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Sigurd
Wednesday, February 7th, 2007, 08:03 PM
New piece of Castle's history falls into place

ADRIAN MATHER
(amather@edinburghnews.com)
FOR years it has lain forgotten, buried beneath the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

Built after the Castle was seized twice in ten years, first by the Covenanters and then by Oliver Cromwell's forces, the two-metre thick defence wall became the impenetrable gateway to the stronghold for more than a century.

But after being built over in the 1700s and 1800s as the present Castle Esplanade started to take shape, it was thought to have been lost forever.

But archaeologists tunnelling beneath the Esplanade have been surprised and delighted to discover sections of the 350-year-old defences still intact. They have hailed the find as proof there could be more secrets left to unearth beneath the ancient landmark.

Peter Yeoman, senior archaeologist for Historic Scotland, which owns the attraction, said: "This discovery is very exciting because it shows just how much more history still remains beneath Edinburgh Castle.

"We knew that there had been an outer defence wall there between the 17th and 19th centuries, but we never expected to find any remains of it at all.

"It would have been built after the sieges of 1640 and 1650, when the Castle was taken by the Covenanters and Oliver Cromwell respectively, and would have been used as its main artillery defence.

"It would also have been heavily damaged during the three-month siege of 1689, when James II had fled from Britain and the Castle was his last remaining stronghold in Britain.

"But by the 19th century the Castle had no real practical use for those kind of defences and the new gatehouse was built in its place. We thought the old walls had vanished for ever, so we were amazed to find parts of them still deep underground."

At an impenetrable two metres thick, the walls would have replaced the previous Spur bastion which extended out on to the Esplanade, and heralded a shift in function for the Castle - as it became a garrisoned fortress and "the chief magazine for the arms and ammunitions of the nation".

The excavation site beneath the gatehouse is only accessible through a narrow tunnel, which makes it impossible to open up the dig as a permanent attraction.

However, the tunnels may remain open so visitors can be taken to see the remains on special occasions, such as the annual Doors Open Day.

The archaeological probe has been taking place since last September, as part of an ongoing, 2.7 million project to build a new visitor reception area at the Castle.

The project will include a new ticket office and terrace, effectively transforming the visitors' view of the Castle's main entrance by removing the existing ticket office from the Esplanade.

Barbara Smith, executive manager at Edinburgh Castle, said: "We are thrilled about the discovery. Edinburgh Castle is full of hidden treasures, and the latest investigations have shown we still have a lot more to find.

"It illustrates just how much the Castle has adapted over the centuries, altering its function to suit the changing times. The development of the new visitor reception area will assist the Castle in its present-day purpose and add another chapter to its story."

Previous archeological excavations have found remains dating back as far as the late Bronze Age from around 900BC.

Source (http://heritage.scotsman.com/news.cfm?id=182072007)