Archaeological monitoring and limited trial trenching was undertaken by Addyman Archaeology in 2020 during the excavation of scaffolding footings and a number of other associated site set-up related ground-works at Fairburn Tower in advance of repairs to the structure so as to bring it in to residential use. Monitoring was carried out over a series of groundwork activities between January and March 2020, continuing up to the time of the site shut-down necessitated by the outbreak of the Covid19 virus, at which point all works were temporarily suspended. In preparation for the erection of a general scaffold around the exterior of the tower a total of 22 trenches were excavated in the area of the stair tower on its south side; here additional structural support necessitated more substantial footings, the associated strip-trenching extending 7m out to the west and south, and 4.5m to the east. Areas of metalled surfacing were encountered in all 22 trenches beneath some 0.20m – 0.30m of topsoil. To the south and west of the stair tower the surfacing consisted of formally laid cobbling; to the east of coarser character. No other features archaeological features were identified. With the decision to establish a wider working area to the south of the tower topsoil was removed over an extensive area of about 12m north-south by 16m. Intact cobbled surfacing was revealed over most of this area.
An exploratory trench was excavated running south from the main area of cobbled surface in an attempt to define its extent in that direction. Further cobbling was revealed for about 2m before it abruptly terminated at an east-west aligned wall footing thought likely to have been part of the north wall of a range bounding the south side of the courtyard. The full extent of the cobbling remains to be confirmed to the north-west. To the south-west it had been substantially impacted by a more modern excavation, possibly to extract metalling material. A further open area was excavated on the east boundary of the site to the east of the tower, this for a proposed parking area. Though further metalling was encountered it was apparently associated with the construction and use of an agricultural building erected against the east side of the tower in the mid-20th century.
Further exploratory sondages were excavated close to the south boundary of the site, along the north side of the kitchen range and to its north-west. No significant archaeological remains were encountered in any of these. The cobbled surface was temporarily protected for the duration of works by means of a membrane, sand blinding and compacted type I metalling laid to a depth of approximately 0.3m, this to function as a working surface and as a base for erecting scaffold. <1>
Text/Report/Fieldwork Report: Addyman, T., Amabilino, A. & Macfadyen, K.. 2020. Fairburn Tower, Fairburn Estate, Muir of Ord, Highland: Archaeological Watching Brief : January - March 2020. Addyman Archaeology. 16/11/2020. Digital. [Mapped features: #12498 ; #12662 Trenches, ]
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Fairburn Tower, Muir of Ord
Centred NH 4694 5233 (39m by 44m) (2 map features)
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