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A team from the Waggonway Project has completed a geophysical survey at Cockenzie Harbour and surrounds, funded by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who provided a grant of £2,480 to support the work.

Cockenzie Harbour (photo credit - Wessex Archaeology)

Guided by archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology, volunteers including military veterans from Whitefoord House and local residents, learned how to see what lies beneath the ground by using magnetometry and ground penetrating radar (GPR).

The team were looking for features which could shed more light on the early industries of the area. The construction of the harbour itself, almost 200 years ago, was of particular interest.

Results from the harbour structure gave indications of how the internal parts of the quaysides were built, with the recently discovered Stevenson plans (National Library of Scotland) from 1829-1841 being useful in matching and evaluating the data we collected. Further research is also being undertaken on the series of maps and schematics from the Stevenson Collection, which are revealing invaluable new insights into the logistics involved in the harbour's construction.

Copyright. National Library of Scotland, Stevenson Collection. MS5846.81

Excitingly, GPR results from the main quayside on the eastern side of the harbour revealed that an older structure is hidden within the current quayside, confirming the project team's view that an earlier harbour or quayside was still present prior to the Robert Stevenson rebuild in the 1830s. This earlier structure likely dates back to the late 16th or early 17th century, from the very beginnings of Cockenzie as a burgh.

Ground Penetrating Radar at Cockenzie Harbour

As the results are processed and analysed, further insights may be possible, and once the reports are complete, they will be shared with East Lothian Council (as harbour owners) so that the data can be used to assist with future upkeep and consolidation of the historic harbour structure.

Waggonway Project Chair, Ed Bethune, commented on the success of the survey work:

"In a very short space of time, we've furthered our knowledge of the way Cockenzie Harbour was constructed, and now have a much better idea of what lies beneath the surfaces of the quaysides and surrounding areas. It's really important information about an historic part of the town, and adds hugely to our understanding of the timeline of its development, and it's wonderful that our volunteers could learn new skills and engage with like minded people at the same time. Huge thanks to HES, Wessex Archaeology, East Lothian Council and all the volunteers for making this success."

The team sets up the magnetometry kit

The Waggonway Project team plans to continue research into the history of the harbour, and is planning further excavations at the harbour as part of East Lothian Council's Archaeology Fortnight.

The Waggonway Heritage Centre at West Harbour Rd, Cockenzie, is open periodically at weekends - check website for details.

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