Look what's in the new time capsule being buried with the 1897 one under Leith's Robert Burns statue

A pamphlet recording crimes investigated in Edinburgh in 1898 was just one of the items discovered when a time capsule containing relics from the 19th century was unearthed during the ongoing tram works in Leith during December 2019.

By Liam Rudden
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 8:42 am
Consultant Conservator Nic Boyes  opens the 1898 time capsule discovered during the move of the Burns statue on Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh, for the tram works
Consultant Conservator Nic Boyes opens the 1898 time capsule discovered during the move of the Burns statue on Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh, for the tram works

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The capsule was found when the Robert Burns statue on the junction of Bernard Street, Baltic Street and Constitution Street was temporarily removed to make way for the extension of the city’s tram line.

Believed to have been buried beneath the statue when it was erected in 1898, the container of 19th century artefacts was found under a lead sheet in a purpose-carved socket in the plinth of the statue.

Police Sargent Elaine McArthur-Kerr of the North East Community Policing Team at Leith Police Station was consulted on content for the new 2022 time capsule

On opening it, conservators learned the capsule had previously been opened and resealed in 1961. It also contained a members list, rules and the constitution of the Leith Burns Club, newspapers and coins of the day, information on the statue itself, and a Burns' poem.

Newspapers from 1961, including both the Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, were also in the capsule confirming it had been discovered and opened when the statue was moved in the Sixties.

Speaking in 2019, John Lawson, Edinburgh City Council Archaeologist, said, “We didn’t know what we were going to find, it’s been a complete mystery to us. It could have been absolutely nothing and empty, or, as it’s turned out to be, a really exciting discovery where we’ve got messages from 1898 and from 1961, so we’ve got the voices from two different communities.”

Two years on from its most recent discovery, plans are now underway to reinstate the 1898 capsule alongside a one modelled on the original by conservationist Nic Boyes.

John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council's Archaeologist and Nicolas Boyes Conservation Consultant with the resealed 1898 capsule and the new 2022 capsule

The contents of the 2021 capsule will include a signed copy of Jemma Neville’s book, Constitution Street, including a personal note, A New Poem, written by Professor Alan Spence the Edinburgh Makar and Poet Laureate of Edinburgh from 2017 to 2021 and, from Edinburgh North East Police, a letter from the Local Area Commander CI Tait, a copy of the Police Scotland Annual Report and a hat badge.

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Watch as 19th century time capsule discovered in Leith Robert Burns statue is op...

The new capsule will also hold poems and stories written by pupils from Victoria Primary Schools' P7 classes, a letter from the Edinburgh Burns Club, local and national newspapers from the day of sealing and a mix of coins from 2020 and 2021.

Completing the enclosed artefacts will be a Trams to Newhaven newsletter, letters from leader of the Council Adam McVey and Hannah Ross, Senior Responsible Officer on the Trams to Newhaven Project, a pen drive about the Trams to Newhaven Project, pictures of local business owners as well as pictures and vlogs on the discovery and opening of the 1898 capsule and sealing of the 2021 capsule.

Primary 7 students of Victoria Primary School, Edinburgh, who wrote poems and letters for the 2022 time capsule

In keeping with the times, a face mask will also be included.

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, says, “The project team, along with contractors, have worked really hard to make sure the historic elements of the area are preserved and to maintain its unique character as works progress.

"These time capsules, created more than 100 years apart, are a great way to capture a snapshot in time of Leith.”

Both capsules will reburied later this month.

Jemma Neville, author of Constitution Street adds an inscription to the book being placed in the 2022 time capsule

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