Issue: Dundrennan Abbey: archaeological investigation within the south range of a Cistercian house in Kirkcudbrightshire (Dumfries & Galloway), Scotland

Publication Type
Abstract The remains of the south-west corner of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey cloister at Dundrennan (National Grid Reference: NX 7492 4750) were cleared of rubble and 19th-century landscaping infill over four seasons of fieldwork in the early 1990s. Elements of the warming house, novice's day room, great drain and latrine block undercroft were revealed. Coupled with a short programme of geophysical survey and test-trenching, new evidence of the sequence of building for the abbey was revealed by excavation. The project was funded by Historic Scotland.
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Author Gordon J Ewart
Editor Jerry O'Sullivan
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Council for British Archaeology
Historic Scotland
Other Person/Org Stephen P Carter (Author contributing)
Naomi Crowley (Author contributing)
Andrew Dunn (Author contributing)
Harry Kenward (Author contributing)
Coralie M Mills (Author contributing)
Tanya O'Sullivan (Author contributing)
Alan Radley (Author contributing)
Dorothy Rankin (Author contributing)
Robert S Will (Author contributing)
Geoquest (Author contributing)
David Connolly (Illustrator)
Year of Publication 2001
Volume 1
ISBN 0903903709
Subjects / Periods
BIAB: Sewers
Medieval
BIAB: Ecclesiastical Architecture
Note Is First Occurrence: 1 Is Portmanteau: 1
Source DigitalBorn
Relations
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Abstract
1
The remains of the south-west corner of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey cloister at Dundrennan (National Grid Reference: NX 7492 4750) were cleared of rubble and 19th-century landscaping infill over four seasons of fieldwork in the early 1990s. Elements of the warming house, novice's day room, great drain and latrine block undercroft were revealed. Coupled with a short programme of geophysical survey and test-trenching, new evidence of the sequence of building for the abbey was revealed by excavation. The project was funded by Historic Scotland.
Gordon J Ewart
2 - 6
This section presents details of site location and topography. The typical criteria of well-drained, secluded, wooded valleys for Cistercian foundations of the 12th century are well met at Dundrennan. The sharp course of the Abbey Burn also provided suitable areas for cultivation to the east of the main abbey buildings, a further favourable condition for its foundation. The river drained the area of the abbey and adjacent fields, creating the potential for gardens and orchards, although the ground is prone to flooding.
Gordon J Ewart
7 - 8
The abbey was founded in 1142 by Fergus, Lord of Galloway as a daughter house of Rievaulx in north Yorkshire. The success of the abbey as the earliest and wealthiest Cistercian foundation in the region was not maintained into the later 13th century. An indication of the mixed fortunes of the abbey during the 13th century survives in the form of petitions to the English Crown. The history of subsequent years is largely obscure. By the mid 16th century the community of brethren was relatively small, numbering a single prior and nine monks in 1545.
Gordon J Ewart
9 - 36
The results of the excavations are described in terms of historic periods reflecting the building, occupation and abandonment of structures towards the east end of the south range, from the later 12th century to the present time. In total, five periods of building, occupation and abandonment of the structures at the south-east corner of the cloister were identified, and the archaeological account is presented in these terms. In addition, a period of activity spanning Periods IV and V was identified from the deposits within the great drain, and overlying it. The periods are defined as follows: period I '“ c 1170-1230; period II '“ c 1230-1320; period III '“ c 1320-1450; period IV '“ c 1450-1520; period V '“ c 1520-1600; occupation over periods IV-V '“ the midden and the great drain fills.
Gordon J Ewart
Geoquest
37 - 38
With the exception of trenches 1 and 2, all excavated areas produced evidence of in situ archaeological deposits over a wide area. It appears from trenches 4-6 that the whole of the east-facing slope is artificially modified for arable purposes, but that most of this landscaping occurred after the abbey was abandoned. In general, the potential medieval features found in trenches 5 and 6 reflected attempts to create dry and stable building platforms, most likely for timber buildings, and probably associated with the earliest monastic colonisation of the site.
Andy Radley
Robert S Will
39 - 41
The excavations produced a total assemblage of 372 sherds ranging in date from the 13th to the 20th century. Within this small assemblage there were 226 sherds dating from the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century occupation of the site and these are not described in detail. The remaining 146 examples are described as a series of ceramic types per archaeological period. The typology is based largely on the major ceramic assemblage recovered by excavations in St Andrew's, Fife.
