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Robert Burns Time Capsule

Robert Burns Time Capsule - 1898 and 2001

Lead time capsule cut with items showing.

A time capsule containing relics from the 19th century was unearthed by contractors working on the project in December 2019, when the Robert Burns statue on Baltic Street was temporarily removed to make way for construction.

Archaeologists excavating the site found the time capsule beneath a lead sheet in a purpose-carved socket in the plinth underneath the statue. It is believed to have been placed there when the statue was erected in 1898, though on opening the capsule conservators learned that it had been subsequently opened and resealed in 1961.

Found inside the capsule from 1898 were:

From 1961, there were also newspapers and a letter from the people who had opened the original time capsule.

We’ve investigated some of these items further. Watch our vlog on the 1897 Crimes and Offences booklet, featuring Police Sargent Elaine McArthur-Kerr from the Leith Police Station,  to find out what the crimes of the time looked like.

Download images of the Crimes and Offences booklet (PDF).

In December 2021 we reinstated the 1898-time capsule discovered under the Robert Burns statue and with it a new time capsule from 2021 for future generations to discover. Both time capsules have been placed in a purpose-made socket within the plinth that sits underneath the statue.

The 1898-time capsule has been a great vehicle to deliver its amazingly preserved contents to the future. Conservationist Nic Boyes has been responsible for creating the new capsule modelled on the old one.


Photo collage of the reinstatement of the 1898 time capsule inside the base of the Robert Burns statue, as well as the insertion of the 2022 capsule.



We carefully thought about what we wanted to include for future generations to discover and decided to include contents similar to the old capsule to give a comparison across times. In addition, we engaged with local authors, poets, groups and schools to reflect our current times.

The contents of the new capsule include:

  • Signed copy of Jemma Neville’s book – Constitution Street including a personal note.
  • A New Poem written by Professor Alan Spence Edinburgh Makar/Poet Laureate of Edinburgh from 2017 to 2021.
  • From Edinburgh North East Police, a letter from the Local Area Commander CI Tait, a copy of the Police Scotland Annual Report 2021-22 and a hat badge.
  • Poems and stories from Victoria Primary Schools P7 Classes of 2020/2021 who took part in our challenge to create content for the capsule.
  • Letter from the Edinburgh Burns Club.
  • Local and national newspapers from the day of sealing.
  • Mix of coins from 2020/2021
  • Trams to Newhaven – Current Newsletter
  • Pen drive including content on the Trams to Newhaven Project, pictures of local business owners, pictures and vlogs on the discovery and opening of the 1898 capsule, and sealing of the 2021 capsule.
  • And of course a face mask!

John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council's Archaeologist and Nicolas Boyes Conservation Consultant with the resealed 1898 capsule and the new capsule stamped with 2022 created by Malcolm Thomson of D.Blake & Co Ltd.  


John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council's Archaeologist and Nicolas Boyes Conservation Consultant with the resealed 1898 capsule and the new capsule stamped with 2022. The capsule was created by Malcolm Thomson of D.Blake & Co Ltd. Watch our vlog on the creation and repair of the 1898 capsule. Watch an interview with John and Nic.




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Professor Alan Spence – Makar/Poet Laureate of Edinburgh from 2017 to 2021.

Who better than Edinburgh’s own Makar Professor Alan Spence to write a poem for inclusion within the time capsule?

You can watch our Vlog with Alan reciting the poem here.


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Jemma Neville, author of the book Constitution Street adding an inscription to the book placed within the time capsule. 

Malcom Thomson of D.Blake & Co Ltd placed the book inside during the capsule's creation.



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Victoria Primary School

Primary 7 students of Victoria Primary School were tasked to create poems in the style of Robert Burns or to write a letter to the future.  We had 20 strong entries all of which are included in the capsule however we had our favourite 5!  All entries were presented with a certificate and the winning 5 received a goody bag.  Thank you to the School and teachers for all your help.



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Leith Police Station

After the discovery of the Crimes and Offences booklet within the 1898 time capsule we engaged with Police Sargent Elaine McArthur-Kerr of the North East Community Policing Team at Leith Police Station for content for the new capsule.