Dig 2021: #7 Thoughts so far

25 July 2021

Hello readers of our Blog.

Today was not a digging day. For me it was a day of reflection as I toiled in my pottery workshop. I thought of the excavations we did last year. Wednesdays and Sundays all lockdown summer. We were not aware of what we might actually reveal. I believe that through the blogs, you will appreciate the importance of what we are now learning about the history of the Hall of Clestrain.

Fiona Gould has searched the Archives and photos of the Hall and past owners. What we are revealing seems to accord with Fiona’s researchers. In the 1851 Census there were a number of drainage engineers living in the East pavilion. It is very possible that they put in the massive drain we are examining.

I will stop being historical now. Here is a photo of the flooring of the demolished East Pavilion. This is a miss~mash of different floorings. Rough cement covering earlier paving and adjacent to stable flooring. The East wall is also a conundrum of phases, which all relate together, but the history and sequences of them would be important to reveal.

At Clestrain we have the family home of John Rae, who we are all really concentrated on. To understand his family’s environment, I feel we should look to the past of his home, his contemporary time and the following eras. This way we will get a more complete understanding.

So now I will get back to the Archaeology. We are grateful for those of you who have pressed the DONATION button at the end of our blog. The actual costs of the excavations have thankfully been covered by Orkney businesses and individual supporters. The further costs are for Post Excavation Reports and conservation etc.

The East Pavilion was carefully excavated to its latest levels. All this has been drawn in details. This shows a stable floor, a cester, a return wall and features in the East wall. Our other areas of excavation have bee drawn in detail too. Me and Sadie Parker spent a good few painstaking hours drawing the elevation of the West wall over the grand drain. I must mention all the painstaking and accurate recording of layers, find and plans by our voluntary team. We are extremely fortunate to have two dedicated professionals working, guiding and organising us.

I will now return to the Post Excavation work. This is not glamorous, it is detailed. it is vital to a true outcome of what we have achieved so far. YOUR wee donation will help to secure this.

The John Rae Society is very and justifiably proud to have bought The Hall of Clestrain outright; Made it Wind and Watertight, therefore preserving it for complete restoration. We have done that. Now some help with the writing up and recording our these excavations would be so well received.

My blog ends now. but below are just a few photos of what we have discovered!

I will stop now. I just want to let you all know what we have to achieve in the next few months.

With all good wishes,



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