Headland Archaeology

Martin Conlon (RCAHMS) – Glasgow

Glasgow. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Glasgow. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

I’m Martin Conlon, Education Trainee at RCAHMS. The archaeological site that I’ve chosen to write about is that of the Govan Iron Works in Glasgow. The site is one of many surveyed as a result of the construction of the extension to the M74.  The extension passed over a dense locality of hidden industrial gems, each site a memory of our relatively recent past. With the large- scale of the motorway development, it was important that archaeologists took advantage of the opportunities to survey and record key areas prior to them being potentially lost. It was also crucial that no archaeological remains were damaged or removed without proper records being made.

Digital image of watercolour dating from 1899, inscribed "Dixon's Ironworks". Copyright RCAHMS (DP009088)

Digital image of watercolour dating from 1899, inscribed “Dixon’s Ironworks”. Copyright RCAHMS (DP009088)






The excavations by HAPCA (a joint venture between Headland Archaeology Ltd and Pro-Construct Archaeology) uncovered the foundations of the old premises of Caledonian Pottery in Rutherglen, established around 1800 and closing in the mid 1870s, including remains of kilns (ovens used to dry and harden pottery). Also unearthed were signs of the massive urban development that took place in the area several hundred years ago, with the foundations of early tenements found just off Pollokshaws Road, amongst a dense network of remains of 19th century tenements, pubs, churches and shops.

Located on Cathcart Road, the Iron Works was the first of its scale to spring up in Glasgow, founded in 1837 by William Dixon.The Iron Works was known as ‘Dixon’s Blazes’ for the propensity of the blast furnaces to illuminate Glasgow’s smoggy industrial skyline. Drawn by William Simpson in the late 1890s, the illustration above shows the Iron Works from the South, with a row of single-storey houses in front known as ‘Collier’s Raw’. The last working blast furnace ceased operation in 1958 and the site has since been re-developed.

Martin looking through the collection. Copyright RCAHMS

Martin looking through the collection. Copyright RCAHMS

Around 15 boxes of photographs, drawings and notes of the M74 project have now reached RCAHMS where they have been catalogued and housed as part of our collections. Using other material held at RCAHMS, like the RAF National Survey (Air Photographs 1944-1950) image below, the site’s history can be very clearly understood. The M74 collection is an important reminder of the importance of post-medieval archaeology and the idea that archaeological investigation is not strictly confined to our ancient history.


RAF National Survey (Air Photographs), 1944-1950 Scanned Image of RAF oblique aerial view showing part of the Hutchestown district with the Govan Ironworks (Dixon's Blazes) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1024381)

RAF National Survey (Air Photographs), 1944-1950 Scanned Image of RAF oblique aerial view showing part of the Hutchestown district with the Govan Ironworks (Dixon’s Blazes) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1024381)

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.


A day in the life of an Irish Managing Director / Archaeologist

My name is Colm Moloney and I am the Managing Director of Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd. We are one of the larger commercial archaeological companies operating in Ireland.


The office of Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd on Little Island in County Cork

In my working life Fridays tend to be meeting heavy but in July that all changes as the holiday season hits. This Friday (Day of Archaeology) I have a fine balance of some interesting archaeology and quite a lot of commercial activity. Here it is warts n’ all!


I started my day off at 8am in the office in Little island, County Cork preparing a news article for Seanda, the annual archaeology magazine of the Irish National Roads Authority. This summarises a group of 6 corn drying kilns from an amazing Early Christian site in County Tipperary.


At 10am I met with the Business Support Manager to have a look at the mail and discuss the forthcoming week and programming of work. Great news – we won tenders for three fieldwork projects!


Lunch is postponed as the archive for a site I will be writing up over the next year arrives at the office and needs to be stored away carefully. One box contains a complete and intact prehistoric pot. The most amazing things go through this office!


A complete and intact Bronze Age pot delivered to the office today

Next it was straight into an end of month financial review with the accountant and other directors. This involves checking that we have hit our financial targets for the month and then going through our forecasting for finance for the next 12 months. Once the forecasting is complete we meet with the sales team to discuss targets and what work we need to get in to keep the business going steady. While this may seem mundane and boring it is by far the most important part of my job particularly in the midst of a recession.


After lunch is spent working on the Bronze Age chapter for a monograph that we are writing on the archaeology of the N7 Nenagh to Limerick Road scheme for the National Roads Authority. Today I was producing a distribution map of Bronze Age settlements between Limerick city and Nenagh in County Tipperary – I love this part of my job!


This afternoon I have a strategy meeting for our new business – Know Thy Place Ltd. We started this in response to the recession and it is really starting to gather momentum. We are now looking at pushing the service in the USA and todays meeting will focus on how best to achieve this.  I have to admit this is all very exciting and it is great to be doing something positive to fight the recession.


My final tasks of the day involve reviewing the illustrations for an article I have written for the Tipperary County Journal with our Graphics Manager and making a start on a blog post for Know Thy Place on a family of troglodytes who lived in my home town of Midleton, County Cork during the early medieval period.


That was my day, I hope you enjoyed it!