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With just over a week to go until we begin this year's archaeological work, we thought it'd be useful to share some background about each site, detail what we hope to discover and let you know how and when to visit and view the archaeology.


31st Aug - 1st Sept

17th Century Salt Pan House

We began our investigations into this building, located on the shoreline just to the east of Cockenzie Boatshore, in 2018. Some fantastic small finds were discovered, including superb early 18th century slipware.

Further work in 2019 revealed 18th century glass and more pottery, this time dating to the mid 17th century. Structurally, a much larger section of the internal structures relating to the flue system was revealed, and we suspect that what we found does not even relate to the earliest phase of salt making, so there is definitely more to find. We will also be searching for evidence of the furnace area.

Following the excavation, the building will be consolidated, with a floor level made up which will preserve the archaeology, but also display features which indicate the shape of the underlying flue system. Interpretation will also be installed, following the archaeological assessment, so that passers by can learn about the history of the building whilst taking a rest in the pan house. Additionally, the consolidation, including turf wall-head capping, will help nature to thrive on the site as it moves to a predominantly self-sustaining phase, with monthly TLC visits from a team of volunteers.


3rd - 5th September

Waggonway Dig Site

In June 2019, the Waggonway Project team conducted a small preliminary excavation to test the level of preservation, if any, of any features relating to the Waggonway. The site which was chosen was on the Waggonway path where it crosses the agricultural fields just south of Cockenzie.

The findings were remarkable, with remains of the original cobbled horse-track and traces of wooden rails clearly evident. Also revealed was an earlier cart track with deep wheel-ruts, hinting at the issues faced with unreliable roads for the coal carts prior to the waggonway being constructed.

So for 2021, in an excavation now 18 months overdue on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be opening up a longer stretch of the 18th century waggonway track and assessing its condition and construction in order that we can better understand how it was built. intriguingly, a preliminary excavation hinted at parallels in design with the 1785 Willington Waggonway in Newcastle, a well preserved standard gauge line excavated in 2013.

The pubic footpath will remain open throughout, and following the excavation the area will be back-filled and returned to its original state.



Please visit the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Centre, where you can learn the history of Scotland's earliest wooden railway - opening hours 10am - 3pm.

Members of the public are encouraged to visit the dig sites using the public pathways which lead to both sites - a map can be viewed here.

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