The 2009 Season

During the fifteenth excavation season the team continued to excavate the area to the east of the drive, which leads to the ruined mansion. Excavation at the southern end of the main area was completed to expose the natural as modified in the post-medieval period.

The scarping of this area was reported in previous annual reports (see especially the 2007 and 2008 seasons). In the course of this work a series of hollowed out features were uncovered which may represent the remains of wooden structures.  The potential structures would help explain why the southern arm of the moat came to an end as described in the 2008 report.

Further excavation demonstrated that the scarping continued further to the north. This post-medieval scarping, however, missed a long beam slot aligned north-south. We encountered  a 4.32 m long wooden beam in the slot.

It has four mortises and bears evidence of carpentry. A preliminary examination by Nigel Nayling identified the beam as the sole plate of a trestle bridge, which we interpret as spanning the moat. This entrance route to the bishop’s palace aligns with the road to the medieval parish kirk of Fetternear (NJ 7332 1752).

Finds immediately associated with this feature include fifteenth-century pottery, animal bones, leather pieces and the fragments of a lathe-turned bowl. The later scarping of the ground has obscured the precise nature of the relationship between the moat and the beam. Interpretation of this relationship may become easier with further excavation to the east but such a task is likely to be outwith the remit of the current project.

A trial trench was excavated south of the main area in order to investigate a hollow earthwork feature running approximately north-south towards the Marshes Burn. This hollow proved to be a continuation of the ditch reported in the 2008 report. As with this feature, the upper fills were composed of a large amount of rubble, whilst the lowest level contained a wall-like structure the function of which is unknown. This wall only has one good face and is overlain by a French drain, which was detected in section. The profile of this ditch is narrow and flat-bottomed. The upper fills contained finds of post-medieval date.

To the west of the main area, but north of the robbed out wall reported last year, a series of medieval deposits were encountered north and south of another substantial robbed out wall, running east-west. Within them was a quantity of high quality imported 14th-century pottery, which adds to the interpretation of this area as being associated with high status public buildings.  These deposits were cut by the robber trench which removed the wall, presumably in the 19th century as it was associated with the installation of a ceramic drainpipe.

A number of north-south trending walls have been identified to the north of this wall. The exact relationship of these walls however remains to be investigated. Features in this area of the site are close to the late 16th-century towerhouse and are largely post-medieval in date, but finds include residual medieval pottery. A number of drainage features were discovered, some of which were contemporary with the walling in this sector. Other drainage features cut older walling, indicating a series of occupation phases.

We wish to thank Mrs C Whittall, Mr J Whittall, Mrs C Fyffe, Mr R Fyffe and Mr D Fyffe for their support and for allowing access to the site.


Aberdeenshire Council, Castle Studies Group, Pantyfedwen Fund, private donors