Archaeologists uncover chapel at Bridgend Farm

Volunteers gather at Bridgend Farm steading. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Volunteers gather at Bridgend Farm steading. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 16th century chapel built by the envoy to Mary Queen of Scots.

Until recently, the exact location of the chapel, built by Sir Simon Preston in 1518, was unknown, but thanks to the enthusiasm of volunteers at the Greater Liberton Heritage Project, almost £10,000 was secured in lottery funding to get digging.

A ten-strong team, including three archeologists from Rubicon Heritage Services, got to work on the site, known as the Bridgend Farm steading, off Old Dalkeith Road, last week.

They managed to unearth a fragment of medieval floor tile which confirmed the building had a “high status in the area”.

They also uncovered pottery from the 13th century – pre-dating the chapel – including a circular stone-lined medieval well.

Project chairwoman Margaret Collingwood said: “Forever it’s been the legend at Bridgend that they had a chapel. The findings confirm it was a place of great significance.”

She said the group would now seek fresh funding to excavate a larger area.

The chapel is believed to have survived The Reformation in Scotland in 1560, when many others were destroyed, while surveyors in 1853 noted that the building was being used then as a labourer’s house.

The group believes the evidence now confirms the chapel is the one referred to in “local legend” – which was built by Sir Simon, of Craigmillar Castle, where Sistine Monks prayed for the souls of James III and James IV.

Sir Simon lived from 1510 to 1570 and was Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1565 to 1569 as well as being a member of the Privy Council of Scotland during Mary, Queen of Scots’ reign.

He was sent to Scotland by Queen Mary in 1561 as her envoy to announce the death of her husband Francis II of France, as well as her decision to return to Scotland.

However, his loyalty to Mary wavered before her final battle in Scotland at Langside, in 1568, after he signed a bond to defend James VI of Scotland and Regent Moray against her.

Louise Baker, one of the archaeologists who led the eight-day dig, said the excavation had “raised more questions looking for answers” and that her company would “love to do more work” on the site.