hospital measure the same as indicated by Kincaid and given in the “Session Records” as being 56 feet by 30feet and corresponding with early maps of the area such as Wood, Ainslie etc. There is also the indication of an unknown tomb? Seen in the centre right. There is also an indication of boundary walls this is confirmed within the Kirk Records as the original Churchyard was on the South side only being expanded after 1822 with the demolition of the King James VI Hospital.

The scan above is the rear or East side of South Leith Church better known as the Seaman’s Ground. The bottom of the Scan indicates the rear wall of the Church the top is within a few feet of the Constitution Street Wall. The areas in blue are areas of very high resistance of within three feet of the surface (Graves are dug a lot deeper than this. So it can’t be that). Also at (1) is what appears to be a double wall structure which was a common element within late medieval Churches. The distance from the rear of the Church to a line through the number (2) is 93 feet which appears to be a man made structure and confirms what is seen on the Pentworth map. The distance from the rear of the Church to just past No (1) conforms to what is seen at Torphichen for the width of the crossing area. However as can be seen the area in the top Left corner is a area of high resistance just as can been seen the centre and bottom right are areas of low resistance. Confirming-
1) a substantive structure stood on the site confirmed both in writing and the Pentworth Map
2) Further confirmed by the dimensions and the area found
3) It is well known that the Choir area was destroyed by English gunfire and reduced to rubble in 1560. Most of this rubble was removed for the building of the pier of Leith (Confirmed by the area of low resistance) and pieces of masonry not used was just dumped in a corner and confirmed by the large are of resistance in the top left hand corner. They were after pieces they could just cart away and so some of the lower footings survived. And that is what is seen at number 1. There is also indications of pillar bases in the scan and conforms with what is seen at Torphichen Church.

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