Archive for Excavation

Whithorn Big Dig: Primary Seven Pupils at Castle Hill

Today saw Whithorn Primary School’s primary 7 pupils coming to dig test pits on Castle Hill. Following their finds-handling session last week with AOC’s Andy Heald, they all knew what to look out for and were quick to spot even the smallest metal objects, sherds of pottery and glass. Of the pottery discovered, most dates to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including some large sherds of a redware crock with white trail-slipped decoration. Well done everyone! We’ll post some pictures once the finds have been cleaned up.

Whithorn Big Dig: Day Three

On the last day of The Big Dig we continued to make good progress. We excavated a number of test pits in a field to the west of the main street. Rocky the horse and his miniature Shetland friend looked on, bemused.

Just a few centimetres beneath the surface, Rosie found a complete blacking bottle probably dating to late Victorian times. It didn’t have so much as a chip on it! A fine find indeed. In the area of the old slaughter house, George discovered some very large sherds of a Victorian Staffordshire tureen, with blue and white transfer-printed floral decoration.

Rosie with the late Victorian period blacking bottle.

Pottery expert George Haggarty’s favourite find of the day was some small sherds of Pearl- and Pratt-decorated banded ware dating to c. 1810. The bright colours and clear pattern had led us mere diggers to suspect that it was probably very modern but we are assured that it is not.

Sherds of banded ware dating to c. 1810

George will have a closer look at all of the pottery found during The Big Dig; we’ll make his report available to you as soon as we can!

Thanks very much to everyone who took part, lending us their muscles and their good humour through a couple of rainy days. Many thanks also to everyone who let us dig in their gardens and fields.

Whithorn Big Dig: Day Two

The weather was less kind to us today, but our volunteers ploughed on regardless! We excavated test pits in a few back gardens along George Stand in a field on the north-western edge of the town. Again, everyone found lots of pieces of pottery and glass, but there were a few highlights: Scottish white gritty ware from the second half of the 12th century; some reduced sandy ware from the 14th century; post-medieval reduced wares from the 16/17th century; imported German Frechen stoneware from c. 1680; and lots of 18thcentury wares including white salt glazed stoneware, pearlware and Pratt ware.

Local volunteer Ellen with 12th century pot sherds.

We have found lots of clay pipes over the last two days. These seem to have been made predominantly in Glasgow at Murray’s, MacDougall’s and White’s factories, and in Leith at Christie’s. Clay pipes were commonly used from the 17th century onwards, but most of those found this weekend date to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many thanks to everyone for digging through the rain and blustery wind of today – miserable weather could not dampen our diggers’ spirits!



Whithorn Big Dig: Day One

What a brilliant first day! A team of 15 volunteers excavated five test pits around Whithorn today: behind the old town hall, behind the Post Office, and in their gardens. Finds were many and varied, including pottery, glass, tiles, bone and metal.

Pottery expert George Haggarty was on hand to identify our discoveries. Today’s best bits included a sherd of medieval white gritty ware (late 14th century); post-medieval reduced wares (late 16th and 17th centuries); lots of 18th century white salt-glazed stoneware; and other 18th century types. Our favourite piece was a knop from the top of a majolica teapot of a widow in a cloak, produced at the Bellfield factory in Prestonpans.

We look forward to another day of discoveries tomorrow.