Issue: The Archaeology of the Streets of North Berwick and Implications for the Development of the Burgh

Publication Type
Abstract Replacement and upgrading of the mains water system in North Berwick provided an opportunity to identify and record deposits and structures across the core of the medieval burgh. The methods of trench excavation used meant that archaeological features were largely only seen in section, however, a large amount of information about the development of the burgh, and its layout, was collected despite this. Over much of the central core of the medieval burgh, layer upon layer of occupation deposits and more mixed material were interspersed with obvious inundations of wind-blown sand. The existence of a rough surface running east-west along much of the High Street could suggest that this is the more likely candidate for the earliest focus for the burgh, rather than the north/south running Quality Street further to the east. Road surfaces were also seen along East Road, running out of the town. The density of occupation deposits markedly lessened along Westgate, the continuation of the High Street, indicating the limits of the medieval core. A number of structures were also identified, including a wall at the east of the town that may represent the town wall, or at least define the limit of settlement to the east. The data collected from the watching brief will allow better assessments for future planning decisions, and also shows the importance of archaeological monitoring of this type of construction work.
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Author Kirsty Dingwall
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Issue Editor Helen Bleck
Year of Publication 2009
Volume 37
ISBN 0 903903 63 9
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
1
Replacement and upgrading of the mains water system in North Berwick provided an opportunity to identify and record deposits and structures across the core of the medieval burgh. The methods of trench excavation used meant that archaeological features were largely only seen in section, however, a large amount of information about the development of the burgh, and its layout, was collected despite this. Over much of the central core of the medieval burgh, layer upon layer of occupation deposits and more mixed material were interspersed with obvious inundations of wind-blown sand. The existence of a rough surface running east-west along much of the High Street could suggest that this is the more likely candidate for the earliest focus for the burgh, rather than the north/south running Quality Street further to the east. Road surfaces were also seen along East Road, running out of the town. The density of occupation deposits markedly lessened along Westgate, the continuation of the High Street, indicating the limits of the medieval core. A number of structures were also identified, including a wall at the east of the town that may represent the town wall, or at least define the limit of settlement to the east. The data collected from the watching brief will allow better assessments for future planning decisions, and also shows the importance of archaeological monitoring of this type of construction work.
2 - 3
Recent work in North Berwick has identified deeply stratified well-preserved deposits relating to the medieval and post-medieval development of the town, along with elements of structures and surfaces. The scale of the work allowed deposits to be recorded throughout the core of the medieval town, within the harbour. And towards the nunnery to the west, giving a more complete view of the archaeology of the burgh was previously possible.
4 - 5
The origins of the burgh are unclear. The earliest records indicate that a settlement was certainly in existence by the reign of David I (1124-53).
6 - 8
This chapter presents a summary of previous work within the burgh.
9 - 11
The current layout of the town can be described broadly as having two main axes, one running east-west (comprising the High Street and Westgate), and one running south from the harbour, which also includes Victoria Street and Quality Street. There are additional street that developed to the north and south of the High Street axis, and further development to the east of Quality Street. One of the most interesting questions about the growth and layout of North Berwick relates to which of these two streets emerged first. A study of the early maps of North Berwick goes some way to giving an understanding of how the town grew.
12 - 13
Prior to the watching brief taking place, areas of sensitivity were identified, largely based around the medieval core of the town. The potential was high, along with the possibility of resolving issues such as the existence of town walls, the location of the town market, and the primacy of either the High Street or Quality Street.
14 - 20
The replacement of the entire water system afforded the opportunity to get an insight into the survival, depth and characteristics of typical deposits throughout the core of North Berwick. The results from a number of locations included evidence of town walls and road surfaces.
Julie Franklin
21 - 24
Julie Franklin
21 - 24
The medieval pottery assemblage was concentrated mainly on the High Street and comprised mostly Scottish White gritty ware. Two medieval roof tiles and a small quantity of early post-medieval sherds were also recovered.
25
Of the range of deposits identified, what is most interesting is probably the distribution of medieval material, which confirms the previously supposed limits of the medieval core. The other main achievement of the work is the identification of certainly one, and possibly two sections of wall which may be the elusive town wall. The new evidence will inform planning decisions within the burgh and methodologies for future work.
26
27
Kirsty Dingwall
Replacement and upgrading of the mains water system in North Berwick provided an opportunity to identify and record deposits and structures across the core of the medieval burgh. The methods of trench excavation used meant that archaeological features were largely only seen in section, however, a large amount of information about the development of the burgh, and its layout, was collected despite this. Over much of the central core of the medieval burgh, layer upon layer of occupation deposits and more mixed material were interspersed with obvious inundations of wind-blown sand. The existence of a rough surface running east'“west along much of the High Street could suggest that this is the more likely candidate for the earliest focus for the burgh, rather than the north'“south running Quality Street further to the east. Road surfaces were also seen along East Road, running out of the town. The density of occupation deposits markedly lessened along Westgate, the continuation of the High Street, indicating the limits of the medieval core. A number of structures were also identified, including a wall at the east of the town that may represent the 'town wall', or at least define the limit of settlement to the east. The data collected from the watching brief will allow better assessments for future planning decisions, and also shows the importance of archaeological monitoring of this type of construction work.