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Project Archaeology

Why does the wall on Constitution Street need to be taken down and rebuilt?

The South Leith Parish Church graveyard wall on the west side of Constitution Street is an A-listed Victorian era listed wall, which is in a relatively poor state of repair and could sustain further damage through the works. 

Rather than risk further damage which could occur in an uncontrolled way, it is prudent to document the wall and remove it, so that it can be reconstructed. It will be carefully taken down prior to the tram construction works commencing to mitigate against potential damage to the wall, with the materials being retained and re-used to construct the wall back into its original position prior to completion of that section of the works. The memorials on the inner face of the wall will also be removed and protected so that they can be reinstated when the wall is re-built.

Taking down the wall ahead of the construction project, through what is the narrowest section on the route, will also provide the space required to construct the line through Constitution Street and will enable ample pavement space to be provided to allow those on foot to move around the area during construction.

As well as the removal and reinstatement of the wall, archaeological work will be required to exhume approximately 200 gravesites dating from between the 14th and 17th centuries. All work will be carried out under the leadership of the city archaeologist as well as external agencies. The work will not require any significant excavations beyond the wall into the graveyard itself and is being designed to avoid disturbing known burials within the present graveyard.

Exhumation of 14th - 17th century gravesites

As well as the removal and reinstatement of the wall, archaeological work will be required to exhume approximately 200 gravesites dating from between the 14th and 17th centuries. All work will be carried out under the leadership of the city archaeologist as well as external agencies. The work will not require any significant excavations beyond the wall into the graveyard itself and is being designed to avoid disturbing known burials within the present graveyard.

How much archaeology is the project expected to encounter and how has this been accounted for?

Leith has a very long and colourful history and is recognised as one of the most important urban archaeology sites in Scotland.  This means we expect to find some items of archaeological interest as we begin to construct the line.  Working with the Council archaeologist we have identified areas where discoveries are likely:

  • Baxter’s Place Air Raid Shelter
  • South Leith Parish Church and surrounding area
  • Leith Fortifications
  • Ocean Terminal dock wall and fortifications
  • York Place

How is the project managing archaeological finds?

All archaeological finds will be managed in accordance with current Chartered Institute of Archaeologist standards.  The City Archaeologist has been deeply involved in all project development in relation to archaeological scope and processes to be followed.

Robert Burns Statute and other monuments on the route

 As part of the works, the Robert Burns statue situated on Bernard Street has been removed. It will be carefully stored, given some much needed refurbishment and relocated in the same area once construction is complete. During the removal of the statue a time capsule was discovered which contained artefacts from 1898 and 1961. You can read about the opening of the time capsule here.

In addition, the clock that was previously situated on the London Street roundabout is being refurbished and will be return to the new public realm around Elm Row. In addition, the famous bronze pigeons will also be returned to the same area as part of this project.

How is the project team keeping the public informed of their archaeology finds?

Each week the Trams to Newhaven team pushlishes a weekly vlog on their YouTube Channel. There is also archaeology information displayed on our Community Engagement boards at Dalmeny Street Logistics Hub and outside the project office on Leith Walk.