Families at St Ninians dig

As 2015 was the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, including the Battle of Sheriffmuir, our project aimed to highlight some Jacobite activity in Dunblane and Stirling by conducting community digs. This was a great opportunity for local volunteers and schoolchildren to learn about their heritage and ‘have a go at being an archaeologist’. The sites we chose, in partnership with Stirling Council, were Allanbank House in Dunblane and St Ninian’s Kirk in Stirling. The project commemorated the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745 through a mixture of archaeological digs, storytelling, history, metal detecting and digital recordings.

The first site was St Ninians Old Kirkyard in Stirling (NS 79579 91649). The church is in a ruinous state which is in no small way due to the fact that the Jacobites were storing gunpowder in the church and accidentally blew it up! A small excavation would explore the extent of any archaeological remains and features related to the Jacobite occupation and highlight the importance of the site and introduce local people and children to the role of local people in the rebellion.
We opened three 2m x 1m trenches directly outside the graveyard wall. Over the first three days of the dig 165 pupils from St Ninians Primary School came along in shifts to have a go at trowelling and sieving.

On the open day some 50+ volunteers joined in the fun. Some of their comments can be found on the audio link here. They were delighted with all the small finds and so were we. In trench 2 we uncovered the boundary ditch that would have separated consecrated from non-consecrated ground. In a cut through the ditch we found a great deal of mortar which suggested the rubble from the blast was swept into the cut before the present kirk was built in 1751. Below this level we found a piece of lead which may have been part of the furniture or fittings, but this has yet to be confirmed, alongside a piece of late medieval pottery.

The second site we explored was the remains of a house the Duke of Cumberland stayed in during his action to quash the Jacobite rebellion in 1746. No standing remains exist and the buried remains are in Millrow playpark, Dunblane, owned (NN 78153 01222) by Stirling Council. Few people know of its existence so we wanted to highlight the important role Dunblane had to play in this important piece of Scottish history.

The aim was firstly to discover the extent of any archaeological remains and features relating to the demolished Allanbank House and secondly, to raise awareness of the role played by noble houses and local people during the Jacobite rebellion.

Around 150 pupils from Newton, Dunblane and St Mary’s Episcopal Primary Schools came along over a three-day period to have a go in the trench. A lot of modern debris and litter almost caused as much excitement as the historical artefacts. One end of the trench revealed a possible wall foundation as was suspected from the desk based assessment. In the topsoil pieces of clay pipe stem, one with a partial inscription, were found along with the bottom of a flat-heeled clay pipe bowl. In the vicinity of the trench metal detectorists found two small iron cannonballs of 44mm and 26mm diameter. They also located three coins; an 1870 Queen Victoria halfpenny and two other illegible coins awaiting analysis yet believed to be considerably older. Again, the storytellers re-enacted scenes from the stories and the children had great fun joining in. On the open day over 30 volunteers joined the excavations throughout the day and we had a special visit from Woodcraft Folk, a young people’s active citizenship charity.

To find out more about what was found and what the children and volunteers felt about their experience listen to our audio stories here https://soundcloud.com/jacobitestirling

Here is what some of the children said about their project Kids speak!.pdf

Storytellers
We used Heritage Stories, a group who provide educational heritage storytelling for the community. Over the two sites John and Noreen developed an interactive programme of storytelling, song and costumed interpretation on the theme of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745/6 Jacobite rebellion. Younger children met the Prince, learnt about Flora MacDonald and sang the song ‘Charlie Is My Darling’. Older boys took on the role of the Prince to inspect the troops but they also had to dress as the maid Betty Burke to escape the clutches of the Hanoverian soldiers.

Metal detectorists
Two metal detectorists volunteered their time to run detecting activities at both sites. Jimmy and Des led their groups in the wider field to explain how metal-detecting worked and how archaeologically important it was to identify materials in the ground and where they were found. The children took it in turns to try metal-detecting and were delighted with their finds. With expert guidance children at Dunblane found two small cannonballs and a handful of coins and buttons.

GUIDE FOR TEACHERS click here to read the guide http://simplebooklet.com/stirlingjacobites

Families at St Ninians dig
Families at St Ninians dig