07/03/2018
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Around 200 medieval human remains could be moved to make way for latest extension to Edinburgh tram system

a9436f33-32dc-4c38-b18b-6c4ca7473bf6

The latest extension to the Edinburgh tram route will see archaeologists remove around 200 human remains, some dating to the 14th century, if planned works get the go-ahead from councillors later this year.

Rob Leech, project leader on the Edinburgh Tram project, told The Herald newspaper that a historic wall backing onto South Leith Parish Church (pictured) will be dismantled and later rebuilt if the extension to the tram route gets the go ahead later this year.

He said: 'In taking the wall down, we know that there are going to be additional exhumations required through that area.

“We also know there’s going to be significant archaeology through that area. John Lawson, the city archaeologist, said the area around Constitution Street is one of the most archaeologically rich in the city.

“You need to face into that and not shy away from it. So within the programme of works, we have allowed quite a significant period of time to deal not only with the listed wall – which needs to be rebuilt block by block – but also to deal with that archaeology. I believe these are bodies from many hundreds of years ago.”

Rich in archaeological remains

John Lawson told History Scotland that the wall beside South Leith Parish Church stands close to a very old burial ground. Back in 2008, advance works ahead of the tramway uncovered the remains of just under 400 burials, most of which date to the late medieval period.

The listed wall was built in 1790 and if taken down, would be rebuilt with the memorial and cornerstones put back into their original sites. South Leith Parish Church dates back to 1483 and the site appears to hold burials which predate the church building, along with other human remains which date through to the mid 17th century.

John added that the creation of fortifications at Leith in the mid sixteenth century - around 1560 - meant that the boundary of the burial site was moved, before being moved again in 1790 when Constitution Street was extended, and so there has been quite a bit of disturbance around the area over the centuries.

If the present remains have to be moved, they will be 'carefully curated' and will eventually form part of the archaeological collections of Edinburgh City Council.

South Leith Parish Church - at the heart of history

South Leith Parish Church has an interesting past, and its location, close to Edinburgh and the port of Leith, has seen it at the centre of several pivotal events in Scottish history over the centuries. The original 15th-century building was a chapel dedicated to St Mary, and almost a century after its creation, in 1544, the building became a place of refuge for people displaced by the 'rough wooing' when King Henry VIII tried to force a marriage between his son Edward and the young Mary Queen of Scots.

The church, which has the arms of Mary of Guise in its entrance, was damaged by English artillery during a siege of Leith in 1560 and thirty years later, welcomed King James VI and his wife Anne of Denmark. South Leith Parish Church continues its role as a place of worship and welcomes thousands of visitors every year.

Tram consultation process

Members of the public, businesses and a wide range of stakeholders are now being invited to help shape plans for taking the tram route through to Newhaven, if the project is approved by Edinburgh City Council later in 2018. Read more about the consultation process.

(image copyright Kim Traynor)

Back to "Scottish archaeology" Category

07/03/2018 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming died - On this day in history

Pioneering Scottish female astronomer Williamina Fleming died on 21 May 1911.


The Battle of Nechtansmere was fought - On this day in history

The Battle of Nechtansmere (or Blar Dhun Neachdain) was fought on 20 May 685AD. ...


Spotlight on Moidart History Group

The Moidart History Group is a research group that exists to preserve and explore the history of the area, ...


Author and diarist James Boswell died - On this day in history

Author and diarist James Boswell died on 19 May 1795, at the age of 54. ...


Other Articles

Photographer David Octavius Hill died - On this day in history

Pioneering photographer David Octavius Hill died on 17 May 1870.


Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Burnes was born - On this day in history

Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Burnes was born on 16 May 1805.


Mary Queen of Scots married her third husband - On this day in history

Mary Queen of Scots married her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell on 15 May 1567. ...


St Andrews Society of Golfers was founded - On this day in history

The St Andrews Society of Golfers was founded on 14 May 1754.