Archaeologists unearth housekeeper’s belongings among Cammo ruins

Archaeologists have uncovered a cache of personal items believed to have belonged to the housekeeper at one of the Capital’s grandest lost mansions.

The Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society continued their excavation of the servants' accommodation (known as the 'Cottages') at Cammo Estate, which was once home to one of Edinburgh's grandest mansions.
The Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society continued their excavation of the servants' accommodation (known as the 'Cottages') at Cammo Estate, which was once home to one of Edinburgh's grandest mansions.

Volunteers at archaeology hub Dig It! captured the unearthing of pre-First World War artefacts including tonic and perfume bottles, false teeth and cooking equipment, understood to have once belonged to Margaret Wright, an elderly housekeeper and cook at the Cammo House estate.

The work was undertaken through the Scotland Digs Digital campaign, which generates online and offline events for the public and provides live updates from dig groups across the country.

Following the easing of Covid‑19 restrictions in recent weeks, and with safety regulations in place, the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society (EAFS) was able to continue its excavation of servants’ accommodation knows as the 
“Cottages”.

Members of the public were able to follow the proceedings from the comfort of their own homes using the #ScotlandDigsDigital hashtag.

The EAFS learned that former housekeeper Margaret came from Monymusk in Aberdeenshire and was the only person on the estate in the 1911 Census when the owners of Cammo embarked on a tour of the world. Shortly afterwards, Margaret returned to Monymusk where she died in 1915.

Amy Eastwood, Head of Grants at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “The Scotland Digs Digital campaign was a fantastic way to engage people with the nation’s heritage while sharing stories and updates from the archaeology community during a time when a lot of archaeological work throughout the country was put on hold.”

Dig It! has now revealed a collection of some of the most intriguing discoveries from the dig sites, which have been digitally recreated by artists, designers and illustrators based in Scotland.

The illustrations are part of a series which also reimagined discoveries from other dig sites such as Orkney and Ross & Cromarty, to mark the end of Scotland’s 2020 summer dig season.

Dr Jeff Sanders, Project Manager at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project, said: “Scottish archaeology is all about discovering Scotland’s stories and these are the chapters of people’s lives that we sometimes forget about, but that archaeology is uniquely placed to write.

“Remains, such as the ones that have been uncovered this year, connect us to the people in the past and we believe that the work of these groups and digital artists have helped to strengthen that connection.”

The EAFS say they are planning to continue excavating once government regulations allow them to do so.

Built in 1693, the abandoned Cammo House was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1975, but was reduced to rubble two years later after vandals twice set it on fire.