Historic Environment Scotland

Heather Stoddart and Ali McCaig – Measured Survey for Historic Environment Scotland

Heather Stoddart, Measured Survey Manager, Architecture and Industry Section and Ali McCaig, Measured Survey Manager, Landscape Section at Historic Environment Scotland

We have chosen an Industrial Archaeological site on the River Clyde called Hyndford Mills, near Lanark, which we are surveying as part of an HES programme called ‘Discovering the Clyde’ http://discoveringtheclyde.org.uk/

The site sits very close to the river and floods regularly. It consists of a series of roofless buildings and archaeological remains that have been excavated by a local community group the Clydesdale Mills Society.

Panorama view of Hyndford Mills © HES

On our first visit, we explored the site and discussed the general interpretation with Miriam McDonald, Industrial Survey Manager at HES and with representatives from the Clydesdale Mills Society. At that point we agreed on the end product that we wanted to achieve – a detailed plan of the extent of the site which will show the upstanding walls, lades, tail-race and ground works in reasonable detail.

Hyndford Mills is quite a complex site, with multiple phasing. It appears on Pont’s map of Glasgow and the County of Lanark (Pont 34, c.1583-96) http://maps.nls.uk/detail.cfm?id=297  and may be much older still. The site has been used for many small-scale industrial and agricultural processes over many generations including grain milling, flax processing and animal bone crushing (for agricultural manure).

To start this survey we used two different techniques, alidade and GPS. The GPS was used to set out framework control for the site and to collect data which is used to create the detailed scaled plan and a sectional elevation drawing. The initial task was to undertake two alidade surveys which we did together, involving Ali on the survey staff and Heather on the survey board, recording the survey points. This allowed us both to discuss the survey points that needed to be taken and our evolving interpretation of the site. Once the framework of the site was complete, we split up to record and plan the features in more detail. The end product will form an annotated scaled plan and sectional elevation at 1:200.

A detailed photographic survey of the site was also undertaken by Steve Wallace, Field Photography Projects Manager at HES.

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Ali producing a scaled plan at one of the mill buildings at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES


Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Heather adding finishing touches to one of the scaled plans at Hyndford Mills, Lanark © HES

Digitally recording land use across Scotland

I’m Mike Middleton and I work as an archaeologist for Historic Environment Scotland in the Data and Recording team, with specific responsibility for mapping. I work on two major projects; the Historic Land-use Assessment – a map of the current and relict land-use of Scotland – and a project looking to map the records in the National Record of the Historic Environment.

In my work I use sources such as historic maps, aerial photography and field survey data to try and map the known extent of sites and historic landscapes. I also work with and train colleagues so as to build mapping into their field projects.

One of our most exciting developments this year has been the completion of the Historic Land-use Assessment to give us full nationwide coverage for the first time. This has allowed us to work in partnership with the National Library of Scotland to produce a Land-use Viewer showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930s.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930's.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930’s.

The maps highlight changing land use and in particular the urban and forest expansion during this period, as well as the impact of infrastructure projects such as hydro schemes and bridges.

Having a nationwide land-use map allows us to quantify and monitor land-use change. By understanding what land-use change is happening we can start to think about how it impacts on the historic environment and this is turn can inform how we manage and target resources.

I got into archaeology because I grew up in Shetland – an area particularly rich in archaeology. As my career has developed I’ve come to see how archaeology is a finite resource, susceptible to land-use change. By working in archaeological mapping I feel I’m contributing by mapping the scale of the resource and by attempting to understand how land-use change is impacting on our historic environment.


Scotland: Land-use Viewer




Canmore: The National Record of the Historic Environment


Allan Kilpatrick – Historic Environment Scotland

As I stood on the rain-sodden hillside, soaked, surrounded by two-metre-tall ferns and being bitten by a biblical plague of midges who viewed me as a three-star Michelin meal, I wondered: Is archaeology really worth it? However, once I’d brushed myself down, killed a thousand or so midges and began to move again, I realised I wasn’t finished with archaeology yet. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that there is almost no other job like it. Where else can you find yourself walking across a bit of countryside discovering the history of the landscape? This particular day, I was an archaeologist with a mission. I was looking for something not from our ancient past but rather more recent: I was seeking the archaeological remains of the First World War.

The field work is part of a HES project to survey and record the defences of the Clyde from both wars, as part of the Discover the Clyde programme (http://discoveringtheclyde.org.uk)

The sites I was looking for were military blockhouses. These are timber buildings which housed soldiers and were surrounded by an earth and sandbag wall providing a fighting position or strongpoint to defend an area of ground. I had with me copy of a map from The National Archives on which was drawn the position of a number of blockhouses on the hill. I had many questions to answer: were the blockhouses actually built? What did they look like? How accurate was the annotation on the map? Had they survived or had forestry ploughing destroyed them? So many variables and combined with the new trees and suffocating ferns, it was going to be a challenge to find them.

