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'Kiln Topping Out Ceremony'

Dig Portobello

'Dig Portobello was a great success. It took place from 29th - 31st August and we had a weekend of wonderful weather, with around 60 volunteers digging test pits and 50 adults and children attending other events. The prom was busy and the test pits on the grassy site attracted much attention from passers-by.

Adults and family groups learned how to dig a test pit. Various structures were found in the grassy area, for example wooden struts resting on bricks created much discussion about what they could be. Suggestions ranged from sleepers for rails for bogies to run on to the foundations for wooden beach huts. Glass and ceramic shards were found, with a rubbish dump excavated late on Sunday afternoon which caused much excitement. An experienced archaeologist took over and dug to about 1.5 metres where shards from the early 1800s were found. These included glazed yellow pieces, possibly from a ceramic dog, which are the earliest of this type found for Portobello.

Several families dug in their gardens and discovered brick walls previously unknown to them and pottery shards. The spread of shards confirms that broken, unwanted pottery was used all over Portobello as infill and that much more remains to be found.

The excavation in the paved square in Bridge Street, beside the Figgate Burn and behind the new flats, revealed more than anyone had anticipated. After discovering a tarred road underneath the decorative brick surface, a small digger was brought in to break through this. Digging revealed several walls dating from different periods, raising questions about what had been sited there over time. More evidence of Portobello’s industrial past had been revealed.

Other events were also popular, with the Wee Pottery Workshops for children fully booked. Children and their parents enjoyed themselves decorating tiles and making pottery bowls and animals. Volunteers washed the many finds and George Haggarty, our renowned ceramics expert, made an initial examination of them. He was delighted at the number of early finds, which show that Portobello was producing fine work earlier than originally believed. He declared that the weekend had exceeded his greatest expectations.

A full report on the dig will be presented at our AGM in April. We would like to thank AOC Archaeology for their enthusiasm and hard work in ensuring the dig and events ran smoothly. Our thanks also go to City of Edinburgh Council for their support, particularly to John Lawson, City Archaeologist, for his advice over the weekend.

Thanks to all who volunteered over the weekend, including those who manned the community centre. We hope you all enjoyed your experiences and have been encouraged to further your knowledge of archaeology.

Below is a selection of photographs from the weekend.

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