Volunteers wanted to unearth Saughton Hall remains

Saughton Hall in 1952. Picture: TSPL
Saughton Hall in 1952. Picture: TSPL
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UP to 200 members of the public are being recruited to help archaeologists dig up the city’s past.

Council chiefs are inviting residents and enthusiasts to help excavate the site of a mansion in Saughton Park.

Saughton Hall – known as “Sauch” – is thought to have been built in the early 17th century and was demolished in the 1950s.

Now experts hope to discover more about the history of the house and its grounds as part of a larger project to restore Saughton Park to its former glory. The park once rivalled the Royal Botanic Garden and
attracted 3.5 million people to the Scottish National Exhibition in 1908.

Records show the mansion had served for a time as a “private lunatic asylum” and during the Second World War was a convalescent home for members of the Women’s Land Army.

The estate hosted the Royal Highland Show Fair in 1920 and historians say in medieval times the area was likely to have been the focus of industrial activity.

Culture convener Councillor Richard Lewis said: “Edinburgh has a fascinating history and this project will really allow members of the community to discover sections of the park and old hall that have been buried for 400 years.”

Last year, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the council £392,000 to develop the restoration plans.

City archaeology officer John Lawson said the dig could unearth a wide range of artefacts, including buttons, coins, fragments of pottery, glass bottles, as well as reveal more about what the house and gardens looked like.

He said: “We have a plan of the building, but we want to find out: do these walls still survive? Was there an earlier building on the site?

“And we hope we can unpick some of the garden layouts and paths from the 17th and 18th centuries and get an idea of what it actually looked like.

“The work we do now will help us design what we do in the main project.”

Volunteers of all abilities are being urged to sign up for a talk on Thursday at 7pm in the Saughton Winter Gardens on how to get involved. The digs will take place on May 31-June 1 and June 7-8, 10am-4pm.

Numbers are limited to 50 a day to take part in the excavations and attend workshops on archaeology and history. Volunteers must register in advance.