Lochmaben Castle – archaeological investigations 2016–2018

Meeting date

Adrian Cox, Senior Cultural Resources Advisor, Historic Environment Scotland

Meeting report

Adrian Cox presented his lecture on his community-based archaeological survey and dig at Lochmaben Castle at Dumfries Baptist Church Centre. The dig was intended to get a sense of the condition of the archaeological layers of the castle and involve the local community so as to appreciate this unique site in their locality.

Lochmaben Castle was built in the late 13th to early 14th century by Edward I  to control this strategic area of the south of Scotland. It has the earliest and best preserved peels constructed by Edward in Scotland. Heavily involved in the Scottish Wars of Independence it was sacked in 1301. It was however held by the English as an outpost for much of the 14th century. In the 15th century the castle was annexed to the Scottish crown and rebuilt with a Great Hall by James IV. In 1542 James V mustered his forces here during the disastrous campaign culminating in the Battle of Solway Moss near Longtown, Cumbria. The castle was abandoned in the 1700s and was used as a quarry locally for building stone. The ruins later became a popular visitors site and were subsequently painted by Turner.

The archaeological dig was restricted to  surface trenches so as not to disturb deeper archaeology. Initially a geophysical survey was completed followed by five trenches. These included the ditch on the north side, the courtyard and in the peel. Finds included animal bones, medieval pottery and roof slates. The condition of the archaeological layers was found to be excellent which was great news for future investigations. Clear medieval surfaces and drains were found along with evidence of 19th-century clearing for the visit of Queen Victoria. The local community were heavily involved and gained from the experience of being guided through the site and involved in hands-on archaeology.

Adrian Cox finished with the hope of further digs for the future. The Society looks forward to further information gleaned from this special site.