Robin Turner (RCAHMS) – Falkirk

Robin Turner, meeting Prince Charles at Dymocks

Robin Turner (green jacket), meeting Prince Charles at Dymocks

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

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

I’m Robin Turner, and I look after the architectural, archaeological and landscape survey parts of RCAHMS, and also the recording part – getting records into the Canmore database and out to the public. I’ve been interested in archaeology since I was at primary school, and went on my first dig in 1969. I was hooked, and spent all my school holidays going on digs in Britain and abroad, before going studying archaeology at university. As well as working in field archaeology (digging) I also spent almost 20 years in archaeological conservation and management with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

One of the best things I’ve ever been involved in was at the small Scottish town of Bo’ness, on the south side of the River Forth. It used to be a thriving industrial town but became increasingly down at heel in the later 20th century. As part of the NTS Little Houses  Improvement Scheme, we transformed Dymock’s Buildings –a derelict group of ugly-looking buildings –into something that the town could once again be proud of, and I was responsible for ensuring that a detailed archaeological record was made of the standing buildings and also of what was under them.

Dymocks N Street facade before

Dymocks N Street facade before Copyright Robin Turner

Dymocks N Street facade after

Dymocks N Street facade after Copyright Robin Turner









As well as unravelling the very complex story of the buildings, from their origins on reclaimed land in the 1650s to their 20th-century uses, we excavated beneath them and found the remains of an amazing salt pan: in the 1600s the south side of the Forth was a centre for heating seawater and making salt. The buildings are now in community use, but there is occasional public access where local people and visitors can find out about the story of the buildings. But the best bit is what our work did for the community. The buildings were transformed from being an eyesore to being something that people could admire and be proud of. The community went on to renovate the Hippodrome – one of the earliest picture houses in Britain. In part because of these initiatives, the community’s civic pride has been greatly enhanced.

Archaeology is not about things: it’s about people: people in the past, but people in the present too, and in the future. Through their work, archaeologists can change people’s lives.

Dymock's Building: NTS Booklet cover. Copyright The National Trust for Scotland

Dymock’s Building: NTS Booklet cover. Copyright The National Trust for Scotland

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.


RCAHMS – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.