Andrew Dunn
42 - 47
A total of 48 small finds mostly derived from the fill of the great drain and the accompanying midden deposits. They included a silver spoon, silver and copper alloy pins, a coin, lace tags, needles, an iron spearhead and belt loop. There were also five fragments from a leather shoe and a number of rim sherds from glass vessels.
Andrew Dunn
48 - 49
A total of 66 fragments of window glass came from a single pit cut into the rubble infill of room 11, the refectory. It is a relatively large collection of Scottish glass which allows for comparison with other Scottish abbeys, most notably the major Augustinian house at Jedburgh in Roxburghshire. Many of the fragments are of grissaile and none appear to be coloured though this could be a feature of poor preservation.
Andrew Dunn
50 - 51
A total of 412 separate fragments derived exclusively from the area under excavation; that is they represent remains of buildings which have collapsed in situ and which have since undergone robbing and further reduction. Masons' marks were found on 226 fragments (mostly on fragments of ceiling vault ribbing) and 44 different types were identified.
Naomi Crowley
52 - 0
Initial microscopic examination identified three types of mortar and clay. Further analysis suggests that throughout the different phases of building the same sources of local sand were used for mortars and plasters.
Dorothy Rankin
53 - 56
The composition of the charred plant assemblage through all phases of deposition reflects a striking consistency. Oats predominate throughout with lesser quantities of barley, wheat and weed seeds. This probably reflects the use of these cereals throughout the occupation of the site, with oats being the most popular in all periods. Indeed this shows very much the trend for the high medieval period in Scotland. Investigations at Perth, for instance, found that oats and barley were the most frequently recovered cereals there too. Unfortunately it has not been possible to determine whether the crops at Dundrennan were locally grown. Certainly, the weed assemblage, indicating sandy acid soils, could have come from local fields.
Tanya O'Sullivan
57 - 74
Most of the large mammal material consists of small spatially distinct groups of broken bone which have been identified as cattle and sheep. There are no pig remains apart from a tooth. All skeletal elements of cow and sheep are represented indicating that animals were brought in on the hoof. Cat, hare, common house mouse, common shrew and field vole were present. A lot of birds were present in Period IV and V contexts. These were mostly fowl, followed by domestic goose, teal, mallard, whimbrel, and jackdaw.
Ruby Céron-Carrasco
75 - 76
Freshwater fish included salmon, perch, eel, roach and lamprey, while marine varieties comprised herring, haddock, pollock, saithe, cod and dab. Three fragments of possible edible crab were also recovered.
Stephen P Carter
77 - 79
The most prevalent marine species are common mussels and common cockles, though in low numbers. Terrestrial and freshwater species were dominated by taxa typical of disturbed but shaded habitats associated with stone buildings or rubble.
Harry Kenward
80
Insect remains include woodlouse and centipede. The material has little interpretative value: some of it is definitely modern and it could all conceivably be intrusive.
Ruby Céron-Carrasco
Coralie M Mills
81
There are two types of probable fuel residue. One is a fused mixture of organic materials (from a range of contexts in Periods I, IV and V) and the other, less frequent, type is represented by fragments of probable burnt coal from midden deposits in Period IV-V.
Gordon J Ewart
82 - 86
The results of the excavation have been expressed as a simple sequence of building, repair and decline, but clearly also demonstrate the evolution of the house within key historic periods. In discussing the significance of the findings, evidence of this evolution is reviewed in terms of specific episodes of construction work on the site. There are three historical periods against which the episodic development of the buildings within the abbey complex can be best reviewed, in as much as prevailing conditions enable the abbey to be successful, and which also more acutely prescribed and determined the scale and nature of the changes to the buildings. The historical periods are as follows: consolidation and early success in the 12th to the later 13th century; remodelling in the 14th century, and commendatorship in the 15th century.
88 - 89
89
90 - 92
Gordon J Ewart
The remains of the south-west corner of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey cloister at Dundrennan (National Grid Reference: NX 7492 4750) were cleared of rubble and 19th-century landscaping infill over four seasons of fieldwork in the early 1990s. Elements of the warming house, novice's day room, great drain and latrine block undercroft were revealed. Coupled with a short programme of geophysical survey and test-trenching, new evidence of the sequence of building for the abbey was revealed by excavation. The project was funded by Historic Scotland.\r\n