With the start of the Scottish version of a monsoon, I made my way upwards to a low summit which I thought might be my best chance.  For me, the thrill of fieldwork is the finding of archaeology, be it a cairn or rig, a hut circle or blockhouse.

As I reached the summit I found a small square concrete hut base which was not quite what I was expecting, but I recorded it and moved on. I carried on through the undergrowth and stumbled upon a large, square enclosure with a partial earth wall measuring about 5m by 5m.

The first Blockhouse found © HES

The first Blockhouse found © HES

Was this what I sought or was it something else? Indeed it was close to the position on the map.  I needed a comparison. Some more scrambling and two thousand dead midges later, I found a second rectangular enclosure on the edge of a steep slope covered in dense ferns and fallen trees but measuring the same internal size. Success!

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

As it turned out, these were indeed the sites of two blockhouses. We discovered two almost identical sites about 2km to the north later that day (see https://canmore.org.uk/site/331613). We have now found six of these blockhouses which defended Ardhallow Coast Battery on the Clyde from landward attack. The quest will continue as somewhere in the dense forestry lie three more.

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

Is archaeology worth it, on a day like this one it really is!

Team Digital Preservation

Hannah Smith Digital Archives Officer at Historic Environment Scotland

My name is Hannah Smith and I work for Historic Environment Scotland. I work within the collections section at HES, in the digital archive team which consists of myself and the Digital Archive Manager. We have been actively collecting digital archive since the 1990’s, receiving both internally and externally generated material. We currently hold over 500,000 catalogued digital items in our collection, which will only continue to grow in the future meaning as an organisation we need to be equipped to safeguard our archive to preserve and promote our digital material.

Current  Scottish planning guidance (http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2011/08/04132003/1 (accessed 22 July 2016) places emphasis on preservation in situ, but where this is not possible or appropriate it encourages recording or excavation following by the publication and archiving of that record.  Preservation by record is a widely recognised concept within archaeology, but it can only be achieved if those archives have a place of deposit where they will be preserved for the future. So our role in ensuring this is possible and happens is a vital part of this chain of archaeological responsibility and we consider this as important as the excavation.

The priorities for HES digital archiving are to collect all primary material relating to archaeological and architectural fieldwork and excavation undertaken within Scotland and Scottish territorial waters. This remit covers an extremely diverse range of information types including:  textual reports; databases; geophysical survey; air photography; mapping (GIS) and topographic survey; buildings survey; visualisation reconstruction; and digital video and audio. Some of these data types can pose challenges due to their complexity for example 3D laser scans which is a technology that is being utilised more and more for recording the built environment.

3D laser scan of Pencaitland Church © HES

3D laser scan of Pencaitland Church © HES

Digital photograph over 3D laser scan © HES

Digital photograph over 3D laser scan © HES

As technology evolves and file formats become obsolete we have to choose the best way to maintain access to the collections we hold. The only practical way we have to do this is to ‘migrate’ the file into a new format, however with some file types we risk losing or worse altering some of the properties of that file. Therefore we need to understand and define the significant properties of a file so that we can know what constitutes acceptable loss, and what crosses the line into unacceptable loss. We carefully consider these effects and experiment with different migration routes before finding the best possible balance between minimal or no loss of information or functionality and ongoing accessibility for that information. We also ensure we maintain the original object in an unchanged state so that should new possibilities emerge we can take advantage of them.

To help explain what we do*, I’ve included this animation to digital preservation, that HES digital archive manager Emily Nimmo helped to create. *We don’t wear capes, but still like to think of ourselves as Team Digital Preservation.

Most of my day to day work involves processing externally generated material into our trusted digital repository encompassing two areas: digital accessioning and digital cataloguing. We receive all types of digital media and often still receive obsolete media.


5¼-inch floppy disk and Amstrad 3 inch disk © HES

It’s a very satisfying job to take the digital media and link the information to our relevant records and know the data is now safeguarded in our archive and available to the public, to researchers and to inform the management of the historic environment in the future.

Submerged wartime defences off Roan Head, Flotta © Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology

Submerged wartime defences off Roan Head, Flotta © Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology

Archaeological evaluation © Cameron Archaeology

Archaeological evaluation © Cameron Archaeology

It also allows me to see all types of interesting archaeology from across Scotland every day – including cute little dogs on site . We come across all sorts of interesting material in this job and there’s never a dull day. We get to see little time capsules of archaeological events from all across Scotland, from working shots during an excavation to site diaries through to the final reports. I can live vicariously through commercial archaeologists from the comfort of my office.