St Nicholas Tower, Wester Anstruther: Photo Copyright C Mills 2014
Dendrochronolgical analysis of single oak timber, a second floor joist, from St Nicholas Church Tower in Anstruther, was recently undertaken on behalf of the Anstruther Improvements Association. The analysis was successful in providing both a date and a provenance for the timber: the date-span of the sample was AD 1397-1507 and a southern Scandinavian source was indicated for the timber, most probably from Southern Norway. The final ring was at the bark edge and had both spring and summer wood present, so the tree was felled somewhere between late summer of AD 1507 and before the spring of AD 1508, and was probably squared at source.
There was a thriving Norwegian timber export trade, especially to the Scottish east coast ports, in the late medieval period. The transportation time need not be long, with the Norwegian coast only a few days sail away, and with the old Anstruther harbour immediately adjacent to the church, as can be seen in the photo. There is no evidence of timber re-use and the result indicates a construction date in or not long after AD1508.
St Nicholas Tower is part of a complex of historic buildings, standing on an even earlier church site, being conserved and put to excellent community use thanks to the hard work of the Anstruther Improvements Assciation. More information about the AIA’s activities and events can be found here
Dr Coralie Mills (L) and Dr Anne Crone (R) with the recently awarded Sir George Campbell Trophy
The Royal Scottish Forestry Society recently awarded the Sir George Campbell Memorial Trophy for the following paper published in their journal: ‘Mills, C M & Crone, A 2012 ‘Dendrochronological evidence for Scotland’s native timber resources over the last 1000 years‘, Scottish Forestry 66, 18-33.
Anne (of AOC Archaeology) and I are both absolutely delighted to receive this award, as you can see in the photo, especially given that the paper is a synthesis of our work done over a very long period in Scottish dendrochronology. We are good at allocating date-spans, but this is work done over a longer time than we care to mention publicly! We are very grateful to RSFS for this trophy which they award annually to what they consider to be the best paper published in their journal that year.
This remarkable castle in west Ardnamurchan is one of my current projects, working alongside Tom Addyman and his team at Addyman Archaeology. Local resident and archaeology enthusiast Jon Haylett is blogging about the castle and the wider archaeology and conservation project there. He has written about my recent dendro assessment visit – link below. A very exciting project to be involved in.
Why has it taken me so long to visit this astonishing old oak wood at Lochwood, near Beattock, Dumfries & Galloway. The old oaks are relicts of a medieval deer park or wider hunting forest beside Lochwood Tower, the historic seat of the Johnstones of Annandale. Lochwood is one of the sites which provided key data for Prof Mike Baillie’s construction of the first oak chronology for Scotland, back in the 1970s. The site is now being revisited by a group of woodland historians with a view to uncovering its age and origins. Hopefully further dendrochronology – especially of deadwood samples – will prove possible; it could tell us so much alongside the archaeological and documentary evidence.
Native pine at Glen Derry, Mar Lodge Estate. Copyright C Mills 2013
A 2000 year tree-ring chronology for native pine in Scotland: that is the exciting objective of the NERC-funded SCOT2K Project led by Dr Rob Wilson at the University of St Andrews. I am delighted to have been appointed as a part-time Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews to work on this 3-year project which has just gone live.I shall be continuing my freelance work in Dendrochronicle alongside this part-time post. In SCOT2K I’ll be working with Rob and his team at St Andrews, and with collaborators in other institutions, on extending native Scots pine dendrochronological coverage to the last two millennia for Scotland – for climate reconstruction & cultural heritage objectives. I shall be focussing on obtaining native pine timber samples from Scotland’s built heritage, especially in the pine heartlands, to augment periods when the ‘natural’ tree record is thin due to historic woodland exploitation. An annually resolved 2000 year climate record for Scotland will have much to offer many fields of interest including archaeology, history and environmental science.
Oak stump, Old Wood of Drum: Copyright C Mills 2013
Delighted to have been invited to speak about dendrochronology in the Scottish cultural sphere for the 36th series of the Architectural Conservation Masterclasses, University of Edinburgh. Details and bookings for all the lectures in the 2013 programme through this link http://sites.ace.ed.ac.uk/sccsmasterclass/
Romania - Rimet house with shredded ash: Photo P Quelch
Communities in parts of rural Romania retain a more collaborative, integrated and traditional approach to living on the land than survives in western Europe, though now under immense pressures of change. Peter Quelch, native woodlands expert and Dendrochronicle colleague, has recently visited Romania and shares his thought-provoking observations in this illustrated account (PDF document). A striking aspect is the integration of woodland and agricultural use, with wood pastures and leafy fodder in evidence, and the survival of a vibrant traditional wood-working and wood-using culture; there is much here to help us understand our landscape’s history and perhaps to shape its future. Peter’s visit was with a group supported by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme’s, ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ (VETPRO).
mobility project ‘Cultural Heritage and Training’.
Discussion on a charcoal platform at Cree Valley Wood: Copyright C Mills 2012
It was a great pleasure to be part of the Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust’s seminar on Woodland Heritage held in and around Newton Stewart, Galloway, on 7th & 8th June 2012, an event supported by the Community Woodlands Association amongst others. The seminar included morning talks, many by local experts, followed by afternoon site visits to the Cree Valley and Knockman’s woods, rich cultural woods with rather differing but equally interesting site histories. These will be teased out further in CVCWT’s new woodland heritage project, a community-led project being funded by HLF amongst others. I look forward to following its progress on www.creevalley.com
Loch Pityoulish oaks: Copyright C Mills 2012
One of the site visits on our woodland heritage workshop on 31st May 2012 for Cairngorms Community Heritage programme (led by RCAHMS, supported by Cairngorms National Park, workshop tutors Peter Quelch & Coralie Mills) was to an overgrown old oak coppice wood at Loch Pityoulish. The many tree-forms made for interesting discussions amongst the group who embodied wide ranging interests and expertise. Our visit provided a first glimpse into the history of these woods, a legacy of the expansion in oak planting about 200 years ago, with great potential for further exploration and research.
Two new Dendrochronicle one-day workshops have been announced, full details on the Events page, and bookings are now open. One is on tree-ring dating in archaeology (12th July) and one on tree-rings & tree-forms in wooded landscape studies (13th July), both in East Lothian in association with the Rampart Scotland archaeology fieldschool.