Virtute Parta

Virtute Parta

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Update on Corehead Archaeology Dig

Tomorrow is the third day of the dig to locate Corehead tower. So far we have dug five test pits in the vicinity of the plantation behind the current Corehead farmhouse.
View towards the Devil's Beef Tub
The first weekend was spent walking the land in the wood looking for possible clues and identifying the rectangular earthwork that was visible on a 1951 aerial photograph, prior to the planting of the wood. Two pits were started in the earthwork and after the removal of earth and smaller stones,larger stones were discovered deliberately placed on top of each other.
It is difficult to say at this stage if they are the foundations of a building or an earlier stone dyke.
Pit 1

Last weekend three pits were dug just outside the wood on a green mound which appears to have the shape of a building.

'Quarry' site 

 Oral tradition says this was used as a quarry and despite some promising lumps and bumps this does appear to have been used for stone clearance and later as a midden for the farm. Everything from 19th century bottles and plates to toothpaste tubes were uncovered. However there was one piece of pottery that excited Jane our visiting archaeologist.This unglazed rim from a vessel has tentatively been dated as medieval.

  The days are short just now and our work stops about 3.00pm but the low sun of winter and days of frost and light snow are useful for detecting ancient human activity in the landscape. Here beside where we are working can clearly be seen the green ridges of medieval 'rig and furrow' cultivation.

Rig and Furrow

This weekend we will return to the wood and extend trenches 1&2 and hopefully find some signs of human habitation.

The sun sets and the moon rises over Corehead 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Archaeology Dig at Corehead

Tomorrow and for the next three successive Sundays in November will see the start of an archaeological excavation to locate the site of Corehead Tower. Many Halliday readers will know that the Dumfriesshire family have long been associated with Corehead. This stems from the legend that Tom Halliday who lived at Corehead was nephew to William Wallace the Scottish guerrilla leader during the Scottish Wars of Independence. The earliest record for this association appears in The Wallace a poem written in Scots by Blind Harry about 1477. Historians and scholars have dismissed much of the poems contents as fiction and yet there are elements within which on closer examination bear some element of truth. This is something I will return to later.

Black and white photos from Clarence Halliday early 1960's book

The poem does not mention a tower or castle only that they stayed at 'the Corhead'.A later Border Ballad called The Sang of the Outlaw Murray also refers to the Halliday family of Corehead. Yet despite searching for many years I have not yet found any charter or reference to a land transaction that connects the family specifically to Corehead.
It is known that the Bruce family were Lords of Annandale from 1124 and later the Douglases were granted the lands of Moffat and Corehead in the 14th century. They held them until the 1550s  when Johnstone of Craigieburn purchased them.This branch of the Johnstone clan then took the title Johnstone of Corehead.They  had other towers at Cornal,Corehead and Lochhouse.   .
The earliest surviving record  of a tower at Corehead  appears in a map of 1597 which depicts the tower at the head of Annandale.

The Johnstone family continued to live at Corehead farmhouse until the late 19th century.

In 2009 the farm and surrounding hill land around the Devil's Beef Tub was purchased by the Borders Forest Trust.

Tomorrow a small team of volunteers and archaeologists will begin the hunt for the tower. The area will need to be cleared of fallen trees and test pits will be dug at promising sites. All very exciting