Excavations at Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh: the development of closes and tenements north of the Royal Mile during the 16th–18th centuries

Authors: Paul Masser, Mike Kimber, Julie Franklin, Morag Cross and Auli Tourunen

Summary: Excavations on the site of a former tannery to the rear of Edinburgh's High Street (NGR: NT 260 737) produced evidence for the infilling of medieval burgage plots from the 16th century onwards. Walls defining a terrace and a burgage plot boundary suggest a considerable investment in at least some of the backlands during the medieval period, but these structures later went out of use, corresponding to a widely documented decline in Scottish towns during the 14th century. During the late 16th century, substantial buildings with cellars on either side of a paved close represent the first appearance of the multi-storey tenement buildings that characterise much of the Old Town. These buildings provide the basis for a discussion of the character of urbanisation in late 16th- and early 17th-century Edinburgh. The cellars were demolished and backfilled with refuse at different dates between the 1640s and 1740s. Finds from these refuse deposits are highly significant as a sample of changing consumption patterns during this period. During the 18th century the area appears to have declined in status and taken on a more industrial character; later, a tannery was established on part of the site by the 1830s, which expanded to cover much of the site by the 1880s.

Keywords: boundary, Walls, tannery, cellars, Burgage, Plots, Pits, Buckle, Pottery, Pipes, Exotic Plant Remains, Charcoal, Carbonised Plant Remains, Barley, Dutch Redware, Redware, Sheep, Cattle, Bird Bones, Domestic Chicken, Mouse, Pig Dog Cat Rabbit, Fish Bones, Domestic Bird, Bones, urbanisation

Periods: Roman, medieval, 16th century, 17th century, 18th century

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Published: 01-01-2014