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The Medieval Kirk, Cemetery and Hospice at Kirk Ness, North Berwick

The Medieval Kirk, Cemetery and Hospice at Kirk Ness, North Berwick: the Scottish Seabird centre Excavations 1999-2006

Thomas Addyman
Tanja Romankiewicz
Kenneth Macfadyen
Alasdair Ross
Nicholas Uglow
John Borland
Stewart Brown
Stuart Campbell
Ruby Cerón-Carrasco
Carol Christiansen
Simon Colebrook
Rosemary Cramp
Michael Donnelly
Julie Franklin
George Haggarty
Derek Hamilton
Derek Hall
Sarah-Jane Haston
David Henderson
Nick Holmes
Fraser Hunter
Stephen Lancaster
Dawn McLaren
Nicola Russell
Scott Timpany
Lore Troalen
Catherine Smith
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Oxbow Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Medieval Kirk, Cemetery and Hospice at Kirk Ness, North Berwick
    Book Description:

    Between 1999-2006 Addyman Archaeology carried out extensive archaeological excavations on the peninsular site of Kirk Ness, North Berwick, during the building, landscaping and extension of the Scottish Seabird Centre. This book presents the results of these works but its scope is much broader. Against the background of important new discoveries made at the site it brings together and re-examines all the evidence for early North Berwick – archaeological, historical, documentary, pictorial and cartographic – and includes much previously unpublished material. An essential new resource, it opens a fascinating window on the history of the ancient burgh. Kirk Ness is well known as the site of the medieval church of the parish and later royal burgh of North Berwick but it has long been suggested that it was also a centre of early Christian activity. The dedication of the church to St Andrew was speculatively linked to the translation of the Saint's relics to St Andrews in Fife in the 8th century. An early medieval component of the site was indeed confirmed by the excavation, with structural remains, individual finds and an important new series of radiocarbon dates. Occupation of a domestic character may possibly reflect a monastic community associated with an early church. Individual finds included stone tools, lead objects, ceramic material and a faunal assemblage that included bones of butchered seals, fish and seabirds such as the now-extinct Great Auk. The site continued in use as the medieval and early post-medieval parish and burgh church of St Andrew. In this period Kirk Ness and its harbour was an important staging point for pilgrims on route to the shrine of St Andrew in Fife. Domestic occupation discovered in the excavations is likely to be associated with a pilgrims’ hospice, also suggested in historical sources. This publication also provides a new analysis of the church ruin and an account of the major unpublished excavation of the site carried out in 1951-52 by the scholar and antiquary Dr James Richardson, Scotland's first Inspector of Ancient Monuments and resident of North Berwick. The excavations also revealed areas of the cemetery associated with the church, dating to the 12th–17th centuries, where inhumations presented notable contrasts in burial practice. Osteological study shed much light upon the health and demographics of North Berwick’s early population and identified one individual who met with a particularly violent death.

    eISBN: 978-1-84217-845-4
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures in Text
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. List of Tables in Text
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Contents of CD
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
    Olwyn Owen
  8. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Kirk Ness, a rocky promontory formerly connected to the East Lothian shore by a tide-washed spit of beach sand, has in many ways always been a focal point within the settlement and Royal Burgh of North Berwick. Over time, and under the patronage of the nunnery of North Berwick, Kirk Ness developed into the principal harbour and ferrying point on the pilgrimage route from the south to the shrine of St Andrew, at St Andrews in Fife. Here, too, was located the medieval parish and burgh church, similarly dedicated to St Andrew.

    After the Reformation the church continued in use...

  9. 2. Iron Age
    (pp. 19-22)
    Tanja Romankiewicz and Thomas Addyman

    The earliest dated feature demonstrating human activity on site was a discrete pit,416,situated in the south-east area of Kirk Ness. It was encountered within evaluation trench 4 between the remains of the 16th century church porch to the north-west and the existing sea wall to the east (Figures 1.4, 2.1–2.3). The relatively shallow (but truncated) feature, 0.2m deep, was discovered below the 19th century overburden relating to the sea wall. Underneath thisc.0.8m thick buildup lay a further layer of windblown sand,417,into which the pit416was cut.

    The pit contained a series of subround...

  10. 3. Kirk Ness in the Early Medieval Period
    (pp. 23-50)
    Thomas Addyman, Tanja Romankiewicz and Alasdair Ross

    The most significant concentration of features, deposits and structural remains pre-dating the later medieval occupation of the site was encountered in 2004–5 at deep level within the Scottish Seabird Centre tunnel excavation at the northern end of Anchor Green. These represent at least two major episodes of activity –phases 2aand2b– with a number of possible sub-phases, and agricultural activity – phase 2c and 2d (Figure 3.1). While other possible remains were found at a similarly deep stratigraphic level elsewhere, principally behind the sea wall bounding the east side of the site, none of these produced diagnostic finds or...

  11. 4. Kirk Ness in the Medieval and Early Post-Reformation Period
    (pp. 51-104)
    Thomas Addyman and Alasdair Ross

    The only tangible remains of archaeological significance to be seen today at Kirk Ness are the much-restored footings and surviving south porch of the medieval church of St Andrew at Auld Kirk Green, now known as Anchor Green (Figure 4.1). This church is known from at least the 12th century and functioned as the principal church for the parish and burgh of North Berwick and focus for pilgrimage traffic seeking passage across the Firth of Forth en route to St Andrews in Fife. Over the succeeding five centuries the structure evolved and expanded to become a substantial burgh church. However,...

  12. 5. Kirk Ness – Later History
    (pp. 105-124)
    Nicholas Uglow, Thomas Addyman and Alasdair Ross

    There is little archaeological evidence on the Kirk Ness site for major activity after the abandonment of the church in the mid-17th century. It is the documentary record that illuminates the history of the wider site between that time and the mid-20th century when J. S. Richardson undertook his excavation. In this period of about three centuries Anchor Green and the adjacent areas changed their use from ecclesiastical, and continuing burial activity, through minor industry, to tourism by the end of the 19th century. The erosion of the shoreline by the sea, which had caused the destruction of the old...

  13. 6. Conclusion
    (pp. 125-130)

    The archaeological investigations required at Kirk Ness in relation to the construction of the Scottish Seabird Centre permitted the first systematic examination of the history of the site that forms the setting of St Andrew’s Old Kirk, the long-ruined medieval burgh church of North Berwick. Carried out between 1999 and 2006, this fieldwork led to an extensive programme of post-excavation analysis and an important sequence of radiocarbon dates that focused upon the earlier features and deposits encountered at the site. Simultaneously the opportunity was taken to review the wider history of the evolution of Kirk Ness and to draw together...

  14. Appendices: Specialists Reports
    (pp. 131-164)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-176)
  16. Index
    (pp. 177-180)